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.