A Week in Central Florida: Rainbow and Blue Spring State Parks

From late October to mid November I spent an unfortunate amount of time online trying to lock in reservations at any of our preferred Central Florida spots, while also fitting in at least one new place during our limited time in the area. Our “check online and often for late cancellations” method did not serve us quite as well as usual; though we had a thirteen day window in between our stay at cousin Robb’s and our planned arrival at Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island, we only had five days covered with Central Florida reservations. We started those five days with two at Rainbow Springs State Park, a very popular camping destination.

Thus, after Robb and Colleen prepared a hearty breakfast, we left their driveway late Sunday morning, gassed up Serenity for the second time this month (something we are not used to given our last three months nearly stationary in North Carolina) and headed south to the newest state park on our RV list. At just over an hour drive time, this is the sort of repositioning move we love; even with a leisurely late departure we can arrive enough to enjoy the first day at a new spot.

Rainbow Springs reminds me quite a lot of Silver Springs State Park, a place Rose and I camped at but once, though I recall visiting the place place a couple of times in my youth. Both parks have a massive, first order magnitude springs with large crystal clear ponds surrounding the main spring boils, which feed rivers that remains clear for quite some distance downstream. Both parks limit swimming to designated areas, and both campgrounds are miles from the actual spring.

Having said that, we thoroughly enjoyed our two days at Rainbow Springs, and would have preferred at least one more, even with our tight schedule for the rest of the month. The campground, or at least our assigned loop, had only limited vegetation, mostly of the low scrub forest variety rather than the canopy forest we generally prefer. This meant not much shade, but fortunately our site position and size were such that we had plenty of privacy from neighbors.

With only two days there we splurged on our second day and rented a canoe to paddle the river for a couple of miles. With snacks and drinks we had a lovely afternoon on the river admiring the nature and houses lining much of both sides, though one of the for sale signs made it clear this particular water front area is well outside of our limited means ($950,000 asking price for one large lot, house not included!)

The canoe trip reinforced our desire to own some kind of boat, even if it is as simple as a tandem kayak. The real challenge for us is how to transport it: a tandem is to tall to mount vertically on our rear ladder, and the Geo Tracker is not exactly set up for something on top of the rag top roof. Ah well, with enough padding and rope I am sure it can be done, so somehow, someday.

Tuesday morning we headed out around noon bound for Blue Spring State Park, which, along with Wekiva Springs and Trimble Park is one of our preferred CFL locations. Blue Springs and Wekiva both have excellent swimming in crystal clear waters, though this time of year the manatees are arriving, so swimming in Blue Springs is restricted. Ah well, this park never fails to deliver in terms of nature and wildlife.

During the first of our three planned three days at Blue Spring we managed to secure two additional days, giving us five total at the park, though we would had to move sites between the two reservations, which is unfortunate not just because of the move, but also because each reservation entails a separate reservation fee, jacking up the daily rate a bit. Irritating!

Son Jackson and Andrea were able to swing by one night, bringing take out pizza from our local recommended spot, Blue Springs Pizza, located just outside of the park, and highly recommended what with the apparent shift back to the original owners this last year. We don’t have any group pictures because we seriously attempted social distancing this visit, eating outside and forgoing contact, etc. It’s strange to read our blog posts from half a year ago and find the exact same comments, i.e., visiting with Jackson and maintaining social distancing. Man, let the vaccine flow smoothly such that this pandemic ends soon!

Incidentally, some of you may remember my unnecessarily detailed explanation of the “Wekiwa” vs “Wekiva” (note the “wa” vs the “va” in the last syllable) many moons ago. In a similar vein, I want to point out that the official name of the current park in question is “Blue Spring State Park,” in which “spring” is singular. Contrast this with Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, with plural “springs.” This is more than a subtle way of differentiating each park’s respective name; it also reflects reality in that Blue Spring has one main spring boil, whereas Gilchrist Blue Springs has multiple spring heads spread out across several acres of the property.

Nearly every day we made made the short hike down to the spring, and though we did not have the raccoon or armadillo activity we have enjoyed during past stays, the manatees were out and easily spotted along the entire half mile spring run. I mentioned earlier that Rainbow Springs reminds me of Silver Springs in part because of how long the water remains crystal clear downstream from the main heads. I contrast this with out current location, Blue Spring, which runs into the murky St Johns River in less than a mile, and Gilchrist Blue Springs, which runs into the equally dark Sante Fe River even sooner.

While in the region we had plenty of time to do a bit of geocaching. While we have stayed at Blue Springs many times, we have not done much caching in the area, something we remedied this visit. During the course of which we found bike paths, hiking trails, and local parks about which I was completely ignorant until we went out caching. Such is the nature of the hobby, always pushing you into new and unexpected areas.

I drew an imaginary triangle with sides defined as the St Johns River, Lake Monroe, and I-4, and then set about finding all the caches within it. Future visits are clearly called for.

So there it is, a full week in Central Florida split between an old favorite and a new park. This left us with nearly a full week until our reservation start at Sanibel Island, during which we explored a completely new campground and region. In other words, next up: South Bay RV Park on Lake Okeechobee.

Back To Florida, Via Atlanta and Gainesville, for the Winter

After nearly three months in the Asheville area we filled up Serenity’s big tank for the first time since early August and headed south. We were bound for Florida, as we do every winter, though with our actual itinerary still in COVID-induced flux. We made a couple of stops to see cousins along the way, with our first destination the outskirts of Atlanta, though we split the trip there from Black Mountain into two legs with a one night stopover in South Carolina. We had not driven the RV since mid August, so it was to take things slow with two easy drives (roughly two hours each) rather than one long push.

In a similar vein, with this being our first night on the road in a long while, we wanted a full service RV park rather than a dry camping parking lot at Walmart or Cracker Barrel. As there were no military campgrounds on our route, we turned to Passport America for an affordable option, found Lake Hartwell Camping & Cabins a little beyond the halfway point to Atlanta and less than five miles from the interstate, and locked it in for our one night stop.

At $19 all in we enjoyed a lakefront site with 30 amp power and water. While the dirt and gravel road down to our site was pretty rough, once there the spot was spacious with a great view of the lake. The encroaching cold weather had already knocked down most of the leaves, and the combination of an open view with remnants of fall colors made this campground a great one night value. Once again, Passport America (wink wink: referring membership type “R” and member number 0261872) comes through for us.

We made the short drive to cousins Marissa and Ray’s the next morning. Since our last visit they have moved, having sold and then bought a larger place for their growing family in a nearby neighborhood. The driveway at the new house is not particularly long, but apparently the HOA has no problem with short term curbside parking of RVs, so we were able to make ourselves quite at home, even putting out the two protected left slides and connecting to our hosts standard 20 amp house circuit.

The adorable Annalise has competition for attention, as her sister Sarah, now 2, is highly mobile, talkative, and insistent on being included in everything. At 5 Annalise is old enough to remember us now, and has her sister just as intrigued by our “car house” as she is. Day or night, if one of us needed to make a trip to the RV, the girls insisted on “helping.”

Marissa joined me on my annual Veteran’s Day tour of restaurants. Though this year was far more subdued than past events, we were still able to have breakfast and pick up enough food for the entire family for lunch and part of dinner. Betsy, Gami, and Daniella were able to swing by for one evening of partially distanced visiting as well.

After two days we continued our low speed cruise to Florida with yet another Passport America stop, this time for two nights in Southern Georgia. Earlier in the week when we selected Lake Hartwell for a short stopover there was only one Passport America choice near our desired stopping point, and thus we felt fortunate to have scored such a nice value. In this case we had three such properties to choose from. One of them did not have availability, another was significantly more expensive, and so we ended up at Paradise Lake RV Park in the very small town of Enigma, less than ten miles off I-75.

It was a bit bare bones to look at, with no actual lake or even pond on the property, but for $15 a night we had full hook ups (i.e., sewage included with the power and water) and a surprisingly tranquil environment. While there was not much of a view, all of the spaces in this small park were on grass, decently large, and most had a couple of trees. The neighbors mostly kept to themselves and were polite when we met a few, and onsite management was very laid back and accommodating, even waiving their “no Passport America rate on Friday” rule for our second night stay.

We spent part of our second day there exploring the area and geocaching. I had recently learned that a geocache affiliated website had a function allowing you to visualize not only the states and countries you have cached in, but also broke it down by county. I was surprised to see how few counties we had cached in along our extensive travel routes, and wondered how full the map might be if I actually found a cache in every county in which we had stayed a night. Since discovering this tool I have added around nine to the map.

We finally crossed into Florida shortly after departing Paradise Lake, and made a mid afternoon arrival at cousins Rob and Colleen’s and their girls Nola and Maeve. Unable to score weekend reservations at the nearby and very popular Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, they put us up in their driveway for the night.

We had a great visit, getting to know their dogs, picking up their go to take out pizza, and telling stories over a few beers and the like. With holiday breaks coming up, we hope to get back together on the beaches in Sanibel this winter.

Next up: our week in Central Florida, and a new state park.

Our Last Week in Asheville Before Heading South

In mid October we got word that the campground would be closing the glamping tents November 2nd, a full week earlier than we expected. Even after the last guest departed there would be enough legitimate work to keep us busy, and thus justify our compensation, into the next weekend, but after that we would either need to leave, start paying for our campsite, or pick up duties consistent with the other camp hosts. While unexpected, this actually worked out quite well for our plans, giving us early an extra week to work our way back into Florida before beginning our scheduled two months in Sanibel in late November.

With the cold and rain in late October, our colorful leaf canopy has mostly disappeared.

So we spent part of that last week closing down the tents: stripping laundry, storing all linens in the designated shed, and moving the tent accoutrements (lamps, fans, coffee pots, brooms, pillows, etc) into winter storage. All of which was in preparation for the contractors that would soon remove the furniture, mattresses, and actual tent canvas, while leaving up the elevated wood platforms and frames until next spring.

A whole lot of laundry awaiting our organizational efforts.

We also had to get ourselves and our equipment ready for travel after nearly three months of idling. This meant checking tire pressure, batteries, tow equipment and the like, but also getting things stowed away and secured for rocking and rolling down the road. After three months of spreading ourselves out, that last item involved more than a little effort.

A crucial step in the getting ready for the road process. PKM loves this part.

Of course, we took some time to continue our “Goodbye to Asheville Regional Tour” as well. After months of cross scheduling, we finally were able to meet up with our RV friends Jen and Deas of Nealys on Wheels, bloggers we followed long before we finally started meeting up, first in The Florida Keys and later on the California Coast. They have since shifted from full time RVers into a sticks and bricks home after renting and then buying a place in Asheville. Fellow fans of craft beer and breweries, they recommended the excellent Zillicoah Beer Company, another great Riverside Arts District establishment that also had a fantastic on site food truck provided by Taqueria Muñoz.

The onsite managers, Jim and Dianne, hosted a farewell dinner up near the lakeside group gathering area for all of the hosts and employees. Catered by Luella’s, a local BBQ place, it was one of the few times during our stay that the entire crew was able to gather at leisure. We feel quite fortunate with only our second work camping experience; aside from the wonderful location, reasonable work requirements and fair compensation, we had great management and welcoming coworkers to boot.

In addition to Zillicoah, we made one last visit to Archetype Brewing, the every weekend perpetual yard sale ear the campground, and the wonderful Western North Carolina Farmers Market a couple of miles up the road. We also continued casual mushroom hunting, but the seasons have clearly changed and we weren’t yet adapt at finding late fall and winter fungus. We did, however, stumble across this falconer training his bird in our now nearly empty camping loop.

Finally, we pulled in our hydraulic levels, slide outs, outdoor decor and utility connections and headed out. We did not go far at all that first day, just half an hour up the road to Black Mountain to spend one night in brother Jason and Emmie’s (and Chalupa’s) driveway.

This being our third visit, we were becoming near experts at managing the low phone wire, steep entry way, and lengthy back down from his street. We celebrated our last day in North Carolina with a take out brunch from Louise’s Kitchen, the wonderful comfort food restaurant they had introduced us to during our last visit.

Backing down Jason and Emmie’s entry road because driveway and road grade makes it practically impossible to turn around until we reach the main street.

So that is it for North Carolina. Next up: back to Florida, with a few stops along the way.

70 Months Full Time RVing: October 2020 Report

The Distance: Just like in September, zero miles while we remained at Lake Powhatan. Total for the year is still 2,481 miles. November will see us back on the road.

This is a closeup of the underside of a Blue Indigo mushroom Rosemarie found.

The Places:  We spent all of October at Lake Powhatan outside Asheville, so 31 days in a public (national) park, and all of it with full hook ups.

The Budget: Even better than last month’s 50% under: for October we were 59% below budget! The same factors applied as well: free campsite, a paycheck, and no RV gas. November will be a lot tighter since we will be back on the road, paying for RV parks, and no longer getting that extra work camping paycheck.

The Drama and Improvements:  As mentioned in our September addendum post, we got Rosemarie’s Ukulele back from Mom and Tim’s neighbor Thomas, repaired and ready to play. I restrung a couple of our accordion style pull up mini-blinds as well, but nothing significant.

Next up: Our last week in Asheville. (Yes, I know I said this was next up at the end of the last post, but I forgot about the monthly report, and I usually like to keep these things in order.)

October Asheville Part 2: Going Out, Trying to do so Safely

I would not dare attempt to discern the merely popular establishments from those embraced by the resident population as truly local, but I will say that being recognized by the waitstaff as a frequent return customer makes one feel much more connected to a bar or restaurant. And this is what we began to experience as we closed in on three full months in the area.

The hosts and barkeeps at Archetype knew us even with full face masks, and waived us towards our preferred seating area as if we had been coming for years. The staff at Pizza Mind knew we would most likely have a Roasted Beet and Cauliflower pizza, and always with the sesame seed crust option.

And the ladies at Asheville Sushi and Hibachi recognized us on only our second visit, and treated us like regulars on that and several subsequent meals. This little strip mall sushi joint is just fantastic, and we will definitely miss the fresh fish, healthy portions, and Thai chai. Located well south of downtown proper it’s barely even in Asheville, so it is hardly a tourist destination, and yet I am not sure how well known it is by the locals either. It gets our strong recommendation, regardless.

White Duck Taco Shop is far too big and popular for such an experience, particularly the River Arts District location on the banks of the French Broad, but this iconic Asheville establishment pulled us back for multiple visits. We dined on delicious and imaginative gourmet tacos at a very fair price, and did so at an excellent dining environment.

In the same general vicinity we visited Wedge Brewing Company, another brewery thankfully not located in the excessively crowded down town beer mecca (a set of blocks we found to be woefully inadequate in their COVID mitigation efforts.) Wedge was fine, and located in an interesting set of buildings filled with art studios and the like, but the lack of wifi or accessible (and affordable) nearby food options left it well below our preferred Archetype Brewing.

Oh yes, the River Arts District is where it is at as far as trendy and artsy Asheville goes. And though Rose and I may, in general, prefer the atmosphere and vibe of the less well known West Asheville hamlet area, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon and early evening trips to River Arts. We had one meal at Smokey Park Supper Club and another 12 Bones BBQ. Rose is much more of a BBQ aficionado than I am, and she found the former’s brisket sandwich excellent (complimented as it was by a lovely dining environment either elevated on the deck or in picnic tables along the river banks.)

As for 12 Bones, it seemed a bit dry, but perhaps a second visit will be necessary before declaring our preferred local BBQ joint (an endorsement almost certainly in desperate demand by all of the local establishments!) We hope to return to Asheville in the coming year or two, so along with our “regular” places, we look forward to adding some new ones.

Wherever we go, in every state or region, we seek out thrift shops for our basic needs and the occasional unnecessary yet low cost “splurge.” While Goodwill and Salvation Army stores predominate, we really enjoy finding local establishments, perhaps privately owned, perhaps affiliated with a local charity. In Asheville we stumbled upon two treasures. The first, Regeneration Station, is a large warehouse divided into hundreds of individual booths for collectors and artist to display their wares. Lots of retro art and furniture, tons of kitsch from (or styled after) the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, and some surprisingly reasonable prices. Rose found a cute retro reed and leather purse for $12!

The other was an ongoing (every Saturday and Sunday, 8am-4pm) yard sale near the base of our campground entry road. Having passed it up multiple times during our first month and a half in Asheville, we finally made the impulse decision to check it out during one weekend outing. The deals offered by the set of families running the event turned us into regulars, and the surprising inventory turnover kept us coming back until our last week in the area.

To close out the month, we took a two day trip back east to Wilmington to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with Mom and Tim. We had a great short visit, and several excellent meals. In keeping with the food and beverage them of this post, enjoy this mouth watering shot of lamb and asparagus, prepared on Tim’s Big Green Egg.

Next up: Our last week in North Carolina.

October in Asheville: Becoming “Almost Locals,” Part One

We visited (and thoroughly enjoyed) Asheville some years back. We stopped here again, along with nearby Black Mountain, this summer, which reinforced our love of the region. And most recently, as part of our work camping gig, we lived in the area for nearly three months. Having been there a while we spent part of October very consciously acting a bit more local, while continuing to embrace the touristy sights and experiences of the region as well.

I get how those two things, tourist attractions and local favorites, often exist in noticeable conflict. In our travels Rose and I have found what we see as an unnecessary chasm between the them; locals too often dismiss the fantastic aspects of their town, particularly those that draw in the dreaded tourists, while the latter rarely dig below the easy and obvious tourist attractions.

Graveyard Fields Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our recommendation for locals everywhere is to embrace being a tourist in your own town, and for visitors anywhere to actively seek out those things that keep people living there. As locals, it is what we tried to do during our last year in Miami Beach. As tourists, particularly during our longer and subsequent visits to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Canada’s Nova Scotia, and now North Carolina’s western region, we have embraced this same dual perspective.

Geocaching within the North Carolina Arboretum grounds. This one was attached to an inconspicuous chain and dropped down a tree hole.

One thing I think locals along the entire East Coast Middle States and New England take for granted is the fall changing of the leaves and the explosion of natural color that results. With our campground just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Rose made sure that we took advantage of such a serendipitous combination of timing and location.

We made multiple short day drives both north and south along the parkway, enjoying an ever greater proliferation of leaf hues and contrast with each passing week. Things peaked in the third and fourth week of October, just before an extended mild freeze and associated heavy rain, after which one could sense true winter approaching.

If that sounds a little too touristy for a supposed balanced regional view, consider the aggressive fungus hunting we did while in the Asheville area. It started harmlessly enough, with Rose downloading a mushroom ID app that we enjoyed consulting as we wandered and hiked around the southern Appalachian Mountains region.

This casual pursuit turned serious once we stumbled across a woman foraging a rather sought after shroom, a Blue Indigo, right beside the main road in our campground. We met this forager later that day at the local West Asheville Farmers Market on Haywood Ave where she got a positive ID from the local mushroom farmer and vendor.

In addition to buying from this helpful and knowledgeable vendor every other week (with particular enthusiasm for his King Trumpets) Rose was inspired to forage a bit herself, and within a week had found a couple of her own Blue Indigos! Very lightly battered and sautéed in butter in a manner similar to what we witnessed with Morels in Indiana, they were quite tasty!

Slices of Blue Indigo next to Beefsteak.

Thus further motivated, Rose discovered a significant cache of Hen of the Woods, or Maitake, polypores located at the base of a group of White Oaks behind one of our campground loops. This multi-pound, bigger-than-your-head fungus, once positively identified by our friendly neighborhood mushroom farmer, fed us for a week, either as a side dish or enhancement to main servings.

It wasn’t all easily found and edible foraging; the vast majority of what we discovered was barely edible at best to highly poisonous at worst. Regardless, we found the variety in shapes, textures, and color endlessly fascinating, and look forward to more wild foraging in future seasons and regions.

Per our mushroom ID app, these are highly toxic Jack-O-Lantern shrooms.

Next up: Quasi-Locals in Asheville, Part 2: Restaurants, Breweries, and Shops.

A Bit More from our September at Lake Powhatan

Having remembered a few more details and found a few more crucial photographs from the month, we were faced with the prospect of either editing and adding to our two September posts (edits that would likely go unnoticed by our tens of readers) or just putting up an addendum. We have chosen the latter.

Back in that first September post we told the tale of Mom and Tim’s visit to Lake Powhatan’s glamping tents for a two day stay, and yet could not prove, at least with photographic evidence, that it actually happened. So here is a relevant picture from that time. Granted, I don’t have them actually sleeping in a tent, but I assure you it happened. The weather was a bit brisk, but we still made it down to Lake Powhatan’s lakeside “beach.”

Back in Spartanburg we suffered a bit of a tragedy when I managed to partially smoosh Rosemarie’s lovely ukulele while opening a rear slide. A local luthier in Black Mountain quoted us a repair price well in excess of the uke’s purchase cost. During our trip to Wilmington in July, however, Mom and Tim’s neighbor, Thomas, a part time and highly skilled instrument repair craftsman, offered to take a hard look at getting the uke back to playable condition.

Two months later Tim presented us with exactly that: a fully functional, structurally sound uke with nothing but cosmetic remaining issues. The before picture does not show the real extent of the damage and subsequent repairs; the lower portion, the side perpendicular to the face, was partially crushed, and needed extensive reinforcement and repair. Thomas delivered for such an affordable “friends and family rate.” Now we just need to get back to unlimited free wifi so Rose can take advantage of her Fender.com online lessons.

Next up we move on to October: the leaf changes, mushrooms, and other local preoccupations.

69 Months Full Time RVing: September 2020 Report

The Distance: Zero miles as we continued our work camping gig at Lake Powhatan. Our total for the year remains 2,481 miles.

The Places:  We remained at Lake Powhatan National Campground and Recreation Area for the entire month of September. That means 30 days at a (national) public park, with full hook ups the entire time.

The Budget: 50% under budget this month! That’s what happens when you have a free camp site, an extra paycheck, and zero spent on RV gas. The great thing is that October should be, financially, an excellent month as well.

The Drama and Improvements:  Not hugely important, but we finally got around to constructing a combination storage area/day bed where our sleeper couch used to be. No pics until we get it looking right and topped with an actual mattress.

Next up: October in Asheville.

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.