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.

Charles Towne

It’s been a nice relaxing few days in Charles Towne (original spelling). Lake Aire is a nice quiet RV park in the woods with a meandering lake. Yesterday a black lab mix was having the time of his life running and jumping into the lake then swimming to the other side. I watched him do this probably 50 times! You could just about hear the dog giggling the whole time. Really fun to watch.

Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter

Saturday I visited Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Enjoyed the 30-minute ferry ride and an hourish to tour the fort. The fort marks where the Civil War began and, like I’ve said before, it’s a pleasure walking through these historic grounds.

After leaving the fort I set out to see what old Charles Towne was all about. Since I already had a good curbside parking spot (many garages are too short for my truck) I decided to re-feed the meter and walk the mile or so through the French Quarter to the historic district—until I saw one of those bike rental racks right by the truck, and $12 later I was wheeling down the road on a powder blue bike. (Nope, no pictures!) Goofy color aside, being on a bike was a great way to see the town through the congested, narrow streets. My rented wheels allowed me to see what I wanted to in less time which was great because it was already after noon and I also wanted to check out a couple of Charleston’s craft breweries.

Charleston Oldest Liquor Store in US
Charleston Oldest Liquor Store in US

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon and Old Slave Mart Museum each gave good insights to what the town was like back in the Civil War era. Interesting how the town settled on the Ashley river side of the peninsula then moved to the opposite side along the Cooper. The docent also explained about the evolution of the exchange building. The slave mart museum was also interesting with its displays about the disgusting human abuse practices which contributed to the Civil War. Visiting these museums was definitely worth the $14 combo ticket.

Once I got the culture checks in the boxes I headed up to Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company, a sleek & popular place where I tasted through a flight of their beers and had the best Cubano sandwich I’ve had outside Tampa’s Ybor City. The four 4-ounce beers I had rated in the mid 3-s on the Untappd scale. From there I swung by the smaller and more-to-my-liking Palmetto Brewing Company. Palmetto’s Lowcountry Pilsner & Lindy Hop’d IPA were fine beers—worthy of buying a t-shirt that was on sale. I topped off my brewery tour at Charles Towne Fermentory on the road back to the campground. This brewery sites on the Savannah Highway and is a local joint with good beers on tap. Nice way to round out a tour in a city with upwards of 30 breweries.

Sunday I went to church at 121cc.com and then headed over to Low Tide Brewing. Fell in love with Low Tide; it’s my newest favorite brewery. Their Ocean Course Pale Ale is the best pale ale I’ve had in a loooong time. Followed up by the  Purdy Good IPA, which is a 4.25 point Really good IPA. Gonna revisit them Monday afternoon. Afterward I headed back to the site to settle in for the oncoming storm, which passed by here with less bluster than the weather geeks expected.

Monday (as I write) is a chore day: laundry, cleaning up B, organizing some stuff and route planning for this week. Looking forward to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk and then heading into Virginia. Stay tuned!

Tattooed Moose

Tattooed Moose
Tattooed Moose

Awright, any restaurant with picnic tables in front and with a big mud puddle in the dirt/hard sand driveway/parking lot makes me happy soon as I drive in. Lotsa trees surround the tattooed building (and tattooed bar top, tables, chairs, walls, lazy dogs that don’t move much, yougettheidea) to complement the Tattooed Moose ambience. Layer in craft beer and duck fat fries—diet be damned—and you’ve got me hooked!

Bands play on weekends and I’m sure this laid-back place is a blast then. Aaron, you could own the music in the joint! Again I met friendly folks and enjoyed a light dinner chatting about old telecom days. Like Fish Tales near Fort McAllister, this would’ve become my hang here if I’d found it a couple days ago. Looking forward to the next restaurant/pub gem up the road!

Like Sleeping on a Sailboat

For whatever meteorological reason (there don’t seem to be any storm systems in the area) the wind picked up last night. Steady 8-10 knot winds increased to 15-18 knots and were gusting to 30ish. It was like sleeping on a rocking sailboat. So a little after midnight I got up and went out to yank the slide stabilizers so I could retract the two slideouts. (Yikes, it got cold too!) Anyway, I figured the prudent sailing advice to reef sails before you need to applied here, too. I’m thinking it likely reduced stress on the slide mechanisms, it eased some of the minor rocking action & killed a good bit of wind noise. And in a few minutes it was all about the zzzzzzz…

Headed back south 35 miles today to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum and climb the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. More on that along with yday’s visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in my next post.

Flying Machines, Shipwrecks & Big Lights

From one end to its other, the OBX is a very cool strip of sand. When I arrived by ferry on the island of Ocracote I knew I was gonna hang here longer than I originally thought.

My drive northward up the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway took me through Ocracote, Hatteras and a few other villages to the KOA near Rodanthe. Although it’s a bit of a parking lot style campground, the place is nice, very well maintained and convenient to entire the Outer Banks.

The day after I arrived (Thursday) I headed north about 35 miles to Kill Devil Hills. I needed some diesel exhaust fuel that I could get at an auto supply store. But really, my main reason was to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Kitty Hawk gets all the history book love, but that’s because it was the main community back in the early 1900s. The first flight took place at Kill Devil Hills, a couple miles south of Kitty Hawk.

The National Park Service memorial is really very cool. Spacious. Inviting. Simple. Pretty. Check the photos in the slideshow attached to this post. I especially liked walking along the exact path where man’s flight first went down (ugh, unfortunate phrase)—a mere 12 seconds and 120 feet long. It struck me as apropos that I noticed both a small single engine prop plane towing an advertising banner and, much higher up at 35-40 thousand feet, jet trails of a flying machine on a trip a bit longer than 12 seconds. I wonder if Orville & Wilbur had any idea…

A late lunch of a good burger & decent brown ale at Outer Bank Brewing Station would negate the need for much dinner once I got back home so I visited the Bodie Island Light Station. The third lighthouse built on the OBX, this 3rd generation 164 foot tall beacon on the island starting shining in October 1872.

Next I stopped in for a Flagship IPA at Watermens Bar & Grill—a cool place on the west side overlooking 30-mile wide Pamlico Sound. I didn’t know you could stand on land on  the east coast and watch a sunset over water. Very cool!

Friday I headed 35 miles back the opposite direction to Hatteras Island. I’d sailed past The Lighthouse several years ago, so visiting it was a gonna be great! The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the United States and its white rotating light flash every 7.5 seconds is visible from all directions miles away at sea. The 7-minute, 257-step climb to the observation deck of the 210-foot high beacon is worth every breath (and every dime since the NPS comped free tickets for the first day of the season). The views are freaking amazing!

I also briefly visited the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum in Hatteras Village… ’nuff said; I guess was just hoping it was gonna be more shipwreck oriented. I’d spent more time at the lighthouse than I thought I would so I grabbed a sandwich and brew at the Wreck, near the boat docks and then headed back north to my 4-day home.

My plan for  Saturday is to take care of a couple maintenance things, walk the beach a bit, and prep B for a departure after watching (attending?) 121cc.com services Sunday morning. After online church, I’m headed to Greensboro to help out with a Samaritan’s Purse tornado recovery project for a few days. Also gotta get an oil change and tire rotation done while in Greensboro. After that … we’ll see!

Pics of The Outer Bank (click image to view full)

 

OBX Postscript

I thought I was done posting until after I left the Outer Banks, but I wanna share this. Rather than grill more chicken than I could eat in a couple days (I’d be eating with the Samaritan’s Purse group this coming week) I decided to eat out.

Had dinner at The Froggy Dog in Avon, a cool place with fresh seafood, lots of menu options and friendly people. Scallops were great.

Sunset over Pamlico SoundOn the way back home I stopped into Waterman’s Retreat, another cool spot that caters to wind surfers and sunset watchers. Had a couple G&Ts while watching the sun set over the water on the east coast. I dunno why that’s so cool to me, but it is.

And with that, in the morning I’m reluctantly leaving the OBX in my rearview mirrors.

The Best Five-hour Detour

I was coming up on the Outer Banks when I received the Samaritan’s Purse text about them needing help on tornado response & recovery in Greensboro, North Carolina. So instead of continuing my trek north to Virginia I headed west about five hours to Greensboro. I’d served with SP before on hurricane cleanup and rebuild projects in the Houston area so I knew what I was getting into. So I thought.

About 5 pm Sunday I arrived at Grace Community Church, our hosts for the team’s deployment. Lorenzo, the SP project manager, met me as I pulled in and helped get my rig secured for the duration. After dinner in the community room, I settled in for the night to get rested for what looked like a rainy day Monday. And rain it did. The next two days were a soggy mess., slogging & sloshing thru mud & wet brush.

In the morning on the way to our first job site we passed significant tornado damage, including one house that had been blown fully off its foundation about 20 feet away. (The television, however, was still sitting on the foundation.) Downed trees were everywhere; roofs were gone; bricks and debris were scattered all over the place. It was gut wrenching. Kenny, our team lead, asked me to grab a chain saw and start cutting trees into movable sizes that could be dragged or hauled by wheelbarrow to the street. We cleared trees and debris for hours—all day.

Our team, which ranged from about six of us to more than 20 co-workers cleared trees, brush, fences, trash, personal belongings, and whatever else the storm tore up to the street where city crews could pick it up for hauling to the dump. A couple jobs required a skip-steer to move larger tree trunks or lift trees off vehicles. It was amazing how a bunch of regular men & women could come together to help make a horrible situation a little bit better.

I feel bad that the 20+ jobs I helped on have already begun to meld together because each job has a story: a home destroyed, beautiful trees uprooted, lives impacted. I guess that’s what storms do.

But I’m also heartened and so very grateful for the opportunity to serve. I met incredible people, both on my team and the homeowners we served. My core team—those with me the longest—will always be more than friends. They are my brothers and sisters. Mike & Nik from Hillsboro, Ohio are a couple of the most diligent chainsaw guys & solid people you could ask for. They never quit and, I know, those 36 inch guns get heavy! Ricky, from Long Island, New York, a retired NYPD officer and now pastor of his church: what an awesome, loving, caring man of God. Theresa from Fort Wayne, Indiana who’s a “domestic engineer” and has the tenacity and joy in serving like no other. The Teen Challenge guys (more on them in a minute) nicknamed her G.I. Jane. Perfect! Theresa, in turn, nicknamed me Vagabum. I like it. Gonna let that stick. And finally Kenny, our team lead. I’ve rarely met a man chasing so hard after God’s heart. Kenny’s dry humor, his goofy songs & stories, his faith-building songs, his love for people… what a man. I’ll work with you anytime, anywhere Kenny. I love all you guys and pray for God’s blessings on your lives. Hope to see you all down the road!

Wednesday and Friday the awesome guys from Teen Challenge joined us on our job sites. These guys, each recovering from some kind of addiction, were nothing short of God-sends. They brought life, laughter, youth and strength to the game! To a man they served ceaselessly with obvious joy and love for Christ in their hearts. They were kinda like wood chippers, as they made mountains of brush, limbs, and trees trunks disappear to the street. We would’ve been in a world of hurt without them. I’m so proud of how they’ve turned their lives over to a better Strength.

And there were the homeowners. I’ll never forget or truly understand how gracious they all were. How appreciative they are. How, in the midst of horrendous destruction, so many of them are standing strong in their faith and how, on several occasions, they served us simply with their hugs, smiles and, yes, even tears. Whether we were praying into a job site for safety and that we’d be the hands and feet of Jesus in the neighborhood or we were thanking Him for protecting us through another job, homeowners often stood with us hand-in-hand recognizing that even in the midst of hell on earth, God is good. I know we have some issues in our country, and I know racism continues its ugly impact on lives. But this week, in Greensboro, I saw nothing but care, concern & love for each other thanks to one Common Denominator. It was beautiful!

I could probably write about this week all night and not cover it all. But I’m battered, I’m bruised. I’m beat. Yet I’m so blessed. This has been the best five-hour detour of my life. Good night my friends. May God bless Greensboro and the life-giving work of Samaritan’s Purse.

Southern BRP & a #~!%^ Detour

I was looking at about 325 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway until I’d leave it and turn toward Greenville to visit a good friend I haven’t seen for maybe ten years. Was gonna be a nice day!

And it was—for the most part. The BRP really is a national treasure. It’s an absolutely beautiful drive as it winds & weaves it way across ridges & valleys, snaking its way beside streams & ponds, through trees & meadows, and across gaps & passes with spectacular vistas. It never got boring. The drive was really nice.

And then, it wasn’t so nice. The drive became a bitch just south of the Boone, NC exit for a 12 mile-ish detour around a closed section of the BRP. This shitty detour wasted me. The detour was onto a road clearly not made for a truck & trailer rig of 57 feet long, 11 feet high. To worsen things, road crews were repaving it so half the road surface was off limits. After dodging the second overhanging rock I decided, F-it. I straddled the centerline, until I got pushed by an ongoing truck to the inside, mountainside lane and its lack of shoulder. I figured the trailer tires and axel took a hit thanks to North Carolina’s piss-poor road maintenance, but kept rolling because traffic was moderate and stopping to investigate would be another problem. As soon as the detour dumped us back onto the blessed Parkway I pulled into the first turnout I could to check things out. Other than some stuff rattling around inside the trailer all seemed well. Nevertheless, I’m still annoyed by the lousy road. I suppose I’ll get over it.

A couple hours later I was tucked into the Travelers Rest KOA, looking forward to hanging with my friend Melba soon. I found a local brewery—Swamp Rabbit—and ordered a pale ale and then an IPA. I barely finished, as exhaustion hit me. I headed back to the campsite and was lights out about 8pm. Not sure I even rolled over until the sun came up.

Overall, the Parkway will remain one of my trip’s highlights. I can’t emphasize enough that if you have the opportunity to experience it, just do it. If you’re going in the fall, gimme a call! It’s beautiful in spring; can’t imagine the fall colors.

I’d traveled all but about 60 miles of the Blue Ridge. Since I’ve already seen the southwestern section of it near Great Smoky Mountains National Park a couple years ago, I’m gonna take a more direct route to Nashville, where I’ll then take on the Natches Trace as I head south & west. Stay tuned.

The ‘Villes & The Trace

Greenville

I dropped off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville to visit a dear friend in Greenville. I was going to miss the BRP but I was looking forward to hanging out with Melba much more. It had been more than ten years since we’d been together—waaaaay tooooo looooong.

Checked into the KOA in Travelers Rest, just north of Greenville, got settled and headed to the local brewery, Swamp Rabbit. Decent beers (more Belgians & white ales than I prefer, though) and friendly folks. Back at camp I met Jason, the KOA owner. Nice guy, turns out he moved his family of six to Travelers Rest from Plano, Texas. Enjoyed chatting with him.

Thursday I ran a slew of errands. I couldn’t stand my truck any longer and found the best car wash I’ve ever been to. The owner of Cedar Pete’s took excellent care of my truck, even though I was from outta town and he’d never see me again. That’s hospitality & character. While my truck got nice & clean, B would have to rely on rainstorms to wash the bugs out of her teeth.

I also had to hunt down a print shop and notary so I could request a certified birth certificate from Orange County, California so I could then take it, in person, to a post office or county clerk to get a new passport to replace the one stolen by the cretin in Houston. I would repeat this charade in Jackson, Mississippi because, apparently, the wheels-off state of California won’t accept embossed, non-inked notary stamps. California has gotten out of control. I say, build the wall—on the east side of the state!

Friday morning I got kicked out of the KOA, even though I thought Jason & I were friends! Lol. Jason referred me to the Palmetto Cove RV park near Table Rock Mountain, a nice place 15 miles away. Once I parked the trailer I was finally headed downhill to Greenville to visit Melba!

We had a wonderful time, lots of laughs. So good to spend time with her. We had burgers at a great place downtown, Grill Marks. I’m glad the burger was huge ’cause it was awesome. Downtown Greenville is a super cool area. I could live there. Later, Melba & I hooked up with her friends Cathy & Dan for tacos & beers. I think there was something wrong with the time because it passed way too quickly. Before I knew it, I needed to get headed back up the hill because it was going to get dark and rain was on the way. I made it up the windy roads before the storm closed in. Friday was a highlight of my trip; I’m so glad I got to hang out with such a good friend and to meet a couple new ones. Thanks, Melba!

Nashville

I headed out early and before long Siri & CarPlay steered me onto narrow mountain roads. Before I was afraid I’d need to throw the transmission into four-wheel drive, I stopped, turned around, turned Siri off, and charted my own route. Ha, I guess I didn’t do much better because I got the sense I was headed the wrong direction—and I was right. We were Atlanta-bound, not headed to Nashville. Course altered again, I wound my way through Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The drive along the Ococee River was particularly nice. Looked like great rafting. Once I finally hit Chattanooga it was then a long slog north to Nashville. By the time I hit the mediocre KOA in north Nashville, I was done driving for a while and didn’t even go back into Nashville to kick around. Spent Sunday watching Webb Simpson win the Players. Congrats to a solid, Christian guy! On my way out of Nashville in the morning I had breakfast at Loveless Cafe. Great BBQ pork omelette—the restaurant lives up to its reputation. Very good.

Natchez Trace Parkway
After eating I eased onto the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Trace isn’t as grand as the BRP but it’s very nice. A great, easy drive through woods & fields. Lots of pullouts and places to stretch your legs. I saw several pheasant, a turkey, a red tail hawk (who just missed my windshield) and two snakes in the middle of the road who gave their all for scavenger birds. The Trace is another wonderful road managed by the National Park Service. I over-nighted at the National Forest Service campground at Davis Lake near Tupelo. It was the best $20 I’d spent on a night’s lodging.

After another easy drive from Davis Lake headed south, including a  walk through a cool Cypress Swamp, I landed in Jackson where I repeated my FedEx Office printing and AAA notarizing to make the county officials in California happy. Hopefully the bums will accept this version…

The rest of the trip will be a straightforward run from Jackson with stops in Shreveport and Tyler State Park in Texas, then to my campsite in front of Julie & Brad’s home for a couple nights until I check back into my homesite at the Vineyards in Grapevine. One more post about this trip will be coming at you in the next couple days. Then I’m hanging low for a while. Looking forward to a trip to Ruidoso with two good friends and then, in mid June, a week at Table Rock Lake in Missouri and from there onto the great North and Northeast. That’s the plan, anyway! Stay tuned.