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Old 01-29-2012, 05:40 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 135
Default while you were working (or whatever) part 2

Trip B (mid to south Atlantic states): Tuesday, April 19th to Monday, May 9th 2011 0 to 3478 trip miles

Background: After retiring late in 2010, we bought a Roadtrek-Chevy van / camper / RV, planning to travel the US (and some of Canada). Since the last trip, we did many modifications to the van, the most notable being custom, wide, and comfortable twin beds instead of the unpopular sofa-bed. This provided us with a lot more storage space, which of course we promptly filled with a full size Montague folding bike for me and an inflatable, two-person kayak for both of us. The beds, some other mods, and various other reasons delayed the start of this trip from March until April. Trip A had been to the Gulf Coast states; Trip B was to hit the mid to south Atlantic states (both along the coast and inland), and also visit some friends and relations. We were to start going down along the Atlantic coast, perhaps as far south as St. Augustine FL, and then eventually return by driving up the entire length (469 miles) of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then the entire length (105 miles) of Skyline Drive, which we had to postpone during Trip A because of bad weather. And there was also one lingering question to answer: I had raced a sports car in one form or another since the late ‘60’s, pretty seriously since the mid-‘80’s. I had decided last winter to hang up my helmet, but the real test of whether this was a final decision or not would lie on my attending a couple of races along the way, to be certain that “I didn’t want to be out there anymore”.

remember: <wow> = fill in your own superlative, we’ve run out : )

We drove through lots of rain and fog from Allegany NY to Winchester VA, and stayed in America’s favorite campground, Walmart. The next morning was nice, and we drove around this lovely city for awhile; we’ll have to come back someday and explore a bit. We headed down lots of winding back roads (our choice over highways) to get to niece Renee’s house in Montpelier VA. Had a nice visit with her, Brandon, Jarrett, and Cole, and the next day we were off. We stopped at the George Washington Birthplace Monument by the Potomac and took a tour, then continued to Hayes VA to our friends Mike & Ellen. Next day Mike gave us a fascinating tour of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (part of The College of William and Mary) where they both do research work. Mike helped with several more modifications to the van.

We headed south for the Outer Banks, a long series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. First stop was at the Kitty Hawk/Wright Brothers National Memorial. It had became sunnier and very windy (DUH, that’s why the Wright Brothers came here to fly their planes!), and then up into Currituck Beach to the lighthouse near Corolla. This is as far as you can drive a non 4-wheel drive vehicle north on the Outer Banks, and is extremely built up. Very pretty and all, but we just couldn’t find ANYWHERE to park, even for a few minutes to take a look at the ocean, and this extends many, many miles back down the Outer Banks. If you rent one of the zillions of houses/condos here, or stay at a hotel/resort, then you have a place to park, and you can walk the zero to four blocks (depending on how much you paid, I imagine) to the beach. We headed back south to Bodie Island lighthouse, and then to the Cape Hatteras KOA – very nice. It was windy; we set up (well that’s tough, we plugged in the electric cord) and headed to sit and walk by the beach – great surf sounds and sights.

Easter Sunday - We got up around 6:30 AM to watch a lovely sunrise on the ocean, then went back to bed until 9, and had breakfast. It was 77 degrees at noon. We took pictures of many kite surfers – very colorful, but not something we want to attempt. We climbed up the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (248 steps and the tallest in the US) and took photos. We headed south again, taking the free ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island and took pictures of, but didn’t climb, that lighthouse. Then we took a toll ferry to Cedar Island and stayed at a commercial RV site in Sea Level, NC. This area, and some of these islands we were on, were flooded and cut off from the rest of the world in Fall 2011 by Hurricane Irene: pretty risky place to live. (Really, with a name like Sea Level, what did you think was gonna happen?)

The next day we went further south, but inland for awhile, along parts of White Oak River near New Bern NC. Eventually we got back to the coast around Myrtle Beach SC, but bypassed that anyway: saw enough overbuilt-up beachfront property on the Outer Banks. We continued on down towards Charleston SC, staying at the Mt. Pleasant KOA just a bit northeast. Tuesday we took Route 17 to the Fort Sumter ferry, and took the boat ride to the fort. The sky let loose during the ride, and it poured for a half hour!!! Eventually it stopped, and we had an interesting tour. When we got back, we toured the Patriot Naval and Maritime Museum. In addition to an aircraft carrier, there was a submarine there, and we got a special tour of it from an old Navy sailor who had served on a near-identical sub. Then off to the “Tuck in the Woods” RV campground near Beaufort SC on St. Helena Island, ignoring the better known and touristy Hilton Head Island to the south.

Wednesday we saw several “tame” box turtles (moochers) in a pond at the campground before leaving. We moved to the nearby and great state campground on Hunting Island SC and drove to the lighthouse and beach for photos, and walked the surf. Checked out a lagoon, which was perfect for kayaking, but not with an inflatable like we have, due to the sharp shells along edge. Saw lots of tiny crabs darting in and out of holes on the beach. Returned to the campground, climbed a “short” lighthouse, and sat & walked on the beach. I “took a quick dip” in the ocean, while Marti took photos of driftwood and surf. On Thursday, we drove south a little way into Georgia, and went to Savannah. Marti visited the Girl Scout - Juliette Low Birthplace Museum - interesting. We drove around the historic district a bit.

Because we had started this trip “a month late”, and it was already getting too hot and humid by our standards and preferences (it had been at or near 80 degrees, sunny, and humid all week), we nixed any plans to go into northern Florida (St. Augustine) at this time. Instead we drove to Statesboro GA to visit Marti’s sister and brother-in-law, Barb and Bob. We arrived there in the late afternoon, and it was rainy and humid. Meanwhile, I was getting quite congested in the throat and chest. On the news were lots of reports of storms involving many southern states, but fortunately we dodged them (the storms, not the states). Barb got up and watched “the Royal Wedding” in the wee hours of the morning, but we slept right through it (yawn).

Despite my worsening cold, I managed to get a short first bike ride in on the new bike on Friday. After an early breakfast on Saturday, we headed to the Road Atlanta race track, which is actually located about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta in Braselton GA, and arrived at noon. We drove around (the infield, not the track), watched some races, and chatted with some “old friends and racing foes”. Ate supper in the van at the track, and went to bed early.

We got up to watch an early Sunday morning enduro race, and then drove to nearby Lanier Island. We drove around the park and some of the lake, but there was not enough time to kayak. Then we returned to the track and watched more races until the end at 5:45. We headed to a campground in Franklin, NC, and along the way noticed a huge gorge and signs for Hurricane Falls near Clayton GA. We walked down this huge gorge to the upper falls, but didn’t have time before dark to do the whole, long hike to the lower one, which took more than a thousand steps to get down to according to the sign. We’ll do the whole thing someday when we get started earlier. Northern GA is more hilly than the southern part, and quite lovely. We crossed back into NC, and arrived at the nice Mi Mountain campground in Franklin at 8:30; my chest cold was getting worse.

On Monday, we drove to the Angel Urgent Care Center in Franklin and I got diagnosed with bronchitis, so we got some meds and returned to the campground for “rest and relaxation”. By now, we both had sore throats, coughs, and swollen glands. We stayed a second night at Mi Mountain campground. The next day we drove into Franklin again (very nice town), and went to the Scottish/Tartan Museum, walked around a bit, got ice cream, and ate at a 50’s diner. Marti got some meds at a pharmacy and started fading into the sunset, like me. It started raining hard and we returned to Mi Mountain campground for a third night, but we lucked out again and dodged the bullet on bad storms in the South. We both enjoyed the campground at Mi Mountain and the Franklin area and plan to return in the future.

On Wednesday, we drove to the Angel Urgent Care Clinic once again, this time for Marti (copy cat!). She was diagnosed with a sinus infection. We picked up some prescription meds and then headed for the Great Smoky National Park. Stopped at the ranger/info station for information, maps, and a stamp (we’re collecting “stamps” in our National Park “Passport Book”; no, you don’t need a passport to visit these parks, but it is nice to have a book showing all the places you’ve been, and we even get the book stamped when possible at non National Park attractions). The NC side of the park has touristy towns, but not nearly as bad and tacky as the Tennessee side (e.g., Gatlinburg). We drove around the park and noted the huge, varied, multiple high mountain cascades, streams along the highway, and the beautiful blue sky. We arrived at Cades Cove campground in the park for the night. Both of us were tired; we napped, ate supper, and watched TV.

Thursday was a chilly 39 degrees at 9 AM, but sunny. After breakfast, we headed toward the Cades Cove scenic loop in the park – beautiful sights. Then we took Parson Branch Road, which starts off for a couple of miles as a bad, two-way-two-lane, dirt road. After that, it becomes a VERY rough, rutty, narrow, one-way-one-lane, seasonal road. It was 8 miles long through a primitive forest, and took us over an hour to get through, partly because of our limited ground clearance (we fixed that before the next trip). It follows a stream down a canyon or valley, and the road crisscrosses the stream back and forth many, many times. Rather than build bridges, they just poured a bit of concrete, and let the stream run over it like a tiny waterfall, so at times we had to ford several inches of water. The rest of the road is dirt/mud, and they close the whole road whenever there is significant rainfall. If we had gotten stuck, I guess they’d either leave us there forever, or else a tow truck would have had to back in from the exit end at some phenomenal cost, because you would have trouble turning a lawn mower around on this road. Eventually (sort of like the movie “Deliverance”), this led us out of the park onto the wonderful, winding, US Route 129 (just south of the park), which we followed back into North Carolina, changing to US Routes 19 and 441. This brought us back to the entrance of the park, which is also the “bottom” (southwest end) of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We took the parkway and saw incredible views – huge mountains and valleys as far as you can see in all directions on the horizon!! Gorgeous!! <wow> Along the way, we went up to about 6000 foot elevation, and back down. We detoured off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville NC, to go to the Virginia International Raceway in Dansville for the weekend to see Mike race. We planned to return to this same point on the parkway, and continue northward after the weekend. We stopped for the night at a KOA campground in Swannanoa NC, just east of Asheville.

Marti’s “Achilles’ Heel” is in her head (which fits well with my “Foot in Mouth” disease): any sort of head cold she has immediately becomes a major sinus infection. Due to the sinus infection and descending from the 6000 foot elevation, Marti’s right ear would not pop open and was excruciatingly painful. We went to the hospital emergency room in Asheville around 10 PM and the doctor said that “you have a very angry right ear”, due to extreme pressure in the collapsed Eustachian tube/ear drum. Marti was in a LOT of pain, and wanted to poke her ear with a Q-Tip, except without the cotton. We got to bed very late that night.

Marti’s ear was still plugged on Friday as we continued to the race track, despite a regiment of meds. It started raining late afternoon, never a good sign on a race weekend. We had dinner with Mike & Ellen near the track and returned to the van for much-needed sleep for both of us. We blamed Ellen (who we USED to like) for our illnesses, since she was sick when we had visited them a couple of weeks ago (tee hee).

We spent a pleasant weekend with them at the race track, and Mike did quite well. What was really pleasant about this weekend (and the one a couple of weeks before at Road Atlanta) is that Marti and I didn’t have to worry about the myriad of problems we usually had to deal with on a race weekend with our car, yet we could enjoy watching the races. The decision was made: we’d sell the car. On Sunday (Mother’s Day), it was 60 degrees at 8 AM, overcast and humid, and it had rained considerably overnight. We watched Mike’s race, which went well, helped them pack up, and headed on our way around 3 PM, on our way back toward Asheville to continue on our Blue Ridge Parkway tour. We arrived at Bandit’s Roost Park campground near Wilkesboro NC at 6:30, where we had a beautiful site by a lake. We sat by the lake to enjoy the scenery – very relaxing; ate supper and watched TV. Marti’s ear was still plugged, Dick’s cough a bit better. We hoped to kayak on the lake in the morning before heading out.

We arose to a gorgeous day by the lake on Monday, but there was no improvement in Marti’s ear, and she was still in a lot of pain. VERY reluctantly we decided to head home rather than continue with our trip thru the mountains, and risk further pain and suffering with elevation changes. We got home with an eleven hour marathon drive. All in all it was a good trip, except for Marti’s sinus and ear problems. We saw lots of great sights, and we plan to finish seeing what we missed next year (well, that’s this year now). That’s what’s nice with our “no more deadlines” approach, we can end or extend our trips, take a detour, whatever, etc.

Dick, Marti, & Glen RT09/10C190P “no more deadlines” Allegany NY (currently in Morro Bay CA)
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