Tennessee Travels

November 4 – 9, 2019

Boy are we tired!  The Pigeon Forge Hangout had us hopping everyday, plus there was a time change on the last day.  I know, I know.  We got an extra hour, but it still messes me up.  We crossed into Central Time the very next day and now two we’re hours off our schedule.  Pat & I might be able to recover quickly, but Jackson has not changed his clock at all and is expecting to go out at 5am.

Montgomery Bell State Park

Fortunately, Montgomery Bell State Park is just what the doctor ordered as far as restful goes.  On the way we drove through Knoxville and took the long bypass around Nashville at a local friend’s urging.  But the destination was worth it.  A sweet spacious site right by the creek.  We listened to the happy babbling through the screen door.

Friends Come to Visit

Our friend Chris, whose traveling name is Jeep Girl on the Move, came to visit and brought Jackson’s good buddy Wash.  We first met in Santa Fe last year and managed to rendezvous on the road with her a total of four times.  It was fun to catch up again in her home area.

We enjoyed the fire bowl and then took the conversation inside when it got a little too chilly outside.  Jackson enjoyed couch time with Chris and Wash sampled all Jackson’s chew toys.  Good to know our boy can share.

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Wash is such a cutie.  He and Jackson both started whining as soon as they caught sight of each other.  They certainly remembered each other from our travels.  We did have to tone down the reunion though since Wash is a vigorous three year old and Jackson is in the geriatric set.

Nashville

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The next night we had a dinner date in Nashville with our friends Cheryl & David who just hosted the Hangout.  We picked the spot thinking it sounded like just the thing.  Johnny Cash’s Kitchen & Saloon.  It’s touted as a “traditional Southern Meat and Three restaurant”.  Let’s just say the company was grand, but the food was not.

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We did enjoy the band that was just finishing up when we arrived.  That guy on the guitar did a pretty mean version of ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’.  Just don’t follow that arrow to the food line….

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Our selfie with Johnny Cash to conclude our dinner.  We should just let Cheryl & David do the planning from now on.

We did enjoy walking past the strip of restaurants and bars gawking at the people and listening to the music spilling out onto the sidewalk.  Lots of neon, bouncers, and all kinds of music from hard rock to a gal sawing madly on a fiddle.  The best part was one more bonus outing with our friends.  Oh, and the Goo Goo store was right across the street.  Since Pat’s not a Southern boy, he was not familiar with Goo Goo Clusters.  They are made in Nashville (which I did not know) and are full of chocolate, nougat, caramel and nuts.  We bought a whole box and a mug that says ‘What a cluster’.  Pat has officially pronounced them delicious.

Reelfoot Lake

Originally we were planning to camp at two Corp of Engineers parks on the way to Springfield.  Both ended up closing at the end of October and refunded our money which left us with a gap in our travel plants.  State parks are usually our thing so we ended up with Montgomery Bell and Reelfoot Lake State Park.

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Reelfoot Lake is designated as a National Natural Landmark and a natural lake created by a series of earthquakes in 1811-12.  It has over 10,000 acres of open water and is a mix of bayou, cypress swamp and eagle nesting ground.  Let’s just say it was a completely unexpected look.  Cypress knees abound along with lone cypress trees out in the open water.  It’s also cotton country.  We drove by fields and fields of it.  One of only two crops I can identify in the field (corn, of course, being the other), and I had no idea it was grown in this area.  If it hadn’t been so cold, we would have enjoyed the place even more.  We dropped into the 20s two nights in a row, so the long underwear came back out for Jackson walks.  Opening day of hunting, too, so that didn’t work well for Jackson.  He hates gunshots.

We had a lovely lakeside spot and enjoyed the moody knobby-knee lake views.

Stuff is breaking.  We think perhaps Lucy is tired, too.  Our windshield took another hit on the drive out of Pigeon Forge.  Something got us from the overpass and yes, there’s a nice new spider crack.  Then there’s the water filter vent valve that broke off and soaked Pat while he was filling the water tank in preparation for the hard freeze.  Finally there’s the bathroom vent fan.  The fuse holder is broken.  Pat’s started making a list of things to fix when we get to Springfield.

We just thought it was cold until we watched the weather and determined the REALLY bad stuff was headed our way and to our final destination in Springfield, MO.  So, we’re bugging out a day early to beat the forecast snow/sleet mix, 25 mph winds, and temps dropping into the teens.  Not our favorite driving weather.

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I’ll leave you with one lone Cypress.

Next Up:  Last stop of 2019 – Springfield, Missouri and our new home.  See you on the way!

Hangout in Pigeon Forge

October 28 – November 3, 2019

We’re in the touristy town of Pigeon Forge with fellow Escapees for a week of dining out, having fun with old and new friends, and plenty of activities.

Escapees

We’re members of the Escapees RV Club and use them for our mail service.  They also have rallies and meet-ups all over the country and just started a new program this year, directed by our friends Cheryl & David.  I’d already made another reservation, but Cheryl told me to cancel it and sign up for the week-long Smoky Mountains Hangout.  So glad I did since it was worth every penny and tons of fun.

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Our fearless hosts Cheryl & David at the Halloween party.  And they’re dressed as…Escapees!  So clever.

Thanks to our friend Rich for this montage of madness.  Sums up the week we had with lots of laughter.

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One more from the evening with our new friends Todd and Tammy from Texas.  It was so cold that night that they were quite comfortable in their bear suits.  You know it’s chilly if Pat’s wearing a stocking cap.

Clingman’s Dome

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Our first group outing was a naturalist-guided hike at Clingman’s Dome.  A gorgeous day.  Here’s a shot of the Hangout crowd before we set out on the trail.

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My favorite photo of the day from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot.

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We were able to hike a tiny tad on the Appalachian Trail and could see for miles atop the Clingman’s Dome observation deck.  From there we drove back through the park with Todd & Tammy to see more sights.  Here’s the view from Newfound Gap.

The Fall colors are at their peak and so lovely in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  We’ve never been here this time of year, but now we’re hooked and must come back to enjoy this season again.

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The mountains are ablaze with color and we can’t stop oohing and ahhing.

Hanging Out

Then came two days of rain and we made the most of it by meeting Todd and Tammy for lunch and working on the rest of our travel plans for 2020.  We still had the last leg down the Great River Road still uncharted.  Now I can busily work on those reservations.

Our outdoor evening activities included potlucks, interactive games and rig tours.  I had to break out the long underwear to keep warm.   The open pavilion was wrapped in plastic sheeting to try and keep out the biting wind, but it was still pretty brisk with temps in the 30s.

Pickleball

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We passed on the Whisky & Wine tour, but joined a few new friends and learned to play pickleball.  I’m styling in my long underwear and shorts with slip on shoes.  We’ve only been trail hiking for the past three years, so I no longer own a pair of regular tennis shoes or athletics pants.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, pickleball is played on a smaller tennis-like court, and with a lower net.  The equipment consists of what looks like giant ping pong paddles and wiffle balls.  You can’t step into the “kitchen” unless the ball bounces there first and scoring is the trickiest part, at least for me.  Well ok, making contact with the ball is the trickiest part for me.

I learned that I stink at pickleball, but it sure was fun.

Foxfire Mountain

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Cheryl & David had their work cut out for them with this Hangout since the weather seemed to foil their plans at every turn.  They ended up swapping around the events and rescheduled the ziplining and ATV tours for the gorgeous Saturday following all that icky weather.  We opted for just hiking at Foxfire Mountain, but enjoyed watching all the other activities.

On the trail with the suspension bridges.

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Our friends enjoyed the ziplining in the colorful canopy.

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Have you ever heard the expression “when pigs fly”?  Well there you go – flying on the zipline.  After our hike, we stopped into the cidery and Pat was hoping for hot chocolate.  Instead we ended up sampling at least 10 kinds of cider (with 7% alcohol) and found that we liked quite a few of them.  Pat walked away with a big box of cider on his shoulder and once again the “free” thing cost us a pretty penny.

Roaring Forks

On our last hangout day, we piled into cars and headed for the Roaring Forks scenic drive.

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Lovely view of the Roaring Fork mountain stream.

We opted for the three mile Grotto Falls hike and were rewarded with this waterfall at the end.   I carefully picked my way behind the falls to get the view through the cascade.

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And the photo with Pat for scale.

A few more from the drive.

Finally it’s time for the GTHO (Get The Heck Out) breakfast and we’re outta here!  I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all and we’ll definitely be keeping up with some new traveling chums.

Next Up:  Two Tennessee state parks.  See you on the way!

 

Cardinal Ridge Farm

October 21 – 27, 2019

We stayed here for one night three years ago and it made such an impression.  We knew we had to come back and for much longer.  A week wasn’t even long enough and Pat’s already asking about monthly rates.  Yep, that good.

Cardinal Ridge Farm RV Mountain Retreat

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Cardinal Ridge Farm is up on a hillside just outside of Franklin, North Carolina with only 8 RV sites.  It’s a nice intimate group of RVers with lots of room to roam on the farm.  This week 5 out of the 8 campers were from Florida and they all loved Jackson.  We got to know everyone on the second night when the hosts grilled burgers.  Not a bad view from our campsite.

On the farm there’s Roscoe the rooster, two different pens for the chickens, and a pond for the four ballerina geese.  Louie Louie watches over his lady geese and they hiss if you get too close.  Jackson liked making the rounds morning and night to see the animals.

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Billie, our camp host, brought me a goose egg one morning since I was so taken with the feathered friends.  Now that’s a big egg.

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Simply a beautiful, peaceful spot.

Appalachian Trail

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Pat finally gets some time to hike.  In fact, he was able to enjoy 3 days and 2 nights on the Appalachian Trail.  A tad cold, but he fortunately got picked up before the heavy rains set in.  Here he is next to a tell-tale white blaze for the AT, and ready to get after it.

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Farewell Mountain Man!

A few views on the road to pick him up.  I was just ahead of the rain and had to wind my way for about 10 miles back into the woods on a gravel road.  At one point Google tried to get me to turn off into the woods to get to our prearranged extraction point.  I had no cell service and knew he had no cell service, so was worried that we might not easily find each other.  Fortunately I just kept driving and found the right spot.

Pat did take a phone this time around, mainly to test out a hiking app, but also so he could take some pictures of his adventure.  I was looking forward to seeing the great views from the trail and other cool stuff he found.

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Instead I get this picture.  The one and only picture and I give up.  What is it?  Well he tells me this is the “reliable water source” he read about in the trail guide.  He was less than impressed, thus the photo.

What Did Judy Do For Fun?

People always seem very concerned about how I’m going to spend my time when the man is away.  I always make a list and honestly this time a few more days wouldn’t have hurt my feelings.  Finding things to do is never a problem for me and of course I have Jackson to amuse, too.

First on my to-do list was to find Whitewater Falls near Cashiers, NC.  It’s touted as the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies, plunging 411 feet.  Ah, but getting there was an adventure since Google took me on a merry drive on winding roads crossing over into South Carolina.  DSC00563

I was really beginning to wonder if I was on a wild goose chase until I rounded a corner and hollered ‘Holy Cow’!  Well what I actually said was a bit more colorful, but I was so surprised by this view of Table Rock Lake.  DSC00566I did make it to my destination back in North Carolina.  Whitewater Falls in all its 411 foot glory.DSC00565I was happy to get a photo of me at the falls thanks to a random stranger.

On the drive back I was passing by Gorges State Park and decided to pull in and see what I could see.

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Not a bad random stop.  Behind the visitor’s center I found this stunning view of the Jocassee Gorges.

I told the gal in the visitor’s center that I had an hour to spend and asked what she recommended.  The half-mile shortcut trail to Rainbow Falls sounded like just the ticket.  Turns out I was on the 3 mile death march.  Seriously it was a strenuous trail, but I did enjoy it.  I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been worried about getting back to Jackson by nightfall.DSC00568In the end, I liked Rainbow Falls even better than Whitewater, probably because I had to work for that view.  Those little people on the viewing platform help to give a sense of the size.  Not a 411 foot drop, but an impressive sight nonetheless.  And on the drive back I was Googled again and taken through Georgia.  Two waterfalls, three states and more mountain driving than I bargained for, but I did make it home by dark.  In addition to my marathon waterfall trip, there was card-making, Jackson walks, reading, and blogging.  Just like that and my alone time is over.

South Carolina Bigfoot Festival

After Pat’s return, we went to Westminster ,”Sasquarolina” for the Bigfoot Festival with our friends Calvin and Renee.  They gave us the grand tour of their place and then we saw the festival sights.  DSC00576

It was the first annual event and threatening to rain, so the turnout probably wasn’t the best, but we enjoyed it.  Here we are posing with Skunky the Bigfoot metal sculpture.  Pat got a t-shirt that says “Bigfoot search team”.  Too funny.

 

 

How about this guy?  I wanted a close up of the sax playing, but get a load of those feet!

While we were away for the day, Billie took Jackson for a walk off leash and let him hang out in the office with her.  He was so spoiled at this place.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

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We’re going to miss the rounds of checking on Roscoe, the chicken gals and the ballerina geese.  Cauliflower even laid that egg just for me.  Jackson is looking longingly for his new best friend, Billie, and I don’t think he’ll forget this place any time soon.  We really did hate to leave, but we’ve got big plans down the road.

Next Up:  Hangout in Pigeon Forge.  See you on the way!

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

October 13 – 20, 2019

Our next stop in Waynesville, NC didn’t turn out exactly as planned.  Pat was supposed to be backpacking for most of the week, and I was supposed to have my friend Lisa join me.  It was raining and in the 20s on the mountain where Pat would be, so not the conditions he enjoys, and potentially life-threatening.  And Lisa had to stay home, so everything works out in the end.

Blue Ridge Parkway

New plan!  We read about the best 46 mile stretch on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Haywood County and took two days to drive the stretch.DSC00534

If you ask me why I like these mountains the best, this shot is why.  Singer Sade describes the mountains as “stretched out like a lazy dog”.  Perfect description and add the endless blue layers and there you have it.  Plus these peaks are between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, so they have glorious trees all the way to the top.  This shot was taken from the Lickstone Ridge overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway along that magical stretch of road.

 

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Day one on the drive was bright and sunny.  We enjoyed much cooler weather up at the 6000 foot level.

 

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We spied a waterfall from the road among the trees just starting to change color.

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Farther along the road we found the trailhead and got a closer view.

Frothy water at the falls, downstream rapids, and fir trees on the mountain.

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Day 2 was cloudy and rainy for a different mountain mood.

Mingus Falls

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On that second driving day, we went all the way to the Oconaluftee visitor’s center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and found our way to Mingus Falls.  I waited patiently for quite a while so the rest of the people would get off that walking bridge.

Max Patch

The last time we stopped in the Asheville area, we took the Max Patch hiking trail for the panoramic views.  I remembered it fondly and wanted to do it again.  Since Pat wasn’t on the trail, we could do it together.

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At the top you truly get a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  Worth taking a moment to soak in all that mountain beauty.

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Looking the opposite direction.

 

More of the patch.  The Appalachian Trail intersects here, too.

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My favorite signage for the day.

Other Stuff

This weeklong stay was at a private park with a lumber mill across the street.  We were walking Jackson trying to figure out what the noise was.  It sounded like several pairs of sneakers bouncing around in a very large dryer, and we still have no idea what part of the process we were hearing.

Also on our list of chores was flu shots.  We took an hour drive to Hendersonville, but it’s for the vaccination brand that our favorite influenza researcher highly recommends.  We trust that he knows his stuff, so off we went after I called all the pharmacies in the surrounding area to find it.  It’s Flublok in case you’re interested.

Bitsy needs a tire rotation, but the shop was too busy.  She’ll just have to wait for Springfield since she needs an entire new set of shoes anyway.  So does the motorhome since we’ve put quite a few miles on both.

Lunch With Friends

Our friends Calvin & Renee, who we met during our month-long stay in Bradenton, FL way back in 2016, reached out to us and asked if they could come see us.  (They were the ones who let us each drive their Smart Car.  Yep, cool people).  Anyway, they are in South Carolina these days and a few hour drive from Waynesville.  They treated us to lunch in town and we got caught up again.  So much fun to intersect with our travel friends.  Plus, they told us about the South Caroline Bigfoot Festival coming up while we’re in Franklin, NC.  Only an hour drive so we’re definitely going since Pat is such a fan.  More on that later.

After lunch it we had time for the Maggie Valley arts and crafts festival to get us in the mood for the holidays.  A lot of wish shopping and of course kettle corn, my favorite.

Next Up: Cardinal Ridge Farm in Franklin, NC.  See you on the way!