As promised here is our Roadside Humor find as we drove along the backroads around Elkmont, KY. We came upon a house with a yard full of Halloween yard art. We just had to stop. We talked with the owner and his daughter. Decorating for every holiday is his hobby. He already had about 30 items displayed. His daughter said “with 2 weeks to go, he’ll have at least 10 more out.” Sit back and enjoy!
Why had I never heard of this place? I’d lived in Virginia and North Carolina for the past 40 years. So I started asking around and only one of my friends had heard of it. He had been born and raised in southwestern Virginia. Earlier this year when we were staying in central Virginia (see post on Along the Crooked Road) I’d picked up my usual armload of brochures. Tucked in the back of one were pictures and short descriptions of other parks in the general area. There was a photo of Breaks Canyon in all its Fall beauty. I decided that was where I wanted to go this Fall.
Breaks Canyon lies on the Virginia/Kentucky border near Haysi, VA and Elkmont, KY. The surrounding Breaks Interstate Park is jointly operated by both states. It offers a choice of housing options with RV and tent sites, cabins and a lodge. Breaks Interstate Park and Palisades Interstate Park (NY/NJ) are the only two interstate parks in the USA.
Our drive up from North Carolina per the GPS should have been 3 1/2 hours but took us 5 hours due to the very windy roads. Now I understand why my friend had said “have fun getting up there” Twice we had to stop and choose a detour when we hit signs saying NO Trucks Allowed Next XX Miles On Route Such and Such. At that time I was still following Steve in the Subaru so we communicated via walkie talkies. Once when we pulled over Steve found a twenty dollar bill on the ground as he came over to discuss our alternate route. NO! I won’t believe you if you say that’s where you lost it.
We had chosen an RV site with electric, water and sewer for our 8 day stay. As with other Virginia parks your reservation guarantees a space suitable for your RV size and requested services but not a specific site. We’d found out the hard way in 2011 that arriving on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday was preferable to Friday. Even with this large campground many of the best sites were already taken by Wednesday afternoon. We picked what we thought would be a good site, backed in and set up. Then we found that the sewer connection was higher than the exit from the trailer. As they say S— doesn’t flow up hill! With only 8 days here that was no problem. When we were ready to leave, Steve would move the trailer back to dump. Even that didn’t work very well. So we’ve learned one more thing to check before choosing a camping spot.
The 5 mile long Breaks Canyon is formed by the Russell Fork River and plunges from 830 feet to 1,600 feet deep thus forming the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. Was Daniel Boone the first white man to see this wonder? So legend has it that he first laid eyes on it in 1767. We arrived to find the Fall color just beginning and thought we probably would miss the peak. Then almost overnight the color popped. This has to be one of the prettiest places for Fall color I’ve ever seen.
Most of our hiking was done on the Overlook Trail along the rim or on the Prospectors Trail about 150 feet down into the canyon. Including distances to the trailhead and detours for photos we’d usually hike about 4 miles. Although rated moderate these trails are rocky and often on an incline so sturdy boots and a walking stick are highly recommended. The Prospectors Trail has rocky scrambles for about a half mile at either end that are a challenge to the short legged amongst us! We also took shorter walks to an overlook named Grassy Creek for sunset shots. We have no idea why it was so named as there is no grass anywhere around.
Knowing that the road up to Breaks Interstate Park was very windy and that the GPS on other occasions had directed us onto roads not suitable for an RV, we took an exploratory drive following the GPS toward our next destination. We drove through the eastern Kentucky countryside enjoying the fall foliage near Elkmont. There is a Railroad Museum there but we didn’t stop. We also learned that this area is the official end of the Crooked Road. There were no scheduled events for the time we were here. We missed a festival that had been held the previous weekend. Wouldn’t you know, the one time I didn’t do a lot of research. Oh well, when we come back! We did find a good candidate for our Roadside Humor category so it will be posted immediately following this post. We also came across an old family cemetery. It was open so we walked through looking at dates. There was a woman who was born in 1774 (two years before the American Revolution) and died in 1870 (seven years after the Civil War). We wish we could talk to her. Can you imagine the stories she could tell having lived through the birth of our nation and having seen it almost torn apart?
All too soon our time was gone and we packed up to move. This would be the last time I was driving the Subaru and following the RV so I took the opportunity to snap an iPhone picture through the windshield.
It was time to figure out where we wanted to travel over the next several months. While we were working on that, we returned to Wilkesboro, NC and Bandits Roost Campground (for details see our earlier post Wilkesboro, NC). We were in time to join friends Kathy and Joe for one last get together at the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, http://www.applefestival.net/n_index.php?. This festival draws 100,000 people in for the day. The town has things planned well and operates a free shuttle from satellite parking lots as the town is closed to autos. Music, food and craft tents fill the streets.Being an RVer has put an end to my pottery collecting but I still enjoy looking. There was one piece I’d have bought in a heartbeat in my former life. We did succumb to one purchase. We bought a small metal sculpture of a photographer made from a railroad spike. This will be our version of the Travelocity Gnome popping up in the blog from time to time. Steve’s niece had given him a kayaker that was similarly made a few years ago. We also had a chance to catch up with friends in Burnsville, NC who had just returned from a 5 week tent camping trip in California. We’re hoping to join them somewhere in Maine or Nova Scotia next year.
On to the real reason for this entry. Where are we headed over the next 6 months? This is not cast in concrete. We’ll cover over 2,500 miles in 14 stops. So click in often follow along. We had some definite places we wanted or needed to be and places we wanted to see. So how to connect the dots? Here’s what we decided…..
This is out of sync with the blog timeline but I wanted to wish all of our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This picture was taken at the elk and bison preserve at Land Between the Lakes. Hopefully, I’ll get to that entry soon.
Remember, you can always start your diet next week!
We will probably have a Nuts and Bolts post at some point dealing with meals and cooking in our trailer, but this isn’t it. This Cook’s Tour is something else. We’ll also have a future Nuts and Bolts post dealing with storage issues at some point. I’m not going to go into all of that now, just suffice it to say for now that we wanted some additional storage for our outside equipment.
When we first decided we’d be full-time RVers, and that we’d be getting a fifth-wheel trailer, we knew we’d have a problem with our kayaks. A fifth-wheel requires a special hitch, mounted in the bed of a pick-up truck, directly over the rear axel. This puts the front of the trailer up over the pick-up bed. We would need a rack on top of the cab of the truck to carry our boats, but it wouldn’t be able to extend out behind the cab. I spoke with the Chevy dealer about this when we bought the truck, and he recommended we talk to Cook Truck Equipment, a local Charlotte business where they send their commercial customers for special truck bodies, ladder racks, and such. www.cooktruck.com
I went to Cook, and they built a terrific rack, extending from the front of the pick-up bed to the front bumper of the truck. It was a custom design, made to fit three boats (we have two kayaks and a canoe) with additional room on it to carry things such as a step ladder (an accessory no RVer should be without) and outdoor folding chairs.
Almost every place we go, someone will come up to us and ask about this rack. Everyone comments on what a great idea it is. We’ve even had people pull up alongside of us as we drove along on an interstate taking pictures as they went by!
In a previous post, we told about when we first started out, we had kept Chari’s Suburu, but then decided we could do without it. Since we had purchased a bicycle rack for the back of the car, we’d now need someplace to carry the bikes. There is a receiver hitch on the back of the trailer, but we were using it with a cargo rack I’d bought years ago for a car. I was using it to carry things like our charcoal grill, a trash can, and our portable wastewater container (again, I’ll talk about things like how we get rid of our sewage in a future Nuts and Bolts post). TMI?
The cargo rack only measured about five feet by about twenty inches, and it fit these things just fine. I made some accommodations to fit the bikes, by adding on plywood wings, supported by wood two by fours. This let the bikes fit along with the trash can and Weber Grill, but the wastewater tank had to go elsewhere. So I rigged up a little block and tackle system to carry the tank on the RV ladder. This seemed to work well, but frankly, it looked like hell.
So far, we’ve been staying in parks that provide electrical hook-ups, but this limits us to where we can go. At some point in the future, we’ll be getting a generator, but where we’re going to store and carry it is a problem. It became obvious we were going to need some additional storage space. Another visit to Cook seemed to be in order. As I mentioned, the existing rack fit into a receiver hitch on the back of the trailer. Being five feet long, it tended to wobble a bit, attached only in the middle, and when I added plywood wings to it, making it eight feet long, it wobbled even more. Clearly, a more substantial rack, made to carry a lot more weight would need to be supported by more than just from the center. We decided that we’d ignore the existing center-mounted receiver and have two new receivers welded in place, each roughly two feet to the left or right of center. These would be steel, and a steel support system would be fabricated that would be inserted into these receivers. The actual storage box/rack would be fabricated from aluminum.
We were staying at Badin Lake in the Uwharrie National Forest, about an hour and a half east of Charlotte. I took the opportunity to go to Cook. I spoke with Tom Cook, the owner, and we made arrangements for me to pick up one of his men, Laine, and take him out to Badin the following day. Laine looked at the trailer and what I wanted to carry on the rack, and came up with a solution somewhat different than what I had envisioned, but seemed to make a lot of sense. His idea was a box rather than a flat rack. The box would be eight feet long, the width of the trailer, and would be accessible from both ends with hinged doors. It would be deep enough to accommodate the wastewater tank and things like our outdoor folding tables, kayak paddles, and various other things we’ve got stashed away wherever we can find the space. The top of the box would be a flat surface. We can keep the bicycles on one end, and there would be one-foot tall sides built around whatever space the bikes didn’t take up to make a basket for storing other things, such as the trash can, the grill, and whatever else might fit.
We’d be staying at Badin Lake for about the next week and a half, and from there moving on to Bandit’s Roost at Kerr Scott Reservoir. We’d been to Bandit’s Roost previously, with friends Kathy and Joe, and were meeting up with them again for the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, but I’ll leave that for Chari to write about. Since Charlotte was an hour-and-a-half drive from Badin, and Bandit’s Roost would be about an hour-and-a-half drive from Charlotte, we thought there would be plenty of time to have things fabricated, and we could stop at Cook to have it all installed while en route.
The “best laid plans”…
I’ve always felt that the real measure of a company, or any kind of service provider, is not whether or not mistakes happen. Mistakes will happen. Companies, as well as their customers (aka ME) are all people and people make mistakes. The real way to judge a company is not if mistakes happen, but what they do when mistakes do happen. In this regard, Cook Truck Equipment stands head and shoulders above most people I’ve done business with.
Somehow, there was a miscommunication, and when we showed up on Thursday, October 4, we found that they were expecting we’d be there on Friday, October 5. We were already checked out of the campground at Badin Lake; our reservations at Bandit’s Roost started Thursday. It made absolutely no sense to drive on up to Wilkesboro, set up for the night, then break down early the next morning, and drive back to Charlotte. Since Tom Cook’s grandfather opened the business in 1921, 91 years ago, they had never had overnight guests! Well, we’d be the first! We backed up the trailer to their shop and camped out in the yard.
Laine was working on the aluminum box, and another employee, Dave, was doing the steel work. Tom (the owner) was back and forth between his own work and helping out Laine and Dave. Dave kept us entertained with stories of the various jobs and projects he’d worked on. Becky, who I suspect wears several hats around the shop came out from time to time to check on the progress and talk. Becky seemed fascinated by the job we were having done. An RVer herself, she knows the problems of storage and thought the box/rack we were having built was terrific. And the more it took shape, so did we.
Chari called a good friend, Liz, to see if she was available for dinner that night. Liz was a bit surprised, since we had just met her for dinner two nights ago, for what we all thought would be the last time for several months. Tom gave us a key to the yard gate, and we went out for a good Mexican meal. It was dark and everyone had gone home for the night when we came back.
Friday morning, since the trailer was right there in front of the shop, Laine and Dave were able to resume work bright and early. Tom lent a hand when he could, and took care of the wiring (the rack would block the existing trailer tail lights, so we’d need additional lights on the rack itself). On Fridays, they close at noon, but Laine, Dave, Tom and Becky stayed until the job was completed by early afternoon. We were thrilled with the result. I had built a wood storage bin on the back of our first travel camper, and had great comments from other campers all over the country. But I’ve never seen anything like this. When Becky saw the finished product, she called it “the bomb” and laughingly told Chari we should put a sign on it:
Too Much Togetherness?
Open Door…… Insert Spouse!
We think, based on the comments we’d gotten about our previous wooden rack, as well as all the positive comments about our kayak rack, that this is going to be a topic of conversation at a lot of campgrounds. We suggested to Tom, and he seems to agree, that RV work might be a good way to expand his business, especially in this bad economy when his normal business is slow. We hope he does, and we’ll do our part by talking him and his shop up wherever we go. It is a real pleasure dealing with a business like Cook. Nice people that really take pride in their work. We’d go back to them and recommend them anytime. Thanks so much!
Like a boomerang we find ourselves drawn back to where we started. Once again we return to Charlotte, NC and Badin Lake Recreation Area where we’ll stay for two weeks. What draws us back is the wedding of two kayaking friends, Jennifer and Pete. We can only hope that they are as happy as we are. Their outdoor wedding was blessed with beautiful weather. We also caught up with several other kayaking friends. One gal had just crossed off a major item on her bucket list. A week prior she had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Way to go Beverly!
While most of our time was spent tending to the last few appointments and errands we did save time for lots of restaurant lunches and dinners with friends. We took two of them to our favorite fish camp in New London, NC called Pat and Mick’s. I’d never heard of a fish camp until I moved to NC. For the uninitiated they are local places that serve a variety of fish/seafood usually fried (some offer broiled) open Thursday-Sunday. The portions are huge and the prices very reasonable. Check them out at pat-micks-fish-house-new-london-346631 . Jennifer took a group of kayakers here several years ago after a great day on Badin Lake. Having been raised in the area she knew the best local spots. I’ve been back at least six times and always leave way too full. We actually reached the point that we looked forward to eating at home.When people ask what we miss the most by leaving our home base we respond “Our Friends!” This will be the last time, unless something unexpected arises, that we are back here for the next year or two. Some of our friends are already making reservations at the Maier Mobile Motel.
We also were able to complete one of our Bucket List items. Thanks Jeanne! She had made it possible for us to take a glider ride or more properly a sail plane ride. Her husband had been a club member and glider pilot with the Bermuda High Soaring Club. They are located at 4278 Thermal Trail, Jefferson SC. See their website at www.glider.org or on https://www.facebook.com/bermudahighsoaring. So on 9/28/12 off we went into the wild blue yonder. Since a glider has no engine it must be towed by another plane to the target altitude. We went to 3,000 feet. You can pay a bit more to go higher. A board in the office lists the club record at 11,000 feet. Once released the glider begins its straight line decent. A sailplane will make use of thermals to stay aloft then descend for landing. The terms are often used interchangeably. The time aloft can very depending on whether the plane can catch any lift from thermals. Unfortunately on this day the air was very still so our ride was wonderful but short. We want to do this again in other areas of the country and found a great website for locating rides at glidersailplanerides.com .
For best results in viewing the video clip of our ride please let the clip load completely before viewing. This means clicking the play arrow in the lower left corner of the video screen then click the double bar pause button. When the gray bar is all the way to the right it is loaded and ready to play.
The other major task was to get a more permanent carrier made for the back of our RV to increase storage and provide a place to carry our toys. Steve has written another Nuts and Bolts about this and we’ll post it when we can locate the file on our computers. Isn’t technology wonderful?
We were in no hurry as our trip from Philpott Lake to Sherando Lake campground just outside of Stuarts Draft, Virginia would be about three hours so we decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway instead of I -81. With a stop for a picnic and short walk the trip was close to five hours. Our main reason for heading up this way was to see family. We checked in with Steve’s Mom who was visiting his Aunt and Uncle. We also made a trip up to Warrenton to see a close family friend while Steve’s sister, Cathy and her husband Scott drove down from Pennsylvania.
Sherando Lake is a National Forest campground in the George Washington National Forest. There are two camping loops for RVs that have 30/50A service and two primitive loops for tents plus a large group tent site. As with most National Forest campgrounds there is community water so you need to fill your RV tank before setting up. As we had previously experienced in other NF campgrounds there is no cell service which for us meant no internet since we use Verizon’s Jetpack. We are both old enough to remember life before cell phones so this doesn’t send us into seizures. We do however consider this part of “roughing it”. We were fortunate enough to have a place our portable satellite dish could get TV. The park has two small lakes, one for swimming and paddling and another for fishing only. We learned that there are only 1.5 paid employees here and the rest of the work is done by work camper volunteers. They keep the campground is fantastic shape too. Its me, Opal – the dog. I really liked it here. there were place for Mom and me to walk every morning. One afternoon we got Dad to come along on a hike. I was doing fine until a yellow jacket bit me on my left buttock. Man, did that hurt!
High on our “I want” list of things to do here was the Frontier Heritage Cultural Center in Staunton, VA. Steve had been there in the early 1990s when it first opened. The center has expanded a lot since then. They have homes from Africa and Europe showing the lifestyle European frontier settlers left and the influences of those lifestyles on frontier culture. To walk the whole park is about 2 miles but it takes several hours if you go through all of the exhibits. There are carts for rent and free courtesy rides back to the visitor center.We were there on a Sunday so most of the buildings had guides or living history participants. It was fascinating to see the influence of one culture on another to form the melting pot that is the United States. For example, the Irish came from a land that was devoid of forests. So they had no woodworking skills when it came to building with logs. The Germans came from heavily forested areas and are credited with teaching them these skills. At the blacksmith shop a woman was working. Her husband is the chief blacksmith at the park. They just moved here from Williamsburg where he also worked for several years. All of the nails and hardware used in the restorations are made on the property. So are the costumes worn by the docents. We found all of the workers to be very knowledgeable and fun to talk to about the facility. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have a passion for photographing old and unique windows and doors. So this was a wonderful opportunity for me even if the weather turned cloudy. If eyes are the windows to a person’s soul does that make windows (and doors) the eyes to a person’s home?
As mentioned in a previous entry, we had travelled I-81 through Virginia on many trips to family in Pennsylvania. We’d noticed two other sites in the Staunton, Virginia area we wanted to see but never seemed to have the time. Now we do. So it was off to check out the Cyrus McCormick Farm and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.
The Cyrus McCormick Farm was bequeathed to Virginia Tech as an agricultural research farm but the original mill and workshop are open to the public. The actual homestead is used for administrative offices and is not open. We were there mid-week and there was nobody around. The exhibits are well documented so you can do a self guided tour. The company started by Cyrus McCormick to build his reapers eventually became what we know today as International Harvester. The part I liked the best was the display of miniatures depicting the original reaper and subsequent improvements through the 1880s.
Then we moved on to the Woodrow Wilson Library. The home is where President Wilson was born although he lived here only two years. There are several other Wilson homes in Georgia and South Carolina as well as the one he occupied in Washington, DC. His father was a Presbyterian minister and they moved frequently throughout the south.The museum next to the home is very interesting as well covering WWI and the league of Nations. We didn’t allow enough time after doing the home tour to see it all. We planned to return the next day but something prevented us from getting back. Here’s a piece of trivia we picked up during the home tour… the term putting something on the back burner came from the then new stoves called ranges (as they had a range of temperatures). By putting something on the back burner it would cook more slowly and could be left alone.
The last tidbit on this area is if you’re in this area do stop in at the Mennonite store in Stuarts Draft called The Cheese Shoppe for a wonderful selection of foods you don’t see everyday.