In October of 2009, Randy and I were fortunate to be able to take off for a week and a half, to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the Fall foliage. We have family in Charlotte, North Carolina, and wanted to spend a couple of days with them while in their area.
Prior to our planned departure, I happened to notice a particular post on the RVUSA.com forum, about a Meet & Greet that was being planned for the weekend of October 16th, 17th & 18th in Bedford, Virginia, just east of Roanoke.
I posted back regarding the Meet & Greet and we were invited to join in on the fun. After some discussion Randy and I decided we could leave on the 14th of October, drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Bedford, spend the weekend meeting new friends at the Meet & Greet, spending a few days traveling the rest of the Parkway before turning back south down to Charlotte for the last couple of days.
The RVUSA forum is rather self-explanatory in that RV knowledgeable folks exchange a bank of wisdom with fellow RVers on this very friendly website. I had browsed the site
as a guest for several months before joining in May of 2008. Over the year and a half Randy and I have benefited significantly from the graciousness of several frequent posters and I feel I almost know some of them from our exchanges.
On the morning of October 14th, we awoke around 8 am after having stayed up late the previous night with last-minute loading and preparations for our trip. By 10:00 we were at the grocery store picking up the last couple of items that we had forgotten the previous trips to the store.
We fueled up the RV and were on I-12 heading east by 11:00. This is a section of I-12 that we travel very frequently so we won't be seeing any new sights until we head north in Mississippi. When we reached Slidell, LA, approximately 70 miles from Baton Rouge, we turned north on I-59 to go through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and then into Tennessee where we take US Hwy 64 to US Hwy 19 to where the Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Cherokee, North Carolina.
After having breezed through Mississippi, we made it to Birmingham, Alabama around 6:00 pm before finally deciding
to stop for the night. We picked up some tacos at the Taco Bell drive-thru before making our way to the Wal-Mart for a few hours of much-needed sleep.
Thursday, October 15th, we opened our eyes rather early and at an acceptable time were on the road continuing northeast toward North Carolina. Just before we crossed into Georgia around 10 am, it started to rain, not a downpour but nevertheless rain which meant we had to adjust our speed accordingly.
Continuing our travels with a stop only for gasoline and to switch drivers, we made it to the Tennessee State line before 11:00 am and started to see some fall color. By noon the weather had cleared significantly, in fact enough to allow me to take some rather nice fall foliage pictures. We were starting to get the Foliage Fever.
We rolled across the North Carolina State Line around 12:45 pm and made our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway by 2:00 pm, enjoying the changing colors along the way.
What we have heard is true, the Blue Ridge Parkway is amazingly beautiful, with the brilliant ruby-red leaves, vibrant yellows, and bright orange mixed in with
Clouds in Alabama caught up with us the next day in Georgia and Tennessee.
the lovely evergreens, it is truly an amazing sight to see. It must be a nice tranquil drive regardless of the time of year, but there's something special about the fall colors that seem to enhance the drive.
We were rolling along taking in the sights but needing to put some miles behind us if we were to make it to the Meet & Greet in Roanoke, VA for Friday afternoon. The first 40 to 50 miles or so, were very winding and curvy so we were not making very good time.
Mt. Pisgah, the first major Point of Interest, has a campground, picnic areas, and other food and lodging related amenities. Since we were trying to make it to within 4 or 5 hours of Roanoke before stopping for the night, we did not have a need to stop at Mt. Pisgah on that day.
The skies continued to clear as we drove north on the Parkway and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking at times. Despite the claims of The Weather Channel, that it was peak color time, I doubted this was the case. While the colors were outstanding, it was clearly still a week or
Georgia State Line
We never saw a Welcome to Georgia sign.
two too early for the peak color. By the time 5 pm rolled around, we were starting to think we'd be lucky to make it to Ashville, North Carolina before stopping for the night, miles shy of our planned goal for that day.
Then, as things tend to happen, out of nowhere we saw a road closed ahead. Is that a side road? Surely it must be, after all this is a major tourist route and somewhere before this point they would have posted another sign. We were only about 20 miles from Ashville and several miles back to the closest crossroad which was way before Mt. Pisgah.
So we kept going...and sure enough, after another mile or so, there it was. A barricade. BLOCKING THE ENTIRE ROAD. Not a little wimpy barricade, but big concrete blocks which told us they meant business. They had used heavy equipment to move these things here. We now had to figure out how to turn this 30' vehicle around on this skinny two lane road, and it is now starting to get dark. Not pitch dark, but it won't be long.
Randy had carefully managed to manuever the RV around
Welcome to Tennessee
Missed part of the sign.
very nicely in the opposite direction and off we went, back the way we came. It was starting to look like we might need that campground in Mt. Pisgah after all. After what seemed like an eternity on that darkening mountain road, we finally saw the Mt. Pisgah campground and turned in.
Lo and behold there was still an attendant in the shack and we hopped out now eager to get some info about the campground and perhaps about the road closure. We found there were two attendants still working and we asked about the road. The man told us there was a "possible" rock slide and the road was closed as a precaution, indefinitely. What? Possible rock slide? Come on, there are either rocks that fell or not. I could not believe my ears but then I am certainly no expert in these matters and if we got crushed by rocks that would certainly ruin our trip. So we always leave these matters in the hands of the experts but we would have appreciated more than ONE SMALL ROAD CLOSED SIGN.
Randy asked about the campsites and was told there was no electric at the mountainside campground
Trees in Tennessee
Starting to really see a lot of color.
and I was not keen on killing the generator at 10 pm and sitting in the dark until we got sleepy. However Randy was not keen on driving on this curvy unfamiliar mountain road and I totally agreed, but this stop would throw us off our schedule too much. I asked where the nearest road was to make it back to a highway to bypass the part of the Parkway that was closed. The lady said it was a few miles south of Mt. Pisgah and gave us a map of the Parkway. She marked the route for us and the man added there was a small town, Brevard, which had a Walmart, food and gas several miles down the mountain.
I was able to convince Randy that we could make it to Walmart. We told the attendant that under different circumstances we would love to stay but we were due in Roanoke tomorrow. The man said he understood and told us the first 5 miles on that side road were curvy and to take it slow, but after that the road would be straighter and we should make it fine before it got totally dark. We thanked them
Our original plan had been to make our way up the Parkway, hiking and enjoying the highlights along the way, then detouring off the Parkway in Roanoke, Virginia and finally returning to the Parkway after the Meet & Greet on Sunday, however things were changing quickly and we were now running late.
We talked as we drove and decided we would have to detour off the Parkway, take the Interstate north to Roanoke, stay the weekend at the M & G, then return to the Parkway and continue on north to the end. Then take the interstate back to where we would cut off and head toward North Carolina to spend the following weekend with Randy's brother and his wife. We would miss a lot of the Parkway but there's always another trip somewhere down the line. That would give us 5 days to spend after we leave Bedford which is outside of Roanoke and just east of the Peaks of Otter.
Our soon-to-be new friend Ken, has a house and property that overlook the Peaks of Otter and we were excited to meet many of the people we correspond with on the RVUSA Forum.
We have been members for a couple of years and really enjoy reading the postings and we really learn a lot from these knowledgable folks. It will be something to remember and nice to put faces with the Screen Names.
Just as the man at the campground said, the first 5 miles or so seemed to take forever. There were so many twists and turns on this highway and with the trees hanging over the darkening roadway, the miles seemed to go on and on. Finally the road straightened out a bit and we made it to the Brevard, North Carolina Walmart, and just in the nick of time. It was now pitch dark and we were happy to be stopped. Once again, we had driven through the day stopping only for fuel and to change drivers, so we were tired.
We found an out-of-the-way area by two other RVs, quickly prepared a meal, showered and hit the sack. We would have to get up and out of here early to make it to the Meet & Greet tomorrow at a decent time and we were still hundreds of miles away, but by taking the interstate we figure
we can make it by late afternoon tomorrow.
Friday, October 16th, we were on the road by 8:30 am and made it to I-40 taking it east until we reached I-26 which runs in to I-81 and then straight to Roanoke. We rode along with no events worth mentioning, and made it to our exit in Roanoke that would take us to the Meet & Greet. We still have 50 or so miles to go on these endless winding roads and made a wrong turn somewhere when we got to Bedford. With a little luck on our side, we eventually made it to the highway we needed for the final leg of our journey to the M & G.
According to the email we received, there would be signs to direct us to the right place, however when we got to the end of our directions and were at the address described, there were hay bales with nice Fall decorations but no signs, so I told Randy to keep going. Immediately upon passing that driveway, we both saw 10 or 15 RV's way back out in a field...down the driveway we had just passed.
Great, I had
just had Randy pass it and we saw nowhere to turn around so we'll have to keep going, further and further away from all of the other RV's, and our Meet & Greet. I laughed and told Randy that I'd bet they were all watching us pass by and sharing a good laugh! "There goes somebody passing us up and I'll bet it's those Louisiana folks" and of course it was! We had made it, well almost. It was now back a mile or two before we finally found a place to turn around but neither one of us was crazy about the spot, at the bottom of a hill, in a curve.
With our turn safely made, we headed back toward the place that we were sure the Meet & Greet was. Randy turned down the driveway between the bales of hay and decorations, and proceeded several hundred yards down the drive toward where the other RV's were parked and pulled into a spot next to another RV.
A man approached us smiling from ear to ear as I rolled down my window and I asked if we were in the right place and he replied that
we were. We shut off our engine at 5:00 pm, very happy to have made it. Looking around it appeared to me that we might be the last to arrive so Randy and I hopped out to go introduce ourselves. As we opened the doors we realized it was much cooler now that it was getting late and a coat was in order.
We grabbed our coats and headed toward the blazing fire that was set up in the middle of this large field. There were several folks sitting around the fire getting to know each other. The man who had met us as we pulled up, was Ken. He and his wife Linda are the hosts and have graciously opened their "space" for all of us, many of who are complete strangers having communicated only through the RVUSA Forum.
After meeting all of the folks who were present at the time, we went back to our RV to get set up. Hurrying, we got our generator cranked up, turned on a light to see later when we returned, and grabbed our lawn chairs to join everyone around the fire.
We met Tex and Jenny from Texas,
Hollis and Maria from Georgia, Blanton and Pat from Bedford, Brian and Denise, also from Bedford, and Ann along with Ken and Linda. I asked if we were the last to arrive and was told that Rod and Lynn from Tennessee were still expected along with a few of their local friends who would join us throughout the weekend. We appear to have the makings for a super weekend.
There were several other couples who for whatever reason, could not make it including Big Bilko from Australia, who sent money to treat us to his favorite beer, Fosters. They were 24 ounce cans and we had fun watching a couple of the guys attempting to drink them in a timely manner. Mission accomplished!
Once we had chatted a bit, we all retreated to our campers to prepare for our Friday night feast. Linda was preparing barbequed ribs, Tex and Jenny making their famous Texas Chili and Randy and I were cooking up a crawfish ettouffee. Others were bringing salads, vegetables and various sweets for all to enjoy. Tomorrow night would be a variety of other dishes being prepared for our second night.
Let me just say that
RVUSA Meet & Greet
Us around the campfire getting to know each other.
the food was out of this world. Linda's ribs, Jenny's chili, and all of the other foods were all excellent. I barely managed to shove down some delicious dessert before hauling myself back to the campfire to recuperate and warm up. It was getting colder and starting to drizzle rain...but we did not let that dampen our spirits one bit! We all drank beer by the campfire while holding huge umbrellas. We had a great time.
Bellies full, cheeks aching from laughing at the campfire stories, one or two at a time, we all departed for the warmth of our RVs. Ken had mentioned an Apple Fall Festival in town tomorrow and invited everyone to join in on the fun, so we all headed back toward our campers so we could get an early start tomorrow and make the most out of the time we have to spend here in Bedford with our wonderful new friends from the RVUSA Forums.
Rod and Lynn still had not made it by the time we headed in for the night. Everyone is hoping they make it here safely tomorrow. They sure missed an amazing mass of food tonight but should have
plenty of time to catch up tomorrow night.
Earlier, several of the folks had commented that they were able to pick up between 5 and 15 channels on their antennas and we were just as fortunate catching Late Night With David Letterman before turning in for the night.
Saturday, October 17th, from our campsite within walking distance to the Peaks of Otter, we awoke around 8 am and leisurely enjoyed our coffee while catching the morning news. Looking out of the window, I could see several of our new friends huddled around the still blazing campfire drinking coffee and enjoying each others company. I did notice however that most of the women must have remained indoors while their spouses toughed out the crisp cool air. The temperature was in the lower 40's according to the weather update but the sun was shining brightly and the winds appear to have diminished significantly during the overnight hours.
Unable to stay indoors when the sun was inviting us outdoors, we grabbed our jackets and headed out to join the gathering group. There seems to be another RV that was not here last night and we assume it must be Rod and
Lynn, the couple we had all been expecting. Sure enough, we then met Rod and would meet his wife, Lynn, later as she was still getting things inside their RV situated from their late night arrival. He said they had rolled in around 11 last night, but Randy and I had not heard a thing.
Everyone was relieved that they had arrived safely and we had a bit of fun razing him that he had missed an awesome Pot Luck Dinner Friday. It was all in fun and he was a great sport even when we all found out that a couple of the guys had a $10 bet that Rod would not make it at all, but they really knew he would.
We found out last night that several in the group had met back in April when they all gathered here in the same spot for a group campout and Rod and Lynn had attended. I would say they all had a great time because they were back again! We felt honored to be included with such an amazing group of down to earth, hard-working, fun-loving people.
After some conversation, Ken and Linda said it
was time to head toward the festival and asked who all wanted to go and check it out. We had a total of 3 carloads of folks that wanted to go and I rode with Linda, Pat and Denise while Randy rode with Ken, Tex and Jenny. Hollis and Maria followed behind in their vehicle and within 10 minutes we had made it to the Apple Harvest Festival at Gross' Orchard in Bedford County, Virgina.
There was a large array of booths featuring crafts, jams, cider, games, rides, auction, entertainment, and apple butter making. A Christian band was playing and had a large crowd gathered around enjoying the music. Our group split up with the couples going about our own ways looking at various crafts, buying funnel cakes and apple cider. Randy and I took a walk toward the back where the trees were so I could see the apples on the trees but after walking for several rows, all we saw were bare trees so we turned around and headed back toward the booths.
We encountered an elderly gentleman in a soldier's uniform and he was telling stories about his past and kept Randy and me amused
for a few minutes. When we had finally finished our conversation with him, we started looking around to see if we could find any of our group. Before long we spotted Tex and Jenny just as the others were starting to gather together. With the wind picking up and the temperatures still low, the consensus was to head back to Ken and Linda's place and relax a bit before starting our evening meal preparations.
Linda pulled out first with Hollis and Maria behind us, then Ken's truck with Randy, Tex and Jenny, and we inched through the traffic until it thinned out, talking as we rode along. Suddenly Linda said Ken had turned toward the Parkway and must be taking his riders for a quick sightseeing tour. Lucky Randy, but in all fairness, I had left last night's dishes in the sink in favor of campfire socializing and needed to take care of that chore anyway. Our crew arrived back to the camp around 1 pm and I quickly washed up the dishes, straightened up the RV and found a movie on TV.
I was so involved in the movie that I hadn't noticed that it was almost
At the Meet & Greet
several of the RVs on Ken and Linda's farm.
2 and still, no Randy. Then 2:30 came and went...finally just before 3 pm I heard a vehicle outside and saw Ken's truck pulling down the long drive. I figured they must have been treated to the deluxe sightseeing tour and that is exactly what they got. Ken took them up to one his favorite parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Randy said the sights were amazing. I would be seeing the same places tomorrow so I couldn't be too envious and now Randy could point out the things Ken had shown them today.
A gathering around the fire with us all enjoying a beer or two was great fun before we all returned to our RVs to prepare our individual contributions to the Saturday night meal. Randy was making a Cajun jambalaya with chicken, sausage and pork chop and I had a salad to add to the meal as well.
Hollis and Maria are cooking Drunken Chicken, Jenny is bringing the rest of delicious chili from last night and there will be other salads, veggies, breads and desserts to complete our feast.
While Randy prepared the meat, I chopped onions, sausage and pork chop and
Jenny & Maria
2 super ladies we met
he took over from there. Since he would be tied up with the cooking for a while, I went out to visit with a few of the folks who were gathering back around the fire. Once Randy had the jambalaya simmering, he joined the rest of us and we all got together for an official RVUSA.com group photo. Jenny insisted on taking the picture and we miss her smiling face in the photo. She took a really nice picture of us just before the sun went down, with the Peaks of Otter as our backdrop!
Once all the food was ready, we ate then sat back to relax, talk, joke and just generally enjoy each others company as our weekend was coming to an end. It seems like we just got here and it much too soon to depart. We have really enjoyed meeting these wonderful people who like us, enjoy a lifestyle that affords us the joys of nature and a chance to step outside the box.
Everyone was ready to turn in before it got too late but we all had to say goodbye to one of the couples who would be leaving at daylight to
Peaks of Otter
return home to Georgia, in order to tend to family obligations.
After their goodbyes we watched the local news before turning in. It had been a long and fun-filled day and we were both tired. We also wanted to get a relatively early start to allot plenty of time for our final goodbyes. We have met some super people that we will want to stay in contact with throughout the coming years. Everyone is already planning another M&G for April!
Sunday, October 18th, we awoke around 8 am and looked outside to see if anyone was moving around. We saw a couple of the guys standing around the fire drinking coffee and that fire was still blazing. I don't think it went out one time this entire weekend, what a great fire! Randy and I rushed around to get the RV ready to roll and then went outside to chat for a bit before departing. We exchanged email addresses with everyone and we hugged each other goodbye. Jenny had a jar of homemade fig preserves that Pat had given her to pass on to us. Pat and Blanton had gotten up early and went to church before we
ever got up. Randy and I love fig preserves and what a treat that was. Jenny gave me a nice Christmas ornament with Texas on it and we will think of them when we see it on our tree.
With the RV readied for travel and our goodbyes said, we cranked up and headed out toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. We planned to re-enter the Parkway where Ken had taken Randy, Tex and Jenny yesterday and then continue north until we reached the Skyline Drive. It was a shame to be so close to the Skyline Drive and not be able to drive it as well, but that would have to wait until another trip.
Ten minutes later we were entering the Parkway and Randy was showing me the sights Ken had shown him the previous day. The sights were truly amazing and with the two cool nights we had over the weekend, the leaves were changing faster. The further north we drove, the prettier the sights were. We stopped at several of the points of interest and hiked up around the Battery Creek Locks. Battery Creek Lock #7 was restored in the mid 1960's and was part
of the James River and Kanawha Canal System that was built between1848 and 1849 as the main artery of commerce between Richmond and the valleys to the west. The lock is 100 feet long, 15 feet wide and 25 feet deep. It was a nice walk despite the cool temperatures. A couple who were walking just ahead of us suddenly stopped and the girl screamed "snake"!
Of course Randy rushed over to help identify the snake while the frightened girl made her way toward me. It was determined (by the men) that it was a King Snake and we all commented that it was unusual for a snake to be out on such a chilly day. We hiked back up the trail and jumped back in the warm RV. We continued along and as we climbed in elevation, we noticed that the road appeared to be wet. Then, about 5 minutes later, I spotted IT! SNOW! It wasn't feet or even inches, but rather a light sprinkle of snow all over the ground, but it prompted Randy to find a spot to pull over so I could make my souvenir snowball. I still had one in the freezer at
home from our trip this past summer to Yellowstone and now I'd have two.
We continued to stop at points of interest along the way up to the Northern End of the BRP. There was one place we didn't want to miss and that was the Natural Bridge. It is located just north of the Peaks of Otter but several miles of mountain roads, however it is fairly close to I-81 which we will be taking south once we exit the Parkway, so we had made the decision to delay the Natural Bridge until tomorrow and catch it on our way back. We had already driven for several hours today and it had been days since I had an internet connection or had seen any type of cable TV. We started missing The Weather Channel, HLN, TV Land and a couple of other favorite channels of ours, so on one of our fuel stops we studied the KOA and the atlas to find a campground with internet.
There were 2 KOA Campgrounds in the vicinity of Staunton, Virginia but there was one that was within a few miles of the Natural Bridge and it had WiFi. Surprisingly, finding
internet was no problem at either of the 2 choices, but unfortunately, there was no cable TV at either. We guessed we'd have to make do with whatever we could pick up with our Batwing antenna.
By mid-afternoon we had reached the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and cut west on I-64 toward the KOA. We thoroughly enjoyed the Parkway and hope to plan a future trip which will include the Skyline Drive.
It was but a short drive until we made it to the KOA Walnut Hills Campground and RV Park. We were assigned a lovely spot which overlooked a beautiful lake. Once we were hooked up and settled in, I pulled up the internet and Randy searched for tv channels. The WiFi connection left a lot to be desired but I was able to upload pictures to the hard drive and post some info on the RVUSA forum. I tried to post pictures of the Meet & Greet but I kept getting an error message indicating all of our pictures were too large...
Lounging around, watching limited TV with a constant signal loss, and eating some warmed up Jambalaya topped off our day and
we hit the sack after showers and some late night TV. Tomorrow we planned to spend time at the Natural Bridge and then continue on south toward Charlotte, NC by Friday.
Monday, October 19th, we awoke at a more vacation-like time. Being very close to the Natural Bridge, we didn't need to rush. We enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee and tried to watch some morning news. It was pretty cold here last night with temperatures falling into the upper 30's, but we were toasty in our RV and never missed any sleep.
By 10:30 we were on the road and at 11:20 we were pulling into the Natural Bridge Attraction area. Along the way we passed a rather unique roadside attraction that had several rock type structures sticking out of the ground. As we got nearer, I notice a sign that read Foamhendge. It looked very interesting and appeared to be open to the public. After we left the Natural Bridge we planned to stop back by here and give it a closer look, but went down a different road leaving and never did.
When we pulled in to the Natural Bridge area, it appeared that
this place was more than just a bridge. It looked like a town in itself! There were buildings all over the place and after finally figuring out which building we needed, we parked nearby and headed toward the entrance.
It had warmed up nicely but we both opted to grab a jacket since we would be walking a trail down to the Natural Bridge area and weren't quite sure how long the walk might take.
We headed toward the large Entrance sign and found that the place was not overly crowded but was definitely helping out the local economy. As we made our way up to the ticket booth, we were faced with decisions. Natural Bridge; or Natural Bridge Caverns and guided tour, Cedar Creek Nature Trail and Monacan Village, Wax & Toy Museums and Drama of Creation Show which started at dusk. After a short discussion, we decided to see the Bridge which included Cedar Creek Nature Trail and Monacan Village. By that time it would still be early enough to allow us time to find the KOA in Staunton and settle down for the evening, long before dark.
Tickets in hand, we made our way
down the stairs toward the walkway which led to the Nature Trail and the Bridge. The sign said we had 137 steps to climb down to make it to the Natural Bridge area. Then lots of walking around once we made it to the bottom.
There was a snack bar strategically located the bottom but we figured we'd wait until later to grab a late lunch after working up an appetite exploring the area. Once we have given the attendant our tickets we headed down the walkway toward the bridge. There was a Ranger giving a brief history of the area and he asked if we'd like to join the group. We accepted and proceeded to learn about the history of the Natural Bridge which was formed when a cavern collapsed and left the part that still stands here today.
The Monacan Indian legend is that Natural Bridge appeared just as they needed to escape from an advancing enemy. Then in 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings. Thomas Jefferson then built a two room log cabin, one room which was reserved for guests.
In 1833, Jefferson's heirs sold the land and the new owners built an inn to accommodate the tourists who were flocking to the area. In 1998, the Natural Bridge area was designated a National Historic Landmark!
After the Ranger had finished his history lesson, Randy and I made our way along the walkway closer to the Natural Bridge Archway. There were "bleachers" set up in rows along most of the walkway allowing a large number of visitors to take in the nightly Drama of Creation light show. We would not have time to hang around until dark on this trip...maybe one day.
Continuing our walk down toward the beautiful Cedar Creek nature trail, we saw the Indian Village set up in a very natural setting. It was as if we were warping back in time. We passed by to avoid the crowds that had gathered deciding to catch that part on the way back from the nature walk. By then the crowds may have thinned out. Our stroll continued on to Saltpeter Cave and Lost River, then to Lace Waterfalls, where Cedar Creek falls 50 feet. A kind gentleman offered to take our picture in front of
the falls and as usual, we returned the favor.
Then it was time to make our way back toward the Monacan Village for a look around. There was a "Native American" working in the village weaving rope and did not mind telling us about his craft. We watched him for a few minutes and then moved on to the next exhibit. As we continued around the "village" we saw shelter construction, hide tanning, tool-making, gardening, harvesting, areas to prepare meals, pot making, and basket weaving.
Once we had enough learning for the time being, we headed back up the trail toward the snack bar. The leaves on the ground were so beautiful and in all stages of color. I could not resist picking up one perfect yellow Oak leaf, one just as perfect orange and finally the most perfect, brillant red Oak leaf I have ever seen, and I brought them all with me. I noticed one of the guides looking at me and I playfully asked if it was ok to take the three leaves and he smiled and told me to take as many as I'd like! When we rounded the corner to the snack bar
Me & Randy
in front of the waterfall
area, we realized we had made a huge mistake by waiting. It seemed that every single person here was in the line to buy food. Oh well, lunch will have to wait because we had a wax museum to tour.
The museum, located across the street from The Natural Bridge, contains over 150 life sized wax figures and some that were hard to tell they were not real. At the end of the many displays, we got to see the step by step process of the making of these figures. We read that this museum makes and ships their creations all over the world.
Before exiting the museum, we enjoyed the very inspirational wax rendition of The Last Supper along with a short narrative which we sat through alone. Luckily Randy noticed I left our bag containing our magnet of The Natural Bridge, on the bench where we had been seated during film. We quickly retrieved it and were on our way.
After looking at our paper guide again, we realized we had somehow missed the Toy Museum which is located on the bottom floor of the main building where we had originally purchased our tickets. After
We learned about Virginiaâs Native Americans in the authentic Monacan village.
a quick glance at the time we decided to walk back across the street and tour the Toy Museum.
Once again, we found ourselves virtually alone for our tour. We leisurely walked and reminisced about our younger years through the toys displayed. There were so many, it was impossible to really see and enjoy each and every one but we see most of the toys from our childhoods.
I know times are tough and money is tight, but if they invested in a person to periodically dust these displays, it would make for a much nicer tour. Most of the things were literally coated in dust. Overall, we were glad we took the time to check it out.
By then it was mid-afternoon and time to hit the road back to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Soon after 3 o'clock we were re-entering the Parkway. It was like instantly warping back into another place, a place where colors are Nature's Museum.
We drove the Parkway into Roanoke, VA and spent the night at the Walmart taking advantage of the opportunity to re-stock on groceries and other items. It had been a busy day and some much needed
rest was next on our TO DO list.
Tuesday, October 20th we started our day with coffee and determination to make it closer to our family in Charlotte, NC. We were not due there until Friday so we still had a few days to enjoy the open road. After readying the RV for travel, we were on the road by 8:30 am. We stopped to enjoy several overlooks including The Devil's Backbone and hiked up a mountainside trail to enjoy the overlook. It was a nice early morning hike and when we reached the summit, we encountered a young man who was rather winded and told us he ran the entire way up! Ah, to be young again...
After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we started the hike back down and cranked up the RV. As we entered North Carolina, we stopped at the Welcome Center to get some ideas on how to spend tonight, the next night and Thursday night.
As we browsed around, we collected some brochures for things to do and places to stay. We both liked the brochure for the Mayberry Campground located in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The more we
read, the more we like it and it is located conveniently to the "Old Mayberry" town which the Andy Griffith Show was based on. We had heard about it but never realized how close we would be so the decision was made to spend the night at the Mayberry Campground and visit the town tomorrow.
Along the way we consulted our Blue Ridge Parkway guide and we stopped at Rakes Mill Pond, took a few pictures before we made it to Mabry Mill around noon. These guides are so helpful with interesting things to do.
Mabry Mill is a self guided trail which features a restored mill and exhibits on rural Appalachia and is run by the National Park Service. We spent a little over an hour there and nixed plans to eat at the restaurant due to the hoards of people waiting outdoors to get a table. Once again, lunch must wait as we were not planning to wait that in that long line to eat. We climbed back in the RV and hit the highway again and off of the Parkway.
By early afternoon we were crossing over the North Carolina State line, so soon
it seemed that I missed snapping a picture of the Welcome to North Carolina sign. However, a mile or so down the road, we saw a sign indicating we were on the Andy Griffith Parkway! Sweet! A mile or so later, we entered the Mt. Airy city limits, the American town that was the inspiration for Mayberry in the Andy Griffin show.
We easily located a street side parking spot that would accomodate our 30 foot rolling home, right on Main Street and anxiously exited the RV. We had parked right in front of Snappy Diner and excitedly set out to explore. We obtained a map of the "the town of Mayberry" and Floyd's Barber Shop was the first thing we went to. So many of the old Andy Griffith shows featured the barber shop and we did not want to miss it. Although the streets were crowded with other tourists, we were able to browse around the barber shop and not rush through.
Opie's Candy Shop, The Mayberry Soda Fountain were next in line to see. I don't recall Opie having a candy store in the popular TV series but maybe that was "after he grew up".
We crossed the street and wandered through the Visitor's Center for a while before continuing on to the Mayberry Courthouse which was very close to the actual set, right down to the two cells, Andy's desk and even the Most Wanted Posters Barney enjoyed updating.
Wally's Service Station, the Mayberry Hotel complete with the Town Square which featured the cannon from one of the episodes, they were all there! A kind man took our picture in front of a beautiful bronze statue of Andy and Opie before we headed back toward the food area. Randy and I both ate BLT's and fries at the Mayberry Soda Fountain before we ended our stay in the quaint town of Mayberry, I mean Mt. Airy.
There was one last thing on our list of to-do's in Mayberry and that was to see Andy's actual boyhood home. It was on our way out of town and we would not want to have missed it. But in fact we did, and had to make the block in order to find it. It is now privately owned so the most we could do was to get a picture or two before seeking
out the Mayberry Campground just a few miles away.
We pulled into the campground and saw the office located on the right. As we entered we were greeted by a pleasant dark-haired lady who said they had a site available so we filled out the required paperwork to secure and paid for our site for the night. $26.50 with tax including full hookups, cable TV and wifi, what a deal!
As usual, I struck up a conversation and it was about a picture on the wall of the famous Siamese Twins. I was shocked to hear her reply that Eng was her Great Grandfather. She went on to tell us that the Twins were buried just up the hill on the grounds of the church. The Twins Eng and Chang, which means right and left, were born in 1911 in what is now Bangkok, Tailand. They were sons of a Chinese fisherman and when he died, an American ship captain bought them from their mother.
They toured Europe for many years before being contracted out to P.T. Barnum and were brought to America. In 1839, their exhibition tour ended in Wilkes County, NC and the Twins made
friends with a local doctor. After marrying Sarah and Addie, Eng and Chang purchased a large amount of farm land in North Carolina and settled down. The men donated land for the White Plains Baptist Church and even helped build it. Upon their death, the land was divided up amongst their decendants and part which the campground is now located on. The lady told us there was a trail that led up to the church and the graves of Eng and Chang.
We decided to park the RV on our site and head out to find the trail leading up to the church and the cemetary. The only things we needed to hook up would be water and electric and there were plenty of lights to do that by, should the time get away from us on our hike.
The lady in the office had pointed out toward the far corner of the campground by the lake's edge so we took of toward that direction. We really couldn't see a trail but once we made our way around the lake, we saw a small path and we decided that was it. The sun was just getting low in
the sky and the walk was easy. We had both carried jackets in case it got too cool before we made it back.
At first it was a nice walk but then it seemed to go on and on, up and around this "mountain" and the sun was going lower all the time. Finally, we saw a grave marker and figured we were there. Whew, that was a workout and then we saw a large area filled with graves. I hoped there would be enough light to even find the grave of the Twins.
After reading a few of the stones we finally made it around to one of the larger graves and sure enough, there it was. Their wives are also buried there with them. After taking a couple of pictures, we were on our way back down the mountain and at a breakneck pace. Luckily going down was much quicker and we knew the way back. We got to the RV and hooked up our stuff and readied ourselves for supper, showers and bed. We would certainly have liked to stay here longer but maybe we will get a chance to return someday.
The inside was not exactly the same as the original set, but close enough.
21st, we awoke and prepared for travel further south into North Carolina. Back on the Andy Griffith Parkway and south toward Winston Salem by 10:30 am, we continued to be treated to brilliant bursts of color along the highway. By noon we were parking in the Visitor's Lot for the Old Salem Museum & Gardens and hurrying to purchase our tickets for the exhibits. We were pleased with our time of arrival considering there were plenty of other tourists around but the line to purchase our tickets was not too long and moved quickly.
First on the list as we exited the Visitor's Center was the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Art. That sounded right up our alley. This museum featured furniture, textiles, ceramics and paintings from the early American South. This was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us.
Next we were directed upstairs to the Toy Museum of Old Salem. Since we had already had a tour of the Toy Museum at The Natural Bridge, we considered just blowing right through however, we noticed that this toy display was much different from the last and we realized right away that we would need to spend some time
The famous Mayberry Courthouse.
We saw 3rd century toys that archaeologists had dredged from the Thames River in London, miniature bronze firearms from 1585 to 1610, and a lead die dating back to 225 A.D. There are toys that the Moravian children played with in the 19th and 20th centuries. They have on display a variety of German toys, dolls from the 19th century through the early 20th century. Turns out there are toys from not only Germany and America, but also Great Britain, Holland, France and Spain. Having changed our minds about skipping this Museum, we were delighted we had taken the time to see it.
The next stop we made was the Timothy Vogler Gunsmith Shop and we watched the gunsmith as he was making a gun out of a block of wood when we were joined by what we assumed was a class of curious students. We all listened closely as the gunsmith explained the process and the time line for making a shotgun.
The Blum House followed, originally built in 1815 and once the home of the Salem printer and features several pieces of equipment and several trays of different fonts and prints used to keep
I took a shot at law enforcement. There wasn't much going on at the moment.
the town of Old Salem informed of the local news.
The Shultz Shoe Shop was rather interesting and we saw the various stages of shoes in the making. Just past the shoe shop was The Vogler House, built in 1819 and was next on our self guided tour. At one time home to the Vogler family, John Vogler ran a silversmith shop in the front room of the home. After enjoying the beauty of their home, we strolled through the lovely garden out behind the house.
Upon exiting the Vogler House, we walked up a block toward Church Street where The Market Fire Engine House is located. It was originally built in 1803 to serve as a meat market, the town's fire engine and firefighting equipment. What a combination! Just past the firehouse was the town square which served as a meeting place for many Moravian functions.
The Single Brothers' House appears to be one of the larger and more attractive of the buildings we toured. We went room by room and saw several period craftsmen going through their daily routines. We saw a variety of trades such as pottery, tailor work, and metal work. One of
Randy in Otis' cell
Don't get too comfortable there...
the nicest things we saw in the Single Brothers' House was an old time ceramic stove which was absolutely gorgeous. This was the second one we had seen, the first being in the Blum House. I couldn't resist taking a picture of this beautiful yellow one.
On the grounds of the Single Brothers' House, there is a lovely garden where the majority of the unmarried men, tended to and harvested these fruits and vegetables for the consumption of the residents.
The map we were given at the Visitor's Center indicates there is a cafe just a bit further down the road. After locating the cafe, we went in to find that it was fairly deserted but not closed. After waiting a few minutes, a young lady came out and filled our order which was a large soft drink. Big spenders...not this time.
As we exited the cafe, we noticed the C. Winkler Bakery and could not resist going in for a look around. The aromas that we were met with, were unbelievable. After wandering around and sampling a couple of thebaked goods, we settled on Moravian Sugar Cake and made our purchase. We hurried outside to find
and the cannon in the town square.
a place to enjoy our cake. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten!
After our sugar fix, we looked at our visitor's guide to see what was next and remembered the lady at the Visitor's Center suggest we see God's Acre, so we walked several blocks to the burial ground. Moravians believe strongly in equality, even in death so every stone in God's Acre is exactly the same so that no one person stands out. The deceased are buried by choirs, which are living groups in which their congregation was originally divided to meet the needs of the members according to their age and stage in life. They are buried in rows in the dated order in which they had died. We spent roughly half an hour walking through and reading some of the headstones of the deceased.
That concluded our tour of the Old Salem Museum and Gardens so around 3 pm, we turned back toward our original starting point at the Visitor's Center and to the parking lot where our RV waited to carry us on to the next part of our journey.
The previous night, we had looked ahead to
Wally's Service Station
one of the squad cars parked out front.
plan our route south to Charlotte by Friday, and while browsing through our RV campground directories, we'd settled on the KOA Statesville East/Salem which would not be far from our stop in Old Salem Town, to stay the following night.
Traveling the few miles from Old Salem Town to the KOA, we continued to enjoy the turning of the foliage as the temperatures continued to drop night after night.
We were assigned a lovely site right on the lake and promptly made our hookups to electric, water, etc. It was still early enough that we had decided to wash a couple of loads of jeans and T-shirts which is basically our day to day Fall travel apparel. We headed around to the road which led into the campground and found the laundry houde just before the office area.
Unfortunately there were only 2 washers and 2 dryers and someone had beaten us to both washers. So figuring the average wash cycles usually aren't more than 20 minutes in these commercial machines, we waited. Within a few minutes one of the washers cut off. Now surely someone would be along shortly to check on their wash and promptly remove
Randy in the squad car
We couldn't resist the tourist stuff. The do let you pay to drive it around. We declined.
the completed load and allow us to at least get our jeans started, so we sat down on the bench and continued to wait, and waited and then waited some more.
After the second washer completed it's cycle and cut off, I seriously considered taking the clean, unclaimed as of yet clothing, and placing it on the table adjacent to the dryer but quickly decided against it. Surely someone would come rushing in and apologize profusely for having been so inconsiderate but it didn't happen so rather than sitting there continuing to fume, we left our waiting clothes sitting on the bench and wandered around outdoors for a bit.
I looked for 4 leaf clovers while we both kept an eye on the laundry room door. After I found one, I decided enough was enough and I was going in and remove the inconsiderate camper's laundry and get ours started. We still had to prepare some supper once we returned to the RV...so I went in and opened the lid on the first washer to be hit with the realization that the washer was now empty! I opened the second one and sure enough, it was empty as well.
Someone had slipped in and transferred the clothing to the dryers and slipped right back out without either of us noticing...there was no one I could cut my eyes at to show my displeasure at being kept waiting so long. After all, the only thing we had eaten that day was the Sugar Bread earlier at Old Salem.
Alas without further delay our laundry was loaded, detergent and quarters added and the wait was on once again but this time with an end in sight. Perhaps 15 minutes or so later, a lady appeared in the doorway and proceeded straight to the dryers. She reached in, grabbed the clothes out, put them in her basket and hurried back out the door without so much as a nod. Well, at least the dryers were free now and just in time.
We finished up with the dryers and gathered everything for the walk back to the RV and we took off walking. It didn't take us but a second or two to realize that the light from the laundry room was no longer illuminating the area and it was pitch dark outside. Randy had put a small flashlight in his back pocket,
Andy's real life boyhood home
We had to make the block several times to find this place! It is now privately owned.
and it was a little help...
We walked down a hill and turned toward the area we thought our site was but it soon became apparent that we were lost! That's right...we were turned around in a dark, unfamiliar campground and had no idea which way to go. It was getting later, we were hauling laundry around and we were HUNGRY. Come on now, all we had to do was find the giant lake and follow it until we found our site. Sounded easy enough but it took about 10 minutes or so to find the lake and ultimately, our site. We were very glad to see our cozy home on wheels.
A quick meal of hot dogs with chili and chips, showers then out of the way, we settled in for some TV and to browse through the brochures we had picked up earlier in the laundry room. One of these brochures was for Hiddenite Gem Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina. Since most of the campgrounds promote the local attractions we wanted to check our trusty atlas to see how far we were from this Hiddenite Mine. Well this was our lucky part of the day because we discovered
that we were only a few miles from the mine and with a free day ahead of us, it looked like we had found something interesting to do.
Years ago we had visited Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas and almost died. Seriously, it was mid June and in the dead heat of Summer and neither Randy, me or either of the kids found a diamond, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought it might have been more fun under cooler conditions so although it wouldn't be diamonds, maybe we would finally find our treasure.
Thursday, October 22nd, we were up and ready to pull out by 10 am under bright and sunny and relatively warm conditions. I snapped a quick picture which I try to do at each place we stay with the exception of the Walmarts unless we see an especially beautiful sunset, and had almost forgotten to do so since we had returned so late from the laundry house last night.
In the light of day, we discovered that this was a particularly scenic campground and our site had an amazing view of the early morning activity on the
beautiful lake. Fish were moving under the wharf, turtles were sunning on logs and several birds were taking advantage of the lovely morning. This was a nice KOA and we would love to stay here again if we are ever in this area again.
Despite the fact that this would be the last few days of our fall vacation, we were both super excited to get to the gem mine and then to Charlotte tomorrow to see Randy's brother and his wife, who we don't get to see often enough.
After an hour or so of driving along some of North Carolina's beautiful countryside, we made it to Hiddenite Mine by 11:30 am. It has been our experience that finding a parking spot for our 30' mini home is not always easy and it looked like this time was going to be no exception, but just as we neared the end of the circle road, there was a perfect spot out of the way of everyone. We parked and excitedly walked briskly down the hill toward the admission area.
We were greeted by one of the employees who promptly answered all of our touristy questions. They sold us on the
Almost back from the graveyard
and it is almost pitch dark. SURPRISE! We brought flashlights!
package which includes a bucket of dirt for each of us, to sluice, access to over a half of a mile of creeks, to prospect for gemstones, plus access to designated digging areas, for around fifty dollars. We've spent much more on much less on occasion so we paid the man and grabbed our buckets of dirt and headed toward the crowded area called the sluiceway. This sluiceway was a long slanting wooden tray with water rushing downhill for the purpose of washing the dirt off of the largest stone found all year! That could be US!! So we found an open area toward the end of the sluiceway and settled down. Brrrr, it was pretty cold with all of this water and under the roof of the sluiceway but we got busy sluicing.
After a minute or two, I think we were both catching on and starting to see little bits of colored stones in our wooden box! Oh, this is fun! Just as we were relaxing and really starting to enjoy this, we noticed a couple that had walked up and they were laughing and talking about having took the wrong road and ended up at the owner
of the mine's home. They were telling one of the employees how nice the guy was and directed them back on the right track. We like their attitudes. We frequently find ourselves laughing at something we have done even though it might be something we shouldn't be laughing at...like getting lost or having the 24' stripping fly off of our old motorhome in Albuquerque, so we could certainly relate to their comical situation.
Ah, back to sluicing and man, it really is cold. Suddenly we hear a friendly voice asking if we minded company and we looked up to see the couple standing there. We'd love the company we replied and we met Mark and Renee from South Carolina. They were here doing something unique for Renee's birthday and Mark had a whole weekend planned with several fun-filled activities. What a nice guy!
After showing them the sluicing ropes and getting to know each other, they had quickly caught up with us and all of our buckets were empty before we knew it and guess what, we had warmed up nicely. The four of us had a nice collection of brightly colored stones. When finished for the day, the employees
will go through your gems and help you to identify them and let you know if any are the find of the day.
Turns out Mark and Renee had also purchased the package so we all thought it might be time to try something new like the creek or even digging. The decision was made that we would all try digging next and maybe warm up more later before finishing up at the creek. Since all of our tools were paid for, the four of us grabbed our shovels and 10 gallon buckets and followed the signs toward the digging area. Did I mention it had warmed up? Yes, I know that I did but let me say it was really warm by the time we hiked the mile or so to get to the digging area.
Mark and Renee found the spot they wanted and Randy and I trudged up a small hill to the top to start our dig. They gave each couple 1 shovel and 2 buckets so we had to share the shovel. Randy started out shoveling and I anxiously looked carefully at each shovel full but we didn't seem to be having much luck so
I branched out on my own with a sturdy stick and my bucket. I was only a few feet from Randy when I saw a wash area and thought maybe the ground would be softer and have some stones hiding there somewhere.
And so we dug, and dug, and we did find a few nice stones but nothing like the pictures displayed on the posters as you enter the place. Finally around 4 pm, Randy and I headed over to the area where we had last seen Mark and Renee and were surprised to see they had accumulated a large load of rocks. Whereas we were looking for smaller rocks, it seems they liked the looks of the very large rocks and hoped there might be some large crystals lurking inside, unfortunately for them, there were not.
The four of us trudged back down the dusty road back toward the main sluicing area. It seemed we had been digging a lot longer than any of us had realized. Mark decided he would hike up the steep hill toward the parking area and deposit their large rock treasures in the truck of their car while he still had the energy, so
we all walked that way and we treated our new friends to a cold 7-up in the comfort of our home away from home. They said they loved our RV.
Having rested a few minutes, we started back down the hill toward the sluicing area to resume our treasure hunt. After we all discussed the creek searching option, the decision was unanimous that we finish out our day sitting at the sluiceway so we all purchased an additional bucket of dirt for ten bucks each and went to work. We were now in a different area of the large sluiceway and the setting sun was completely hidden by the trees in the nearby woods, and it was starting to get cold again.
Before we knew it, we had all emptied our buckets and soon realized that we were some of the last to leave. Randy had found an awesome sapphire which we were told was worth about a hundred bucks! GO RANDY! I found my share of brightly colored treasures and I could have literally stayed several more hours, no problem however, we all headed back toward the parking area and exchanged email addresses with our South Carolina friends,
Old Salem Road
There were red cobblestone sidewalks.
wished Renee a happy birthday weekend and promised to stay in touch. We really enjoyed meeting this wonderful couple.
Now back at the RV, Randy and I had to decide where to spend our last night before meeting our family members in Charlotte the next night. We had briefly discussed staying at the Hiddenite Campground but I convinced Randy to take me away from the area, for fear I would be tempted to start over again in the morning at that addictive sluiceway, so on we drove. We decided on the KOA in Statesville which was just a few miles southwest of Hiddenite and wouldn't take long to get there and would put us within a leisurely drive into Charlotte the next afternoon.
Well the forces of Nature were against us this evening and being so tired from all of the day's activities, neither of us were in the mood for what happened next...we got lost trying to find the KOA. We weren't far when we left Hiddenite, but somehow got turned around and had no idea where we were, so I called the KOA for directions. By now it was about 6:30 pm and we were really hoping
Single Brother's House
All of the single boys and men lived together in this large home.
there would be a live person manning the phone lines to direct weary travelers like us to their park. Lo and behold, a lady answered and proceeded to give us directions to the campground. Back on the interstate and 20 miles or so down the road, we exited the interstate again and still could not locate the campground.
By now, I was willing to look for a Walmart or anything that would accomodate our rolling home and allow us to eat, shower and sleep for a few hours, but instead I called the KOA again. This time the lady put her husband on the phone after telling me he could probably give better directions...well, duh. PLEASE put him on the line so we can find this elusive campground and within 10 minutes, we were rolling through the gates of the KOA in Statesville, North Carolina. Mission accomplished~finally.
After hooking up our connections in record time, I captured a gorgeous sunset before we were finally able to get our showers, supper and finish up with the Late Show before turning in for the night.
Friday, October 23rd, we were in no rush to rise and shine; in fact, we were
both kind of sore from all of our mining activities the previous day, but we were up and at 'em by 9:00. We leisurely sipped our coffee while watching HLN to see what we may have missed while we slept. We nibbled on bowls of cereal before unhooking and hitting the road to Charlotte at about 11:30 am. This KOA was less attractive than the other two we stayed on this trip, but the area was quiet and well kept and we would certainly stay here again.
As in our prior days of travel, we were delighted by Mother Nature's glorious colors. We passed a lake lined with sailboats waiting to be sailed out over the blue lake, and several landscape nurseries filled with colorful fall plants and we watched the sky fill with dark clouds which threatened to make our remaining miles more intense, but the threat never materialized and we enjoyed taking our time on the drive into Charlotte.
Mike had told us to expect him home around 5 pm and to pull in their driveway and make ourselves at home and he would be there as soon as rush hour traffic would allow. We found their
home with relative ease and backed into the driveway to settle in for a couple of days. Randy called Mike to let him know that we had made it safely and was thrilled when Mike told him that his supervisor had allowed him to take off early to avoid the major traffic rush. What a nice supervisor! Since it was just past 4 pm, we shouldn't have too long to wait, just long enough to locate the power source Mike told Randy to look for at the edge of their patio.
We hooked up the power cord to their outlet and voila', we had power. Mike and Dunia had offered us their guest room but we love our motor home and don't get to spend as much time as we'd like in it so we politely declined assuring them that we have all of the comforts of home and more, all on those 6 wheels.
So there we were, all cozy waiting for Mike when bad luck struck, our power went out. We are assuming we blew a circuit on their breaker box and hope this hasn't created a problem with their home power. Since the temperature was
The Moravian Cemetary
rather mild, t-shirts and jeans weather, it was pleasant enough to wait until Mike made it home rather than disturb their neighbors with our generator.
About 4:45 we saw Mike's car coming down the hill toward home. He has not seen our new RV we bought in 2008 and it is hard to miss on this little cul de sac. The three of us hugged and said our hellos, before we broke the news that his circuit breaker had tripped. Mike opened up the house and went through to the door leading to their garage and re-set the breaker. A short walk back to the RV confirmed we were now on shore power. It's late enough now that we shouldn't need our air conditioner until possibly later in the evening so for now things are fine.
We filled Mike in on the highlights of our trip while making our way back around to the house and their little dog "Happy", who needed a bathroom break, probably as soon as he heard his "dad" pull in the driveway. Despite the fact that there were new people in his home, today was no exception and "Happy" was ready for outside. Just as
we made it back outside with "Happy", Dunia drove up. What great timing! She looked great and she was as excited to see us as we were to see her.
Dunia went indoors to put her purse and keys away while telling us about a trail down at the end of their street that led to a pond that was worth seeing. She and Michael take "Happy" there often for exercise and knew we would enjoy it as well, and we certainly did. They are very fortunate to have this tranquil oasis just a few hundred yards from their home. Mike went on to tell us that the lake is stocked with fish and several of the immediate homeowners, including himself, frequent the lake for some good ole fashioned worm drowning.
"Happy's" walk completed, Mike and Dunia wanted to take us to their favorite Friday night Chinese restaurant for supper. Although not a huge fan of Chinese cuisine, Randy convinced me to give it a try and I found enough in this large buffet style restaurant to fill my tummy to its satisfaction.
A short drive through the busy Friday night traffic in Charlotte and we were back
Located in Hiddenite, NC
at their home, and our home away from home. The four of us spent an hour or so after our return continuing to catch up on family news and activities before we all turned in for the night. Randy and I returned to our RV and finished up with our normal nightly routines before catching the Late Show and calling it a night.
Saturday, October 24th, neither Randy nor myself were that anxious to rise and shine, however this was the last weekend of our fall foliage trip and we were ready to spend some more time with Mike and Dunia. After downing 2 cups of coffee each, we were ready to face the world, or at least Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mike and Dunia were up and looking forward to their deviation from their daily commutes. Instead of rushing through traffic at a breakneck pace, we had a leisurely drive through Charlotte enjoying the beauty of their city. They had a couple of errands to run and wanted to give us the grand tour including showing us a couple of their favorite stores. Dunia is a beading whiz and when I showed interest this morning, she was delighted
water flows down the sluiceway as you wash your rocks in a screen box. This was FUN!!
to take me to her favorite bead store and helped me make my purchases to start me on my way to my new hobby. One thing I already know besides the fact that I like the beading, is that this new hobby may not be an inexpensive one...
A stop or two more and then we were on our way to a place they called the US National Whitewater Center. Since I wasn't sure how to explain what it is, I looked it up and Wikipedia's website describes it as "a non-profit outdoor recreation and athletic training facility for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking which opened to the public on November 4th, 2006. The Center is located in Charlotte on approximately 400 acres of land adjacent to the Catawba River. The USNWC is an official Olympic Training Site for whitewater slalom racing".
The primary feature is the world's largest and most complex recirculating artificial whitewater river. The most appealing attraction to me however, was an 1,123 foot zip-line overlooking the river! There was even a full service restaurant and bar, conference center and a stage for live entertainment. This place has a bit of everything
and we were already planning a return visit under much warmer conditions.
We arrived back at Mike and Dunia's home and stepped through the door and met with an amazing aroma...turns out Dunia had a pot roast slowly cooking to perfection in her trusty crock pot. Mmmm, we were treated to a wonderful evening meal of Pot Roast, rice, veggies, baked bread and a yummy pie for dessert. We warned her that if she kept feeding us like that, we may never leave. 😊
The four of us gathered on the back patio to watch an unforgetable sunset before retreating to the den to watch the LSU Tigers play the Auburn Tigers. LSU took them 31 to 10!! Go Tigers! 😱
During the last quarter with LSU having a sizable lead, I headed out to our RV to prepare for bed. It had been a long day and we had a long drive ahead of us tomorrow as we made our way back toward Louisiana. Randy joined me a short time later just after the football game ended.
Sunday, October 25th, we were up at a reasonable 8:00 or so and made our way up the sidewalk
toward the house to spend some more time with Mike and Dunia before hitting the road home. We had decided the previous evening that we would drive until just before dusk and then find a small roadside campground to stay over for the night before completing the final leg of our journey home on Monday. Neither of us are fond of nighttime driving especially on roads that are unfamiliar to us, not when we can pull over and sleep comfortably in our rolling home.
We spent our last hour or so with Mike and Dunia and made plans to return possibly this summer to spend more time visiting, shopping, beading, hiking and expanding our exploration of the Whitewater Center we visited briefly the day before. There are other places they are excited to share with us as well. We'll be back!!
Unplugged from our gracious hosts' electrical outlet, steps raised and locked into place, TV antenna down and once again, we are ready to roll. We have thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to our return.
We turned on to the on-ramp of I-77 south at a very respectful time of 10:00 am and by late
morning we were crossing the South Carolina state line; by 12:40 pm, we left South Carolina in our rear view mirror and entered the very fine state of Georgia. Hunger was becoming a major concern so we grabbed a quick burger combo and stopped long enough to eat. While we were off of the interstate we decided to top off the gas tank, just in case. You never know what lies ahead and we don't plan on stopping again until it is time to hunker down for the evening.
At 3:45 we crossed the Alabama State Line and pressed on. By 5:30 we were both starting to get travel weary so it was time to search for a campground. Usually we are lucky enough to see a billboard, or even a green service sign at the exits to indicate the various services offered at that particular exit, which hopefully will direct us to an overnight camping facility.
Well this time we just weren't as lucky. Rural Alabama does not seem to have the campgrounds we are accustomed to seeing at just the needed time and we were getting desperate. Finally, when it seemed that we would have to
KOA Statesville, NC
We stayed here to catch up on laundry. Mission accomplished!
keep driving until we found a Walmart in Auburn, we spotted a campground sign and we exited the interstate.
Following the signs we found the campground and pulled in. By then it was 7:00 pm and getting pretty dark, and this place did not seem to have an entrance. We could see a couple of other RVs but we weren't sure how they got there so we just drove across what looked to be a dry area and pulled around toward the other vehicles. With the aid of our headlights, we were finally able to spot the electrical hookup and straigtened up the RV. We were both stiff from riding as we climbed out of the RV to get the electric hooked up. Since we were only going to be there a few hours, the water hookup was not needed. We were also delighted to have a cable hookup so we can watch Headline News in the morning.
Once our speedy hookup was completed it was time to locate the person to pay for our campsite. As we stepped out of the door, I was overwhelmed by the orange, purple and deep blue sky and grabbed our camera for
a few photos of a gorgeous Alabama sunset. We looked around to see if we could see an office or a sign for a camp host but our flashlight could locate neither.
Just as all hope was lost, (just kidding) and despite the darkness that encompassed the grounds we finally spotted what appeared to be a metal building and upon closer inspection, a sign that read laundry so we went inside. There on a wall behind the door was a lock box with envelopes and a sign posting the prices listed our site as $12.00 so we paid and left, closing the door behind us. It would have been nice if they had posted an office sign...
After making our way back to our RV, we encountered a gentleman outside of one of the other motorhomes parked at this place and made small talk for a moment or two. We asked if he were by chance the host or owner but he replied no. He told us that he and his wife were staying there throughout the winter months as it was less expensive to stay here in Opelika, Alabama, than to heat their larger midwestern home. Times
are tough and we are constantly reminded of our many blessings.
We exchanged best wishes for better times and continued safe travels and we headed inside our cozy home away from home to eat, shower and catch something on TV before calling it a night.
On the morning of October 26th, we awoke to hazy and crisp conditions and sat around sipping coffee and catching up on some national news on the excellent cable. While in no particlular hurry to return home, we readied the motorhome for the last few hundred miles to home. We joked about hightailing it out of this Auburn Tiger territory before they all noticed that we were from Louisiana. Afterall, our LSU Tigers had beaten them pretty bad that past Saturday night and in a nationally televised game.
We managed to pull out of the campground around 10:30 and drove until we found a gas station. Fueled and ready to go, we continued south toward I-12 making the drive from Alabama to Mississippi in no time at all. We did gain an hour back when we returned to Central time.
The short drive across the fine state of Mississippi seemed to go by
Randy on the phone
stretching his legs after a long ride
all too fast despite the fact that we generally keep our speed at approximately 60 mph, bumping it up to 65 if we need to pass a slower moving vehicle (which occasionally does happen 😱).
The Louisiana state line was crossed at 12:36 officially ending our Blue Ridge Parkway Vacation of 2009!
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