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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Next up: you guessed it, Wilmington.

On to Spartanburg, SC

While in Georgia our plans started to tighten up a bit: Dad and Marcia locked in most of their July schedule, which included an immediate stop at Croft State Park outside of Spartanburg to meet up with their RV friends, Lori and Rob.  Since Spartanburg is sort of on the way to Asheville, we went ahead and secured a four day reservation there as well.  1-lake

We showed up knowing almost nothing about the park or the area, and with no expectations either.  Thus we were pleasantly surprised at how lovely both the campground and downtown Spartanburg were.  Like most state parks the sites were large, well spread out, and under a moderate tree canopy in the forest.  We much prefer this set up to the closely packed and often treeless sites found in many private parks, even those claiming “resort” status.  2-downtown-mural

The place is situated on a decent sized lake, has plenty of hiking, biking, and horse trails, and a couple of creeks running through the property.  We had a pleasant hour or two swimming and floating in one of them, just a short hike from our camping loop.  At $37 a night all in, it was a bit more expensive than most state parks, but if you have reason to RV near Spartanburg, we grant our highly coveted approval to Croft State Park.  3-creek-2

Since we had not been the best about social distancing during the last week, we tried to be extra careful while there, particularly with Dad and Marcia’s possibly immuno-compromised friends.  We were able to have evening cocktails, a dinner, and one outing into Spartanburg together.


Of course we are social distancing!  Look how far away they posed for this picture!

Speaking of the town: part of the downtown area on Main Street is quite nice.  Parks, breweries, shops, a small walking mall area, and restaurants with outdoor seating were prevalent.  During our first outing we had Pimento Cheese (the “caviar of The South”) Fritters with Tomato Jam at Cribbs, a fantastic appetizer befitting the southern tradition.  We explored the area a bit, including a flight at Ciclops one of the three our four breweries in town.  5-pimento-cheese-fritters

The next day Dad and Marcia joined us for a visit to Growler Haus, a fantastic little place with plenty of room for social distancing and an excellent array of craft beer from the region.  I enjoyed the Jalapeno IPA so much I filled the liter growler we have been carrying around since leaving Nova Scotia last year.


Part of Growler Haus’ 24 beer selection menu in the background, color coded by type, e.g., Pale Ales & IPAs, Porters & Stouts, etc.

For dinner it was back to Cribbs for what was the best burger I have had in living memory.  A big shout out to this restaurant and their award winning Barnyard Burger, one of the best burgers I have ever had.  Description: a lamb, beef & bacon blended patty with jalapeño, horseradish cream, fried egg, goat cheese, shaved cabbage, and tomato.  I want to go back to Spartanburg just to have this meal again.  7-cribbs-burger

When we left Florida our general plans were to visit some family and then find places to spend the rest of the summer and at least part of the fall.  Since we have enjoyed Croft State Park and Spartanburg, are they contenders for additional time?  No, no they are not.  Quite simply, it is still too low of an elevation and thus too hot.  We need mountains, and will seek them out shortly.


Rose downloaded a mushroom ID app; just point the camera at the shroom and gives you an id.  Pretty sure it is using location data to aid in that process.  Apparently these are Red Chantrelles.

Next up: Black Mountain and Asheville, North Carolina.


Spartaburg has a School for the Blind and Deaf, and it is reflected in the art and surroundings, such as this I Love You sculpture in American Sign Language.






During our last nine days in Florida we solidified our July and onward plans this much: Spend the July 4th weekend with Marissa, Ray, and their extended family outside Atlanta.  Then work our way to Asheville to see my brother and his wife Emmie, hopefully hooking up with my dad and stepmom Marcia, also full time RVers, before or after Asheville.  While in Asheville we would make a car trip to visit mom and stepdad Tim in Wilmington. That’s it.  No reservations, and all but the most immediate stop still rather ill defined in terms of timing.


Analise and Sarah helping me make bread.

So we went with that, and left Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park bound for Snellville, west of Atlanta.  We split the drive into two easy legs with a stop at Southern Trails RV Park, a perfectly serviceable Passport America place for a one night stop over minutes off of I-75.  Being this close to the interstate, it’s is not a destination visit, but it was ideal for our circumstances, and looks to also be a great spot for those horse owners using the next door corral and riding areas.  2-analise

We continued on the next day To Marissa and Rey’s while trying to limit the back road time to preserve our cat’s delicate stomach, but alas, it’s difficult to drive to Snellville from the south without many miles of twisty turny.  She almost made it without incident. Almost.  3-cat-front-yard

We parked in our host’s front yard, parallel to the street.  For most visits to friends’ and families’ houses that can accommodate our rig, we would look to stay in the driveway or along side it.  Rey and Marissa’s, however, is much to steep; the one visit we tried it left us comically un-level and having to throw together a crude set of steps to even get in the rig.  Right along the road in their front yard has worked out much better for us since then.  We can even put out the slides since I went out of my way to park with the right side of the RV, i.e., the one with the shallower slide out, towards the street.  4-sarah

We had a great Fourth of July weekend with the family.  Ray and Marissa’s daughter Annalise looks almost exactly the same despite being nearly three years older, but Sarah has turned from a round little infant into an energetic and loving toddler.  Rose’s aunt (Marissa’s grandmother,) Titi Clarivel lives with them, while cousin Betsy and her two younger kids, Daniella and Gabbi came for a visit our first day.


Annalise beating me at Horse.

We brought the girls a wooden train set found in the donation area way back at Sigsbee Campground in Key West, and they loved it.  It was the primary toy that we all played with during our visit.  The kids really enjoyed putting it together, making different track layouts, and pushing the little magnetically connected wooden train cars around.  6-girls-and-trains

We enjoyed fireworks both nights we were there.  On the fourth, naturally, but also again the next night because Annalise felt that Rey had been tricked that first night into buying the bad fireworks that barely shot up in the air at all.  So Ray purchased a rather more elaborate set for the fifth, and Annalise hated it since it was much louder and more aggressive than the previous evenings entertainment.  Sometimes you just can’t win.  7-fireworks

Next up: South Carolina.  8-girls-glow-sticks