If you've ever travelled the highways of Florida, and even some in Georgia, you've seen the signs that tell you how far it is to the Ron-Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. I think the largest mileage I've ever seen is about 368 .. not sure, but it's close enough. As it turns out, those signs also tell you almost exactly the distance to our home in Rockledge. Even though we're about 15 miles from Ron-Jon's, because of the way the interstates are arranged, those mileage figures are also pretty close to the distance to our house. So, when I start seeing them, I know we're within a few hours of home! What's my point? Well, in Chapter 81, I was planning to update my Travel Log as we travelled. Didn't work out that way!
My Travel Log
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82. 368 Miles to Ron-Jon Surf Shop
We started seeing those Ron-Jon signs a couple of days ago and consequently have been home for a few days already and I haven't yet gotten around to writing about our travels to the mountains of North Carolina, from the High Country to the Low Country, over to the coast, and on down to Rockledge. Took a bunch of photos along the way and will have them, and my ramblings, on this page asap. I'm still catching up on all those things that didn't get done during the three weeks we were on the road. Ain't retirement wonderful? ... haha ... seems like I've got more "stuff" to do now than I ever did when I was employed and going into an office every day. Oh well .. watch for my newsletter announcing that I've finally finished updating this chapter!
Well, we've been home 5 days and I still don't have the time/inclination to fill in this chapter yet. However, just so I don't forget, I'm going to list where-all we went, then I'll fill in with chatter and photos later. I took a bunch of photos all along the way, many of which were pics of parks for WiFiRV site surveys, so of no interest to you. I do have a goodly number with neat scenery and other interesting stuff, so stay tuned.
When we last talked back in Chapter 81, we were in Tunica, MS, had just visited Graceland, and were planning to head to Guntersville, which we did. Stayed in Guntersville and visited family, etc., for a few days, then on toward North Carolina. Stopped overnight in Athens, TN, then on up to Hot Springs, NC. Visited friends there, looked around at property, then one night in Forest City, NC and then on down to Savannah. From there, we wandered down I-95 to home, stopping overnight in Yulee, FL and visiting the neat little town of Fernandina Beach. That's the whole trip - total of almost three weeks! A record for Joyce to spend time in the RV! Actually, we kind of cut the trip short due to a couple of problems that I might mention as I ramble along through the rest of this chapter ... soon.
Guntersville: Well, we've been home for almost 2 weeks and I've been putting this off because I'm stumped on what others might find interesting. Seems like on past trips, there have been adventures or mishaps to talk about. This trip went fairly smoothly, we enjoyed each stop we made, but not sure any qualified as adventures. So, I decided to just start with the photos and see what pops into my mind. Maybe it'll get interesting as I go along. Speaking of adventures, we had one in the campground in Guntersville.
We were in the RV in the morning, Joyce drinking her coffee and me probably tapping on the computer, and we started hearing sirens. We opened the front curtain and looked out and, behold, they were all over the campground! Seems that a guy parked a few sites down from us fell asleep in bed and set his fifth wheel on fire. The big surprise was that it didn't burst into flames, but just smoldered and put out a lot of smoke.
It seems like every RV fire that I read about involves an RV bursting into flames or exploding and soon turning into a total loss. I guess the firemen must have caught this one before it spread to the propane tanks or anything explosive. Tragically, the man didn't get out in time and was killed. Quite a shock for us to wake up to. Beyond that, the visit was pleasant, with time spent with Joyce's family and my son, Ronnie, who recently moved from Texas to Guntersville.
Camping in Mississippi and North Carolina: Below are some photos of a couple of rustic campgrounds we stayed in along the way. The left is a very small campground in Mt. Olive, Mississippi and the other two are the Hot Springs Resort and Spa in Hot Springs, North Carolina. We stopped there to visit a friend of Joyce's that lives nearby and enjoyed the beauty of the campground and the French Broad River next to it, but it was surely more rustic than we're accustomed to. Not only did they not have cable TV (one of our "basic" camping requirements), there also wasn't any AT&T cellphone service there! Wow! One foggy channel and no phone calls for 3 days. We got a lot of rest and even walked the dogs around the campground. I suppose if we went to more like this, maybe we'd get a little more exercise on these trips ... LOL.
On the far right are a couple of photos I took of some of the scenery along the way, as we drove around Hot Springs. Behind me, there was an overlook and a beautiful valley, but photographing these has proven to be a waste of time. You really can't capture the depth and distance on film, so it ends up just looking like a big Green field. The cliffs are much more photographable.
One thing that became disturbingly clear on this trip is that it really is too hot to go RVing in August, even if you spend time in the mountains, where it's slightly cooler. Before we started, Joyce had mentioned the heat, but I pointed out that we'd be inside the air-conditioned vehicles most of the time and that we'd soon be in the mountains, where it's significantly cooler ... haha. Some place in Mississippi, before we even got to Tunica, the A/C in the car started acting up. It worked occasionally, but we spent much of our time in the car with the windows open, trying to cool down just a little. Then, soon after that, the A/C in the RV started blowing out through the defroster vents instead of the dash vents. This has happened before and is easily fixed, but only by a mechanic who knows how the vacuum tubes are supposed to be connected. You might not think that having the air come out the wrong vents would make a big difference, but IT DOES! Thanks to the dash fans, we didn't swelter too much, but it certainly wasn't nearly as comfortable as when the A/C is working properly. This lack of air conditioning in both vehicles was part of the reason we cut our trip a little short .. see later.
Hot Springs to Boone, NC: One thing that was just as we expected ... the NC mountains were as beautiful as we had hoped. We had been in the area around Asheville back in 2004 (Chapter 59), but hadn't been as far North as Boone before. The drive up was really beautiful, even though we did take a couple of wrong turns and drove through a little town named Spruce Pine a couple of times. The highways around that area are a little confusing and we turned the wrong way at least twice, but ultimately made it to Boone. Joyce guided me to Cheap Joe's Art Supplies there, a store that's apparently famous far and wide among artists. We then decided to find a campground. Surprise! There was a big gospel singing in Boone that weekend and the first two campgrounds that we called were full of gospel singers! We finally got into the Honey Bear Campground just outside of Boone and were very pleased when we got settled in. We were way back in the woods and they didn't have Passport America or WiFi, but they had cable TV! One out of three is better than none!
Although Honey Bear was beautiful, I only took a few pictures. It was mostly trees and a lake and bunches of flowers, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Just a very nice, friendly park with cable TV.
That's us in the photo on the right, third from this end. We're really tucked in against the forest, with a view of the lake straight in front of us. Below that, I included a picture I tried to take of a butterfly for Joyce. Enlarge it and maybe you'll be able to see it. She says I didn't get close enough :) Oh well, I tried. Pretty flowers, anyway.
One of the things that occurred to me while driving through the mountains was that there may be some people out there who have never seen Kudzu. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that it was brought to the USA from Japan in 1876, then planted in the South to prevent soil erosion.
Now, it's spread all around the South. Wikipedia says it's been seen as far North as Pennsylvania and as far South as Key West, and has even been seen in Oregon. It is most obvious in the Deep South, however, and it costs around $500 million annually in lost cropland and control costs. For those who haven't enjoyed the Kudzu views, below are some photos of Kudzu in Boone, NC.
Now, here's an adventure for you. We now look back and laugh, but it certainly wasn't funny at the time. In Boone, there's an outside performance called "Horn in the West" portraying Daniel Boone settling in North Carolina and they were having the final three shows of the season on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday while we were there. I convinced Joyce to go, so we called for reservations for Friday, including a buffet dinner before the show. Well, by late Friday, we'd done a bunch of wandering around Boone and the neighboring areas, so Joyce decided she really didn't feel like sitting outside in the heat watching a bunch of singing, dancing, and shooting. Yes, it was fairly hot there, even though we were in the mountains. As it turns out, there was a giant heat wave going on in the South, with temperatures in the 100's, so the 80's in Boone weren't bad by comparison, but it still seemed hot to us. I called and was able to cancel the show, but the buffet was already paid for, so we decided to attend. The buffet was from 7 to 8 PM, so we thought we'd do that, then return to the RV and enjoy a relaxing evening of TV.
Well, this is a really long story, but to shorten it some, we went to where the show was to be, noted signs saying "Event Parking", so followed the signs to a parking garage. Parked on the third floor, made our way out of the garage, waited with some other folks for about 10 minutes, then caught a bus to a large building where we assumed the show was going to be. We went to pick up our tickets and soon learned that we were at the Gospel Singing instead of the Horn in the West! It was already 7:30, but we were determined to get to the buffet that we'd already paid for. We managed to catch a bus back to the parking garage, drove over to the Horn parking lot, and managed to find a parking spot right up front! Finally, some good news!
More good news was that, even though it was already nearly 8:00, the buffet was still serving and there were only about 10 people still eating. We had it almost all to ourselves, no waiting in line, plenty of choices of seats, and could go back for more with no problems. It was a great meal and we then decided to wander around the pioneer displays outside of the show arena. Here again, we were pretty much the only ones there, so got a bunch of nice photos and wandered as we pleased with no crowds to contend with. All in all, it turned out really nice. Much better than we had anticipated about an hour earlier! Photos below.
One of the cabins on display. Note the slant - must have been on a hill :)
Another interesting cabin.
Inside view - looked very authentic to the pioneer days
Not sure what, but it looked neat.
Logs ready for Daniel to come out and split them.
One of the local guides. Interesting haircut.
Sign says "Hickory Ridge Homestead", so that must have been where we were :)
Another period costume, this time with a friendly lady in it.
After Boone, we wandered on down through North Carolina, across South Carolina, and down the coast of Georgia, staying at several nice campgrounds along the way (most of which were Passport America, so very nicely priced). We finally ended up at a little campground just North of Jacksonville, where they suggested that we visit the town of Fernandina Beach. Great idea! It was one of those towns with a main street that included a bunch of neat little shops, including art galleries, gift shops, and a couple of nice restaurants. One of Joyce's favorite type of stops! I didn't take many photos there, except the two on the right. "What are those?", you ask? Well, I got a parking ticket and hadn't even noticed any signs. Then, I looked behind the hanging plants and there they were. I've shown two of the hidden signs on the right .. you may need to enlarge. I was slightly perturbed, until I learned that you take your ticket into any shop and they'll "validate" it for you. That means they keep it and you don't have to pay. The whole thing is to keep college students from parking there all day and leaving no room for the tourists :)
After Fernandina Beach, it was on down the coast to home! So that's our trip. Mildly interesting? Hopefully!
Anyway, it was the kind of RV trip that we had hoped to take, where we're not in a hurry, don't do much advance planning, and just try to do some RVing and "touristing." We stayed in some very nice parks, and even got out (despite the heat) and did a little walking and enjoying the scenery. We saw Graceland, where I've been wanting to visit for a long time, and stopped at some places that Joyce enjoyed. We had planned to do a little more research on property availability, in hopes of buying a spot in the mountains (someday) for cooler Summer visits, but kind of lost interest when we saw some of the prices around Hot Springs. We were going to look more in Georgia, but kind of cut things short after Boone. By the time we left Boone, we were rather tired of the lack of A/C in the car and the minimal A/C in the RV, plus I was almost out of my Cholesterol pills and Joyce was running short of her Blood Pressure pills. Another of the hazards of growing older ... if you want to plan a 3 week trip, you have to be sure you've got a three-week supply of allll those pills. In my case, since I have to order from the VA about two weeks ahead, that means I need 5 weeks worth to be able to plan a trip like that. My, my ... more planning than we really like to do.
So, we got home a little earlier than planned, but had a great trip over-all .. finally .. been planning it since April. Maybe next year, we can make it earlier when it's not quite so hot. As I said in my last RV book, there are really very few spots in the USA that are good visits in August. I recall when I was younger in Minnesota, if there was something my Dad didn't plan to do, then he'd promise to do it "on a cold day in August." I think that was a Minnesota expression equivalent to "when Hell freezes over" :) If it's not cool in Minnesota, there aren't very many other places to check, except higher in the mountains than what we found in North Carolina.