September at Lake Powhatan: Exploring Asheville and the Surrounding Area

We spent nearly 2 1/2 months at Lake Powhatan, but so far have only discussed our work camping gig there.  Managing the glamping tents, however, has hardly been our only activity: we spent a lot of time exploring the area, especially once the additional pay checks started dropping.  There is no doubt we loosened the purse strings a bit, though I think we were still reasonably conservative in our spending.  1-local-art-2

We started September with a visit to the North Carolina Arboretum, which is a fancy name for a botanical garden focusing on trees and other woody plants.  The one near Asheville is fantastic, containing beautiful gardens and extensive walking or biking trails.  2-lego-1

We chose that first day in September for our initial visit because they offer half priced admission on the first Tuesday of every month, and even though we could be living large with our giant additional pay check from our glamping gig, we are, by usual necessity, pretty frugal RVers.  The fee structure for the NC Arboretum applies solely to vehicles and parking (usually $16 per car or truck, a lot more for RV’s and buses) while pedestrians and bicyclists get in for free.  3-lego-2

In addition to doing a bit of light hiking and geocaching, we also enjoyed the seasonal art display: large scale Lego structures depicting scenes from local nature.  We got rained out and left earlier than anticipated, but would still strongly recommend the place, especially for families, and particularly on the first Tuesday of each month.  For a full day of entertainment at only $8 for the entire car load, it is hard to beat.  4-lego-3

With a near complete lack of cell service in the park we were often unable to take advantage of our “unlimited” Verizon data plan to keep up basic internet functions, much less download TV shows and movies.  A bit of an aside here: I put “unlimited” in quotes because it is not truly unlimited.  Despite the pricey monthly fee, each of our three connected devices (two mobile phones and one mifi hot spot) have a 15 gigabyte per month limit, after which that device gets “strangled,” i.e., the download speed reduced to a nearly unusable crawl.  I digress.  5-local-art-4

Bottom line: the need for connectivity gave us an excuse to do even more exploring in and around Asheville, focusing on places that not only provide good food and drink, but free wifi as well.  Asheville is known for having a plethora of excellent craft breweries, apparently owing their existence not just to the foodie/hipster/cool vibe of the town, but also to the pristine mountain water supply.  6-lego-4

Though we intended to revisit several breweries in the downtown area that we enjoyed from our visit years back, the crowds and associated lack of social distancing pushed us towards the outskirts of Asheville instead.  Fortunately we stumbled upon Archetype Brewing in West Asheville, a place offering fast complementary wifi, carefully enforced mask, sanitation, and distancing protocols, and excellent beer (Rose was a huge fan of seasonal offerings such as Thick Rick or The Sage, while I preferred the full on IPAs Cue The Sun and Lunar Effect.)  7-archetype-brewing

With our improved financial situation (along with an admitted pent up desire for restaurant food after six months of COVID-influenced semi-isolation) we hit a few local establishments.  We focused on a limited combination of local icons, variation in offerings, outdoor seating, and firmly enforced mask and distancing policies.  8-local-art-1

One of our first discoveries was Pizza Mind, which we found next door to Archetype Brewing.  We had a fantastic white pizza, which we enjoyed with the optional (and highly recommended) sesame seed crust.  I am not sure what they do to this pizza, but there seems to be some sort of interesting olive oil addition which lends the white pizza an interesting aroma and delicious taste, though it might not be for everyone.  9-pizza-mind

In the “Iconic Asheville Restaurant” category, we returned to the White Duck Taco Shop, a place that we had fortuitously stumbled upon during our four days in Asheville in 2018, and thus it was on our list for a return visit.  Featuring a rotating menu of more than a dozen interesting gourmet tacos, you might find offerings riffing on lamb gyros, Korean bulgogi beef, pork belly, jerk chicken, bahn mi tofu, Thai peanut chicken, oysters, or mole duck.  We strongly recommend the Riverside Arts District location for the excellent outdoor environment on the banks of the French Broad River.  10-white-duck

Having driven by it multiple times during our outings to West Asheville, in our fourth week in the area we had a Tuesday brunch at Biscuit Head.  If you are a fan of that lovely overlap between breakfast to lunch, whether of the Denny’s Grand Slam variety or something extravagant like Camille’s in Key West or The Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans, we think you will enjoy the offerings at Biscuit Head.  When my Mom and Stepdad Tim visited us in late September, this is where we went for their final day in Asheville.  11-pkm-bed

Speaking of which, we celebrated my birthday in late September with a modest family gathering when the aforementioned Mom and Tim stayed two days in the glamping tent next to our host site.  Brother Jason and sister-in-law Emmie, residing in the nearby town of Black Mountain, came as well for a glamorous outdoor dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu, enjoyed outdoors around the campfire (recipe a loosely modified version of several combined options I found on line, but I think it came out pretty damn good.) 12-centipede

Our second month in the Asheville area started to hammer home how much this location sucked us in.  It offered us nearly everything we look for in our longer stays: a combination of nature and community.  We enjoyed a beautiful camp site under a full forest canopy, replete with deer, bear, centuries old oaks and clear running streams.  13-site-2

And yet fifteen minutes away, in the narrow corridors between rural Buncombe county and urban Asheville, we found such a wide variety of interesting local crafts, art, food, and sights.  With the omnipresent street art and fantastical graffiti, the cute shops of West Asheville, the seven days a week Western North Carolina Farmers Market or the one evening a week market on Haywood Ave, the hundreds of fantastic restaurants (with rarely a national chain option among them) and the dozens of craft breweries; this place has it all, at least as far as our preferences go.  14-local-art-3

  

 

   

68 Months Full Time RVing: August 2020 Report

The Distance: A modest 254 miles, most of it driving back from our second Tennessee state park to our work camping destination, Lake Powhatan Campground and Recreation Area. Which means our annual mileage will remain at 2,481 until mid November when we complete or time at Lake P and work our way back to Florida for the winter.

The Places:  We started the month with eight days at Cumberland Mountain State Park (completing a, for us, lengthy 12 day visit) and then hit our second Tennessee state park, Fall Creek Falls. Two weeks into August we made the run back east to Lake Powhatan, where we remained for the rest of August.

We spend all 31 days of August at public campgrounds (14 at state parks, 17 at a national recreation area). We had full hook ups for the 17 days at Lake Powhatan, and partial (electric and water) for 14 days at both of the Tennessee state parks.

The Budget: We finally broke our string of over budget months by coming in just under in August, and w did so despite having to pay our annual motorhome insurance bill. Granted, we were not even 2% under budget, but after three months significantly over, we will take it, especially since we are confident things will only get better over the next few months.

We were aided in our budget austerity by a limited amount of mileage (which required only one full fill up for Serenity) and free camping for 17 days at Lake Powhatan (which lowered our daily camping fee average to $15 for the month, compared to between $48, $31 and $28 in May, June, and July, respectively.) We also derived some benefit from being in remote areas or near only very small towns which offered limited temptations for unnecessary expenditures, at least until we got back to the Asheville area.

The Drama and Improvements:  Nothing significant to report this month.

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee: Bridges, Waterfalls, Geocaching, and Managing the TN State Park Camping Fee System.

Let’s start with the last of those first: reducing the camping fees for TN state parks as much as feasible. While comparing and contrasting our TN park options and finalizing our stay at Fall Creek Falls I noticed that the TN state park camping fee schedule, in addition to adding a couple of bucks to weekend versus weekday costs, was charging an extra $7 to $9 per day for sewage hook ups. Most parks have a pretty big jump in price from dry camping to serviced sites, but this is the steepest I can recall for simply adding sewage on top of electric and water connections.

I didn’t notice it while making reservations for our first TN state park, Cumberland Mountain, but having spotted it here we ended up saving about $50 for our six day stay at Fall Creek Falls. For anything under a week, I don’t see much value in constant sewage connections when I can just dump at the station on the way out of the park; either way I have to connect and disconnect the big hose once.

Every state or county campground system has idiosyncrasies and rate variations, but some are more impactful than others, and I find it worth my time to pay attention and learn a few of the ins and outs of new systems, and revisit those from which we have long been away. Long time readers of this blog may remember when we discovered the Texas State Park “Gotcha” Fee, i.e., the camping costs did not include the actual per person entry fee, thus turning the actual rate from $20 into $30 a night.

Or you might recall Michigan’s even more egregious “double double fee system” in which the camping fee did not include the $9 per day vehicle “passport” cost for out of state visitors, a fee which applied to both the motorhome and our tow vehicle! Of course, both Texas and Michigan offered annual passes that, with enough additional visits, would “pay for themselves” and thus incentivize follow on stays at their state parks. We went with that option in Texas, but Michigan’s system seemed so unfair (and a bit predatory) that we went the opposite route: Grand Haven is the last Michigan State Park at which we have stayed.

Let me be clear: Tennessee’s fee structure is not unreasonable or surprising, but it does reward a bit of research and planning. Moving on…

Waterfalls! Truly one of nature’s coolest displays, and something Rose and I regularly seek out in our travels. Fall Creek Falls has dozens, several of their best readily accessible from the campground, while others require a significant hike for the right overlook.

We satisfied ourselves with some of the easier to access, particularly the park’s name sake, a set of consecutive falls near the visitor center. Turn left behind the center and you end up at a nice set of cascades good for swimming, a bracing “shower” or just photo ops. Turn right and it’s a longer hike down hill to the base of the main falls and a nice swimming pond. We opted for the former, but also made a day trip along with a short hike to one of the secondary falls in the park.

Fall Creek Falls also has a good number of structures dating back to the Civil Conservation Corps era, and we visited several of them during our drives and hikes. We also ran across several structures during our geocaching outings, of which there were several during our stay.

Our trusty Geo Tracker, Loki, came in quite handy, again, during one such venture that took us up some fire trails, ending in a short hike to one of the areas remaining fire towers. I’m not gonna lie: I bet this structure gets condemned or at least blocked off to the public within a few years since parts of it are getting pretty crusty. The girders, stairs, and landings are in solid shape, but the rails at the top and wooden cabin at the top are probably unsafe. We avoided those sections.

The climb rewarded us with a fantastic unobstructed view over the tree canopy. Oh, and a completed virtual geocache, of course.

Another cache outing took us into the woods behind an old CCC pump building, if I recall correctly, while another took us for a hike along the river, and then across via swinging cable bridge.

Given the size of the park and the wonderful things we saw during just a few outings and with little effort, I believe we barely scratched the surface of what Fall Creek Falls has to offer. I would recommend the place as either an excellent detour along the way to other places, or a regional destination on its own.

67 Months Fulltime RVing: July 2020 Report

(Yes, I know it’s November right now; we are gonna play “catch up the blog” again this month.)

The Distance: 1,441 miles as we really kicked the travel into top gear after months in pre-COVID Key West and post-COVID Sanibel. Though we long ago abandoned our Western US circuit plans, we put in some miles bouncing around the Southeast as far as North Carolina and Tennessee. This month’s mileage represents nearly two thirds of our 2020 total of 2,227.

The Places:  We finished off our stay at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park before heading north to the outskirts of Atlanta to see Rose’s cousins. From there we spent five days outside Spartanburg, SC to visit Dad and Marcia, and then headed for Black Mountain, NC and hoped for relief from the summer heat. We made a lengthy side trip to Wilmington on the North Carolina coast to see Mom and Tim before heading back to Black Mountain and nearby Asheville. We continued west with a week in Waynesville, NC before closing out July at Cumberland Mountain State Park in Tennessee.  

July gave us 12 days in public parks (2 in a national forest, 10 in state parks,) 10 in private parks and resorts, and 9 staying with family. We had full hook ups for 12 days, partial for 15, and stayed in a house for 4.

The Budget: Continuing an unfortunate trend from May and June we were once again significantly (25%) over budget this month. Like last month we suffered from a lack of market experiences, and then aggravated the budget with a lot of gas for our 1,441 miles of travel, along with relatively high campground fees for most of the month. And again similar to last month, we still would have been well under budget if not for an unexpected big expenditure, this time we had to replace the front rooftop air conditioner. Ah well, we remain moderately under budget for the year.

The Drama and Improvements:  As mentioned above, we had to completely replace our front A/C, during which process we elected to have preventive maintenance done on the rear A/C as well.

Next up: Fall Creek Falls State Park, TN.

Our Work Camping Gig in Asheville

As we mentioned in a couple of previous posts, we lined up a work camping gig at Lake Powhatan Campground and Recreation Area outside of Asheville, North Carolina. With all of our market opportunities to sell Rosemarie’s jewelry mostly dried up, we needed a new, hopefully temporary, side hustle to give us a bit of a financial buffer.

It all came together over the course of two weeks starting with a casual conversation with one of the camp hosts at Lake Powhatan during our two day stay their back in July and ending, we thought, with a phone conversation and agreement with the on site managers, Jim and Dianne. The agreement was a two month commitment on our part to work as camp hosts, which would entail a couple of shifts a week at the front gate and a few mornings clearing camping sites after guests depart. In exchange we would receive a free full hook up campsite.

To be honest, it was not ideal: we calculated about 20 hours of work a week for both of us with more interaction with the general public (arriving camper check in and accepting payment from day users) than we would have liked for middling compensation. The pros were a secure couple of months in a beautiful campground outside a wonderful city with mountain weather certainly more tolerable than the Florida summer.

The morning after our arrival, however, Dianne mentioned, almost off handedly, that their “glamping” host had left on short notice, and they were rather eager to find a replacement since that opening really put them in a bind. The Glamping Host was in charge of managing the twelve semi-permanent large tents (complete with a queen bed, electricity, towels, etc, sort of like a hotel room in the woods.) OK, that sounds harder, why would we want that job?

The deal was, in exchange for managing the glamping sites we would receive not only a free full hook up site, but also a modest pay check and that would be our sole responsibility: no front gate shifts and no clearing and raking of regular campsites. Though they asked us to agree to a three month commitment rather than the two months for the regular camp hosting gig, we were sold.

So that is where we have been and what we have been doing since mid August. We will continue until the glamping section of the campground closes on November 15. It has been great! But, admittedly, this work camping gig is not for everyone, as evidenced by the young woman they hired to manage the glamping section on our two days off: she quit within the first week. There are two issues which make this harder than the regular camp hosting gigs here, despite arguably less hours actually working.

The first is the physical labor aspect. The regular camp hosts, in addition to their two six hour shifts at the front gate, spend three mornings a week clearing any refuse out of sites, rake the leaves, and clear out the fire pits as necessary. While we don’t have front gate shifts, we spend five days a week managing the twelve tents, which includes all of the regular campsite preparation as well as sanitizing the inside of the tent, sweeping, swapping out the used sheets and towels and making the beds. For most of the tents I also have to lug a 40 pound deep cycle battery out and in every time we turn a tent. The bottom line is the actual physical labor is more demanding than the regular hosting jobs, even if the hours are shorter.

The second downside, and the one that the previously mentioned short term hire could not abide, was the number of hours you have to simply be present, even if you aren’t actually doing anything. Not only do we flip the tents in preparation for arriving guests, one of us also has to greet them and go over a few things about their tent and the glamping sites. Sure, doing so only takes five minutes per guest, but we need to be available from 4 pm to 8 pm (or the last arrival) five days a week. For us, not a big deal at all: we manage our outings for the afternoons and would not be going out a lot in the evenings anyway. For some, this is a non-starter.

A final downside, which applies to all of us working at Lake Powhatan, not just the glamping hosts, is the near complete lack of cell service in most of the park. I mean, forget about free park wifi, we can’t even get a single bar of cell service in most areas. We find ourselves spending a lot of time out in town downloading stuff, and several times a week we drive to the top of the hill where we can, usually, get a couple of bars off the nearest Verizon tower.

Rose found this huge Hen of the Woods shroom at the base of an oak tree near one of our glamping tents. We feasted on this delicious fungus for over a week!

So while this gig is not for everyone, and the lack of cell service and wifi has been cramping, for the most part this work camping job has been nearly a perfect fit for us. The hours are reasonable, the compensation fair, we get to use the campground washing machines and dryer one day a week, and we even have our own golf cart.

Next up: Since we skipped ahead a bit in order to catch us up to our current location, we will next go back and add in our last Tennessee stop and a couple of monthly reports.

First of two stop on Tennessee: Cumberland Mountain State Park

From our stop in Waynesville we made the short drive across the North Carolina-Tennessee border and then a few hours further west to get to Cumberland Mountains State Park.  This is one of the places in the Smokey Mountains that Dad and Marcia recommended, and it did not disappoint, which is good since we had booked a twelve day stay, a rather unusual decision for us, but with RVing experiencing some sort of COVID-19 related boom, we were anxious to secure some spots during the summer.  img_2140

While we had enjoyed our one week stay in Creekwood Farms RV Resort back in Waynesville, we were quite happy to discover the sites at Cumberland Mountain were exactly our type: spacious, spread out, and under a forest canopy.   It was not exactly cheap, we paid $37 a night after taxes and reservation fees for our power and water only site, but we would later learn how to work the Tennessee State Park system to create some savings.  img_2188

Dad and Marcia had warned of Loop 1 of the five loop options in the park due to quite unlevel sites in that loop, but even though we followed there advice, we still ended up with a comically unlevel site.  Our hydraulic level system was woefully inadequate to compensate for the grade, but with extra blocks and the judicious use of carefully selected wedge shaped fire wood, we made things reasonable.  img_20200729_133816

With a couple of caveats, we enjoyed the park and the general area quite a lot.  One of our more enjoyable outings was to Ozone Falls just a few miles from the park.  This 110′ fall has easy parking but requires a bit of scurrying to get down to the base, but was easily done with a bit of hand assist and careful footing  Water level and volume is low this time of year, but we enjoyed the environment, our shower in the falling water, and a brief swim in the small pond created by the millennia of cascading flow.  img_2174

We explored the nearby Crossville, finding an excellent and vary affordable pizza joint in Pit Stop Pizza, which was one of the rare places we visited in town that appeared to be taking proper coronavirus precautions.  Mask wearing, even indoors and in close contact, was nearly non-existent in this area.    img_2148

We were in the area during the annual 127 yard sale, a multi-state event which takes place along and in the vicinity of US Route 127.  it extends through six states, from Michigan to Alabama, along a nearly 700 mile trek.  Thousands of vendors converge along the axis for the four day mega-sales event.  We stopped at a handful of the dozens of options, many of them with scores if not hundreds of vendors, much like pop-up flea markets situated at every open field and empty parking lot along the way, on the outskirts of Crossville, though our purchases were quite modest.  (Again, almost no mask wearing anywhere, which most definitely affected our willingness to stop and shop.)  img_2240

While here we also received confirmation that we had been accepted as camp hosts for at least two months back at Lake Powhatan National Campground and Recreations area, located just southwest of Asheville, North Carolina.  We stayed their a couple of years back, and again in July while visiting brother Jason and Emmie.  This gig solves two problems for us: income padding in that we get a free site, particularly important in the wake of all of our market, craft fair, and festival cancellations that ended our fantastic streak of sales of Rose’s jewelry, and locks us into a secure location for a few months so we won’t be searching desperately for openings at popular weekend destinations.  Yay, us!

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We also did some say hiking, which we incorporated with some geocaching,  One of our favorites was an easy two mile hike along the river to find the container cache below a swinging bridge.  This cache also happened to have last been found by Dad and Marcia during their stay here a couple of weeks before our arrival.  Geocaching truly makes a difference in our level of activity, getting us out and about both in town and the woods.

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Next up: July full time RVing Report, and then another Tennessee state park, this time with extra waterfalls.  img_2146

 

 

 

 

Deeper into the Mountains: One week in Waynesville, NC

Continuing or “seek relief from the summer heat in the mountains” plan, we left Black Mountain headed west towards Tennessee with a one week stay at at private resort in Wayesville, NC.  Rosemarie found this town while googling fun places to see in Western North Carolina, and then I narrowed down our RV park options.  Honestly, there were three well rated options with comparable fees, and we settled on Creekwood Farms RV Resort based upon the photos.

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Creekwood Farms is a great little private park with full amenities located on a swift running stream with a couple of small tributaries running through the park.  Management rules with an iron fist, thus you might run into “flexibility” issues, but you won’t run into misbehaved guests or run down facilities either.  We thoroughly enjoyed both the park and the nearby town of Waynesville for our one week stay.  2-mountains

By our standards the place is not cheap (apparently this is a tourist area, though I can’t determine if that is because of the quaintness and desirability of Waynesville or the proximity to Asheville.)  The discount on the weekly rate came out to $48 a night.  We thought there might be an additional military veteran’s discount, but no, only one discount applies, and the weekly rate is that discount.  3-pkm-bw

The sites were not large or filled with greenery like we enjoy, but they were full hook up, cute, and included cable TV.  The park itself has multiple points of swimming, tubing, and fishing access to the stream running along the back side of the property, and during non-COVID pandemic times offers nice clubhouse and social amenities as well.  4-site

The stream running behind the park made for fun wading and relief from the heat, and we enjoyed watching the gaggles of kids tubing, swimming and generally enjoying the water.  While not exactly a crystal clear mountain creek, it had its charms, and we took advantage on the handful of rain-free days we had in the park.  5-creek-rose

Waynesville is a very nice mountain town chock full of artsy little shops, cafe’s and restaurants.  Obviously the current coronavirus situation has put a damper on lots of these, but we were still able to enjoy several afternoon’s strolling the hilly main streets.   while enjoying several boutique stores, one brewery, and one restaurant (both with outdoor seating and strong mask compliance for the staff.)  We can confidently recommend Frog Level Brewery for the ales and ambiance.  6-brewery-2

We look advantage of our time in Waynesville to do a bi of geogaching, concentrating on hitting some supposedly high difficulty caches.  One tiny magnetic cache mounted to a large art sculpture in town gave us a bit of an interesting hunt before we finally located it.  7-geocaching

Next up: Tennessee!

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Black Mountain and Asheville Part 2

We left Wilmington and made the nearly six hour drive back to the RV repair shop to pick up our rig.  I forgot to mention in the last post that while we were in Wilmington, Appalachian RV confirmed that the forward A/C compressor was completely shot and the unit had some other burnt out parts, and thus we needed complete A/C replacement.  It turned out cheaper than I expected (about $1,200) but that is a pretty big unplanned budget hit.

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Due to a failure on our part to take a reasonably diverse set of pictures during the three days this post covers, this will be a cat-centric set of photos.

We were fortunate that they had a replacement unit readily available: COVID-19 has resulted in weird boom in the RV industry (it seems people are seeking alternatives to air travel and crowded tourist locations,) people are out using their rigs more than ever, and the summer heat has resulted in a lot of broken air conditioners.

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Whenever anyone else is around, PKM tends to be tolerant but a bit aloof.  When it is just the three of us, however, she is extremely affectionate and prefers to spend a good portion of the day cuddling.

Anyway, we pulled in to their lot, maneuvered Serenity out, hooked up Loki, and made our way to Jason and Emmie’s in Black Mountain for a night.   This time we were better prepared for the low phone line!   There was but one minor inconvenience: in the course of repairs the repair shop had used our 50 to 30 amp adapter, and upon completion of the work left it in the vicinity of their electric connection pedestal rather than put it back in our storage area.  We didn’t realize this until I was trying to connect up power to Jason and Emmie’s house.  Fortunately it was but a short drive back to Marion, and I found our adapter in short order.

 

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Finding comfort where she can during our trip back from Wilmington.

As I alluded to in our last post, we are just not happy with long car rides anymore, especially when the cat is with us.  It would likely be quite different if we had even an entry level new model car, but Loki is a 23 year old miniature jeep with a rag top, a lot of wind noise, and few comfort features.  While it is perfect as a tow behind and “get around town” vehicle, it is generally not a comfortable ride for long distances.   Accordingly, we will have to look extra hard at future side trip planning.   4

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This is us backing down Jason and Emmie’s street  for about a quarter of a mile.

We only imposed on Jason and Emmie for one night in their driveway before heading to Lake Powhatan, a national forest recreation and campground area southwest of Asheville.  It is quite the popular spot for both day use and campers, especially on the weekend, so we felt lucky to secure a two day reservation.  To give you an idea how popular it is, upon check in for our the camp host noted we had one of the electric and water sites (most in the campground are dry camping only) and asked if we had made our reservation six months in advance.  We had not, of course, but did get lucky on a late cancellation.

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Our site at Lake Powhatan.  “Powhatan” is both the name of the Algonquin confederacy of tribes living in the tidewater region of Virginia when English settlers established Jamestown, and the informal name of their chief, Wahunsenacawh, who was the father of Matoaka, popularly known as Pocahontas.  

The campground is, in most regards, exactly what we prefer: spacious sites under a forest canopy with plenty of green space between you and the neighbors, and located within easy driving distance to basic amenities.  The proximity of Asheville, a very interesting city, is also a bonus.  If there is one drawback, it is the near total lack of cell service in the park: visitors are advised to plan ahead, particularly if you want to be on top of the news or have TV and movie’s to watch.  We had a lovely couple of days there, and even got to meet several members of the volunteer camp hosting staff.  img_20200720_173850

This is a short post for a short couple of stops,  Next up: Waynesville, NC and another pricey private RV resort.

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Totally not staged, I swear.  PKM decided to sleep-guard my money clip.  You can see by the top bill we are both high rollers.

 

A side trip to Wilmington, NC

Last we spoke we had backed Serenity down the narrow road from my brother’s house and hooked up Loki in preparation for our trip to the mechanics and follow on drive to Wilmington.  Appalachian RV Repair is located in Marion, a few miles east of Black Mountain, and therefor perfectly positioned for our plans.  We dropped of the rig and the repair shop owners agreed to our timeline, work request, and approval criteria: they would check the front A/C, let us know the requirements before proceeding with work, and service the rear A/C, all in time for us to pick it up later that week.  Good to go.

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Not a lot of relevant pictures from this week, so here is Kitty Meow Meow under the covers in Mom and Tim’s upstairs guest room.  Consider this foreshadowing.

We then completed the six hour trip in our trusty Geo Tracker to Mom and Tim’s in Wilmington.  My tolerance for long drives has dropped quite a lot since we retired, and I frequently blame it on the added stress of driving an RV vs a car.  This trip showed me that even in a car I no longer enjoy long drives, and neither does Pad Kee Meow, who addressed her displeasure frequently during the trip.

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Not a happy cat.

But we made it, and settled into the guest bedroom for our four day stay.  Normally our trips to Wilmington are filled with dining out, farmers markets, thrift shops, and breweries, but with the current pandemic we had to adjust.  That meant sliders on Tim’s beloved Green Egg grill, fancy brunches, and home cooked meals for most of our stay, though we did one big take out meal from the wonderful local Greek franchise, Peno’s. (Highly recommended.)  3-drinks

We spent our days and evenings watching movies, teaching each other new card games, and experimenting with a few new drinks as well.  They taught us Five Crowns, we taught them Rummy 500, and I made Moscow Mules for the first time (they came out great!)  4-moscow-mules-1

We were also pleased to meet the newest addition to the Ford household, Callie, a sweet adult girl they recently adopted.  She is quite the calm dog, and we had no problems with her and PKM, though the cat still preferred to remain in the expansive up stairs section of the household, an area to which Callie never ventures.  5-callie

While there we took Rosemarie’s broken ukulele to Mom and Tim’s neighbor, Thomas, who has extensive experience repairing stringed instruments, mainly guitars.  Oh, did we not mention the broken uke?  While we were setting up camp in Croft State Park outside of Spartanburg, it got partially crushed by the rear slide out.  This was a bit heart breaking since it is Rose’ first uke, and she had been making such excellent progress on it using online tutorials these past few months.  While in Black Mountain we took it to a luthier who quoted us $400 minimum for repairs (it cost about $220 new.)  The sound is still fine, and Thomas was confident he could get it fixed up and respectable looking, so we gratefully left it in his care.

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Though this is the worst looking damage, the actual bad part is the partially crushed side.

Lastly, while in Wilmington we managed to lock down our schedule through mid August with a series of reservations.  As has been our plan for the summer since before we left Florida, we are seeking respite from the heat, and think the mountains a good place to do so.  There for, we are headed back to Black Mountain and Asheville for three days, then on to Waynesville (still in NC) for a week, and then we will hit two Tennessee state parks for nearly three weeks.  So next up: Black Mountain and Asheville, Part 2.

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All of that stuff on the floor was neatly stored until PKM managed to get into the closet.  Paying us back for a long car ride, I guess.

 

 

Black Mountain and Asheville, Part 1

While in Spartanburg we finalized plans to visit the Asheville area and see my brother and new sister-in-law in nearby Black Mountain.  Asheville is much more of a tourist destination than Spartanburg, and so we had some difficulty securing reservations, particularly since we were timing our arrival for the weekend to best accommodate Jason and Emily’s work schedules.

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When we purchased Serenity 4 1/2 years ago, he had 12,800 miles on him after nine years under previous owners.  Since that time we have added a wee bit more.

In a previous year we stayed at Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and Campground located on national forest land, but they were full up and further away from Black Mountain than ideal.  We were lucky to secure two days at the small but popular Mama Gertie’s Hideaway Campground in Swannanoa, which placed us perfectly between Asheville and Black Mountain.

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Our outdoor sitting area at Mama Gertie’s.

Mama Gerties is a tightly run ship on a multi-level property in low mountains, and requires a bit of a climb up narrow roads to access it.  Our site, however, was spacious, level, and well equipped, even for being one of the mid-level priced options available.  Pricing is relative; we paid $54 a night and that’s with the 10% military discount!  Does that sound steep?  It does to us as well, but that is simply what the Asheville area market demands.  Consider that their mountain top sites with private decks and panoramic views go for $100 a night, and while we were there they were full up!

 

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One of the mountain top premier sites with a full deck.

While there we did a bit of minor exploration in the town of Black Mountain with Jason and Emmie, which is very nice; filled with quaint shops, restaurants, and a brewery or two without being overly touristy like Asheville proper.  We had a solid meal at The Trail Head Restaurant and Bar: the burger was excellent (and I was prepared for disappointment now that my expectations have been raised so high by Cribbs back in Spartanburg) though the staff could have been a lot more cognizant of our social distancing request.

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We were only able to stay at Mama Gertie’s for two days since they were full up, at least for a rig our our size, the next few days.  So we packed up and drove down to Jason and Emmie’s place, which has two large driveways.  Jason had previously sent me video of both approaches, and it was clear that one was way too steep, but the other looked good to go.  We easily fit in the drive, with plenty of extra width and length.

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Plenty of room!

The only excitement came from the various cables and lines running from the nearby pole to the house: while the power and data lines were high enough such that we cleared them by a foot, the (defunct) phone line was significantly lower, and had we been a couple of inches taller we might have torn it loose.  As it was we had to use a broom to make sure it cleared our front air conditioning unit.

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Only the phone line was at actual risk.

Speaking of which: while at Mama Gertie’s we noticed that the front A/C was not working (it made noise but produced no cold air) and emitted a difficult to describe aroma.  My research suggested it might just be the capacitor that assists the main compressor motor in starting, but we would have to take it to the shop to know for sure.  Ah well, one more thing.

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Jason & Emmie.

Dad and Marcia rolled in that same day for their two day stay at Mama G’s, probably securing a day we could not because their rig is smaller and fit in some of the more affordable sites.  Jason and Emmie picked up take out dinner from a vegan restaurant and we met up at Dad and Marcia’s site for dinner and wine in a lovely outdoor setting until significant rain forced us all inside.  image

On our last day in the area I made arrangements to drop the RV off at a nearby repair shop, with Rose and I planning to drive to Wilmington in the tracker to visit mom and stepdad Tim while it was getting work done.  This meant that the morning of our departure had a bit of drama; some expected, some not.  First there was the lifting of the phone line via broom stick to clear our A/C and an antenna as we backed out of the driveway.  It was also obvious that there was no way I could back out of the drive and make the more than 90 degree cut to point us nose forward; instead we would be forced to back down the steep and narrow road until we got to the next cross street where I could execute a three point turn.  8-beer-flight

Wrong again, Jack.  Despite a couple of attempts at said cross street, our wheel base was too short and we ended up bottoming out the receiver hitch in the back onto the road.  This meant we would need to back down all the way to the main cross street, a good quarter of a mile.  Fortunately Rose and I have been in this situation before, and she’s good at giving me hand signals that I can easily interpret via our rear mounted camera, and so in short order we were beside the main road and hooking up Loki for our journey to the repair shop and then onward to Wilmington.

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The view from the premier sites at Mama Gertie’s.

Next up: you guessed it, Wilmington.