Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Westbound and Down for California

     Tonight Debbie and I are resting comfortably in Russelville, Arkansas, having survived 3 days of interstate driving along I-81 & I-40.  Sunday we joined thousand of Mario car drivers returning home from visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, and we can only say it was absolutely amazing.  I-81 through Virginia was bumper to bumper @ anywhere between 70 mph and 0 mph!  Five vehicle accidents and assorted other chaos made our 5 hour planned excursion turn into an 8 1/2 hour thrill ride!  But we made it safely to our RV park in Wytheville, Va, and since then the traffic has been reasonable.  Extremely heavy truck traffic today from Memphis to Little Rock, but those guys are professionals and for the most part, pretty courteous.  But I'm getting ahead of my skiis, so let's bring this trip up to date. 
      After departing Naggs Head, we continued south for a few days in Myrtle Beach State Park.
We managed to get in on Veterans Day weekend without a reservation, and Sunday the place emptied out.  The State Park is right on the beach, south of all the glitter and glamour of Myrtle Beach, and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of the area.
      Being the bashful guy that I am, it took me about 20 minutes to meet our neighbors, who turned out to be from Quebec, just north of Richford, Vt.  They were a wonderful couple, Helen and Francois, who were enroute to Texas for the winter.  They gave us lots of ideas for touring the area since they had camped here many times previously.  They were amazed at Debbie's Bonfire in a Can, and we had an enjoyable evening of cocktails and snacks around the fire, till the cold finally forced us inside. 
      We visited a wonderful seaside village of Georgetown, SC and were amazed at the magnificent trees lining the streets.  Georgetown used to be an active seaport, exporting rice and cotton to Europe in its heyday.  Today the downtown waterfront is bustling with restaurants and renovated shops.  The Rice Museum describes life in the 1700-1800's in Georgetown.
Numerous homes from the 1800's line the streets away from the waterfront, and I would think it's a hopping tourist town in the summer months. 

         We also had the opportunity to visit the          Brookgreen Gardens, just a short distance south of the park.  The gardens are massive, and throughout there are multiple sculptures decorating the landscape.  It really needs to be seen in the spring/summer when the flower gardens are in bloom, but we were told that the Christmas season is quite spectacular.  The day we visited, they were busy setting up the Christmas displays throughout the gardens, and I'm sure it will be quite amazing to experience at dusk. 

  The Gardens must really be seen in person, and stop and enjoy lunch at the restaurant on the grounds.  There's also a zoo, which we just didn't have time to enjoy, but that will give us an excuse for returning. 
      From Myrtle Beach, we headed north to Plattsburgh for Thanksgiving with MAE, Tony and Gage.  We left Big Red in Pa after winterizing, and the weather cooperated the entire trip.  We fried a turkey out back, (first time for Tony), and he did a pretty good job.  MAE put on a pretty fancy spread with all the trimmings, and we all stepped away from the table quite full.  We did manage to force down a piece of pumpkin pie prepared by Princess. 

     We even managed to get in MAE's 10 month birthday party and early Christmas among all this hoopla!  We sure hope she enjoys the bike that was re-gifted to her!!!
     We'll be heading west and then south to San Angelo for a pass through Randy and Retha's house.  They tend to get upset with us when we pass by without a visit.  But we have to remain strong and on schedule...with an arrival date of 12/5 in Santee.  We think Liam is marking off the days on his calendar till Grammie and Papa arrive.  BIG NEWS!!!  We found out yesterday that Ben and Joanne will be having a little girl arriving in April!!  That will put a whole new spin on life for them.  We hope Liam is ready for that!  And what about Jamo???  Time will tell.
      So we seem to be caught up with our travels.  Mostly driving now.  But if something exciting happens, we'll let you know. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Visiting Naggs Head and the Outer Banks

       We continued doing the tourist thing on Cape Hatteras using The KOA as our base of operations.  The weather was turning cooler each day with rain showers just making it ugly all around.  I guess that's to be expected this time of year. On Tuesday 11/7 we ventured a short drive to the north and soon arrived at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  The site is actually Kill Devils Hill, NC, as is the site of the first successful sustained powered flight, in a heavier than air machine.  (Wikipedia  say so!)

 The brothers, Wilbur and Orville had been experimenting with their glider from atop the sand dune for 3 years, and this is the location of a massive granite monument which overlooks the field where the powered flight occurred.
     On December 12, 1903, the brothers made 4 flights from level ground.  On their final flight, Wilbur piloted their aircraft nearly 200 feet, fulfilling their dream of mankind flying. 
      From Kill Devils Hill we moved south, stopping for a quick look at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. 

     The lighthouse was not open for tours, but we walked the grounds around it, and marveled at what these lighthouses and their keepers accomplished in keeping the local maritime travelers safe. 
      Debbie also stumbled on a little trinket left behind by a traveler as part of the Hatteras Rocks and Shells FB page. 
The object seems to be when you find one, you post it on FB, and then put it in a new location.  So if you are really bored, you can look on FB and see where the rock's new home is. 
     We did manage to get some short walks on the beach in front of the Cape Hatteras KOA.  It is  a nice beachfront campground which seemed to have lots of amenities for families.  There were only a few campers there at this time, but they do have an October Fishing Special which is 30 days of camping for $600!  If you like to fish, this is quite a deal.  Of course you may have to deal with a hurricane or two. 

We are off next to Myrtle Beach, SC and hopefully the weather will be a little nicer for us.  Everything is going well with us, and MAE calls frequently with questions about Thanksgiving dinner.  There's no pressure!!!
     This little guy is waiting for us to arrive in CA, and Grammie is getting pretty excited about that.  He seems to like going for a walk at night.  I can only hope Grammie stays awake!
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

National D-Day Memorial

     As Debbie was gathering tourist brochures at Otter Peak Lodge, she was directed to a brochure of the The National D-Day Memorial, located in the tiny town of Bedford, Va.  We had never heard of this memorial, and wondered why a memorial to such an important historic event was not located in Washington DC.  This memorial pays tribute to the generation of soldiers, sailors and airmen involved in largest amphibious assault of the French coastline, in order to start repelling Germany from Western Europe.   After walking around the grounds, we decided to take the free guided tour, which proved to be very informative and inspiring.
You are about to embark on the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

     These were the words spoken to a group of paratroopers by Gen. Eisenhower, hours before they climbed aboard the aircraft that would take them to France, leading the D-Day invasion force onto the beaches of Normandy in "Operation Overlord."  The name was chosen by Winston Churchill, and is featured prominently over the archway designed to symbolize the allied victory and the resulting freedom for Europe from Nazi Germany.  
     But the question needs to be answered as to why this inspiring memorial was constructed in Bedford, Va.  In the 1940's, Bedford was a small farming community with a population of 3200.  Like other communities, Bedford had a group of of young men volunteer with the Virginia National Guard.  As the guide explained, they were given nice fancy uniforms, and received $1 per month for attending monthly training drills.  By 1941, some thirty Bedford Boys were activated into the 29th Infantry Division, and were training for the D-Day invasion of Normandy.   On June 6, 1941, Operation Overlord began, and by days end, 19 of the company's Bedford Boys were dead.  Two more died later in the Normandy campaign, as did another 2 assigned to other companies.  Proportionally, Bedford, Va suffered the nation's severest D-Day losses.  Consequently, Congress authorized the building of the Memorial here.   
     One additional anecdote provided by the guide:  The town of Bedford did not learn of the deaths until July 1941.  When the telegraph operator, a 21 year old female, turned on her telegraph one morning, she received 14 separate telegraphs notifying parents, wives, brothers and sisters, of the deaths of these boys.  The odds were very good that she personally knew each and every one of them.  
The Memorial is designed to represent the entire story and the massive effect the operation had throughout the world.  Every country involved in the invasion is recognized.  The beach invasion is vividly represented with a soldier in the water, and others on the beach.  A statue of 4 soldiers climbing the cliffs at Normandy represents the entire invasion of allied forces into France and Europe.


     A visit to the National D-Day Memorial is well worth effort.  There are numerous events throughout the year scheduled at the memorial, and it is funded solely by donations, and visitors.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 1, 2017....On the Road Again

     Cool weather was in the forecast, and the leaves were down.  So we marked our calendar with a departure date of 11/1/17, and started packing up and closing up.  Big Red was pretty much ready.  We had serviced everything in the spring.  Our plan was to pack her cupboards, give her 1/2 a tank or so of fresh water if the weather permitted us, and head south. But first, on the morning of 10/31, we were greeted with a little gift from Mother Nature across the driveway.  I think she wanted to remind us that she was still in the game.
     After 3-4 full days of packing and picking up, we went to bed in Big Red on 10/31, knowing that we still had a few hours of work left on the camp to get her closed up.  Debbie was up bright and early and finished her chores.  A quick job of filling the pipes with RV anti freeze, and we were on the road right around noon time.  But where were we going?
     Our original plan called for our first night to be in Pa, but with the late start, that wasn't going to happen.  A phone call to our standby campground, Belden Hill, suggested we stop at the Cracker-Barrel Restaurant in Binghampton.  We arrived there around 4:30, and found another RV from Quebec all set up for the night.  We pulled around the restaurant twice so I could get properly lined up on my parking spot, and afterward we wandered into the restaurant to check with the manager about boondocking in his parking lot.  After getting the OK, we settled down for a nice evening dinner in the restaurant.  Seemed like the thing to do for the free parking.  We slept in till 8:30 AM, and all our fellow campers were up and gone!  After a nice hearty breakfast, again in the restaurant, we were on our way southbound.  So when we figured it all out, our night of free camping only cost us about $45!!
     Day 2 was a beautiful drive, and the further south we traveled, the warmer it became.  Just like we had planned.  Smooth sailing down Interstate 81 through Pa, Md, West Virginia, and into Virginia.  Our long sleeve shirts were becoming a little too warm, and soon the A/C was humming.  Debbie had been busy working the computer and looking for a KOA close to Lynchburg, VA.  First on our agenda was a 1 day bluegrass festival that included beer, barbecue, and music.  At about 3:00 in the afternoon, traffic came to a halt on I-81 due to a traffic accident, and we were only about 1 mile from an exit we could use to get to our KOA.
     We plugged along at a snail's pace for a while as we inched closer to our exit, which ended up being a LEFT HAND exit!  But traffic let us shift over and we were soon zipping along a windy mountain road that we probably should not have been on.  I seem to recall traffic signs warning tract trailers to avoid this road we were traveling.  Big Red handled the mountain road perfectly and we soon pulled into the Lynchburg NW/Blue Ridge Parkway KOA.  Before long we had cocktails going and Debbie and I were enjoying her Bonfire in a Can!
      We've been down through many miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway over the years, but this particular section was new to us.  The following day we had quite a treat enjoying mile after mile of fantastic vistas featuring some awesome fall colors!   What totally amazed us was the infestation of lady bugs that swarmed us at every stop.  We had never experienced that before, although we had a similar phenomenon occurring this fall on Chateaugay Lake.

 But it was a welcome change to see the sunshine and feel its warmth pushing the cold from our bones.
      We had a wonderful lunch along the parkway at the Peaks of Otter Lodge at milepost 86.5 on the Parkway.  Debbie seemed to really enjoy a nice Rainbow Trout.  The lack of crowds certainly is an advantage to traveling this time of year.
     We managed to spy a few deer as we traveled along enjoying the fall colors and blue sky.  But we've yet to see a bear, even though there seems to be plenty of warnings about them.
     The following day we awoke to much cooler temperatures and rain. We headed over to the Red Hill / Patrick Henry National Memorial located near the Town of Brookneal, Va, for the 7th Annual Bluegrass, Barbecue, and Brew Festival.  Can't seem to go wrong with beer, barbecue and bluegrass, so Debbie and I were in!  And one of our favorite bluegrass bands would be performing, Nothin' Fancy.
       There was lots of beer and wine to choose from, and I seemed to take a liking to a pecan flavored lager.  Actually there were just too many samples to try, so I picked the pecan one and stuck with it.  The day was pretty cool with an occasional rain, but we stuck it out till the end.  Nothin' Fancy performed 2 sets, and did a really good job keeping the fans entertained.  We hated to hear that they would not be coming north next spring to the Jenny Brook Festival in Vermont.
      Tomorrow we're heading over to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for a few days, and see what that area has to offer.  The crowds should be minimal, so we should have little trouble moving around.  The weather looks like it may not be the greatest, but we'll see what happens.  It's fun being back on the road, but cool weather is north of us, and we may have to dip a little further south.

We are currently in Cape Hatteras, and I'm working to get caught up.  I'm almost there!


Going to See America 2018

     Hard to believe that Fall has arrived on Chateaugay Lake, and it's time to close up the house, and begin a new adventure.  We had such high hopes to get out on a few adventures this summer, but numerous projects, and attempts at projects, kept us pretty busy.  We spent most of the summer dealing with contractors, hoping to build a barn large enough to store Big Red.  We had a massive land clearing project last year, intending to get the project going upon arrival home.  After meeting with several contractors, we discovered that we needed just a little more room, so the project was scrapped and delayed till maybe next year.
     We were successful in completing a porch renovation which substantially added to our enjoyment of the fall season.   We completely gutted the screen porch and added sliding doors, giving us a very comfortable sun room to enjoy the cooler days and fall colors.  We added a new gas stove as our primary heat source, a little insulation in the floor and ceiling, and it was quite comfortable even when the temps dipped down into the 30's.
     We had a wonderful visit from Teddy and Maryanne from Alabama.  Teddy and I worked together out in Campo, CA, along with Walter.  I put some ribs on the smoker, Walter and Jeannie came up from Mooers, and we had quite an afternoon of visiting and reminiscing.  Teddy and Maryanne hit the fall colors right at their peak, the weather seemed to cooperate, and we had a nice ride down toward Wilmington, and up to the top of Whiteface.  Temps were quite a bit cooler up there, but the views were pretty awesome.
      We just HAD to make a stop at  Adirondack Chocolates in Wilmington, which we all remembered as the Candy Man.  I didn't realize that everyone had such a sweet tooth!  Afterwards, we stopped and had a wonderful dinner overlooking Whiteface Mountain at the Hungry Trout.
     Dean and Joanne, our travel buddies, cane over from Vermont, and another couple racks of ribs were consumed.  Seems to be a pattern being started???  We met them over in Las Cruces, NM last year traveling eastbound, and spent a month or so together in Sarasota, Fl.  We'll be meeting up with them again in Las Vegas on our way west to visit Ben, Joanne, and Liam.  Then after Christmas, we'll meet up over in Sarasota again.  

     Ben, Joanne, and Liam came for too short a visit early in the season, and Liam seemed to get the hang of waving to the tourists as we drifted down the lake.  I'm getting a little out of order in my stories, and I'm trying to catch up......but we just got news from Ben that he's being transferred back to Champlain at some unknown date, and that will put the families back together again!!  You can just about imagine how excited Grammie is!!!  We'll have to keep you posted on that news.
      So there's the news from Chateaugay Lake and the preparations for our 2018 adventure.  We've been on the road for about a week now, having departed on 11/1/17.  
     Our neighbor Andy hated to see us leave, but we'll catch up with he and Patty down in Florida later on next spring.  We'll be hanging around down south till Thanksgiving, and then heading back north to spend  time with MaryAnne, Scoobs and Tony.  Today the weather is cool and rainy in Naggs Head. Maybe I can catch up a little bit.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Journey Home

     On May 11, 2017, Big Red and his passengers pulled into the driveway at Chateaugay Lake, thus ending another chapter in our Going to See America 2017 saga.  We have been on the road nearly 7 months and driven Big Red about 9700 miles around America.
     But first I want to back up and tell the story of our journey home.  It took us 11 days to make the trip up the coast from Florida, which probably sounds a little ridiculous.  But we had to make a few planned stopovers along the way as I mentioned in the previous blog, so let's bring everyone up to date.
     In Gafney. SC, we had Big Red serviced at a Freightliner Service Center, which specialized in all makes and models of RV's.....as long as they were on a Freightliner Chassis.  We moved to the campsites at the service center on Thursday morning, as they expected to squeeze us in on either Thursday or Friday.  We set up camp and Debbie was just settling in for a long winters nap, when the call came right about lunchtime, to get ready to be moved into a service bay.  By about 4:30 PM, Big Red rolled out for a short test drive.  The service we had received was pretty thorough.  We went through a 40K mile checkup and everything on the chassis was checked from the front to the rear.  We enjoyed the hosptality of Freightliner for one more night, and returned to the Gaffney KOA for the weekend.  The weather window was closing all around us with storms to the west and north of us. So we took the opportunity to do a little more sightseeing in the Gaffney area and give the storms a chance to move on.    
      As we pulled out of Gaffney on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway , we soon stumbled onto Strawberry Hill USA, in Chesnee, SC.  If you're ever in this part of SC, this is a great stop for some very delicious homemade icecream.  The portions are huge, so just be careful of what you order.  The Cherokee Scenic Byway is a popular scenic byway in South Carolina, and runs through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which were the ancestral home of the Cherokees.  I'll let you in on a little secret.  The ice cream was the highlight of the Scenic Byway.
We did locate a rather unique gristmill along the way though.  Over in Pickens,SC, we found a historic site which featured a restored gristmill, and ancient Indian Petroglyths in Haygood Mill.
       As you would imagine, the mill was pretty much the center of commerce back in the 1860's and 1870's, as area farmers brought their grains in from the fields.  In 1972, the restored mill was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.  Then is 2003, while doing some excavating work on a nearby road, workers discovered some prehistoric Native American carvings, known as petroglyths.
      This is the largest collection of petroglyths in SC, and the state has built a large building to protect these petroglyths from the elements. Scientists across the country are unable to provide explanations on what we are seeing here or what type of stories were being told.  Maybe someday they will come up with an answer.                                      
     The following day, we "moseyed" up into NC to visit the Carl Sandburg Home, which is owned and operated by the National Park Service, and is designated as a National Historic Site.  Carl Sandburg's wife Lillian, had discovered the farm named Connemara.
There is a little bit of history that goes along with Connemara.  The house was built by Christopher Memminger around 1838.  Memminger had served as Secretary of the Confederate Treasury from 1861-64.  Kind of unique to have the house purchased by the biographer of Abraham Lincoln.
     Sandburg was 67 and already a Pulitzer Prize winning author, when they purchased the farm in 1945.  Lillian had purchased the farm because it provided seclusion for Carl to work, but also there was ample pastureland for her to grow her Chikaming goat herd.  Lillian kept meticulous notes on each goat, and long after the herd had left Connemara, the NPS was able to locate direct decendants of Lillian's herd, and return them to the farm.  On the day we visited, a new addition was expected to arrive at any time.  
When the Sandburg's left Michigan and moved to Connemara, they brought along two daughters, 3 grandchildren, the Chikaming goat herd and over 15,000 books.  As we toured the house, each and every room had bookshelves, and old photographs showed magazines and books stacked to the ceilings.  The Sandburg's appeared to live a modest lifestyle, as evidenced by the orange crate used to hold the typewriter used by Carl.  Lillian and the girls spent their day tending to the prize winning goats and canning vegetables in the modest kitchen.  The day we toured, the contents of the house had been removed by the NPS for renovations, and the tour guide believed there were over 17,000 books put into storage,
       As Debbie and I walked the outbuilding on the farm, we found a 1962 Jeep in one.  It was the only thing on the farm that was registered in Carl Sandburg's name.  The tractor parked next to it, belonged to Lillian.
        The house appears to have been a warm and pleasant place.  Stories from the grandchildren tell of conversations around the dinner table, and singing or storytelling after dinner.  I think it would be fascinating to tour the house again when the books and furniture are returned after the renovations are complete.

      I am not familiar with any of Mr Sandburg's writings, which doesn't speak well of my schooling.  I'm going to have to remedy that at my earliest opportunity.  You just can't beat a great public library.  Mr. Sandburg died at Connemara on July 22, 1967.  The property was sold to the NPS in 1968.
     After departing Gaffney, we pushed Big Red toward Chateaugay, as I had an upcoming dentist appointment I needed to tend to.  The camp wintered well, and although we're a little cramped for space, Debbie is setting everything up nicely.  We've got the outside picked up, and Debbie has moved most of the provisions from Big Red into camp.  We had a nice dinner with Tony and MaryAnne on Sunday, and the next big event will be the arrival of Liam for a visit toward the end of June.  Oh yea, Ben and Joanne are coming too.
      We're looking forward to doing some traveling this summer as we put together our plans for next year's travels.  Spring has sprung up here, and the blackflies are loving it!  They'll be gone in a week or two, and then we get to look forward to the second hatch.  We hope everyone enjoys their summer and perhaps there will be a few more stories to tell.