Monday, September 18, 2017

Life Happens, Mountain Vistas

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For weeks, all attempts to write the blog have failed.  Maybe today will be the day?

This photo of our rig makes me smile.  This is taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway while on our way to Balsam Mountain campground in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Three days ago we are packing to go to a local state park when we discover a nasty dent and broken fog light in the front bumper of our big blue beautiful truck.  The guilty party is paying…not going to identify him…but our camping plans for the Land Between the Lakes Rally are on hold until the bodywork can be completed.

(FYI:  My watermark is dated 2016 as I am still using Picasa which is no longer being supported.  Stuck in 2016!)

We really enjoy our three weeks in the western NC, eastern Tennessee mountains! It’s not the same as Colorado but the fun factor is very high!

The eclipse crowd paranoia (mentioned in the last post) is all for nothing!  We walk across the street to the Mt Pisgah Inn and join a small crowd of eclipse seekers.

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The clouds obscure some of it but we see enough to make us happy!

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The day after the eclipse an outfitter puts us on the French Broad River right above the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  There’s only a few photos as we were often going through mild whitewater…our first time in years to navigate between rocks! We paddle/float a fast six miles downstream.

A few days later the Secretary of the Interior plans to visit the Mt Pisgah area and we decide to move on.  There’s another high elevation campground down the Parkway…one we have never seen. ….Balsam Mountain, elevation 5,310 feet, in the GSMNP.

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Only photo from Balsam Mtn campground. (No hookups, price $8.00 with senior pass)

The campground is small and the sites are close.  It is wonderfully cool!  We don our jeans, long sleeves and vests to sit around a fire.

The next morning David says calmly “I see a bear cub.” Sure enough. I look through the trailer window in time to see a very small black bear run across the road.  Later we hear there’s a momma with three little cubs in the campground.

After one night at Balsam we decide to relocate to Smokemont campground just north of Cherokee, NC.  It is another Smoky Mountain Park camp, more developed and closer to civilization.  The price is $10 a night with senior pass. No hookups but there is a dump.

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Creek running through Smokemont campground.

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Elk grazing on the side of the road…just below Smokemont.

Escape trailer friends are camping in the Cosby campground on the northern side of the Smoky Mountains.  We drive over to the Gatlinburg side of the park, happy to see very little scars from the intense fires of last year!

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We enjoy two days of catching up, going out to eat and cooking.  We visit a farmer’s market and find beautiful fresh green beans.  Our friends have a generator and offer to run it while we cook beans in our mini instant pot.  Fresh corn on the cob and green beans are the perfect evening meal after a caloric lunch.  (And I had a great time teaching them how to “string” beans!)

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This is our first time to cook with a generator as we do not have one.

Our 80 watt solar suitcase normally meets all our electric needs.  This trip is different, though, as we are in heavy shade for four days and the battery begins to to slowly drop.

The weather forecast is not good!  The hurricane from Houston is heading toward the mountains bringing lots of rain.  We have been out three weeks and decide to go home.

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Some thoughts on our life and life in general…..

As I write this morning we are preparing to join David’s high school class for their 80th birthday celebration….they celebrate their milestone birthdays together.

This coming weekend we will attend my 50 year class reunion…which is one of the reasons we chose to be home in September.

Aging continues to factor in on what we do.  We continue to be so very grateful for the ability to travel.

Note to you youngsters……don’t delay your life!  Get out there and do your dreams NOW!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Finally Camping!

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That’s us, on the right, at the TVA Tail Water Campground below Douglas Dam.  (close to Sevierville, TN)

The bathroom remodel seems to take forever!  For some reason I think we could get the bathroom project completed in time for another gorgeous summer trip to Colorado.  When the wrong shower doors are delivered, the western trip begins to look doubtful.

The bathroom looks great! 

Before:

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After:

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By the time the bath is complete, we only have three weeks free.  There are places close to home we are wanting to experience so we load up the Escape and the kayaks and head north on I-75 to the Escapees Raccoon Valley campground.

We have camped at Escapees parks all across the west and in Alabama but have never visited the one that’s just up the road from us. 

As we are registering, the couple in front of us looks familiar.  We soon remember spending New Year’s Eve with them at Dream Catcher’s Park in New Mexico.

We meet some real nice folks and have a great time at the Thursday night old time music picking.  Fifteen musicians, many are local players, entertain us with some old mountain ballads.

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The weather is rotten…very hot, humid and rainy!  One night I go to sleep with one of the windows open thinking that I will wake up if it starts to rain. I do, but not soon enough! Our mattress, memory foam and bedding is soaked. How do you dry anything with no sun?

David feels horrible with no energy….heat and humidity are always his enemy.  Our refrigerator is hovering around 50 degrees.  I discover a small army of ants crawling up an inside wall.

While drying the bedding a nice young couple with a dog stop to visit.  We chat and I walk by the dog to show something in the trailer and he bites me!

I survive wondering what is it about me that makes a dog want to hurt me?

We leave the next day for a campground below Douglas Dam close to the Smoky Mountains National Park. The weather is no better. Sun, clouds, rain….all with 90 per cent humidity.

The view is much prettier.  We are on the French Broad River just below the dam.

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We watch kayaks put in at the boat launch and disappear downstream.  The dam’s generators are releasing a high volume of water with too much current for us to paddle upstream. During a lull we manage a short paddle up to the dam. A very short trip but so much fun!

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Early morning scene inside the Escape…notice my new Mini Instant Pot making breakfast of steel cut oats, rain on the windows and the husband still sound asleep.

After three sticky days on the French Broad River, we are ready for some cool mountain breezes. It’s another 100 miles to Mt Pisgah Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tears form in my eyes as we climb up to our favorite summer retreat. It’s been two years since we have been there.  Wonder what’s changed?  I know this sounds melodramatic but my heart just lifted out of my chest as cool air started caressing my face.

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Not much is changed.  A new deck is behind the restaurant, new benches and lights at the amphitheater. 

We arrive on a Tuesday and for four days it is peace and tranquility all through the campground. Very few campers are present and it’s so quiet. I hike a little, take a few photos, read and let all the noise in my head slowly disappear.  There’s no electric or water hookups. There is no phone nor internet coverage in the campground which is normally something that makes me crazy.  But here I am craving the stillness, the emptiness and I feel happy.

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It is now the day before the eclipse.  The campground is full but that’s ok.  I know they will all be gone in two days. 

The National Park Service is preparing for the apocalypse as half a million people are expected to be in the area tomorrow for the eclipse. We are warned to carry water, food and medicine for 12 hours if we go out on the Parkway. …due to traffic jams. The overlooks are closed from here to the south for fear eclipse seekers will try to camp in them.  Police tape protects all the lawn around the Pisgah Inn.

We made a run to the grocery yesterday and will not venture out tomorrow.

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Not sure when we will be ready to come off the mountain. 



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Back In The Saddle

So here is the dilemma… do I start back in March and update the blog with a month by month of everything we have done or just pick up with our current life?

The muse says to go with the immediate.  There is no excuse for not writing for months.  In the past I have felt ashamed, now I just feel relief the words are coming again!

We have been home in our mountain duplex since the middle of May after attending the Eggs on the Hiawassee rally in Hiawassee, Georgia.  Lovely rally!  One that we will do again!

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David on the Hiawassee River

Our time at home is a mixture of doctor appointments, errands, reconnecting with family and upgrading our space.

David is having issues with his left hip which is worn out.  It is just a matter of time before another hip replacement. (He had his right hip done in 2011.) Meanwhile he is feeling better after a cortisone injection this week.

When we downsized two years ago and moved into a space that had been rental property for 47 years, we remodeled everything but the bathroom. The bath is overdue for improvement.  Most of the fixtures are the original. 

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Tile samples, 1968 bathroom

The work is to start next week and we will be relocating to the Escape 19 until the facilities are functioning.  The plan is to camp at a nearby county park….(no room to park at our home). 

It’s been part fun and part work to pick out tile, vanity, shower doors and lights. Hope it goes smoothly!!

We can’t leave the area until it is complete.  Still have our fingers crossed that nothing else will get in the way of another Colorado mountain trip in July.

When we are not at the doctors, or Walmart or napping, I am cooking with my magic pot, my Instant Pot!

Those of you who are fiberglass trailer enthusiast….do you recall the excitement, the obsession, the craziness when you first got introduced to the little egg trailers?

Take that obsession and transfer it to a cooking utensil!!

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On Amazon Prime day, one year ago, Chris of Technomadia posted that the Instant Pot was on sale.  I had never heard of an Instant Pot and really never thought of myself as a cook, but I was curious???? And before midnight I ordered the on sale electric pressure cooker.

The Facebook Instant Pot group with its half a million members is constantly feeding the frenzy. I get lost in reading the posts which are so much more fun than the politicalized FB feed.

As a result of the FB group, I am now making my own hummus, my own yogurt and using my IP two, sometimes four, times a day.  Cheesecake will be my next challenge!

About now, several of you are wondering why you are reading about cooking on a camping/traveling blog?

I call it “life”!  We can move from one interest/obsession to another!  I am usually good for about 8 years and we got our first Casita in 2008.

(But we are not leaving our trailer friends!)

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Tortilla Soup

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First whole chicken before

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After cooking….falling apart!

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First yogurt

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meatloaf before cooking

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Meat loaf after cooking

Summing it up……we are having fun with me cooking and David eating!

Going back to camping, we have been to three rallies this spring, the Green Eggs and Ham in March, the Eggscursion in the Great Smoky Mountains in April and the Hiawassee in May.

It was bitter cold for the first of the GE&H but nice the last few days.  We stayed 8 nights at Gunter Hill COE moving three times. (Failed to make timely reservations). Can’t find the photos from the cold!

The Townsend rally….our 8th year to attend…was fun.  We experienced a jolt one night.  I turned over and went back to sleep hoping there were no leaks.

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The limb bounced off the trailer onto the table and Clam….thankful there was no damage to either one.

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The April rally site is at a KOA, much more crowded than the Corp of Engineer parks.

We have been staying pretty close to home for the past month.  Most of our exercise is walking up and down the road where we live. We did explore a new trail a couple of weeks ago.  It goes along a creek in an old coal mining area.  Super nice day!

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Hope to try out the swimming hole soon!

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As you can see, the two men in my life are just hanging out….waiting for the time to get back on the road!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dome Rock Rally, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu BLM

 

This is the 10th year for the fiberglass rally at Quartzsite and our 5th year to attend.  The official attendance is down but I suspect some did not make the long trek to the registration table.  Photos do not portray the immense space full of little white eggs.

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This is the popular Saturday morning yard sale.  There’s a free table…..just love free!

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We camp up at “Casita Heights”, also know as snob hill!

And we are surrounded by old friends from the Southeast….folks from GA, AL, NC, KY and MS are all here!  We will see most of these folks at the rally in Alabama next month.

 

Sunday after the rally finds us unsure of our next destination.  We thought about heading to the Jojoba Escapees park in California but so many friends are heading to Death Valley and we’ve never been there. Decided to join our friend, Linda, at a PA park in Needles.  It’s a good place to wash clothes and rest.  Linda and I go exploring at Lake Havasu City.  She sees the London Bridge and eats at In and Out Burger for the first time.

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We find a great BLM boondocking site just north of Lake Havasu…..what a view!

The weather forecast for CA looks bad, looks worst than bad, with a massive amount of rain heading toward our destinations.  We have never been to Lake Mead in Nevada and we change directions.

I learn that I have been saying Nevada wrong for the past 67 years!  It’s Nevada, put “add” in the middle syllable.  Always happy to learn something new!

Government Wash is a boondock place bookmarked on my Google Maps. We head toward the Henderson, NV Walmart and Lake Mead.

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We find a site with a lovely lake view; unfortunately we lose something in the process!

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Our spare tire post (and spare tire) is missing from the back bumper! Shock, then fear run through my body.  Where did we lose it??

Husband is more practical and just looks around our spot.  “There’s a tire lying just up the hill from the trailer.” And there it is!

No real harm is done but I feel terrible as my rocky boondocking site may have contributed to the break.  We throw the tire and post into the back of the truck. The next morning we relocate to a real campground, Boulder Beach.

The views are magnificent from our new site.

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We watch a video about the building of Hoover Dam; then visit the dam.  The video portrays the incredible feat of building this fortress on the mighty Colorado River!

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After a week in Nevada we are ready to return to AZ.  Unsure, again, of our destination, we just head south. We have great memories of camping at Buckskin Mountain State Park and thoughts of trying Lake Havasu State Park but those plans are put aside after we found our new boondock just north of Lake Havasu.  It is the view that captivates us!

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We stay three nights before making a dash to Q to pick up mail.  Then on to another new site in Buckeye, AZ where the desert is blooming.

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We believe that’s Robbins Butte in the background.

Unbelievable that we have only one more week in Arizona!  We head back to our favorite place, Lost Dutchman State Park and manage to get a three night reservation with electricity!

It rains for two days.  One day it even hails! No problem, we are happy to be warm and dry.

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After a visit with the family we will be heading east, hoping mother nature will keep fair skies above. 

It is almost time for the Green Eggs and Ham rally in Montgomery, Alabama!