Posts Tagged With: North Carolina

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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