grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Saturday, October 31, 2009

30/31OCT09 - Cartersville, GA (near atlanta)

Friday morning we started our drive to the Tiffin RV factory in Red Bay, AL, to try and get our dash heater fixed. We decided to split the drive into two days, and stop after one day driving somewhere north of Atlanta, GA, and spend two nights. We picked a military facility called World Famous Navy Lake Site on Lake Allatoona. No one is sure why this military campground is supposedly “world famous”, but it was small and very scenic facility. The lake is an Army Corps of Engineers creation and used by more than six million people per year.

Saturday morning we decided to head back down the highway to Atlanta for a walkabout. Our first stop was the Varsity Drive-In, supposedly the largest drive-in the world. It is over eighty years old, and has obviously expanded in every direction to accommodate the daily hoards of customers. In fact they have over 600 parking spaces! Thankfully Georgia Tech was playing an away football game, or we might not have gotten in. They are famous for their chili dogs; and you better have your order ready when you get to the front or someone will be yelling - "What'll ya have? What'll ya have? What'll ya have? Have your order in your mind and your money in your hand!" The chili dogs were okay, but Dan really liked the Frosted Orange drink (kinda like a melted creamscicle).

Next stop was the Olympic Centennial Park built for the 1996 Olympics. We were going to take the Coca Cola tour at the World of Coca Cola. But they wanted $15 per person; we figured that the tour would give the history of the product, and be one big merchandising commercial for Coke. So we skipped it. We spent the rest of our time exploring the park, before heading back to the RV to get out of the rain.

Trivia – if the Olympics are two hundred years old, why is it called Olympic Centennial Park?

Friday, October 30, 2009

27-29OCT09 - Gaffney, SC

After saying good-bye to our friends the Guldenschuhs we decided to head to the Freightliner service facility in Gaffney, SC, which is also the location of their Freightliner Custom Coach Chassis manufacturing plant. We had small leak in dash heater core & wanted the service that was done in Mt Vernon, WA, checked out (see our 01SEP BLOG about how bad that servicing was & why we wanted it checked).

Enroute we decided to stop at “Harrys Grill & Piggys Ice” in Hendersonville, NC. There's a cluster of advertising statues -- including a bunch of cows, some pink elephants, an Esso tiger, two Shoney's Big Boys, a chef holding a burger, and Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. The statues have been accumulating there since 1980, when the ice cream store (then just known as Piggy's Ice) first opened. There's more inside, including a Colonel Sanders statue, a Ronald McDonald, and lots of vintage signs, as well as a full-size Hooterville Jail. And the food was pretty good.

We made it to Gaffney mid-afternoon and checked into the service facility. This facility only handles “custom” Freightliner chassis; which means no semi-trucks, only RVs, school busses & delivery trucks. It appears that over 90% of their business is RVs, many of them heading south for the winter. Since we didn’t have an appointment, they worked on our “problems” off and on for 2-1/2 days. But they wouldn’t fix the heater leak because that was added by RV manufacturer after the chassis was delivered.

Wednesday morning, to kill time, we took the factory tour at the plant three miles down the road. This Freightliner plant only makes “custom” chassis (ie busses, RVs & delivery trucks), not standard semis. Before the economic melt down they were producing twenty RV chassis a shift, and then fell to two a day! Things are picking up and they have rehired 200 workers of the 500 they laid-off.

Next we went for walkabout in Gaffney. The town was pretty quiet, and it appears its big claim to fame is its water tower painted like a giant peach (locally called the Peachoid). During our walkabout we discovered Harold’s Grill (as discovered by Guy Fieri of Food TV). We did not see the episode on Food TV, but apparently Harold’s is known for their chili dogs, and chili burger (not chili on a burger, more like a sloppy Joe). They also have a long list of cheap sandwiches starting at $.99, but most are in the $1.25-1.50 range. They even have one that is made with bacon & egg spread! Corrie went with the Buffalo wings special; and Dan went with the chili hot dog & chili burger (all very good). Eventually the owner came over and began describing some of the “southern” items we were unfamiliar with and even gave us free samples, like fat back (a very salty cross between bacon & pig skins), and chow chow (a local relish). Corrie liked the chow chow, so we bought a quart jar, but passed on the fat back.

Thursday afternoon, 29OCT, they finally finished on our RV, but we decided to wait until Friday morning before getting back on the road. Since they wouldn’t fix the heater, we will head to Red Bay, AL, and the Tiffin RV factory to hopefully get it done?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

23-26OCT09 - Waynesville, NC (crossing paths)

On Friday, 23OCT, we arrived in Waynesville, NC, and set up camp next to our good friends Anneke & Chuck Guldenschuh. See the below BLOG entry about our last visit with Guldenschuhs.

After setting up camp right next door to them we got together for the first of several informal hors d’oeuvre, drinks & dinner together. Even though it has been over ten months since we had lasted visited; that’s the beauty of RV’ing, you can cross paths down the road and instantly catch up. Two nights were spent playing Mexican Train Dominos. It is amazing how four very well educated adults can read the same rules (supposedly written in English) and come up with 4 different interpretations!

The next morning, 24OCT, all of us headed into Asheville for a walkabout. Turns out several festivals were occurring, along with a walk for Alzheimers, and a Halloween costume contest for dogs. Lunch was at “Jack of the Wood Public House & Brewery”, which featured excellent Irish pub grub.

Next we headed to Grove Park Inn. The Grove Park Inn is a historic resort hotel on the slope of Sunset Mountain in Asheville. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is an important example of the Arts and Crafts style. It also features a $44 million, 40,000 square foot, modern subterranean spa. E.W. Grove owned Paris Medicine Company, originally based in Paris, TN, before moving to St Louis. Its primary money making product was Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic which was an elixir containing quinine. This formula supposedly would help tame the raging chills brought on by malaria. At one time the number of bottles of Chill Tonic outsold bottles of Coca Cola. After touring the Inn the women head to Arts & Crafts Center, and the men headed to the Antique Car collection.

Trivia – what automobile is featured on the back of the old ten dollar bill?

Sunday we headed to the Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley for the Hall Fame Clogging Championships. Turns out the Stompin’ Ground is home of the American Clogging Hall of Fame and this was the last weekend of the big competition.

Next we headed to the town of Cherokee on the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The town is located in the heart of the Cherokee Indian Reservation; unfortunately it is one big tourist trap, with countless shops selling fake Indian items, jewelry, t-shirts, etc. The reason we were heading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was to complete our drive of Blue Ridge Parkway (see our preceding BLOG for details). The Park is at the southern end of the Parkway allowing to us visit the Park, while completing our drive of the entire Parkway.

Monday, the Guldenschuhs and us did pretty much nothing, taking care of some small errands and lounging around the RV park. We did play putt-putt golf at the RV park’s course. Both ladies made hole-in-ones on the eighteenth hole; and if we had been playing football, they would have been flagged for excessive celebration! That evening we headed to the Casino in Cherokee, where Corrie won $85 and Dan lost $20. See the Guldenschuh’s BLOG for their “view” of our time together. Tomorrow back on the road.

Monday, October 26, 2009

20-25OCT09 - Blue Ridge Parkway (various va & nc)

Tuesday, 20OCT, we started our drive of the Blue Ridge Parkway, to meet up with our friends, and also full time RV’ers, Chuck & Anneke Guldenschuh outside of Asheville, NC. The Parkway extends 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links Shenandoah National Park in the north, with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. We figured that we would easily average 160 miles a day and meet them late on Thursday after three days driving. But even though the Parkway is “easier” to drive than Skyline Drive, and has faster speed limit at 45mph, we soon realized that four days was a more realistic estimate.

First of all there are 15 Visitor Centers along the length of the Parkway, which naturally we (ie Dan) had to stop at! And then like on Skyline Drive you feel like you had to stop at every overlook to take pictures; and there were the usual bad drivers, constant up & down w/curves, etc, etc, to slow us down. Lastly there are no RV parks on the Parkway, so the end of every day was hunt for a reasonable RV facility not too far from the Parkway.

The first day, 20OCT we visited the Visitor Centers at Humpback Rocks, James River, Peaks of Otter, & Virginia’s Explore Park. At the end of the day we made a navigational mistake and ended up in downtown Roanoke with the RV pulling the Toad. Luckily we did not side swipe any parked cars and eventually ended up in Salem, VA, at Dixie Caverns RV over 20 miles from the Parkway!

Trivia – A “necessary” is a polite term for outhouse, what is an “ordinary”?

After the previous days “learning experience” we decided not to drive as far on 21OCT, and only visited the Centers at Rocky Knob & Blue Ridge Music Center (on the border of VA & NC). The Music Center recognizes the creation of “Old Time Music”, “Blue Grass” & “Country” in a narrow band centered on the Virginia/North Carolina border. In fact there is a series of state roads in Virginia called “the crooked road” that people travel to trace the history and listen to the music. The Music Center routinely has concerts, and the day we were there Bob & Maggie Anderson were playing all afternoon (of course they appreciated tips, or better yet buy a CD). That night we camped in Galax, VA, after figuring out that our camping brochure had the wrong address!

Thursday, 22OCT, we hit the Visitor Centers at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Linn Cove Viaduct, Linville Falls, & Museum of North Carolina Minerals. The Linn Cove Viaduct is the last portion of the Parkway completed in 1987 and is the first highway structure constructed in the USA using “progressive placement of sections” (ie the bridge is built upon its self with minimal impact to the environment). The Moses Cone Manor and property was donated to the Parkway and is houses the arts & crafts of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The Guild is a non-profit organization preserving the hand craftsmanship of the Southern Appalachia.

We also learned at the Mineral Museum that the first gold rush in the USA was in North Carolina, and that 10% of the world’s minerals are found in North Carolina; while also learning that the Over Mountain Victory National Historic Trail crosses the Parkway. This Historic Trail commemorates the Patriot army that spontaneously rose up in western North & South Carolina, and Tennessee, marched through the mountains and defeated the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain, October 1780. Many historians say this battle led directly to Cornwallis’s defeat a year later in Virginia. At the end of the day’s drive we made the mistake of turning onto state road 80 to get to our RV park and barely noticed the sign that said “road not recommended for RVs"! We have been on worse roads in the Toad, but never one this bad in the RV and with the Toad connected! We don’t know how we did it, but Dan got us down with out hitting anybody or side swiping the mountain. When Corrie told the RV park clerk what we had just done, he was amazed that we made it without overheating the brakes.

On the morning of 23OCT we decided not to re-drive state road 80 and went twenty miles out of our way to bypass it; and to be extra careful we drove both vehicles separately. We left the RV park in clear weather but the Parkway was nothing but fog/fog/fog when we got there. We stopped in a few pullouts to wait for the sun to burn through, but mostly we creeped along with all lights and flashers on. Eventually it cleared up and we visited Centers at Craggy Gardens, Folk Art Center, & Destination Center. The Folk Art Center is the home of the Southern Highland Craft Guild previously mentioned, and also has changing displays showing the major works of some of the most well known members of the Guild. The Center also houses a research library about Appalachian crafts.

The Destination center is not at the end of the Parkway, but is at Asheville, NC; and therefore a major tourist destination for people driving the Parkway. The Destination Center has a fantastic big screen, surround sound, movie on the Parkway; a must see! At this point we decided to get off the Parkway and meet-up w/our good friends and fellow RV’ers, Chuck & Anneke Guldenschuh outside of Asheville in Waynesville, NC.
Sunday we returned to the Parkway two days later, 25OCT, to complete Dan’s mission of driving the entire length. Thankfully this portion was in the Toad only and not with the RV. We also had our friends the Guldenschuhs with us (a decision they probably still regret). Since the Parkway was closed at Pisgah Mountain, we drove to the southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Oconaluftee Visitor Center to finish our drive of the Parkway.

From there we drove “backward” and visited the last Visitor Center at Water Knob. We then continued driving northward until we hit the road closed sign and headed back to Waynesville on state road 215. 215 was another twisty, turning, mountain road but we discovered a beautiful water fall on our way home. Although we should have taken more time, it was still a great drive; and we may do it again, but with better planning. The entire route was full of great fall colors, with changing vegetation and topography the whole way!!!