Posts Tagged With: motorhome

Goin’ Local and Gettin’ Ready

Yep, it’s summer and we are staying local, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t busy.  This summer in particular is one where EVERYONE hit the road to go SOMEWHERE – but we are trying to avoid those crowds and just enjoy some time with the family.  So what did these two busy retirees do, exactly? 

A new 4-wheeling adventure?

Well, we took our grandsons to the Georgia Aquarium for some underwater adventures.  That was an amazing day and we just wowed the boys, sitting in front of the huge tank of fish, with the whale sharks and rays sailing past.  They loved the beluga and the sharks and couldn’t stop pointing out all the fish in the underwater tunnel as we were transported along the moving walkway. “More big fish, Pop pop, come on” was heard more than a few times.  Crazy moment in the main hall when someone called out to me to stop … turns out it was our former assistant principal Dr. Davis who is now President and CEO of the aquarium (and who also encouraged me to get certified to teach the engineering and technology classes).  Well, that led to a behind-the-scenes tour of the big tank and some private viewing moments.  What a nice surprise!

I was back to baking bread, with some camping coming up we needed burger and hotdog rolls and a Pullman loaf for PB&J sandwiches.  Had to keep feeding the sourdough, too.

We also camped along the shores of our local Lake Allatoona, something we thought would be a good opportunity for the grandsons to learn what the motorhome and camping are all about.  Even though we were in a cycle of daily pop-up thunderstorms, it was a very fun few days at the lake.  Our campsite was next to the swimming area, so when the boys, Karina and Jason joined us it was easy to walk back and forth.  The boys loved it and Wyatt took to the kayak like a pro.  Paddleboards and floats made it fun to splash, paddle and bob in the water, even when the rain came down.  Owen and Wyatt stayed the night with us, ate all our snacks plus a hearty pancake breakfast and we all splashed around in the lake the next day.

A few days later we drove to Chattanooga to visit with Alex and Bethany and most importantly to go off-road Jeeping with them and some friends.  It was important to Alex that we properly break in the Jeep with mud splashes and off-road bumps and bounces – and the long and winding Big Frog Road through the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest certainly did that.  It was good to learn how to put it in 4-wheel drive, disconnect the sway bar and generally get the feel of off-roading, since we have our fall trip to the canyons of Utah coming up.  Kodi seems to enjoy the back seat of the Jeep, at least we heard no complaints.

We added a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium the next day and had fish tacos at Big River Grill (was that wrong?).

We also had the grandsons over for another night at home, since Karina was busy setting up her classroom for students this school year.  This time we pulled out the trusty inflatable pool and our “redneck trampoline” to entertain them (the old RV mattress is awaiting a bulk pickup).  We were also dog-sitting Allie, so there was much noise and movement around the house at feeding time.

And we are getting everything ready for another big adventure to the Southwest.  That meant getting 4 new tires for the motorhome, a check of the brakes, propane fill and new springs on one of the hydraulic leveling jacks (it still retracts very slowly).  Replaced a tiny spring in the screen door latch and pulled out and replaced the diverter in the shower faucet. I also replaced the very fogged up and yellowed headlight assemblies, replaced the amber clearance lights on the front with new LED ones and switched to LED bulbs on the red ones in the rear.  Even though we rarely drive at night, it just updates the motorhome and certainly improves the look up front.

A few extra accessories for the Jeep (storage nets, overnight cover, decent cooler and storage sleeve for the soft-sided windows), a GoPro mount attached to the front bumper and I think it is ready for off-roading.  And for Labor Day weekend I got to try it out in the Prentice Cooper WMA in Chattanooga. Alex invited us up to join Bethany’s parents on a trail ride just a few miles from their house and as you can see, it was a bit muddy, bumpy and dusty. We had lunch at an overlook of the Tennessee River with Chattanooga in the distance. Unfortunately the ride was cut short by a front driveshaft breakdown on Jim’s Jeep, which meant we had to go have a beer at Heaven & Ale in Chatt. Not so bad. And yes, I washed off the mud from Tennessee, both trips. 

I’ve got my various cameras ready for photos and ran through night-sky and sunset photo settings.  We’ve gone through our hiking boots, neoprene booties, trekking poles, backpacks and essentials to be sure we are ready.  Watched some great videos of hikes and drives in the areas we are heading (we particularly like “Adventures of A + K”) and feel like we know what to do in Canyonlands, Moab, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and … well, you will just have to wait for the pictures and stories. Our highlight Jeep drive will be the Shafer Trail from Dead Horse Point State Park to Moab. (I am trying a new app for hikes called AllTrails, which looks VERY helpful).

So, off we go in mid-September for another adventure.  Kodi and Merlin will be our back-seat critics, Jackie will navigate and of course we’ll have stories to share.  As our good friend Rich said “you always manage to find some cool brewery.”  What we won’t find much of is good internet, cell signal and WiFi, so it may be some slow postings on the blog.  But I will do my best to share our adventure. (Bit disappointed that Roadtrippers app is now very limited in their free version).

Part One of the Adventure – Atlanta to Canyonlands, mapped on Roadtrippers

Oh, and in case you were just a bit confounded by our 4-wheeling adventure through the sand, pictured as the white Jeep at the top of this post, maybe this will help put it in context for you (look closely):

Just having a little fun, there. Thanks for coming along on the journey as we explore Utah, northern New Mexico and the Gunnison River Valley with our Jeep (the big one) in tow!

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NC Mountain Getaway

This outing takes us back to the North Carolina mountains to camp with family and do a little work.  For our first few days we drove to John’s bucket-list project, Mystic Cabin just east of Asheville, NC.  Easily parked under the garage roof and set up with water and electricity.  John is ever closer to his certificate of occupancy that will allow him to fully move into this 2-year project and we hope to help get those last few items finished up.

On the list this time is nailing in the stair risers, installing interior doors, adding door trim, then moving the chop and table saws, tools, lumber and such out of the living room and onto the back porch.  That let us clear out the piles of sawdust, wipe down the windows and walls and install screens.  Showers work, the refrigerator is running, AC was cooling and we fired up the Wolf stove with fresh-baked hamburger and hoagie rolls.  

After a day we backed up and out of the driveway, hooked up the jeep and drove another 3 hours to Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We are spending four days camping with Judy and Craig while their daughter Rachel attends Camp Cheerio, which was just along the ridgeline above our campground.

Driving from Elkin toward the park was through some very beautiful pastures and tobacco fields, and the park sat amid the rolling hills below the much higher peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  At camp it was an easy task to disconnect the jeep and back into the site.  Flat towing the Jeep is much easier than the tow dolly and the Rav4, with just a few connections using the Roadmaster tow bar and Invisibrake.  This should be a big help for our big trip out West in the fall.

Once in camp we unfurled a new purchase, a screen room to help keep flies and biting bugs out of our way.  The last trip to Florida featured an abundance of hungry mosquitos, so this lightweight and easy-to-assemble screen room is our answer to avoiding itchy bites the whole week.  This unit was lightweight, easy to assemble and had plenty of room for four chairs and side tables.  I am particularly reactive to insect bites and this of course led to a continuing discussion about certain blood types attracting mosquitos … but we actually didn’t have any, just annoying gnats.

Anyway, we were in an area of the mountains that had a lot of vineyards, but they were only open Thursdays through Sundays and we had arrived on a Sunday and would be departing early on a Thursday — so you know what that meant, we had to hustle out to get to a nearby winery before closing time.  We found a gem of a spot, ordered flights of 5 wines and had a wonderful time sharing and comparing the wines. 

Judy and Craig told of how long the check-in process at Camp Cheerio was that morning, but Rachel was properly settled in for the week, son Colin was out in New Mexico working as troop leader for the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch and now it was just the four of us camping.  As the wine ran out we got hungry and headed back to cook dinner and watch the stars.

Maybe an hour after we hit the sack our awning suddenly started blowing up and down with much thumping.  That’s not a good sign, so I jumped out of bed to roll it back in, while the wind was whipping up and thunder could be heard in the distance.  As lightning flashed and the wind blew, we folded up chairs and caught the rug before it blew away, also keeping an eye on the screen room (which we had fortunately staked to the ground).  It wasn’t long before we were pelted with big raindrops and retreated back to bed, this time with Kodi joining us of course.  Big booms of thunder cracked and echoed around the mountains and valleys as the rain continued to fall.  Not a restful first night.

But the morning brought clear blue skies and cool dry air.  It was a gorgeous start to what would be four beautiful days in the lush green mountains and we were able to take in some great hikes to waterfalls, slick rock streams and a view of the granite Stone Mountain outcropping. We also made a stop at a country store nearby to get some delicious ice cream scoops!

In fact it got downright cold at night, and since we had packed the motorhome during humid, 90 degree days back home (while our AC was out and being repaired), we only had shorts and tee shirts and were quite chilled around the campfire at night.  Doug bought a sweatshirt at the visitors center and Jackie found a small blanket in the Jeep, so we were fine the next day.  You would think we would know to pack for all types of weather by now. 

We found a fun brewery in Elkin for dinner and had ourselves some brews and wood-fired pizza.  Angry Troll was darn busy and the food was delicious, but they were closed the rest of the week, so we only got to visit once.

One of our hikes in the park was to a stream that made for a cool waterslide and with the recent rainfall it was easy for kids to slide down, even with some tubes. 

We just waded around, got our feet wet and tried not to slip.  Another hike was to an original homestead at the base of the mountain and as we hiked along the stream trail we could hear a growing chorus of girls’ voices walking along a parallel roadway – only to discover … Rachel(!) among the group of hikers from Camp Cheerio.  We tried not to make a fuss, but she spotted us and shouted “bring shampoo” before walking on down the trail.  Crazy timing.  This was a 12 mile hike the oldest of the group takes down from their camp to the waterfall and back up the mountain. 

We broke camp on another cool, clear morning as we reflected on some nice meals in camp, warm campfires, a serpentine road trip up the mountain to Roaring Gap in the Jeep and just a nice visit to the mountains.  Our next stop was back at John’s cabin three hours away.  We slipped the motorhome under the garage roof and Craig expertly backed their trailer down the driveway, leveled up and hooked up (thanks for the hookups, John).

We couldn’t pass up a drive to Asheville and dinner at Sierra Nevada Brewing.  We made sure to embarrass Jackie by recognizing her birthday, all while having some excellent beer and food.

Back at John’s we had some work to do.  Judy and Craig had to drive back to pick up Rachel, then return to hitch up and head back to Nashville. While the weather was good, Doug and John trenched and built footing forms for the cement that would be poured for the garage floor later in the week.  There was a pile of scrap lumber that had to be moved and a very large tarp under the deck that had to be dragged around front, cut up and taken to the dump.  We installed a large light fixture that hung from the ceiling above the kitchen island and wired up and installed the ceiling fan over the living room. 

We put down more of his flooring in the living room (not quite all of it).  Jackie ran the dishwasher, washer and dryer for the first time (and got us caught up on clean laundry) and we surprised her with a small birthday celebration.

But somehow chiggers decided to spoil things.  Either our last days in camp or working around the cabin, they found us.  Well, Doug mostly.  As I noted earlier, I don’t react well to insect bites and I kind of lost count of all the itchy spots.  Had to buy some extra anti-itch cream, but as you may know, you just have to wait out the itch for a few days. Arrghhh.

To celebrate both Father’s Day and Jackie’s birthday we drove to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock to find Hickory Nut Gorge Brewing and have … you guessed it, some beer and grub. 

On the way, John got a text from fellow brewcrew member Barb that she was in Lake Lure with a friend and how far was that from his place?  Well, of course we told her to join us at the brewery and soon we were all sitting alongside the Broad River enjoying the cool evening with beer in hand.  Jackie, John and I shared plates of pulled pork nachos as we looked up at Chimney Rock.  It was maybe 7 years ago that we paddleboarded on Lake Lure and climbed to Chimney Rock.  This was a nice night with good friends.

We had appointments back home and had some babysitting duties awaiting us, so it was time to return home after helping get John closer to moving into the cabin for good.  Other than the big thunderstorm at the start and the darn chiggers, this was a great outing.  Back home we will have to check over the motorhome to be sure everything is still ship-shape and clean things up and then write and post this blog.

Thanks for coming along on the journey.  What’s next?  We have our trip to the Southwest planned and booked, ready to head out in mid-September.  That one should be wild, as we explore Utah, northern New Mexico and the Gunnison River Valley with our jeep in tow!

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Return to Mystic Cabin

Sounds like a movie sequel or something, right? Or maybe it’s like Harvest Hosts, where vineyards, orchards and farms allow RV owners to stay a night or two on their property to soak in the ambiance of a working farm. No, this is a “working adventure” where we take in the ambiance of helping build a cabin in North Carolina. The kind that builds character and puts sawdust in your hair.



Ok, by now you must have figured that Jackie and I drove the motorhome up to the hills of North Carolina to help her brother John get closer to finishing up his “bucket list” cabin building project, otherwise known as his two bedroom cottage in the woods, Mystic Cabin. We were really pretty excited to help out and had spent the usual few days packing the motorhome, stocking the fridge and fine-tuning the electrical and water systems. Two new front tires on the motorhome were ready for action.

I replaced yet another faucet, this time in the bathroom sink (because it was leaking and needed updating).  So, we cranked up and started to back out of the driveway, only to find the engine running rough and “Low Engine Power” flash on the dashboard.  Hmm.  At the very edge of the driveway I discovered I didn’t have enough power to drive forward, so there we parked (fortunately not blocking the road). 

I hooked up the trickle charger on the chassis battery and drove our car to two NAPA dealers in search of a new, stronger battery.  The old one was six years old, so likely not going to keep a full charge.  With the new battery installed, the engine started up with gusto and we started off once again.  Otherwise the trip up took maybe 4 hours on a pretty day with no other problems.  We stayed the first night at John’s current residence and in the morning gathered up a few tools and supplies before driving a half hour or so to his cabin in the woods (actually in a largely undeveloped neighborhood of log cabins). This would be a shakedown of how well his garage and hookups would work for us both this visit and future ones.



We did manage to get out of his trailer’s driveway without problems (see a previous post where we got royally bogged down in the mud and needed a tow). I was also just a bit concerned about navigating the driveway to his cabin, but it was dry and well-packed, so we were able to squeeze under his big garage, with a bit of the tail sticking out. You will notice that the garage is a work-in-progress, lacking the walls and concrete pad so far. But that is on the to-do list.

   
First I had to connect a 30 amp box and outlet to his underground power feed and see if that would work for our needs (we disconnected the one at his trailer and brought it over with us). That powered up the motorhome just fine and didn’t pop any breakers, so step one was good. Next step was to connect to his water spigot and see if that would hold without leaks. Looked good, but when John fired up his water pump to draw water from his well, there was a lot of loud shouting from the crawlspace and “shut it down – water is spraying out . . . ” and assorted other choice words about the plumber. It seems several joints had not been crimped and just popped off. So, a trip to Lowes for some PEX pipe and proper fittings let us replace about 20′ of pipe and get the system up and running properly.  Problem solved and we got his newly installed bathroom sink, toilet, shower and our motorhome hookup all running properly with water.  We also got his water heater running later in the week for him to take the first shower (important first-steps).
 

So what was on the working list this time?  Master bath and bedroom needed the tongue and groove pine installed and the outside deck railings needed the top rail added.  We cut the rails of 2×6 for Jackie to sand and stain and then started on the ceiling of the bathroom.  Generally easy cuts and install, but we had electrical boxes to cut out for the fan and several light fixtures.  Over the course of the the week we moved on to the walls of the bedroom and ceiling, with lots of cutouts for the outlets, and finished up, leaving only the window trim to finish.  The handrails on the deck were screwed down and some extra finish trim added to the upper window wall.  

   

Things really moved along well with us staying on property and the three of us managed just fine in the motorhome.  Weather was clear and dry, getting into the 60’s and 70’s daytime, but unexpectedly cold at night.  We woke the first morning to 26 degrees and a frozen water hose.  Ok, let’s not do that again!  Nothing froze in the motorhome, although the heat pump (electric) switched to gas heat each night (good to know it does that automatically).  We unhooked the supply water hose each night and wrapped the spigot, only using water from our onboard tank until it warmed up — but the temperature dropped to 26/28 each morning before eventually thawing out the hose. 

John helped me do a motorhome oil change, once things warmed up one day.  In the cabin we started a fire in John’s firebox/fireplace, which did a great job taking the chill off the workspace.  Even though we were able to grill up some delicious steaks, burgers and sausage each night, it really was too cold to eat outside and we only sat around the firepit one night, bundled up.

 

John is keeping a slideshow of his progress, updated when he can, so you might want to see what it takes to go from uncleared lot to “final” cabin at Building Mystic Cabin.

Well, it was time to head back home after a week, so before we left we “fed” the septic system by emptying our grey and black water tanks (thanks for the full hookups, John).  Out the driveway and the back gates of the neighborhood and we were on our way on a sunny, blue skies day.  Since the weather was so nice we thought we would try a different route home, one that took us closer to Asheville than Greenville and up and over the mountains.  Heck, the long climb up Mt. Saluda wasn’t all that bad . . . but we soon learned that was the least of it.  Once we made it to Brevard the road became a definite thrill through the mountain towns of Cashiers, Sapphire Valley and Highlands.  I mean the kind of curvy, rhododendron lined, up and down and all around cool kind of road that you would enjoy with a motorcycle or sports car, but maybe not a 33 foot motorhome.   It was pretty rough on trucks, too, as you can see from the curve taken slightly too close.  This one took a while to let us pass.

So the journey showed us all the wonderful mountain retreats, including the towns of Clayton, Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Rabun Gap and Helen in Georgia and around Lake Toxaway, Lake Burton and Unicoi Lake — like a summer vacation all in one day.

Yep, that shortcut took us 3 hours longer and Merlin was quick to point out that 7 hours was a wee bit too long (are we there yet?  meow).  But as we often say, we are retired, what’s our hurry?

Safely back home now, unpacked again and reflecting on trips upcoming and in the recent past.  It was just one year ago that we set off for Florida as the nation started to shut down behind us.  A creepy feeling started to set in as schools, sports, restaurants and bars started shutting down – even the beaches and campgrounds on our last day at Grayton Beach State Park were closing.  What a year, but what hope there is for the year ahead.  We have both been vaccinated, as has Dad, and the restrictions on skilled nursing facilities are being lifted, making an in-person visit possible for our upcoming visit to Hilton Head. 

What’s next?  Two family weddings, one college graduation, a week of camping on St. George Island, Florida, (4 more new tires on the motorhome) — and warm sunny days.  Oh, and a new purchase will keep me busy in the kitchen, too. 

 

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Florida Replay

So when we last left off on our fall Florida adventure we were camped out in High Springs, Florida blogging and beer sampling at the High Springs Brewery. You know one of our travel goals is to magically find the nearest brewery to sample new brews and catch up using their wifi. And somehow we manage to find those local gems, enabling us to help the local economy just a bit and upload our stories and pictures.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



We did manage to get a weekend stay at a campground just a block off the beach in Panama City Beach, so we packed up once again and hit the road to go back about 250 miles west to restart this Florida vacation. I have some pictures to share of the springs here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, which actually started as a privately operated swimming hole until it was recently acquired by the state. So not everything in the campground was up to the usual standards (such as no breakers on the electric hookups).
 

Maybe the most white-knuckled part was the road in and out of the park. When we first drove in I was surprised that we were driving down a sand road, not a dirt road, but a two-rut sandy track. I carefully kept moving down the half-mile long drive following along behind Jackie and was sure glad we weren’t towing the car on the tow-dolly behind us. But it got better – naturally we had an overnight thunderstorm the first night with rivers of water running through camp. When we decided to try a trip to town for wifi (and cell service) we felt ready to tackle the sandy road after watching a FEDEX semi driving in. Heck, if he could do it … but dang, it was a wild ride out and through the big puddles. Our RAV-4 did its best impression of a 4WD Jeep as we splashed up and down and swam and skidded along the track. It was just as bad coming back in and I just kept wondering how in the heck we were going to get our rig outta there. Again, I shudder to think what we would have done if we were towing the car.



Maybe I am a bit jumpy about getting bogged down after the stuck-in-the-mud episode at John’s place this spring, but I surely did NOT want to add “sinking in quicksand” to this adventure. So the next morning I took several deep breaths, instructed Jackie to lead on (but to keep moving no matter what) and I would follow behind. I’m telling you, people pay to do these mud runs, probably not in 33 foot motorhomes, but they pay for an experience I would just as soon never repeat. As I navigated around most of the deepest puddles and tried to find solid, dry tracks to follow, side-slipping and bouncing along I finally spied the last big mudhole. This one would not stop me, so I hit the gas and figured there was no stopping me at this point! Made it through, but I think we owe the park a couple of bags of sand (they can come wash it off!)

Enough of the dramatics – we actually had a nice 5-hour drive across the Apalaciacola River basin and surrounding swamps and pine forests. One handy tool we have used this trip is a pair of 2-way radios we brought along. It made it easy to share navigation info and gas status between the two vehicles instead of relying on the cell phone.

 

We are now back in PCB in a decent campground that is very close to the action. First thing after getting set in camp (again!) was to get to the beach. Yes, the sand was just as white, but the water was definitely murkier brown, not the see-your-toes clear gulf we love. Well, what can you expect, the flood waters are still receding. We swam a bit, sat in the beach chairs a bit, then went back to shower, change and go out for dinner (before we got chased away again). We took our Fat Tuesday mugs with us for frozen daiquiri refills at Pineapple Willys and finally felt like we were starting the beach vacation. Along with a LOT of other people. And kids. Guess the fall breaks are starting already?? Ah well, we had our face masks and got a nice table way out on the pier at a big table all to ourselves. Fried oyster po-boy and mahi-mahi strips made it a perfect beach dinner. And those brain freeze daiquiris!

 

 



Back home it seems they got a good round of rain from Sally, too. Terri was nice enough to check on the house and yard – our rain gauge said 4” of rain but otherwise all was ok. Friends are good!

To round out our stay at PCB we really wanted to swim more, but we got a cold front that blew in, overnight showers hit, temperatures went to the 60’s, breeze kicked up from the northeast and the sun hasn’t been seen in days.  We hear that Tropical Storm Beta is sending some clouds our way, too.  So we spent a day cleaning up the motorhome and restocking some food and drink.  Of course had to drive to Pier Park and wander the shops, with masks, and basically not spend money but comment on all the other folks wandering around.

Also opted to unhook the bikes and ride along the beach road, looking for potential rental units for the future.  By Monday, our last day here in PCB, it was still overcast, but at least the water was getting back to clear.  Since our pass for St. Andrews was still valid we drove to the park to see what it was like.

  

 

     

 

The campground was still closed off and there was a lot of water in places you normally don’t see it,  Making our way to the beach revealed a big transformation.  The same spot next to the jetty where just a week ago we were sitting on beach chairs was now a new channel from the lagoon to the gulf.  A big new area of sand filled half of the children’s lagoon and there was lots of dune erosion.  Sad to see such damage.  Good thing they had moved out the heavy equipment we saw last week, but I am sure more will be back to rebuild these dunes and fix the breach.  

And with a bow to tradition, we went to Sharky’s for lunch, complete with grouper sandwiches and “Shark Attack” drinks on the beach.  Still one of our all-time favorites.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.  A phone call confirmed that they are open, minus some of their beach.  Looks like we are in for more overcast and rainy weather, but we are ever optimistic that this warm and sunny Florida vacation will yet happen. A good omen was a bald eagle we saw circling overhead.

Stay tuned and thanks for following along.  I feel so good that there are friends and family out there who actually enjoy reading these musings. Happy Birthday wishes to Linda, btw.

 

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Finding Our Groove This Spring

I don’t think I need to tell you that 2020 is one heck of an unusual year.  When we last shared our adventures with you it was mid March and we were in the midst of the country’s shutdown due to COVID-19.  We had just returned home from a week in Florida and two days in FDR State Park in Georgia.  

Plans changed for an upcoming family wedding (just immediate family with a fall celebration instead) and our big plans for an Alaska cruise with friends and family got cancelled.  Staying at home was the required and healthy thing to do, so the motorhome got a good cleaning, but but didn’t leave the driveway.  That also meant more crochet projects for Jackie, more glass sculptures for me and a new project of converting old VHS tapes to digital home movies.  Yeah, that’ll keep ya busy!

 

Plus, I had this new talent for homemade bread and pizza.  The problem with that was that everyone was baking at home and, well, you know the rest: flour and yeast shortages.  Fortunately, I was already deep into home baking mode, so I had the equipment and supplies on hand to keep rolling along.  And if you ever try sourdough baking, you know the stress of feeding and using excess sourdough.  It just keeps on growing!  So I have tried sourdough waffles, pancakes, biscuits, bagels, pizza dough, beer bread … with darn good success.  

     

      

   

In the Backyard

Our birdhouse was home to a Tufted titmouse family this year and I managed to catch one of the youngsters hop out of the box.  And we watched our usual herd of deer wander through the backyard, two does particularly heavy, and knew we were in for another birth or two.  Since they have been very protective in the past, involving incidents with our dogs, we kept a wary eye and finally saw the morning that a new youngster was born next door, wobbly legs and all.

 

Finally, some travel

It has been hard to book campsites, both for this year and next, given that so many are either closed due to coronavirus or still under repair, such as St. Andrews in Florida.  We tried to book Grayton Beach again for next spring with Judy and Craig (or any Florida campground), with no luck.  And we are pretty good at this, too.  So here we sit at home, like most of the country.

But, brother-in-law John is still working on his cabin in North Carolina (this is a no-hurry, one man, bucket list project) and was at the point of needing another helper, so we cautiously made plans to leave home and stay with him for a week.  Jackie thought it would be a good idea to try and book a night on the return trip in one of the Georgia State Parks, Moccasin Creek St. Park, so we made that reservation from the road.  Ok then, it felt good to be underway to somewhere.

Getting to Rutherfordton, more or less, in rural North Carolina was no problem and we set ourselves up in his backyard.  Nice grassy spot that let us connect water and electricity.  The weather was nice, so we ate outside and even tried out our new propane firepit (thanks to the idea from Judy and Craig).  We saw wild turkey in the farm fields and heard coyotes at night (and let me tell you, they were creepy yelps), but missed seeing the red fox that lives nearby.  John’s friend Elvie brought over some homemade pork egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce one night that made for a delicious treat.  Life was good and we were out of the house (and yes, we were wearing masks and washing hands as needed).

 

About that groove …

Over at the cabin, John explained what we were to get started on:  tongue and groove pine siding that he was using for his interior walls and the porch ceiling.  OK, no biggie, right?  Besides, John had already gotten some of it started.  We set up some boards for Jackie to stain – 12 and 16 footers for the porch, and John and I finished up the upper part of the stairway wall.  Not too bad, just way up on ladders and such.

 

But when it came to the overhead porch ceilings, it was a lot trickier.  Not all the boards wanted to slip into the grooves easily, so there was a bit of thumping, banging, cursing, and reaching – especially on the 16 footers.  Ping, ping, ping and we got some nails in.  Pushing, tapping, wedging and we got more boards in.  Ok, load up Jackie’s staining table again and stop for the day.  Next day, repeat.  Oh, and the jigsaw just kept seizing up at critical moments, so some creative means were used for some of the cuts needed for outlet boxes.  Maybe the sixth or seventh “jam” brought about a “@#$%&!” moment and the saw went flying out the door into the driveway.  Better order another one.

 

Rain was predicted and John wanted to pick up his hearth stone, a rather large slab of sandstone up in Marion before it got too bad, so we rode out to the quarry and they loaded up the stone.  Back at the cabin we hefted it out of the truck bed and inside to the hearth.  Not too shabby, but pretty darn heavy. 

From that day on (three days?) it rained pretty hard.  Didn’t slow our work on the “wonderful” tongue and groove, but there was some pretty good flooding going on.  We did our best to finish our project list, but didn’t quite get the porch ceiling done.

   

One last challenge

The night before we were to pull up and head out I had a nightmare that woke me up good.  I kept imagining our stabilizing jacks would sink into the ground and we wouldn’t be able to retract the slides (sides of the RV) because we were tilted.  I was also imagining that the soggy wet ground would make us slip on the grass and we would bog down in the mud instead of backing out of John’s yard.  So I jumped out of bed and pulled in the living room slide, waking up the dog, cat and Jackie, who all thought I was nuts.

As it happens, we were able to back out of our spot in the yard and onto John’s gravel driveway with no problem, BUT while making the K-turn to swing around … my nightmare came true.  Stuck in the mud.  Just barely got wood under the rear hydraulic jacks to lift us up and slip a board under one wheel, and John tried to pull with his pickup truck, but the board snapped and we sunk in deeper – no luck.  

 

We called a wrecker and Jack did a great job with a winch to pull us to safety (after nearly bogging down himself), and we then backed all the way out the driveway.  Not a fun way to start the day.  I was in no mood to spend the night at another campground, especially one with “creek” in the name, so we cancelled our reservation and just headed back home, leaving a trail of mud clods behind us.

And while we were gone?

Once back home we spilled out of the motorhome and unpacked.  Everything looked fine.  I pulled the memory card out of our backyard trail camera and was stunned to find a perfect video of our latest addition to the herd.  Our second fawn was caught on camera the day he/she was born and was caught looking adorable.  The youtube clip is precious and I am amazed that the youngster and mom hung out right in front of the camera.  Maybe they knew?  

Fawn’s First Day Video

So, even though we are pretty much staying home (although Georgia is trying to reopen), we have found some new adventures.  They might not be the cruises and family gatherings and celebrations we had planned – like everyone else – they still provide a sense of wonder – even the tongue and groove (I wonder why those boards won’t go together? thump, thump, curse).

The Adventure continues … (will we still be camping in Florida this fall?  Stay tuned)

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Last One to Leave, Turn the Lights Out

If you followed our previous post, Searching for Spring Sun, you know we just left Grayton Beach State Park in Florida after a wonderful, sun-filled week that was a perfect escape from the incessant rain.  No rain, all sun. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus and protective measures ramped up as we made our way south to camp along the Gulf coast. With no television, scant information on the radio and occasional news feeds on our phones, we were probably slow to learn about the fast-moving plans to limit social interactions. 

By the time we packed up on Friday to leave the campground as planned, the campground itself was closing, beaches were shutting down, bars, restaurants and shops were closing – it almost felt like the last time we had to leave Florida in a hurry ahead of hurricane Michael. We expected a caravan of cars, motorhomes and trailers headed away from the coast, but were surprised to have little traffic until we reached Dothan and Eufaula, Alabama.

Not much further along, near Pine Mountain, Georgia, we found our destination for the next two nights: FDR State Park.  The campground was completely full, although much of it is under renovation and maybe a third of sites are not available.  Our reservation was for a site along the shoreline of Lake Delano and was a perfect spot, even though there was construction and erosion control fence around us.  We set up, had dinner and sat out to enjoy a cool night by the lake. Just as we fell asleep, later, the sky opened up and we had major rain pelting down on the camper.  Gosh, such a nice welcome back to Georgia!

It also seems that pollen season has just started — our site was awash in the yellow stuff and the chairs and outdoor rug were pretty well soaked from the rain.  At least the sun came out to dry things out and we made sure to wipe and brush off as much pollen as we could. It probably means we have minutes before it hits us hard back home. 

Since we had the car disconnected for the back-in site we figured we ought to explore the park, find the Little White House and check out Warm Springs.  The museum at Roosevelt’s Little White House was actually a great history lesson. We had the place to ourselves, took time to watch a short film, look at the exhibits and wander the small house. 

I couldn’t help but see the parallels with current events: President Roosevelt had to deal with the nation’s great depression, joblessness and people in need and later, at a time when he and many others were suffering from polio, a national health epidemic.  It was in the mineral pool at Warm Springs that he was able to relax and relieve pain and was inspired to develop the area for others suffering from polio.  He founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for the rehabilitation and relaxation of children and adults suffering the effects of polio.

It was here in the study of the Little White House that he suffered a fatal stroke and collapsed while having his portrait painted.  Touring the home and viewing the unfinished painting I mentioned to a volunteer that it seemed so sad. She remarked that in fact it was a very happy place, since it was here that he was able to find so much peace and comfort.  It was in rural Georgia that he was inspired to develop policies such as the Rural Electrification Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Just down the road is the town of Warm Springs, which grew as a result of his numerous visits and the Institute he created.  It is from the railroad station in town that his casket began its journey back to Washington, DC and later to Hyde Park, NY.

The town has little happening today, not just because of the coronavirus closures, but sadly, there simply is nothing much there.  I guess “potential” would be said of the brick storefronts and the clapboard buildings but the only activity was around a motorcycle shop. Even the famous warm mineral pool was difficult to find, closed and no longer contains water from the spring. 

The welcome center/gift shop for the park is a classic CCC-built stone building that commands a great view of the valley below.  Heading back along the ridge of the park you can’t help but be impressed with that view – you think that Georgia’s only mountains are in the north.  Even though you are less than 2,000 feet elevation, you are high above the surrounding woodlands and farmland.  We noticed several trailheads for the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail – and boy were the cars packed into the lots.  So much for self isolation.  

  

  

 

  

The overlook at Dowdell’s Knob was equally busy, but such a wonderful view. This is a spot where FDR often had picnics, noted by the remains of a stone grill he used, plus a bronze sculpture of the president.  It was also a big day for cyclists, as you can see.  

We did a little hiking and picture-taking before relaxing by the lake.  No rain overnight, so packing up and leaving camp was easy enough in the morning.  Rangers said they were expecting to hear soon that the park would close, but for now it was still pretty much full.  A couple of hours later we were parked in our driveway and hauling clothes and food out of the camper and back into the house.  At least the traffic was light, even for a Sunday morning.

And so ends our sunshine adventure amid the coronavirus outbreak.  We are hearing from friends and family that they are healthy, but plans have changed for an upcoming family wedding (postponed), a restaurant closing puts our son-in-law out of work, others are making the best of teaching from home and everyone, including us now, is sheltering in place.

And now it has started raining again!

The Adventure continues … (will we still be cruising in Alaska in June?  Stay tuned)

 

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Searching for Spring Sun

How about a little rain? How about a LOT? It has been quite a stretch of rainy, wet, cloudy weather so far this year in our part of Georgia and we need to find some warm sun! That means it is time to uncover the motorhome and make preparations to head south for a week or so.



Luckily, our winter months have had their share of fun adventures – we even had a day of snow. A new adventure in the kitchen, thanks to Alex, was to learn breadmaking in the Ken Forkish “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast” method of artisan baking. So many delicious loaves of bread have now been baked and shared – plus homemade pizza dough. And that called for a gathering of the BrewCrew to celebrate a leap-year birthday and make personal pizzas. Such fun. And of course the brewery visits continue.

   

 

Once the cover was pulled off the motorhome this month, John helped me change the engine and generator oil and filters. The roof was cleaned and waxed with UV cleaner/protector, tires were inflated, rotated and brakes checked. Hydraulic fluid was added to the slide/jack system, the water tanks sanitized, rinsed and filled and minor repairs made. Bikes got the once-over (and one new seat), chairs and small tables wiped down and we started to fill the pantry and fridge and pack up clothes. Yep, it was going to be an early start to the camping season.

Roof cleaning 2020

All-important roof cleaning

This outing is to Grayton Beach State Park in Florida to camp with our family from Nashville. It is their spring break, so Craig, Judy, Rachel and Colin will be camping in the park with us – well, near us. Hopefully no “oops, left that beef stew in the microwave the last time out” mishaps will occur. You may recall reading the post about our trip to Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola last year.

We decided to break up the trip to Florida by staying one night outside Eufaula, Alabama at Lakepoint State Park.  Then, on our way back from the panhandle, Jackie and I are going to spend a few days in FDR State Park in south Georgia, a visit that should be both hiking and history-filled. 

As we prepare to head out, we are learning more about the spread of the coronavirus and the active measures our local and state governments are taking to limit transmission of the virus.  All schools in the area are closed, all major sports and public events are cancelled – all of this you know.  Although we are well and are taking recommended precautions, we do feel just a bit odd at the start of this adventure. But  life in the motorhome will be rather contained anyway, so we press on.  Might affect our brewery visits, though.

So off we go to escape the cycle of rain and overcast skies and find the warm Florida sun.  The trip through Atlanta and south towards Columbus was smooth until Kodi let us know that there was a brewery nearby in LaGrange … well, actually we saw a billboard for the exit. 

 

We were in no hurry and it was lunchtime, so the brewmobile pulled into a really nice spot at Wild Leap Brewing. We had a beer each and some delicious smoked brisket from a food truck.  Kodi had a wonderful time meeting the patrons, being fed dog biscuits and generally just enjoying not being in the motorhome.

Lakepoint State Park

Not too much further along we were in Eufaula and pulled into our site at Lakepoint State Park for the night.  What a great spot along the lake! We had a pull-through spot and didn’t have to disconnect the car, so we were all set to leave quite easily the next morning.  This might be a regular stop on our future trips to the Florida panhandle.

 

Grayton Beach State Park

After a nice morning drive through some small Alabama towns and the Florida panhandle we arrived at Grayton Beach State Park.  Recent improvements to the park mean that the sites are certainly ample and all have electric, water and sewer. Our spot was an easy back-in and we soon were joined across the way with Judy, Craig, Rachel and Colin.  We arrived on Sunday and did a little biking around the campground and up to the beach to see how nice it was.

Monday morning was a sunny start to the week.  We spent time at the beach, working on our early sunburn and testing the chilly water.  The weather is great so far.

  

  

 

  

  

 

 

  

We all decided to ride bikes around the corner for dinner at the Grayton Beer Brewpub and had a delicious dinner.  A flight of beer each was accompanied by grouper sandwiches and pork nachos and then a ride back to the campground.

  

 

    

 

It was almost sunset, so Judy and I grabbed cameras and hustled to the beach to catch the spectacle, which was naturally not as bright as the night before (when we didn’t have cameras).

  

 

   

Enter COVID-19

Tuesday morning (St. Patrick’s Day) was another nice sunny start to the day.  We learned, however, that the coronavirus was going to have an effect on our trip.  Now this is not news to you, but we haven’t had access to TV and news, with only spotty information on our phones.  We know from our teaching friends and family that schools are cancelled for weeks. Slowly the news of cancellations trickles our way and we learn that our campground will close on Friday.  That’s not too bad, since we were heading out on Friday, but it does seem weird — like a hurricane evacuation.

  

I drove to a favorite brewery in the area, Idyll Hounds Brewing, before dinner and learned it was their last night serving from the taps.  Starting tomorrow all bars have been ordered closed and restaurants to operate at half capacity. Now I understand the need for social isolation and preventive measures to keep this virus from spreading quickly through the population, but it hit me weird that our camping would be so affected.  But by the time you read this on my post, things will certainly have changed again and of course you are all too familiar with the run on groceries, toilet paper, bottled water and the like. Strange times indeed, and we certainly are not as affected as so many others.

  

 

  

    

  

But back to our otherwise wonderful time in Florida.  We rode bikes around Western Lake today and into Watercolor and Seaside resorts.  Wow, that was like major spring break time. Loads of people, but nearly all under 30.  None of the “elderly” in sight. We have now realized that we fall into both the Senior Citizen and Elderly categories .. not yet at the “infirm” and frail designation.  Anyway, word is that the beaches will “close” on Saturday. How do you close a beach anyway?  

  

 

 

 

 

 

We keep hearing of playgrounds, parks and campgrounds closing, but the weather and water are perfect here.  We did indeed find the Florida sun — it is out, warm, no rain in sight and we even braved the water, which seems to have warmed from the 65 degrees or so.  Such a contrast from what we left at home (and we are wearing shorts! Bathing suits! T-shirts and bare feet!) The rest of the week will probably be beach time, biking, photography, crochet (both Judy and Jackie) and reading.  No paddleboards this time, since we figured it would be too cold and windy — heck, what do we know? And I need to find a bar or something that will be open for me to upload pics and this blog story. May have to wait a few days.

  

    

One last dinner out was delicious.  We all enjoyed our meal at Hurricane Oyster Bar, but I especially enjoyed the oysters on the half-shell.  These were monsters, nice and sweet. Yes! I got my seafood fill, and Jackie had some delicious smoked, spicy tuna, declaring it a wonderful meal out.

So I will close this story for now, with an update to follow that will finish the trip back home.  This trip was a success in our search for the sun in Florida, but it was weird in so many other ways around us.  Hoping all our friends and family stay safe and healthy.

The Adventure continues …

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Chill’n in Florida

Here it is spring already and 2019! I know, we have been quiet since we got back from our Maine trip and the Halloween cruise, but that doesn’t mean we have been hibernating all fall and winter. We winterized the motorhome after hosting family for Thanksgiving, we had more family with us for Christmas and have spent some quality time with our grandsons.

 

I made a trip to Hilton Head to check on Dad, we made a few improvements to the house, I crafted several more glass totems and Jackie was busy with crochet projects.

 

But the worst news was when we had our reservations cancelled to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach for this summer. The damage from Hurricane Michael has been pretty devastating to the area and the campground has only limited sites available, so the decision was made to cancel all reservations for the year and open it to walk-in (drive up) only. That’s pretty risky when you have to drive 6 hours with fingers crossed that you can find an opening when only 30 of the 200 sites are even available to campers. So St. Andrews is off the schedule this year.

About that Florida Chill

Our first camping adventure is to Big Lagoon State Park in Florida (west of Pensacola Beach next to Perdido Key) for an early adventure with family (Colin and Rachel’s school is on spring break). We uncovered the motorhome, rinsed and sanitized the water system (and yes, the hot water does flow!), checked to see that the fridge works, put air in all the tires and packed up for about a week along the Gulf coast.  Now we consider ourselves pretty sharp, but I don’t know what we were thinking when we packed our gear for this trip.  We had bathing suits, flip flops, snorkel gear, beach chairs and umbrellas, paddleboards and a kayak all loaded – but as we rolled out on Saturday the temperature was 40 degrees!  Needs to warm up a bit.

It didn’t get much warmer as we approached Peridido Key and it was overcast and breezy.  But we made camp in a very nice campsite and caught up with Judy, Craig, Colin and Rachel once they arrived.  Naturally, we all had to explore the trails, boardwalk and waterways the next day to see what fun we could get into and we all quickly learned that it was not at all swim weather, or paddleboard weather, or kayak weather (Gulf water temperature was maybe 63 degrees).

 

   

 

A short drive into Pensacola for lunch followed our hike, but this was St. Patrick’s Day and we weren’t sure what to expect along their entertainment district.  No problem, we had a nice walk along Palafox Street and stopped in at World of Beer for some good food and cold beer. After placing orders for several flights of beer we were told, “no flights today” so settled for some pints of local brews instead.  I ordered the deal of the day: an amazing andouille sausage sandwich with slaw that was huge and the table shared wings and a big pretzel.  One last stop at Perfect Plain brewery for a flight (I liked the Carrot and Ginger Saison) and we were set to head back to the campground.

 

 

The forecast said we would be warming to the mid 60’s with some sunshine soon, so we decided to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum the next day and then check out the beach on Perdido Key.  We spent a lot more time exploring the museum than we expected, since it was a great (and free) attraction.  I recommend you visit if you are in the area and have a look at some amazing aircraft, including the Blue Angels, of course.  But aircraft ran the spectrum from helium balloons to WW1 and WW2 aircraft, Vietnam-era Hueys, Coast Guard helicopters, a Marine One helicopter and plenty of jets.

Yes, Nixon is onboard.

Later in the afternoon we tried the beach for maybe a half hour, but it was just too windy and chilly.  Maybe tomorrow.  Oh, but those plans got changed to be a Segway tour around historic Pensacola in the morning, which turned out to be sunny and warmer.  Now Jackie and I have done a Segway tour in Washington, DC, so we figured we had this one nailed.

And, yes, we did just fine the six of us zipping behind our tour guide along the streets and sidewalks of downtown like a swarm of bees buzzing along.  However, about midway through the tour I got a little flummoxed and lost my balance forward just a bit.  If you know how Segways operate, you know that is the instruction to go faster, so zipppp I go forward a lot faster than intended.  I tried to dig in my heels to slow down, but meantime the curb came up fast and I was soon bouncing and spinning circles, dragging around the road.  Finally let go, got my foot untangled, dusted off my pride and we got going again.  Yep, I have a few brush burns on my knee, but otherwise lucky that was all.  Oh, but hotshot nephew Colin had an encounter with a bush that left him sprawled on the ground later, so it isn’t always smooth running on these “simple” scooters.  Emerald Coast Tours did a great job of showing us the historic district and we learned a lot (for instance, did you know Pensacola was the first colony in the New World – before Plymouth Rock and Jamestown?).  I was surprised to learn that Andrew Jackson was Florida’s first governor – wasn’t he a Tennessee native?

Well, I needed to recover after that, so we found one more spot for lunch, Big Top Brewing, and had ourselves a flight and some fish tacos.  Beer was good, tacos were tasty, but it was the first time I had mullet fried in a taco.  Was I eating bait?  Actually, the Hawaiian Lion Coconut Coffee Porter was good.  Before we ended the day around the campfire we tried about an hour at the beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, but it was windy and chilly despite the sun.

   

 

Last day in camp it was sunny, upper 60’s and we all went different directions for a while, bike riding, walking along the lagoon, and an aborted kayak attempt.  Finally packed into the car and over to the beach at Gulf Islands NS (with our senior passes it was free admission), and spent the afternoon in beach chairs.  It is a gorgeous beach, but it was just a bit too early to enjoy the water.

Just a bit nippy, eh?

 

Dinner was a great spot along the water in Pensacola, the Oar House, where we started with drinks on the patio but moved indoors when the sun went down and it got cold again.  The grouper po’ boy I had is a serious contender for best grouper sandwich.  This one was a monster slab of grouper on a bun with remoulade sauce and lettuce – a big mouthful for sure.  Judy had ahi tuna, Craig had shrimp and grits, Colin shared some of his fried oysters, which were very soft and tasty – everyone enjoyed the food. This place was fun and would be an ideal spot in warmer weather, with a big outside bar overlooking the marina.  Good choice.

 

 

 

 

We got ourselves packed up and out of Pensacola the next day, which of course was a cloudless blue sky, and were soon headed north to Montgomery, Auburn and Atlanta.  And of course to welcome us home, I-285 started with a wreck, major backup and plenty of traffic.  But it was all good.  Pulled in, unpacked some stuff, ate a quick dinner and off to bed.

 

 

Consider this a successful first camping adventure of the 2019 season, even if we miscalculated the Florida panhandle temperatures in March.  We might just try next year’s week in Grayton Beach State Park but with far less of the watersports gear (in fact, none).  But seriously, isn’t March a little early for a school to have Spring Break?

What’s Next?

We have plans for May camping in the Georgia mountains and might head to the Okefenokee this fall, but no big multiple-week trips have been planned out.  Of course our BrewCrew will be volunteering at the Kennesaw Beer Fest in April and we plan to host a final retirement party for one last group of our good friends who are saying goodbye to teaching.  Gosh, retirement is rough.

Thanks for reading along – check out some of the previous posts and enjoy the photos.

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Salem Harbor to Shenandoah Valley and Home

Another episode in our continuing adventure to see the fall colors in New England (and sample plenty of craft beer along the way).  Yes, our wonderful site on the Salem harbor waterfront was really windy last night, so much so that we pulled in the slides to keep from rocking around.  But not much rain and it was clear and chilly in the morning. Did the whole disconnect, hitch-up and head out routine on our way back through Salem and off to Rhode Island.  

We made it around Boston and then Providence to mid-state to connect with an old friend.  It took a little maneuvering to get the motorhome in and around the stone walls to the farm, but with some help we settled in next to the horse paddock at Laurie and Brian’s place.  Actually worked out great – a good long walk around the farm with the dogs, delicious dinner and conversation to catch up and back to our own place on a darn chilly night.

Woke to another sunny, chilly morning and it was time for a repeat of the hitch-up, head out routine.  This was going to be a pretty long haul to get us into Pennsylvania and close to another brewery on the list: Yuengling Brewing.  Lots of historic rivers and bridges to cross on this drive from Connecticut to New York and Pennsylvania: Connecticut River, Hudson River (impressive), Delaware River.  Quite a few hills and mountains and very scenic, but not much of the fall color yet. As we headed to Scranton, Jackie checked on her phone to confirm the details of Yuengling in Pottsville, just a little further on.  Well, it looks like we were gonna cut it close if we wanted to make it there by closing time at 5 – but then Jackie said it looked like winter hours meant it closed at 3. So we were out of luck and out of time for that brewery.  

I was impressed with the mountains around Scranton and how cool the landscape was as we drove through the Poconos and closer to Harrisburg.  We decided to stop for the night at a KOA – pull-through site with full hookups. Very nice spot that was only 2 miles from the AT, not that we were planning to hike it, but it must have been close to where our nephew Adam made it (so proud).


I have to take a moment to say that this, like all our adventures, is a true partnership.  Yes, I do the driving, but Jackie is busy navigating, checking ahead for the best gas prices, calling ahead to some of the breweries to ask about parking, and being an extra set of eyes when we get into tight situations (including the very tricky gas stations).  We each have our set-up and pack-up routines, which helps us remember everything and we aren’t afraid to double-check each other. Anyway, it does take two when you drive a rig like this. And then there is the whole hitch/unhitch the car routine.

So that brings us to another day on this series of travel days.  Not too many pictures to share, as it doesn’t work to shoot while moving along and besides, who wants to see an interstate highway?  It was a good start leaving the KOA, sunny and in the low 40’s. We did not stop in Hershey to see chocolate world (another time perhaps), nor did we stop at the Lindor chocolate factory that we saw at the last moment, but we did have a nice drive.  Southern Pennsylvania heading toward Harrisburg was filled with small farms, the barns and silos dotting the landscape. Green fields were sprinkled between brown cornfields, most in mid-harvest. As we slipped into Maryland and West Virginia, the traffic increased and the hills were a bit more rolling.  We crossed yet another important river: the Potomac.

Into Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley was just amazing.  Blue skies, green pastures, old homes and farms all with a dark green backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Very cool, but no hint of fall color here. Jackie got back on the navigation and located our next destination: Devil’s Backbone Basecamp and Meadows.  We first learned of the DB Vienna Lager while pouring at one of our beer festivals back home and knew we wanted to stop here. Plus, Adam stopped here on his AT hike and said it was great.  Up and over the ridge from Staunton, I think it was Rooster Gap, we found our country road and wound our way along. Wow, there is a winery, wait slow down, there is a cidery. A distillery, a brewery …. Gosh the choices.  But we kept on until we found basecamp and checked in.

This is a pretty new operation, the campground just opened this year.  But is has generous room for rigs, full hookups and dump station, and lots of tent sites for AT hikers and others.  The grounds have a bandshell, outdoor bar, lots of outdoor seating, a distillery, breakfast spot and of course their tap room and brewpub.  So we walked around with Kodi, who met lots of folks, had ourselves a beer and relaxed a bit in the sunshine. We both liked Gold Leaf Lager, I enjoyed the Cran Gose, a cranberry sour and we made plans to come back for dinner.  Dog back in camper, cat fed and we went back for a flight each and a delicious meal. I mean great!

The only moose we saw on this trip:

Jackie ordered nachos with smoked chicken, I ordered a smoked top round (shaved) on Cibatta au jus.  Both were amazingly flavorful. On the flights we sampled Trail Angel Weiss (was best with the nachos), UK Lager and Vienna Lager (good with the beef) and a Brut Lager that was very dry, light and crisp.  Saving it for last, we tried their Hibiscus Hard Lemonade (6.3%) which was really quite nice. A stop in the gift shop and then a welcome walk back to the camper in the dark. We really like where this spot is going.  Definitely worth a stop if you are driving nearby.  We learned that the next day the campground was booked with vintage VW Campers … now that would have been fun to see.

Merlin is getting anxious to be home — and we have one more stop before home, somewhere near Bristol, Tennessee.  Might not be blog-worthy, we shall see.

As we left the valley at the DB Basecamp it was one wild ride.  The hairpin turns and switchbacks on the road up the mountains, and then back down again were a thrill (Jackie disagrees).  Crossed under Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the AT again. The mountains were green, the sky blue and just a bit of mist was rising from the James River as we followed along.  What a gorgeous day, but no hint of fall color here.

As we get closer to closing the loop on this trip approaching Knoxville, we end where we began, with a home Tennessee football game causing traffic and trouble.  No campsites between Bristol and almost Chattanooga were available. We didn’t make advance reservations for this last part of the trip, since we weren’t sure how far we would drive.  So, as we sat in some nasty traffic in Knoxville, we made the decision to push on to home. It made it an 11 hour driving day, but when we pulled in (at our non-moving house), it felt good.

So at the conclusion of this 28-day “Big Loop” to see fall colors, we will have driven through 16 states, two countries, a total of over 3,800 mile (not counting the car excursions) and sampled oodles of craft beer and ate great regional food.  It was definitely worth it – all the driving, all the gasoline, the cold nights and the rainy mornings. We caught up with old family friends, did a few hikes, had our share of pumpkins, apples, fall festivals and scary Halloween decorations, saw some new wildlife and definitely got to see all the beautiful colors of fall.  Phew! Now one week to do the laundry and pack swimwear, shorts and t-shirts for a cruise to the Bahamas with Dad and John. I guess we are just a bit crazy. Thanks for reading along.

Until the next adventure …

Oh yeah, there are just a few photos that didn’t make the blog the first time around that I thought I would share:

Walking and picture-taking in Acadia:

The rungs, iron rails and walkways of the treacherous Precipice Trail:

The vintage campers from Salisbury Beach State Park: