Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 2 Blue Ridge Parkway

On Thursday we once again went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway on Hwy 151, but this time we headed south.  

Once again we stopped at just about every overlook and were not disappointed by the views.



Although the day started quite sunny, storm clouds began building up as the day went on. When Craig was admiring the view from this vantage point, I heard the sound of water from the rock wall across the road.




I couldn't really see any water until I got much closer.



There were many tiny streams of water seeping out of the wall. This, and many similar walls were blasted out when the parkway was built.  Fascinating. 

We did take one short hike from an overlook down to a waterfall. 




We planned on eating lunch there, but as we got settled on a friendly rock, it began to rain. 



By the time we got back up to the Jeep it was pouring, so we ate there and drove on. The rain stopped, but the road and views became quite foggy.  However, we enjoyed the ride, even if we couldn't see all that we came to see. The fog was enough to make the place mystical, but not dangerous.

We have a few more days to go up there again, and probably will.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Odd Little RV Park

Hominy Valley RV Park
NC hwy. 151, Candler, NC

Actually one could hardly our present location an "RV park", just a "place to park an RV".  

It is a little place along a road that has six 50 amp power, water, sewer hook ups and not much else. The gravel is newish and level, the grass between sites is green and cut, the landscape trees are healthy and seem new.  The other occupants include four trailers that, although not decrepit, are a bit old. Looking at the plumbing around them, they seem to be long time residents. Plus a medium size fifth wheel next to us. I saw an older lady with her dogs yesterday when we pulled in, and an older man came home in a truck carrying what looked like a lunch box late in the day. They may be here on a permanent basis too.  And then there is us.  So the place is full.

There is no camp-host or anyone on site who is in charge. I made a reservation a day ahead by telephone and was told to pay with a check placed into a stamped, addressed envelope that was in a mailbox on site, and put it into the outgoing mailbox at the road. We had a small problem with a leak at the faucet connection, and although it would not have affected us, Craig wanted to let someone know about it so as to not waste water. We are still Californians at heart! He called the same number I had, and the owner's brother-in-law came and fixed it within an hour.



There is only a single line of evergreens between us and the highway, but the highway does not seem to have much truck traffic, so once the day ends, so does the traffic. It was quiet all night. I heard the first car at about 7:00 AM. I don't mind street noise during the day.

All of this for only $15 per night. It is a 50% off Escapees park.
We will be here for a week. When the blinds are closed at night, home is home, wherever it is parked.

Hominy Valley is at the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a short drive away via highway 151, which winds quite a bit. Driving RVs on 151 up to the Parkway is not recommended. I looked at campgrounds in the mountains, but could not find anything that suited our needs. They are mostly for tent campers or smaller rigs.

It rained quite heavily Tuesday night, and the weather was pleasantly cool on Wednesday.  



We took our first drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway from where it intersected 151, north to a Visitors Center. There were several tunnels. At the VC we watched a movie about how the Parkway was built, and gathered information about hikes and other things we could do while we were here. 



Because of the rain, it was fairly cloudy, and although we enjoyed the views from the overlooks, they did not make the greatest pictures. We think this is the valley where the Alfa awaits our return.

Thursday we will drive south on the Parkway, and possibly take a short hike. Rain is in the forecast, but that doesn't stop us. It seems the storms are very short and there is plenty of sunshine in between.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weather Better

One thing I have never been really concerned with has been weather condition in places where I am not. Sitting in my house in the Santa Cruz Mountains for so many years, I became accustomed to "perfect" summers. But "perfect" can get boring, and I knew that the weather would be something we would have to deal with in our travels.

Hot, humid conditions are only uncomfortable if you want to do outdoor strenuous things like hiking. For most people, air conditioning is the solution.  We have air conditioning in our Jeep and in the Alfa, so all we would have to do is stay home, or go on driving tours instead of walking.

Monday the weather finally broke. It rained most of the night, and we were pleased to see temperatures in the sixties when we got up.

But Monday was also a planned at-home day. We will be moving on Tuesday, so we have a few prep things to do and I will catch up on the wash. If the temperature stays comfortable, I hope to take a nice long walk around the park this afternoon.

I have also checked the weather forecast for our next location. It looks like it will be at least ten degrees lower during the day. Eighties instead of nineties. I will welcome that!

Next summer we may be wiser about choosing our route.  

Or not!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Traveling On

My blog is becoming more and more of a weekly, or location update. That's fine. I have never felt obliged to post on any fixed schedule.  This is a summary of our activities for September 3 to Sunday September 7.

Wednesday and Thursday were pretty much "do nothing hot and humid" days. Well, we did drive a couple hundred more miles, overnighted at a Camping World, and had two very small, overpriced repairs taken care of.

Thursday afternoon we pulled into a nice campground in High Point North Carolina called the Oak Hollow Campground. They do not take reservations, but then none would have been needed. There are two "loops" and a flat gravel "overflow lot" with hookups. There were a few campers in the lower loop by the lake, but we were the only ones in the upper loop, which was wooded with generous space size. When checking in I asked the man at the desk for a level spot, with 50 amp, near the laundry. He sure got it right. The little building to the left of the Alfa housed the two machine laundry facility. One washer, one dryer.  It's nice that it is just out my window. When I do the wash, I will be able to sit in the coach. To the left of the building is a small but clean swimming pool, that I took advantage of several times.




On our first afternoon I took a walk around the campground. The heat drained any enthusiasm I had for going very far.


There was not a single puff of breeze to disturb the glasslike surface of the lake. This drake had a typical Mallard lady friend. I thought he may have been a cross-breed, but when I got back to the rig and Googled ducks, I learned there is a recognized hybrid called a Domestic Mallard. The article mentioned they sometimes liked to escape back to the wild, preferring freedom to the barn yard.

I had chosen High Point because it seemed like there was a lot to see or do within reasonable driving distance. We had hoped to find a cigarette factory tour, but the last one at the now closed RJ Reynolds factory in Winston-Salem was a few years ago.

We did drive over to Durham and went to the Tobacco Museum and Duke Homestead. It was interesting to learn more about how this crop, and the proliferation of tobacco use, helped the economy of the South after the Civil War. 

House at the Duke homestead

Duke was not the only one to take up tobacco production after the war, but he and his family were the most successful for a number of reasons. We learned a few of them on our tour and at the Museum.

Next we went over to the Duke University campus. We found a parking spot near the admissions building and got a permit for that place.

From there we were able to walk to and through the Sarah Duke Gardens where we enjoyed this quiet frog pond.


Craig found this crossing a little easier than his slippery walk across the head waters of Mississippi.




I am neither about to fall or jump into the pond. I was calling Craig to bring the camera over to me so I could get a picture of this little guy:



He was no bigger than my thumb, and was sitting on a small piece of floating bark. From this picture you can also see the green on the surface of the water is a plant, not scum.



Of course, being a well-funded garden at a prestige University, there were many beautiful plants to be seen. These had to be the largest hibiscus we have ever seen!


The lilies in this pond were amazing. The biggest of the plate-like pads were more than two feet in diameter.

We wanted to tour more of the campus but because I felt it was too hot and too far, we gave up our parking spot. Unfortunately we were not able to park anywhere else so settled for a brief drive around.

We ended the day with a tour of Staggville, a pre-war Plantation part of which has been preserved and is a state-owned historic site. It was recommended to us by our guide at the Duke Homestead.

We were given a guided tour by docents of the main house and of the slave quarters and barn. All of the docents we met this day were excellent, knowledgeable, and nice. It may have been because it was pretty hot, or that it was no longer summer vacation time, but there were only a few other people around. Both the Tobacco Museum and Staggville were free. 

Slave quarters at Stagville

As we have been driving around the area we have noticed many fields of tobacco, and many fields that we think once grew tobacco but are now lying fallow. 


Having had our history lessons for the week, we decided to drive to Hanging Rock State Park on Saturday. It was very pretty there, and the walk would have been nice if the weather had been cooler. Low nineties with very high humidity and no breeze is, as I have expressed many times, not my cup of tea!

The Rock Garden

There were several waterfalls in the park. The kids in the picture below sure knew how to enjoy them.



Actually, I did not see these falls, because after coming down these steps,



and these steps:

and several more sets like them, I said "enough" when faced with the last fifty or so down to the falls.  I chose to wait and let Craig go down.  Down is not a problem, it is knowing that the only way to get back to the air conditioned Jeep is to go back up them all.

Over the last couple of weeks we have repeatedly said we came here at the WRONG time of the year.  But, except for the Northwest it seems the entire country has been having hot weather. Even our friend Al up in Ontario has mentioned how the afternoon heat and humidity has driven him indoors. 

I guess one of our problems is that neither of us are really early morning people.  I used to be, but Craig is just not a happy hiker before about 10 AM, but he also does not seem to be bothered by the heat as much as I am.

To all of this, our daughter recently asked: "So why are you heading for Florida?" We are hoping it will be nice in November, December, and January. 

Hoping ...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Don't drool on your keyboard

[From Craig]  According to gasbuddy.com, the least expensive fuel in the country (both regular and diesel) is in Roanoke, VA, which happens to be where we are right now.  Today we needed diesel, so we used our GasBuddy app to find the least expensive place in Roanoke.  Our 35-foot Alfa, with Jeep in tow, kind of clogged the place up while we were there.  It is very busy, because "with-it" people from Boston through Atlanta might show up here to get the cheapest fuel in the country.

If you have a station that beats these prices, please leave a comment as to where it is.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Patapsco State Park Maryland

In my last post I wrote we had only a 56 mile drive. You would think that would be an easy, worry-free day.  Well, it almost was. Until just before our Rand McNally navigator told us we had arrived at our destination and to turn right, I spotted this sign on the side of the road. 


Photographed later in the day

Yikes! The Alfa is 13'-3" tall. We pulled into the park entrance as directed, and saw this sign:



But there also was a sign that said: "Campground" with an arrow pointing right down a side road.  We pulled over and stopped in a not very good place.  What to do? I tried to call the park headquarters, only to get a message that it was closed for a furlough day. I tried calling the main park service number and got the same message.  Meanwhile, Craig was nervous about where we had stopped, and decided it was best to get the Jeep unhooked so we could turn around.  To our left there was a road marked as being to the Park Headquarters, and we hoped there might be a map posted, or at least a place where we could get the Alfa turned around.

No map or information. No Rangers. But we did run into another man, who was familiar with the park and told us how to get to the park entrance on the other side of the highway that would get us to the campground without having to go thru the 11' -1" tunnel. 

It was quite easy, and we were soon tucked into our new wooded home.


When we did check in at the entrance to the campground I told the Ranger there about our confusion on the other side.  She just laughed, and said a lot of people had the same experience! I did not say any more, but had printed directions from their web site about how to get there, and they did mention the other entrance without a word about the tunnel.  Our Rand McNally is programed to alert us to low clearances, but not once we are at our destination or already into a park.  This could have been a disaster!  


Later in the day, when leaving the park for a few errands, I got out of the Jeep and took this picture.  Lesson: Read all yellow signs! They are warnings and cautions. 

Early the next day I took a short walk around the campground and when I found a Ranger I asked him about "easy" hikes in the park. He told me about a 3-4 mile walk along the river that we might like.


The Old Main Line trail in the Daniels area of the park was just what I had hoped for. 



The path was level and well marked. We only crossed paths with a few others, and enjoyed a relaxing walk. The day was quite warm, and just a bit humid, but the well-shaded trail and overcast sky buffered the sun's effects.


There were several families enjoying a peaceful paddle on the river. The dad here reminder us of someone we know,  and we joked that we wondered if his wife knew that he not only had a large arm tattoo, but also another wife and child!  

We ended the day with a nice dinner at home and a campfire.



Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone, it looks like it is going to be a hot one. What are you going to do to keep cool?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Gettysburg PA

Our drive to Gettysburg was a bit stressful because I tried to "wing it" and boondock for a night.  Looking at the mileage between Niagara Falls and Gettysburg, I knew it was farther than we wanted to drive in one day, and a just dinner and sleep stop about half way was desirable. In my reference books, I found a casino that listed free overnight parking, just on the border between New York and Pennsylvania. It looked perfect.  But when we got there, and I went in to check with security, I was told that they had just recently changed their policy, and overnight RV or truck parking was no longer allowed.

Lesson learned: If you want to stop at someplace that says check with security, call ahead and ask what their policy is. Information changes, and books get out of date.

I was directed to a gravel lot along the highway where truckers could park, but it didn't seem like somewhere we wanted to be. I have nothing against truckers, and if it had been late at night or an emergency, we would have gone there.

But it was mid-afternoon, and as we drove on toward Gettysburg I started to make some calls.  How wonderful cell phones are! We found a place to stay that was a bit further along, but doable.

The next day we continued on to Artillery Ridge campground in Gettysburg. Its subtitle is "the National Riding Stable" and it had a large facility for horses. The picture below was taken from the stable area when we were on our evening walk.



The horses were friendly and this one had a velvet soft nose.



Gettysburg:
Truth be told, I have never been very interested in battle history or battle grounds. How the troops were moved and who the generals were, is not high on my list of things to remember or appreciate. But the battleground at Gettysburg had a strangely sobering effect on me. The thought that 55,000 men were killed or wounded there was, at first, unbelievable. And then as we drove past many of the 1300-1400 monuments, many of which we read, it became a shocking reality.  



On our first day we went to the Visitors Center, watched the movie and listened to an overview presentation about the battle. The above picture is a small part of a panorama painting in the museum. We viewed it while listening to an audio presentation about the battle.

Next, we went to two ranger programs. The first was about the daily lives of the soldiers: who they were, why they joined up, what they ate, how they lived when not in battle, and what they wore. The ranger asked for a volunteer, and a boy, about 12,  raised his hand. The ranger then proceeded to describe and dress the boy in a Union issue uniform. He was a good sport, but said it was all quite hot and heavy.




The second program we heard was about the battlefield medical care. I knew how primitive things were, but the description of no sanitation, haphazard administration of anesthesia, and piles of amputated legs and arms being carted off in wheel barrows, was disconcerting to say the least.

Disease was also a big problem. For every man who died in battle, two died from communicable disease. 


The first night we camped there I had some very disturbing dreams.  Not quite nightmares, but unpleasantly reminiscent of what we had learned that day.

On our second day we decided it was too hot to hike, and opted for the self guided auto tour of the battleground. The route was well marked and the park provided map gave sufficient information about the highlighted stopping points to satisfy us. We drove, stopped, drove and stopped again to read or walk around many of the monuments.


This one was one of the simpler ones. It is in the shape of a bullet. 




This was one of the larger ones and listed the names of every one of the  35,000 men from Pennsylvania that were in the battle.


There were many monuments for both sides. Atop this one was a statue of General Robert E Lee.

On our third and last day there we decided to use the two free event tickets we were given when we checked in at the RV park. I did not have high expectations because they were smaller "commercial" venues, but was pleasantly surprised when they were not a complete waste of time.

The first was the "Diorama", a room size miniature layout of the battleground. It was in the back room of a gift shop. We were seated in bleachers, the lights went down, and an audio, spot light, and video screen program was presented.

After having learned about the battle at the visitor's center and museum, and after riding around the area and seeing the fields and fences first hand, this presentation brought it together in my mind.



The rocks and road in the top picture are where a group of Confederate soldiers made a stand. The lower, slightly out of focus image, is of a part of the diorama that depicted a nearby location.

The second free attraction was called the Lincoln Train Museum. Again, the front area was a large gift shop, but in the back room were a couple oft large model train layout, lots of train memorabilia, and a Lincoln collection. Part of the exhibit was a replica of the train car that transported Lincoln's body back to Illinois after his assassination.  We took seats inside, it was darkened, and the car moved to simulate a train ride while there was a program about Lincoln on the screen at the front. 


To my brother Gil, this picture is for you.

After a good night's sleep on our fourth night, we left Gettysburg and drove 56 miles to Patapsco State park in Maryland. 

I'll write about it in my next post.