Back to the Mountains

After a month in north Texas during the dog days I headed back where I know I belong —the mountains. My last trip to the east coast was less than stellar and after a week of swelter in G’Vine I was ready to amscray. Ironically, the day I left Impact Guns shipped my new pistol so it’ll have to just collect dust at the FFL until I return in October. At least I’d completed the course, qualification and application to carry license, which should be back by then too.

Leaving Texas is always hard. Because it’s so damn ugly and boring until you get to New Mexico. A full day drive across west Texas took me to Clayton and a past its prime campground. Is was good enuf for the night. On a side note, the MORryde suspension upgrade definitely improves the ride down the road, especially in my truck. Interesting…

Raton Pass Video A relatively short day drive to Alamosa, Colorado was lengthened by a truck moving van fire on Raton Pass. Full stop for 45 minutes but it could’ve been worse as it occurred just before the road narrowed to one lane and no shoulder. Thankfully looked like no injuries either.

After setting up camp I made an appointment for the morning to get the truck’s oil changed and then found a couple breweries in town. Square Peg Brewerks poured me a decent First Cut farmhouse ale and excellent MFU pale ale, but I wasn’t really feeling the vibe there so I went next door to San Luis Valley Brewing Co. I tasted their Valle Caliente because I love hatch chilies. Good but needed to be colder. The Sinner and the Saint Mexican lager seemed to fit me (not the Mexican part, lol) and went well with the BBQ pork tacos I had for dinner. SLVBC made me wish I hadn’t already reserved a site in Pagosa Springs for tomorrow. It’s my latest favorite brewery!

After a late start in Alamosa I dropped Synko off in a dirt lot and took the truck in for the oil change. A quick hour later and a stop at Locavores for a locally sourced sandwich and I was on my way to Pagosa Springs. Was nice to get up into the mountains again after crossing the wide San Luis Valley. I like Pagosa Springs. Cool town.

At Pagosa Springs Brewing Co I ran into Ron & Blanch, a couple I’d met a year ago here. A cool, interesting couple who run a hunting lodge in Charma, NM. We shared our common political persuasions and disdain for how our country has overacted to Covid. Twice this year I’ve come across people I’ve met on previous trips. And in both cases neither of us is from where we run into each other. I think that’s pretty cool!

Ended the day at the campground community center where a local band was playing country western music. On a nice Colorado evening, it worked just fine! A glass of rye accented the music!

A couple hour drive took me to Silverton, one of my favorite places. It’s just such a cool setting at 9300 feet. One road in town is paved, the others are well-maintained dirt/gravel. I love the valley setting surrounded by high mountains. Silverton is a Mecca of off highway vehicle riding. Gotta do that sometime when I’ve got company.

As small as it is, Silverton has two breweries. Golden Block Brewery was closed because they’d run out of food. I recall from last year they have great pizza so I was kinds bummed. A block down the street Avalanche Brewing Company was in their new location. They used to be on Blair Street (aka Hooker Row) and I liked that location better. Not because of the hookers . I had the Sultan IPA, which was just ok. The pizza was also just ok. I was amped up for a pie from Golden Block.

The next day I drove some of the forest service roads and kicked around town, enjoying the 70s drop into the mid 60s. Feasted on an elk burger and dinner salad at Handlebars Saloon and then wrapped up the day watching the RNC on TV. Good stuff.

In the morning I was heading over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. I’ll pick up there in the next post.

Silverton to Laramie

Note: this post is a tad late in finding its way to the site. Don’t really know why but a couple posts are gonna hit within a couple days. Read on.

The drive north over Red Mountain and Molas Passes on the Million Dollar Highway is always a thrill. I’ve mentioned before I’d only do this with a fiver in tow in good, dry weather. Nothing has changed. Approaching Ouray crews had the narrow highway down to one lane with alternating traffic halts and flows. The concrete barriers had the one lane down to maybe 10’ wide. My rig is 8’ wide. I spent half the time looking in my mirrors as I rounded curves making sure all was clear of the cliff side.

Spent a couple uneventful days in Ouray. I had managed to misjudge the distance from my seat to the ground when I stepped outta my truck on a slope so my knee and lower leg were sore enough to discourage hiking. I’ll get over it hopefully in time for some light treks at Beaver Creek.

Visited Red Mountain Brewing and Ouray Brewery. The Tropic Thunder English IPA and the cole slaw at Red Mountain were delicious—and I’m a slaw snob. The IPA I had at Ouray . . . Meh. I headed back to camp to watch the RNC.

A 2-3 hour drive to Gunnison included a stop at Horsefly Brewing for lunch and their Hop 101 pale ale. Decent on both accounts. I cut it short because I was parked along the highway and more than a couple degrees out of level, side to side. That’s hard on propane reefers and I didn’t want to overwork the system. It was warm enough (80, lol) that the reefer would be cycling on while it sat there.

My second stop along the way was for road construction—a 30 minute full stop just 2.5 miles from my campground turnoff. Oh well . . . it was a nice day sitting there listening to the thunder roll. After checking in some moderate rain started just as I was setting up. Oh well . . . it cooled things off ten degrees!

The Gunnison KOA is nice because most of their sites are on soft, lush fescue. How they keep the grass in such good shape with RVs driving on it is a mystery to me. But I love stepping out and sitting on grass. So much nicer than dirt or gravel! 

Friday dawned chilly and turned showery. Decided to clean house and futz with a couple minor repairs. Successfully adjusted one drawer catch so the damn thing wouldn’t slide open during travel and, stopping just short of fixing it with a sledge hammer, decided another drawer needed a new catch. Going magnetic this time.

Having no real food on board, I went into town and landed at The Dive for lunch and to stay out of the light rain. During the couple hours I was there the temp on the bank across the street dropped from 62 to 55. Not too bad for a day in late August. I taunted friends in Texas that I was enjoying a full 40+ fewer degree day. Despite their colorful responses I know they still love me!

From Gunnison I headed east over the pass to Salida. I’d been through Salida many times and always wanted to stop so this time I did. Enjoyed a beer or two at a couple breweries. Nice cool August day. Scratch that. Nice cold August day.

In the morning after watching church online I headed a few miles north to Buena Vista, another drive-thru town I’ve never stopped in. Met up with Rob and Mere for lunch and a walk through town with their cool dog, Hank. Good time.

My next destination was Beaver Creek to join Shelley & Brett for a few days. We’ve played this game a few times before: a couple hikes, a couple visits to local breweries, a couple visits to local favorite restaurants in Avon and Edwards. Fun times, always.

My next stop was Laramie to hook up with Julie & Brad for a couple weeks. We were going property hunting. Well, at least location hunting. I’d like to have Plan B in my pocket for when the shit hits the fan in our great country. The Left is doing everything they can to ruin this country. I’m fighting back. But a Plan B just makes sense. I wanna be in a fairly remote place where I can see the enemy coming. My favorite road sign reads, “Private Road. Owners have guns and backhoes. Turn around now.” Yup. Xactly how I feel given the bullshit the Left is bringing.

Next up: a week in Wild, Wonderful, Maskless Wyoming!

Wyoming

Wild, Wonderful, Maskless Wyoming!

I met up with Julie & Brad in Laramie September 6th, just in time for the season’s first cold front and snowfall. The 18 inches forecast didn’t happen but about 3-4 inches accumulated. It was nice. The day after the snow we drove around the Snowy Range south of Laramie looking at properties, mainly to get a feel for different regions within Wyoming. Why? In case the country makes a horrible mistake in November by electing democrats to the White House and Senate. That would certainly F America. Take a look at any of the democrat-run cities and states to see how well their loony policies work out.

We liked a couple areas, namely Ryan Park and the Mortenson Lake Wildlife Refuge area south of Laramie but no particular properties lit us up. On to Casper…

The drive north to Casper was beautiful with snow covering the hills and fields. Casper is a cool town along the North Platt River. One of its most attractive areas is Casper Mountain. The mountain is a quick 10-15 minutes from town and the day before we got there had received up to two feet of snow. Many of the roads are private which kept us from seeing the specific properties Julie had researched. It’s one thing to explain that you’re on a private road looking at potential properties to buy; it’s another to ask for a tow. We opted for discretion over valor… Plus, we were in Brad’s Ram truck and I was concerned it’d get stuck (it’s simply not a Ford!) 😂 Anyway, we spent the afternoon checking out Casper’s breweries and then in the morning we were on to Greybull, east of Yellowstone.

Greybull, well, you can keep it. It’s pretty enough but just too small. There’s really nothing there to compel a 365 day-a-year commitment. The drive to Lovell and through the Bighorn National Forest was pretty but no particular places hit us as investment worthy. We enjoyed a simple lunch in Shell after viewing Shell Falls. But it was time to head on through Cody & Yellowstone to Dubois.

I’m very glad I’d visited Yellowstone last year because it was so smoky from fires dues to California’s forest mismanagement; it was hard to even see across the lake. We did see a couple elk fighting it out for mating rights. Very cool. We might’ve done the southeast section of Yellowstone in record time, just rolling through. With the rigs in tow pulling off to see sights we’d visited just last year didn’t make sense. We continued on toward Dubois.

Dubois is a nice small town but, like Greybull, not too much there for year-round living. Did see some nice lots and homes up on the hill, but the Dubois/Lander region wasn’t quite cutting it either. While in Dubois for the three nights we made ourselves regulars at the Rustic Pine Tavern. Cool 100+ year old joint with a cool and pretty bartender. Played lots of dominoes. From Dubois… back to Casper to meet with a realtor for access to some of Casper Mountain’s properties.

About 100 people live full-time on the mountain and there are a couple vacant lots we liked but they had water access challenges—like about 500 feet of drilling challenges. Just not sure I’m willing to throw $40K at a water source… Other lots did not have year-round access. Gonna keep Casper Mountain on the short list but I’m not convinced just yet.

Julie & Brad headed back to Frisco and I headed to Saratoga for the night and then into Beaver Creek for a couple/few weeks. Frankly, I was a little tired of driving and my truck had developed a steady oil leak that I needed to get fixed. So, as I post this I’m hanging at friends’ awesome condo in Beaver Creek just chilling, hiking and watching football and hockey. Mid-October I’m heading back to G’Vine for the fall and winter so unless something exciting happens I’ll post a trip summary then, which will be it for a while. Until the road beckons once again… (And I gotta say, I already miss maskless Wyoming. Hopefully the rest of the country soon finds its senses on the stupid mask charade.)

Beaver Creek & Trip Summary

Chillaxing

When leaving Wyoming I considered whether to revisit the Black Hills of South Dakota, the vastness of Montana, or spend some lazy time in Beaver Creek, Colorado. BC won out.

My good friends Walter & Doris own a condo in Beaver Creek and were kind & generous to let me stay there a few weeks. The earliest I could get into the Vineyards in Grapevine without having to relocate from site to site was October 12 so I hung in BC until the 9th. Three weeks stationary—a change of pace that would resume once I got back to G’Vine. . .

I dropped Synko off at the Wolf Lot in Beaver Creek, set her up with the solar panel juicing the batteries to keep the ice in the freezer and a couple beers in the reefer cold, and then settled into Borders Lodge.

The timing was good, as my truck had developed a significant oil pan gasket leak; I poured six quarts of oil into it within a weekish. Finding a diesel mechanic was a challenge in the Vail Valley/Frisco/Silverthorn area. So I ended up driving 82 miles to Columbine Ford in Rifle. I can’t recommend them enough. They worked me in and, although the parts had to be brought in from Denver, had my truck squared away in a week (oil pan jobs on Ford diesels are a 2-3 day event). Although the work was covered by warranty, the dealer didn’t have loaners available or a car rental on-site. I ended up renting a Hertz SUV at the Rifle airport. When I say renting I actually mean it felt like buying. I may take that up with Ford later. . .

The rest of the time I took a few hikes (but not while my hiking gear was safely stored in my truck in Rifle), hit Vail Brewing Company and Bonfire Brewing, and perfected being a lazy bum. I didn’t even find the motivation to visit Vail, Frisco or Breck. Been there; done that.

So on Friday morning the 9th, I hooked up Synko and headed back to the flats. I was ready to be “home” but not looking forward to the drive. I am not a fan of the long, first/last day drive from Grapevine; it’s just boring, familiar scenery. Initially I planned to stretch the 1-2 day drive into three so I could watch some college ball and see what creative way the Cowboys could find to score 38 points and likely lose—again. #WorstDefenseInFootball

Instead, I muscled through to Amarillo the first day and then Day 2 I detoured through Denton for a badly needed rig wash (with a 90 minute wait). As the Vineyards was full up, I stayed in the beautiful Elk’s Lodge parking lot for two nights. Spent Sunday at Ryan’s watching the Cowboys win the game and lose a quarterback. Ugh, there goes the season. . .

All-in-all, ’twas a decent trip.

Trip Summary
  • Racked up a total of 4315 miles
  • Synko hung with me for 3320 miles (77%); most of the non-towing driving was in Wyoming looking at potential property purchase locations)
  • Drove a total of 111 hours
  • Traveled through 4 states
  • Crossed the Continental Divide just a few times, unlike last summer when I lost count of how many times I crossed the Divide
  • Visited Yellowstone National Park (but just a quick drive-thru)
  • Saw a couple elk fighting for love rights, a moose when I stopped to pee, and several antelope.
  • Enjoyed an early season winter storm in Laramie
  • Stayed in 17 different campsites and one condo (twice) over 56 days
  • Averaged 11.2 MPG in fuel consumption
  • Got oil service in Alamosa and oil pan gasket repair in Rifle for the truck


Tennessee Tedium

Nashville was Nice

After five days on the road from Nevada to Tennessee I settled into the Nashville Music City KOA. Brett & Shelley rented a nice 28’ Class 3 and set up camp next to me. The plan was to hang out, grill a few animals and visit Corey & Erin and the two Energizer Rabbits.

It’s a nice KOA Resort and we really enjoyed just relaxing and swimming with the little guys. Brett and I managed to find a couple breweries in East Nashville that were open. The first one we stopped at was only selling to-go so we headed over to Tailgate Brewery where we sat on the front patio for a couple pints. Then we found East Nashville Brewing and finally figured out how to enter the place, given their convoluted “only sit outside” plan. Nevertheless, they have a very good Lato est Birra Italian pilsner and good hoppy IPAs. And excellent ahí sauce!

Shelley & Brett left Friday morning; I hung until Monday —but not really sure why since most of the points of interest in Nashville were still closed. The pool replaced any sightseeing. And the (finally!) live Colonial golf tournament was a sweet gift of meaningful sports on Saturday and Sunday. The weather was perfect for lazy viewing on the outside TV.

But …

I was surprised that Tennessee succumbed to the Corona overreaction. None of the distilleries were open but some breweries were. Figure that out. A few of the state parks had opened for camping but they were social distancing (outdoors!) so only a few sites were open but not available. Figure that out. Music venues were closed but mass protesting was allowed. Figure that out.

I moved down the road to Manchester (again, I don’t know why) and checked into a private campground with more than sufficient highway noise. It wasn’t much of a change; the Nashville KOA was also kinda road-noisy. Maybe that’s how they do campgrounds in Tennessee? To be fair, I’m sure the state parks are nice and quiet but, of course, they’re not available. Go figure…

Google maps showed a well-rated grill and pub about 30 minutes away. Upon arrival I learned they were closed due to, well, you know. I truly hope we learn how to live with Covid as we have with the flu and common cold. We cannot continue to overreact every time something comes along. I know some disagree with me but that’s where I stand.

Then …

Moving on from the Daniels-less and Dickle-less Manchester area I stopped into Chattanooga for a couple days where at least a REI store provide some entertainment and a new pair of Olukai’s for six bucks, thanks to my remaining REI dividend!

I stopped into Oddstory Brewing in Chattanooga both days and really liked their fermented concoctions. My favorites were the Forgotten Fortress pilsner, the Belgian Field farmhouse ale, the Monkey’s Heart IPA, the Belgian Saison, and the West Coast IPA; not to mention the two sours I tasted: Yes, you guessed it. Oddstory is my latest favorite brewery! 😁

After the Nashville visit with friends it turns out REI and Oddstory were the highlight points of interest in this otherwise tedious trip to Tennessee. As far as I’m concerned you can keep the state. Maybe I’ll warm up to it if they get their heads out and open the distilleries to the public.

On to the Georgia coast. By ways around Atlanta.

Georgia

Ready to move on from Tennessee I charted a route through the northern Georgia mountains following the pretty Ocoee River. This longer, more northern route around the hell-hole of Atlanta wound me through Blairsville, Athens, bustling Sparta (ha!) and into the Greensboro GA area. Nice drive once I recovered from stupid Siri…

Soon after I left in the morning Siri was routing me through Chattanooga’s ridiculous traffic. She told me to take the US-41 exit off I-24. Dangerously, there is no warning until you’re already committed to the exit ramp that a 12’6” undercrossing lies ahead. Shit. Fortunately I caught a brief break in the line of traffic and pulled a U-turn on the US highway. No jury would’ve convicted me. I ignored the bitch in the box and found my own way out of town.

Other than that heart-check moment the drive was very nice and late afternoon I checked into the quirky KOA on Lake Oconee. It’s a largely full-time resident kinda campground but their sites along and overlooking the lake are awesome. I had perhaps the best spot with a really nice deck, umbrella patio table and grill. Good place to spend a couple days.

After 121 threw me a curveball with an 8am start time I headed out on an uneventful drive to Skidaway Island State Park near Savannah. Georgia does a nice job with their parks and I enjoyed the trails, Tybee Island beach, and downtown Savannah. As with most places, Savannah was still affected by the stupid virus but I managed to find a couple breweries that were bold enough to be open. Two Tides has an interesting and very good lime zest pilsner—Tan Lines. I also stopped briefly into Coastal Empire Brewing Co for a decent but not great IPA and a taster of their Dawn Patrol Imperial Molé Stout.

Having visited Savannah before I walked around town just a bit. As I recalled from my last visit here I think the town would be lots more fun with a group to enjoy the many grills and pubs. Instead, I hung out on Tybee Island beach and visited the outside of Fort Pulaski. While the National Monument was technically open, the inside of the fort was closed. Ya, you know why… Good freaking grief. It looked like a cool fort to explore. Have I mentioned the country’s overreaction yet? 😂

So with that, I checked out Friday morning and headed up the coast to Charleston. I’ll spend the next couple weeks bouncing around South Carolina with plans to get Synko’s wheel bearings repacked and hopefully upgrade her suspension to a Morryde 4000 system (if the parts becomes available now that the company is back to work from, yes, a virus hiatus). Why upgrade? I’m just weary of picking stuff up off the floor and the Morryde product comes with superb reviews to reduce shaking and rattling and improve towing.

That’s it for now. More in a couple weeks…

Seweet Caroline

Charleston

I thought Charles Towne was cool last time I was here a couple years ago. Charleston is still a great town. History. Beaches. Museums. Breweries. Friendly folk.

The few-hour drive up from Savannah was easy. I passed by the campground west of town where I’d stayed last time and checked into the Mount Pleasant KOA about 20 minutes north of town. Mount Pleasant is a really nice community with a Lowe’s near the campground where I picked up more smoking pellets and a good grocery store I happened into. Harris Teeter is like Market Street, maybe better. Back to the KOA: I was given a pull-thru site that you could’ve landed a 747 on. This is a KOA that doesn’t layout campsites based on a compact car parking lot model. I didn’t take advantage of their pool or beach but it’s a solid operation on the grounds of an old plantation. (Can I say “plantation” in 2020?)

Saturday I checked out a couple (ok, four) breweries on the city’s northern peninsula. First up was Revelry Brewing where I enjoyed their Poke the Bear pale ale and a quesadilla. Next up: Cooper River Brewing Company where I had the interesting Mex-Pecan coffee ale. (Can I say “Mex” in 2020? Hell, can I say “pecan”?!) From there I crossed the highway to Fatty’s Beer Works and loved their crisp Italian pilsner High Style. (Italians, what say ye on using that term?) Finally on the way back to camp I stopped into Indigo Reef Brewing Co where I had Cenotes and a Mexican lager (oops, I might be on thin ice again!) And that’s when things got interesting…

As I was sitting there enjoying my beer and minding my own business this guy comes over and says, “where do I know you from?” Fair enuff question, to which I replied, “sorry, you don’t look familiar.”

Him: “no, I know you.”
Me: “I don’t know from where.”
Him: “you’ve been in here a few times.”
Me: “nope, first time.”
Him: “name? family? live where? do what?” And 50 other questions.
Me: “can’t help you”
Him: “I’m retired DEA”
Me: “thanks for your service”
Him: “do I scare you?”
Me: “got no reason to be scared’”
Him: “break bread with me.”
Me: “I’m outta here.”

I dunno if he was high or trying to pick me up or just a ducking idiot. And that’s all I got to say about that.

Sunday I was more of a bum even than I was on Saturday. Yep… possible. I’d taken three racks of baby backs out of the freezer and put one of them on my GMG pellet grill. Half I just applied dry rub, the other half I brushed with BlackBerry Seaweed Gin jam (from Newfoundland) for the last 20 minutes. Those puppies were tasty!

Monday I visited Patriots Point and toured the air craft carrier USS Yorktown . Much like the Alabama I’d been on in Mobile, without the guns… And this ship came with a big garage and driveway. In addition to the tour of the ship’s guts I also liked the Medal of Honor museum. Very appreciative of all men and women who served and serve to protect us. And, yes, I will say that in 2020—and every other year.

After a hot & sweaty tour I quenched my parched throat at Ghost Monkey Brewery. Nice, friendly little joint with a decent Keller Pilsner and their flagship Salt Monkey Low Country Ale. Decent brews.

Tuesday was move day—a whopping 25 miles up the road to North Charleston. Moving again in two days … another jaunt caused by crowded campgrounds over the Independence Day (that’s still okay to say in 2020, right?!?!?). 

After setting up and not finding the source of an intermittent water leak I took a lazy nap and then headed over to Snafu Brewing Company to check out their sour ales. They have a lengthy list of sours and Berliner Weisse ales, each unique and tasty. I did two flights including: their IPA, Snafu-Tang orange sour, Sublime in the Coconut sour, Kinky Lola cherry sour, Moscow Mule Tang, Lemon Meringue Tang and Blueberry Cobbler gosé. The Lemon Meringue made me kinda melancholy; it tasted just like mom’s lemon pie—the best the planet ever knew. It was lemoncholy (thanks Ryan!). Anyway, these brewers led by Mo, a really sweet young lady, are nailing it! Very pleased with each of their distinctive brews. 

Wednesday after cleaning my shotgun just for the heck of it I headed across the bays and rivers to Johns Island and the Tattooed Moose. Such a cool place. I was here a couple years ago but missed out on their Duck Club sandwich. It’s been featured on DDD and lives up to its rep. The deal is real!

Back roads across the top of Charleston‘s estuaries took me to Oak Road Brewery, a small joint focusing on German style ales. Ausfahrt, their German pilsner and the Czech Pils were both quite good! This tiny cool brewery fills, cans & labels all their six packs by hand.

Santee Lakes

I think I’m safe saying that most full-timers really dislike holidays. Every family and their dogs are out taking up space in campgrounds. Actually, other than the hassle of finding an open site given my short-term planning habit, I’m glad to see families out enjoying themselves and making memories. Some of my sweetest kid memories are of family vacations. We tent camped and I thought we were living the dream! Great times made possible by great parents.

Gold Cart Independence Day Parade

So the Independence Day Weekend had me at Santee Lakes/Marion Lake, northwest of Charleston. Not much there, not much to write about. Enjoyed the small beach and smokin’ another rack of ‘backs.

Myrtle Beach Mud

I’m truly slow-rolling South Carolina, mainly because I’m waiting yet another week to have Synko’s suspension upgraded and her wheel bearings repacked in Rock Hill, NC.

Upon arrival at the campsite in MB I hastened to get the smoke rolling for the last rack of ribs from the Costco package—and to get the golf tournament on the telly. Another lazy day of smoking animal parts and watching live sports.

 My productive accomplishment was to order new connectors to replace the miserable/poorly designed cigarette lighter connections on my pellet grill with twist-lock connectors. I was weary of glancing touches to the cable (or gentle breezes) causing the power to disconnect. So after a bit of soldering when I get to Asheville, NC I’ll have a reliable power cord. Couldn’t fix it in MB because the persistent rain drove me inside.

 So other than the free meals at Gordon Biersch, thanks to my remaining Stein Club points, Myrtle Mud was a bust. Too rainy.. Masks required on beaches (so very stupid).  In the morning I’m moving on to Asheville. For now I guess it’s back to Netflix with the volume way up. Rain on the roof of a fiver is a noisy time!

 

The Week Before Turning West

It was time to leave the Low Country behind. I’d been on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts for three weeks and was looking forward to getting to the mountains. Asheville and the Smokies were in my sights.

Neglecting the direct, faster interstate route I spent most of the day crossing the Carolinas enroute to a campground just west of Asheville. I apparently need to get better at reviewing satellite maps and customer reviews because this place came with more than sufficient I-40 noise. But they had me when I saw about 100 American flags lining the drive onto the property. 🇺🇸

While setting up I noticed my fresh water tank was still full, which surprised me. I had inadvertently filled it to the point of overflow before I left Myrtle Beach. I’d meant to just put in about five gallons because I suspected I had a fresh water leak. I’d seen water draining from the underbelly twice in the past couple weeks when the tank had water in it. But now it still contained its full 60 gallons. And over the next few days nothing leaked, even with the pump pressurizing the system. So, I dunno… leaks rarely fix themselves. 🧐

Thursday morning into the afternoon I futzed with my pellet grill power source. I was tired of the two 12-volt power cords plugs coming loose so I installed a more secure, tighter connector. But getting the too-large gauge wires soldered onto too-small connector pins was an exercise in losing patience and sport cussing. Finally done at nearly 3 pm I cleaned up and headed out to visit the local breweries.

Early Friday I headed northeast for 90 minutes to Grandfather Mountain. I purchased my old guy $20 admission online, as they were limiting the number of people who should be in an outdoor environment. Covid, of course. They told me masks were required. I chose to not hear that very well. Everyone was outside for crying’ out loud!

(Our country’s inane mask fetish was reportedly in strong enforcement at the Biltmore Estate, according to TripAdvisor reviews. And they have apparently reduced the tour and winery experience but kept the fee the same. So I decided they could suck sand and keep their ridiculous $90 entrance fee.) Back to my day in the mountains…

Grandfather Mountain was okay, not great. Very pretty, but I could’ve gotten pretty without paying the tourist tax to get it. Can’t believe I fell for that; I usually don’t. But, hey, it was just $20 and I got the pleasure of breaking a mask mandate. Plus, the mountain sits just one mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Back in the spring of 2018 I drove most of the 469 mile road starting at the south end of Skyline Drive, which is the 105 mile long extension from the BRP running south from Front Royal, VA through Shenandoah National Park and then connecting with the north end of the BRP. Back in 2018 I  dropped off at mile marker 389 to head into Greenville. I was looking forward to completing the last 80 miles of the southern section. So I entered the parkway at marker 305 and slowly and enjoyably made my way south to the parkway’s terminus at mile marker 469 near Cherokee, NC. Glad I did. The entire pathway is beautiful and the way south is no exception as it winds through a variety of ecosystems. I had completed the combined 674 miles of beautiful roads. I still would like to experience this road in the fall…

Along the way I saw a wild turkey, a huge vulture doing what vultures do, two soaring hawks, lots of flowers and two bikers proudly flying the colors! I said a quick prayer of thanks for the birds & bikers. We’ve got to get a handle on the bullshit anarchist movements in our country. Just as I exited the parkway a hard rain hit it. My truck needed a bath so that was good.

Asheville Area breweries

Gotta say … plenty to choose from! Arrival night I started close to my camp. BearWaters Brewing Company has two locations; the closer one in Candler is a sweet spot on the Pigeon River. I especially liked their Papertown Pilsner and Junk Show Pale Ale – Round Two. Plus, they have a taqueria with great tacos and an awesome kale with garlic pumpkin seed dressing. Added chipotle chicken to it and it worked! One of my top ten salads.

Boojum Brewing in Waynesville has a couple solid offerings worth mentioning: Hop Fiend and Greenstone NZ made with New Zealand hops, both IPAs (although I haven’t been in a very IPA-ey mood lately).

Another creekside joint, Frog Level Brewing Company has an awesome location. I enjoyed their Salamander Slam sitting by the rippling stream. They had great looking groceries but I wasn’t hungry, dang it.

Given the spectacular weather Saturday I headed into downtown Asheville. A covey of breweries are clustered in a couple block area. Burial Beer has a great patio and very good German style Contrition Pilsner. Around the block Green Man is a small place with a small crowd and Sunseeker, a German pils, is also very decent. I must be in a Pils mood…

Twin Leaf Brewery was the last open place in this little area. Their (again) German style and aptly name Pilsner Beer was above average. They had a Disneyesque foot traffic pattern for Covid purposes that first made me feel like I was being corralled through a gift shop. And they gave me an empty beer can to place and leave on my table so they’d know to fumigate my area when I left. One gal even came by and exchanged the empty can because it said I-6 not I-10… I apparently didn’t sit on the right stool. WTH?!

I’m so weary of stupid, unnecessary Covid cowering. Deciding to leave because I’d reached my daily capacity for Covid compliance craziness I saw a young lady biking wearing a mask. No CO2 poisoning potential there… Whatever. This country’s testicles have retracted. We couldn’t tame the Wild West today if it was made into a spread and served on white bread with no crusts.

A Good Visit

I headed into Greenville to visit Melba, my good friend from the good ol’ GTE days. We spent the afternoon together with our friends Cathy & Dan at their home. Dan grilled up excellent steaks and veggie skewers. We had a great time although it passed by way too quickly. It was sooooo good to see Melba again!

Then, Well, Crap!

I left Travelers Rest (just north of Greenville) to upgrade Synko’s suspension in Rock Hill, near Charlotte. When dropping her off at the RV shop I had my head up my ass and blew out the truck’s rear window making a too-sharp turn backing into the drop-off spot  Sonofabitch! At least Safelite in Charlotte was able to get me in same day. I decided to forego the insurance route so I could get her done same day. Add $320 to the trip budget…

And with that, I’m headed west. Should be back in G’Vine by Monday. I’m ready.

The Last (Broken) Leg

While this trip had its fun moments, overall it was my least favorite trip so far. I blame it mainly on Covid response.

From Greenville I headed a couple hours east  again to Rock Hill. I was getting Synko’s wheel bearings repacked and the Morryde suspension installed. I’d waited an extra week for the parts to arrive after the factory went back to work after a Covid shutdown. While backing the rig into the service bay I had my head up my ass and busted out my back window on a too-tight turn. SonofaB! 😡

But I got really lucky as SafeLite in Charlotte had me fixed up by 10am. Those guys rock. When I left SafeLite and got on the highway a rock took a good chunk out of my windshield—right in my field of vision.  😤 By now the SafeLite guys were full for the day and advised me to get it replaced when I got home. Good enough; I could live with it.

Then when I was having lunch the RV service guys called and said the suspension parts hadn’t come in. So I waited around a week for nothing. Dammit. 😩

As I headed west I had to keep resetting my route because the bitch in the box (my navigation app) kept trying to send me through the hell-hole that is Atlanta. Plus, I wanted to stay off interstates and enjoy the scenery of north Georgia. Nearing my destination for the night I pulled in for fuel in a small station. And broke out my rear window reacting to an unseen obstacle. SONOFA&$#%€¥@!BITCH! 🤬

I overnighted in a crappy campsite at the Cartersville KOA—after screwing with my inverter which would not pass commercial power through. Took me an hour to figure out my surge protector was only passing one of the two legs of power. A couple G&Ts (ok, three) took the edge off. In the morning I dropped into Lowe’s and patched the rear window with yard sign material and painters & duck tape. Worked great!

The Final Respite

My drive from the north-of-Atlanta area took me through Georgia into Alabama and the small, pretty campground at Davis Lake off the Natchez Trace Parkway south of Tupelo. I’d been here two years ago and thought it was a cool place then. It still is, sitting on a small no-wake lake with nice water views. I stayed two nights. As I was puttering around a man came over to say hello. We had met each other two years ago here and he and his wife were back now for the first time since then. What are the odds? Anyway, I enjoyed chatting with Harry, especially since we share the same political and patriotic beliefs. It was a nice couple days!

 Into Texas

US-82 is a really good drive across Mississippi and Arkansas. Much much better than the interstate. I hit Texarkana early but was a little saddle sore so I stayed the night there. Sunday morning I joined 121 in worship online and then headed into DFW. It was a good trip in that no major issues arose but I missed out on a lot of what I’d hoped to see thanks to our Covid over-response. Stats for the trip, including Spring 2020 to Utah & Nevada:

  • Racked up a total of 7492 miles
  • Synko hung with me for 6419 miles (86%)
  • Drove a total of 181 hours
  • Traveled through 12 states
  • Stayed in 45 different campsites
  • Averaged 10.9 MPG in fuel consumption (I thin the drop in fuel efficiency is due to the air running all the time.
  • Repacked Synko’s wheel bearings.

I’m now back at the Vineyards in Grapevine for a month to get my license to carry and then I’m heading west into the Rockies. That’s where I belong.

To the Bears Ears

Finally back on the road my primary destination this summer is the East Coast — by way of the Southwest. I’m picking Julie up at Las Vegas airport the last week of May and then we’re going up to Pahrump to visit Pam & Billy.

But first I planned to visit a few places I’ve missed so far.

The first hurdle is to get through North Texas. It’s such a beatdown drive with simply nothing to see. I do like Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas panhandle but for a stupid reason state parks were still closed due to the Corona virus farce. So I spent the first two nights in unremarkable Lubbock and North Albuquerque KOAs.

Day 3 took me to a Harvest Hosts location—Mancos Brewery, where I stayed last year. It’s a cool spot in a sleepy Colorado mountain town but, of course, they could only sell food and beer to go thanks to the Corona virus farce. Still, good food and a free night with a solid view is a deal.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
After watching church Sunday morning I drove to Monument Valley Utah and pitched camp early, throwing a rack of baby backs on the grill. The lazy afternoon included visit from a small herd of sheep and then ended with a beautiful sunset across the mesa.

My layover day gave me the opportunity to visit a couple areas I’ve missed in past trips: Bears Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges NM. Like other massive national monuments, Bears Ears is managed by the Bureau of Land Management while Natural Bridges is part of the National Park System. The entire area with its bluffs, monoliths, arches and bridges is beautifully raw, bold and intimidating. I love it!

Bears Ears is named after an Indian legend:

One of the more popular Navajo stories is that of Changing-Bear-Maiden, who was very beautiful and desired by many men. She would have nothing to do with them. However, Coyote, the trickster, persuaded Changing-Bear-Maiden to marry him in spite of her brothers’ warning that the union would bring evil.

Changing-Bear-Maiden began to change and by winter’s end her transformation into a mischievous bear was complete. Realizing that the only way to save her was to change her into another form, her brother killed Changing-Bear-Maiden, cutting off her ears and throwing them away. They became the buttes seen today.

Ok then.

The area includes Monument Valley and is quite remote. I was impressed that the campground had reliable power and good water. And while I know it defies physics, cell and internet coverage seems to vary with the wind, of which there was plenty. Another interesting feature is the Moki Dugout, a two-mile section of steep, narrow gravel road between two paved state highways. It ascends/descends an abrupt cliff face so I guess would be pretty expensive to widen and pave. It’s kinda cool… Anyway, check the photos below for this period of the trip. They don’t do the landscape justice but you’ll get an idea of why I travel. And with that, and a thin layer of dust throughout my rig, I continued on toward the north rim of our Grand Canyon. Stay tuned!