November 2015 – Blue Springs, Alabama

Once again we traveled in the rain from West Point Lake in Georgia to Blue Springs State Park in Alabama.  The state park is located about half way between Eufala and Dothan, Alabama, 15 miles west of the US highway 431.  There are no major towns, or even small towns within 15 miles of the state park, so we were really in the middle of nowhere in the wiregrass region of southeastern Alabama, which was just fine with us.   After all the large metropolitan areas we have been around for the past year, it is very nice to be where we shared the road with only a few logging trucks and locals.  Except for the light rain, the trip itself was uneventful.  The only notable aspect was the nice rest stop just south of Eufala on the highway.  It had a small area for RVs and trucks, which gave us a nice break.  When we pulled into Blue Springs State Park, we had to wait on the park ranger to come to the entrance gate so we could register as he was the only person working in the park.  We had the opportunity over the week to get to talk with him about the sad state of affairs being faced by the state parks in Alabama.  Funding has been severely cut and this small state park could be closed in the future.  In fact, the website states the park would be closed after November 15 for the winter, a fact we had discovered a few weeks earlier prompting us to contact them since we were scheduled to be staying there until the 16th.  Come to find out, they had been able to find funding for one ranger for the winter and would not be closed, even though the state so far had refused to take this information off of the webpage.  Consequently, there were not very many campers in the campground.  In fact, through the week there was only one other RV in the campground and a tent in the primitive area which only increased to around 6 campers over the weekend and Sunday night we were the only ones there.  To state it was quiet was an understatement.

Our campsite was a pull through site with full hookups, of which there are only a few in the park.  It was the first site we have been in that gave us problem with leveling the RV front to back.  Seeing we were going to have a problem we positioned the RV as far back in the site as we could and still the front of the RV was down as low as it could go.  This made it close to level, but all week we could tell there was still a slight grade inside the RV.  Except for this, it did not seem to cause any other problems.  This site was also strange since it was very narrow.  Two feet from the door the ground fell off a couple of feet to the large picnic area, which meant we had to be careful when exiting the RV, especially at night.  There was a picnic table and fire ring positioned in front of the RV and of course there was nobody around us all week, so we plenty of room.  These sites are so much better than the “parking” lots we have been staying in for most of the last year.

Campsite

We had no plans for the week, so there is really not much to talk about in this blog.  Every day was spent relaxing in the campgrounds except for a bit of cleaning and laundry over the weekend.  We had good enough TV coverage so we were able to watch the Auburn and Alabama games on CBS without leaving and except for going to the store there was little reason to leave.  Unfortunately, this state park did not have any hiking trails and it was too cold to take advantage of the natural springs.  After a couple of dreary days, the weather improved and we had a nice relaxing week of doing nothing at all.  On Thursday I walked out to the Blue Springs which are interesting.  Discharge is over 3000 gallons a minute, which is a lot, causing a strong current through the two pools, which have been lined with cement providing both a wading and swimming pool of fresh spring water.  The only problem we had was with the phone coverage, which was very spotty.  While this was okay for our phones, it meant our internet connection was very slow and intermittent.  Other than that it was a nice week in Alabama.

BlueSpring

November 2015 – Holt, Florida

Since the distance from Eastbank COE campgrounds to our winter destination near Foley, Alabama, was farther then we like to travel in a day, we decided to break up the week with a stopover near Holt, Florida.  Therefore, we stayed only 3 nights at Eastbank and planned on an additional 3 nights just over half way to Alabama.  We stayed at Rivers Edge RV Campground, which is just over a mile south of I-10 on the western edge of Eglin Air Force Base.  In fact, Eglin was just across the river from the campground to the south.  Consequently, the campground was very sandy, which was not surprising, although it meant we had to sweep the steps and floor of the RV on a daily basis.  Thankfully, the weather was beautiful after the storms on Wednesday and the trip along the Interstate was easy.  We could certainly tell we were once again in Florida since the campground along the interstate was close to being filled with a decent amount of traffic in and out each day.  Except for the mosquitoes, even in November, along the river and swamps, it was a nice campground.

Campsite

For those of you that have enjoyed our many experiences over the last year along the east coast, you are probably disappointed that we have not done very much the past month and the three days at Rivers Edge was no different.  We enjoyed just relaxing in the RV, enjoying the weather and the view of the river and cypress swamps.  We are looking forward to spending the next two months in south Alabama waiting for the weather to warm up so we can head back north for another year of travels.

River

November 2015 -Lake Seminole, Georgia

The trip from Blue Springs State Park to Eastbank COE campgrounds on the shore of Lake Seminole in Georgia was along a very familiar route to around Dothan that we have been driving since we lived in Bainbridge, Georgia 30 years ago and the many soccer tournaments and games in Dothan over the years.  We have also stayed at Eastbank COE Campground over a year ago with the pop-up camper for a week.  Our stay this time was for only three nights and I had reserved a pull-through site.  This is a very nice campground where the pull-throughs are right along side the campground road and very easy to get in and out of.  They are paved and level making the set-up very easy.  Unfortunately, they do not have sewer hookups, so we will have to stop at the dump station on our way out on Thursday.

Campsite

Since we had seen most of the area when we were here a year ago, there was not anything we wanted to get out and see, so we decided to just spend a few more quiet days in the campground.  The only plans we had were to get with Rick and Barb Theobald, who live in Tallahassee.  They are old family friends that were neighbors for quite a while in Auburn, where Rick was the diving coach at Auburn.  Our kids grew up together in the neighborhood and we have kept close using Rick’s skills as a financial planner with Waddell & Reed.  We made plans to meet in Havana, Florida which was about a 45 minute drive for us, on Wednesday evening.  Unfortunately, the weather turned nasty on Wednesday and by sun down we were under a tornado watch.  It was raining when we left the campgrounds, but the skies did not look too threatening. However, as we were approaching Havana, both of our cell phones went off with a tornado warning in the area with the radar indicating a tornado between Quincy and Havana.  By this point it was dark, so we could not see any threatening weather even though it continued to rain.  Not having any options we drove on into Havana and parked the truck.  The restaurant we were planning on going to was already closed for the evening, in fact, all of downtown Havana was closed.  After getting pretty wet wandering around we found a small pizza shop that was open and Rick and Barb met us there.  We had a very fine meal and a wonderful time catching up.  They literally had to close up the shop to get us to leave.

Sunset

November 2015 – West Point Lake, Georgia

Once again it was wet on Monday morning, but the rain forecast for the day held off long enough in the morning for us to sweep off the water from the slides and button up the RV to travel further south.  We did have to wait for the rain to stop so it was nearly noon before we pulled out.  Our destination was West Point Lake on the Georgia-Alabama state line, just 30 miles from Auburn.  We had always wanted to camp at the lake over the years, but never did and this was our chance.  Knowing the traffic on a Monday morning around Atlanta, especially in wet weather, could be brutal we decided to take the state and US highways west of Atlanta, following the path we had taken many times in the past to miss Atlanta when traveling to Tennessee.  This took us to Lagrange, Georgia which was about 15 miles from the lake.  There was light rain off and on during the trip, so we arrived late in the afternoon.  After checking in we looped around the campgrounds searching for our site.  I knew it was a pull-through, but we were just about ready to give up when we came to the last site on the loop.  It was up the hill from the restrooms with a large separation from the other sites on the loop.  In fact, it was far enough from the other campsites that we could not see them in either direction.  The entrance to the site was a short paved road to a concrete pad for the RV and we were even screened from the road by trees.  It was the most secluded campsite we have ever stayed in and we loved it.  There was enough room in the driveway coming in and out (it was a pull-through) with parking area for a car at either end.  You could have easily parked 6 cars.  The site itself was a leveled gravel area large enough to throw a party with a picnic table and fire pit.  We even had a private stairway down to a trail leading to the lake.  It was easily the best campsite we have ever stayed in.  If the weather would have cooperated during the week, we would have really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, it rained all but two days during the week, so we did not have much chance to be outside to enjoy it.

Campsite

SunsetOn Tuesday we got an early start and headed into Auburn to visit our primary physician, Dr. Roach.  When we left a year ago, we did not intend to return to see Dr. Roach in the future, but since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to see if we could get an extension of our cholesterol medicines.  The last doctor we saw in Maryland would only give us a two month supply of meds and Kal was already running low.  We were hoping they would not require new blood tests to be performed as we had already had our blood tested more times than the insurance company would pay for.  Even though we were there shortly after 8:00 in the morning, it still took over an hour to see the doctor.  We luckily got to see a nurse practitioner instead of Dr. Roach (which neither of us likes very much) and after looking at the most recent blood work on our computer that we brought with us, she was willing to write us a prescription for a year of meds!!  We still intend to get our blood checked in 6 months, but this will mean we don’t have to be searching for a doctor every 2-3 months.  What a relief!!  Felling very good we did some shopping in town getting some new blue jeans and socks and visiting the Kroger that Kal had spent most of life over the past 25 years.  At the time, Kroger was getting a major facelift and expansion so nothing was where it used to be, although Kal did run into some old friends.  For lunch we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant in town, Cancuns, where we had a great meal while visiting with our friend, Mateo, who works there.  After lunch we went to campus to see who we could run into.  Unfortunately, there were major out-of-town meetings, so there were not very many of the faculty around.  We did spend some time getting caught up with Jennie and James in IT and Bill, the Building Manager, that I had spent a lot of time with as Associate Dean.  We only ran into a couple of old faculty, the most notable being Art.  Other than that, the visit was a disappointment, especially since the other faculty would be gone all week.  So we headed back to the campgrounds before I thought we would.

Wednesday once again turned cloudy and misty, so we spent the day in the campground doing laundry and cleaning the camper.  The weather turned even worse on Thursday and Friday, so taking advantage of any of the hiking trails in the area was out of the question.  We just relaxed in the campground.  The weather on Saturday was better, but not by much, as it was still cloudy and misty throughout the day.  We left the campground early in the afternoon to head once again to Auburn for dinner with William and Kristen’s folks.  Our plans were to meet at Victory Grill, a sportsbar, for dinner and drinks while we watched the Auburn football game on TV.  The Hileman’s are not big football fans, but since Auburn was playing Texas A&M, where William graduated, they were interested in joining us.  We left early to go by the store, fill up the truck, and even had about an hour to quietly have a beer while we watched some of the Clemson vs Florida State game before they arrived for dinner.  When we arrived the sportsbar was nearly empty, but quickly filled up beyond capacity by the time the game started.  We had a great meal while watching both the Auburn-Texas A&M and the Alabama-LSU game and talking a lot about our experiences and catching up with their family.  Unfortunately we had to leave at half-time in order to get back to the campground before 10:00 when they lock the gate.  Especially with the hour time difference between Alabama and Georgia, we were cutting it close.  If we were too late it was over a mile walk in the dark from the gate to our campsite.  We got back with no problem and finished listening to the game on the radio while watching the Alabama-LSU game on the TV.

 

The weather on Sunday was the heaviest rain we had seen all week, which means we spent another quiet day in the RV, which itself is enjoyable.

October 2015 – Atlanta, Georgia

We traveled south out of Tennessee along US 411, which we have traveled many times in the past visiting my sister in Tennessee, whenever we wanted to miss the traffic on the Interstate between Chattanooga and Atlanta.  It is a nice highway, 4 lane for the most part, but slow with the many towns you pass through.  We pulled into McKinney Campground on Lake Allatoona by early afternoon and proceeded to our campsite.  McKinney Campground is one of the many Corps of Engineering campgrounds around the lakes north of Atlanta, but one of the few that are still open in October.  After spending the spring and summer in commercial campgrounds, it was nice to be back into the COE campgrounds in the south.  Not only are they less expensive ($22 versus over $40 a night!) but the sites are very large, wooded, and with a view of a lake.  Our site in McKinney Campground was no exception.  It was a pull-through site in the center of a circle that goes around a spit of land extending out into the lake.  We had views of the lake in three directions and a “private” drive in the center of the circle for our use.  We could see other campsites, but they were far enough away that we had a sense of privacy that we had been missing all summer with other RVs less than 20 feet away.  Of course, you don’t always have sewer hookups in these campgrounds, but with staying only a week at a time, we can make it using their dump stations on the way out.

Campsite

The weather was foggy with light rain and drizzle on the trip to the campground, which only got worse over the next two days.  Therefore, we spent Tuesday in the campground doing laundry and cleaning the RV and Wednesday just taking it easy in the campsite working on this blog.  The weather improved by Thursday which still had low clouds and fog during the morning.  Since we only had a couple of days of nice weather, since it was suppose to rain again on Sunday, we headed out to one of the two remaining National Parks we wanted to visit in Georgia.  Nestled within the urban sprawl of Atlanta, near Marietta, is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  This is the site of the main battle between General Sherman and General Johnston following the siege of Chattanooga and leading to the Union capture and destruction of Atlanta in 1864.  It is completely surrounded by urban sprawl even though the National Park does own most of Kennesaw Mountain and the chain consisting of Little Kennesaw, Pigeon Hill, and Cheatham Hill to the south.  To access most of the historical sites of the battle you have to navigate busy urban streets and highways, but it was still worth the visit.  The Visitor Center is located on Kennesaw Mountain, which is actually north of nearly all of the fighting, but provides access to the main mountain.  It is interesting that while this is the site of the main battle for Atlanta, it was not the only battle.  Sherman and Johnston met each other a number of times between Chattanooga and Atlanta between early May to mid-July with Johnston trying to stop the Union advance and Sherman flanking his position forcing Johnston to withdraw to a new position towards Atlanta.  The Union outnumbered the 50,000 Confederate soldiers by 2:1 and used this numerical advantage to keep Johnston from stopping them.  By June 19, the Confederates had established a very strong defensive position with Kennesaw Mountain as an anchor.  After failing to outflank the Confederates again at Kolb’s Farm on June 22, partly due to the days of rainy weather and partly due to being attacked by General Hood, General Sherman decided to change tactics and attempt a frontal assault on the Confederate center that he believed was very thin.  On June 27 they tried a two prong attack at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill, both of which were short and bloody battles.  The Union dug in and traded shot with the Confederates for the better part of a week, before the Confederates once again withdrew to the defenses around Atlanta.  When we got to the Visitor Center the weather was still very foggy with the top of Kennesaw Mountain in the clouds.  So we spent a couple of hours in the Visitor Center, which has a great movie about the battle and a very good museum.

After an early lunch we took the 1.5 mile hike at the Visitor Center, called the Environmental Trail that winds through the north Georgia woods.  It was an easy, enjoyable hike.  By this time the clouds had cleared and we drove up to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  At the summit there are a number of Confederate cannon platforms with a few cannon that were used to anchor the Confederate line.

KalOnTrail ViewFromSummit

From here we took on the urban traffic and visited the other two main battlefields at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill.  While the trail up to the Confederate earthworks on Pigeon Hill is only about a quarter of a mile, it is quite steep and Kal was questioning whether it was worth the hike.  You can still see the remains of the Confederate earthworks near the brow of the hill.  The hike along the earthworks along Cheatham Hill are more extensive and better preserved and the trail is much more level.  The trench line bowed out at one point, creating an angle that is inherently a weak point and generally concentrates the attacks.  The Union attack at this location was especially fierce and ended with hand-to-hand fighting before the Union soldiers retreated down the slope about 20 yards to a small fold in the hill where they were less exposed to Confederate fire then if they attempted to retreat back across the field at the bottom of the hill.  So they dug in.  A grass fire was started from the cannon explosions that began burning the wounded Union soldiers between the lines.  The Confederates called a temporary truce, in an humanitarian act, to assist the Union soldiers in removing the wounded and putting out the fires.  After two days the dead on the battlefield were rotting and the wind was primarily towards the Confederate trenches, so another two hour truce was agreed to in order to bury the dead in mass graves on the battlefield.  In both cases the soldiers then returned to their positions and commenced shooting at each other.  Truly amazing stories.  The walk down to the location, called the “Dead Angle” by both sides was along the Confederate earthworks.  At this location is also the Illinois monument.  There are a couple of other historical locations on their “Driving Tour”, including Sherman’s headquarters and Kolb’s Farm, but both of them are outside the protected boundary of the park and surrounded by urban sprawl with no parking, so we decided to skip them and head back to the campsite.

KalAtCheathamHill DeerAtCheathamHill

Friday was by far, the best weather of the week and we once again headed towards Atlanta to explore the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  This Recreation Area is scattered in 15 separate units along a 48 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River, so we started out at the Island Ford Visitor Center to figure out what we wanted to visit.  Although it is a small Visitor Center, since most of the building is the Park Headquarters, they did provide us with good information.  Most of the sites to the north leading up to Lake Lanier are primarily boat landings and we were interested in hiking and not rafting, so we decided to stay to the south of Island Ford.  It turned out that one of the best trails along the river is located at the Visitor Center, so before lunch we set out on a mile hike down river.  Along this stretch the river is relatively slow moving, although there were a number of nice rocky shoals to spend some time at and take some pictures.  At the one mile mark we headed off the river to loop back to the Visitor Center.  However, we missed a turn and ended up walking an additional half mile up to another parking lot before we realized our mistake.  The hike itself was fairly level winding around the sides of the hill along an intermittent stream and was very pleasant.  However, we had to turn around and hike back the half mile to the river with still 3/4 miles back to the Visitor Center.  Where we thought we would be taking a hike of about two mile turned in to over three miles and a late lunch, which we were both ready to eat by the time we got back.

KalAtRiver GeeseOnRiver

They had a nice picnic area behind the Visitor Center where we at our lunch before getting back in the truck to explore some of the historical ruins along the river.  Our first stop was the ruins of a textile mill along Vickery Creek in the town of Roswell, Georgia.  Both of the mills at this location were burned by Sherman during the Civil War, one was rebuilt and remained in operation until the 1970s.  This is now a city park along Vickery Creek and along with some historical markers made an interesting stop, even though it was a busy location with visitors and traffic in the small town.  From there we proceeded further south along the river to the ruins of a pulp mill along Sope Creek.  This turned out to be a half mile walk from the parking lot down to the creek where we found the ruins.  It would have been a pleasant walk except for the fact that most of the trail was along the busy city street of Paper Mill Road.  The Marietta Pulp Mill was also burned by Sherman during the Civil War, but was never rebuilt.  Only the stone foundations remain, however, they still gave a number of opportunities for interesting photographs with the sunlight coming through the fall foliage.

GregOnCoveredBridge KalTakingBreak PulpMillRuins1

Saturday was another opportunity to find a sports bar to watch the Auburn football game.  However, the game was at 11:00 in the morning, so even though we had lunch watching the game from the bar in an Applebee’s in Cartersville, I was not much interested in taking advantage of the bar.  There was another patron rooting for Auburn at the bar and along with the bartender and other customers coming in for lunch, we had a very good time.  Although Auburn lost to Old Miss, it was still a good game that was close throughout the game with both teams playing well.  Auburn’s defense played their best game of the year and if the offense had been able to score from the red zone instead of having to settle for field goals, we would have won the game.  In any case, I did talk Kal into letting me have a couple of beers after we ate lunch in the second half and we both had a very good time.

The weather on Sunday had turned back to rain, so we stayed in the campground all day taking it easy.

October 2015 – Greenback, Tennessee

Well, it has been over a year since we bought this RV and truck in July of 2014 and now we were coming full circle as we brought our RV back to the Tri-Am RV Center for an annual check-up.  Over the past year we have put nearly 30,000 miles on the truck and traveled from here through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia over the fall and Alabama for the Christmas season before heading to Florida for the winter.  We spent January through mid-March traveling the length of Florida down the east coast and back up the west coast.  By April we were on the coast of Virginia and around Washington, D.C. to William’s house by the first of May.  After taking a short break there it was on to Philadelphia, around New York City, and into Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Then it was Boston and finally into Maine by the first of July.  We spent a great 6 weeks in Maine before spending time in New Hampshire and Vermont,  Then it was time to head back south spending time in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.  It has been an amazing year with a new place to stay every week and plenty to do and see.  We have visited 137 National Parks (of course about 20% of these are the monuments in and around Washington D.C.), 58 state parks, 9 National Wildlife Refuges and 54 other points of interest.  We have hiked trails in numerous coastal wetlands and swamps, mountains, and everything in between.  We have visited many historic sites including houses of famous Americans from Presidents to artists, many battlefields, and more forts then I can count.  We learned a lot about the Seminole Wars, the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and of course, the Civil War.  Of course, it has not all been an extended vacation.  Over the year we have had to deal with mechanical issues with the truck and RV, family issues and illnesses, and of course, our own visits to doctors for blood work.  Overall, it has been a great experience and I look forward to continuing it next year.  However, after spending the next month making our way to south Alabama, we intend to stay in one place for at least two months.  We are both looking forward to slowing down the pace and saving some money over the winter before heading back to the northeast next spring.

We dropped off the RV at Tri-Am RV Center, where we originally bought it, asking them to check out all the systems and seals as if it was a new unit.  We only had a couple of issues that we knew needed fixing which include the bathroom exhaust fan, which had not worked for a couple of months, and the exhaust fan in the living room, which was acting up.  We told them we were not in a hurry, since we would spend the next couple of days at my sister’s, about 1.5 hours away.  This turned out to be a mistake, as we kept getting bumped all week.  I understand that customers come in that need the work done quickly and we could wait, but they did not get to our RV until Friday, four days later, and only after I made it very clear that we were leaving the following Monday.  So instead of just a couple of nights with my sister and her family, we were there for four nights sleeping on her couch, which thankfully, was very comfortable.  Since Suzy and Shannon were working and the kids were in school all week, Kal and I had a lot of time to ourselves.  After getting our laundry done on Tuesday, there was not a lot to do until the RV was ready.  I did have a nice birthday dinner of lasagna and apple pie, we took them out to dinner on Thursday, and we celebrated Shannon’s birthday on Friday, but we spent our days catching up with some TV shows on their On-Demand and working on updating my Google Earth pins of RV resorts.

Dinner SuzyAndFamily

We picked up the RV on Saturday, which was a long day in the truck with a 1.5 hour drive to and from the RV Center.  Once we set up the RV at Toqua RV Campground, which was also the first campground we used to load the RV over a year ago, we headed back to Suzy for a nice dinner and evening.

Campsite

I felt bad for Suzy and her family as we had been there all week, but with school and work this meant just a couple of hours to visit in the evening before they had to go to bed.  We had just spent the first day off of school getting our RV leaving us with just a couple of hours again to visit before the kids went to their father’s house for Saturday night and Sunday.  We did go back one more time to Suzy’s on Sunday to assist her with replacing their over-the-counter microwave oven, which turned into an all morning affair as the screws for the old unit’s wall bracket all had mangled heads.  We got the unit installed in just enough time for a quick pizza party for Sonia’s child Joey, my great nephew.  As this was our only opportunity all week to see them, it was a treat to see all the family together again.

SoniaAndFamily MicrowaveReplacement