Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia, March 30-th till April 14-th.
Last night we had a big thunderstorm with heavy rain but when we get up on Friday March 30th at half past seven it’s dry but the ground around us steams. Before we leave I do some laundry and it takes a little longer than planned because one of the dryers is not working properly, so we need to dry again, but at half past 10 we are on our way. Actually we want to look in the Little Grand Canyon, close by, but at the entrance is a line of at least 15 cars, so we drive on. Another year we will see this rock formations.
At half past 12 we arrive in Andersonville. Three years ago we already saw the Prisoner of War museum and now we look at the impressive film about this prison camp from the civil war. It is unbelievable that on these not too large grounds more than 35000 Union soldiers were imprisoned during the Civil War. The living conditions were very poor and there was hardly any food. More than 13000 soldiers died here. After the surrender of the Confederate forces, the survivors of this camp went back to the north, hired a ship that exploded so another 8000 soldiers died. Then it’s really your time. Just like the concentration camps in Europe, this is a place you must visit. After looking around for two hours we continue our trip and go to Perry, Georgia, where we stay at Walmart for the night. Dick can publish again while I start with the translation of our new text. It’s a good thing when Sandra and Rene made this website for us 6 years ago, we did not know what time it would take. Maybe we never ever started a website.
After a quiet night at the parking lot we drive to the North. Near Macon is the Cache Across America of Georgia and we want to find this one. It is in a forest near a power station. The river is pouring down with thundering noise over a cliff. After a steep descent through the forest we find the cache across America and a bit further is another nice cache, hidden amidst huge boulders Two vultures look at us when we climb the boulders overlooking the river to find the cache and at a distance 10 feet they fly away. What an enormous bird. After the beautiful walk, actually more of a climb, through the forest we arrive back at the RV. All day it acts weird, it jerks and vibrates in a way we actually are not used to. Half an hour later all of a sudden we hear: plok, plok, plok, plumb, plumb. The reason of the weird behavior? Fortunately, Dick almost instantly can stop, our right rear tire is completely flat.
We always have a heavy jack with us so in no time Dick changes the wheel. I don’t count the time we need to empty almost the entire garage to get this Jack and our spare tire. Today is Good Friday and we do not want to continue without a spare tire so we look for a nearby town: it is Jackson and we go there. We find a small shop and the owner inspects our wheel, then he comes up with two new tires. Unfortunately the carrying capacity (2750 pounds) is less than our current tires from Alaska (3080 pounds) but in Europe we always had that capacity. Within half an hour, there are two new rear tires on the car and we can continue our journey. We don’t want to drive much longer but in the wider area south of Atlanta is no campground or state park so we try some Walmarts. After asking 4 Walmarts (everywhere, it is forbidden to stay overnight), we arrive on the west side of Atlanta. In Newnan is a Walmart that does not allow to stay overnight but when the Walmart Mrs. says that RV’s stay regular overnight, we do not need more encouragement and we park our RV. We call it a day!
Fortunately Applebee is nearby, we don’t want to cook, and Dick finally gets his steak. After a good meal we walk back to the RV and read our thrilling books. It’s not a quiet Walmart because from half past 10 till 12 and from 4 till 5 am a vacuum car cleans the parking lot, it really makes a lot of noise. But that’s life at Walmart. On eastern Sunday, April 1st, we get up early. We want to drive to Marietta from where we can take the bus to down town Atlanta. Unfortunately when we arrive in the morning, the campground in Marietta is full and there is no possibility to stay. We try to find a place in Austell but it’s full there too (still Spring break) so we drive on. Unfortunately, this year no visit to Atlanta because a trip with the RV to down town and park there is not an option. Slowly we drive further North. On the map we have seen a State Park.
Just before we arrive there, we pass a beautiful County Park along the river. Very tempting and there is one place available. We don’t hesitate and after we paid at the Clark Creek County office we are allowed to enter the park and the rest of the afternoon I am behind the laptop, sitting at the river and finish the English translation. It’s beautiful weather, steel blue sky and the Sun is shining. What a nice spot. It’s good that Dick said he wanted to stay here for two days. Until late in the evening we sit outside, enjoy the summer evening and the boats sailing along. Monday April 2nd we get up early, the birds are chirping and wake us up. After a good shower on the campground (the handicapped shower has two shower heads) we look at the route for the coming days. We are on schedule and without further disaster, we would have enough time to reach Baltimore on time. And then I manage to skype with auntie Ank. Kinda nice because now we can exchange some gossip. After an hour we stop, it’s now to Dick to publish the English text (Yes, it’s ready). The rest of the day, it is already afternoon, we walk around in this nice County Park (each spot is along the waterfront) and of course we read our books. Because of the warm weather we can eat outside and stay outside until late in the evening. It’s not cooling down a lot.
Tuesday April 3rd it’s pretty cloudy and the Sun struggles to get through. When we walk to the toilet building it’s only 58 degrees. It heats up when we drive because at 11 am the Sun starts shining. We are now in the town of Flowery Branch, GA, where we drop a Travel bug in a cache that wanted to be dropped in this town. A small effort for us because we passed this town. We wonder how long it took this travel bug to arrive here from Washington State where they dropped this one. We don’t manage to reach Franklin in North Carolina today so we stop at the Walmart in Clayton, Georgia where we have a beautiful spot
The parking lot is high above town and has views at the Blue mountains. Despite the shining Sun it feels cool because of the cold blowing wind. We are back in the mountains. At night there is a thunder storm with a lot of rain so we are glad we stay on a concrete floor. It is incredibly quiet on this parking lot so we sleep like baby’s.
Before going to bed I have to remove a tick on Dick’s buttock. This tick already digged in deeply but thanks to some “Tick Remover tools” I manage to remove the tick alive. After breakfast on Wednesday, April 4th we drive to the local laundromat before crossing the border with North Carolina. From there it is only 14 miles to Mike and Dee’s house. When we enter their street they already greet us. While Dick and Mike put the RV on the driveway of their property, almost an acre, I already enter the house and then we look around at their new home. It’s magnificent and there is a beautiful view of the nearby Smokey Mountains. The House is spacious and large and surrounded by gardens and yet within walking distance to down town Franklin. We did not see each other for three years so there’s a lot to talk about and the rest of the afternoon flies. After a delicious meal, Mike prepares the meat on the grill and Dee makes baked potatoes in the oven, we talk and talk and talk but at 10 pm we go to bed. Here in the middle of the Smokey mountains it’s much colder than on the Southern Plains we just left. The altitude is 2160 feet. At night, for the first time in weeks our heating starts because the temperature dropped to 40 degrees.
Thursday April 5th we get up early; we go to the mountains and as John Muir said: “The mountains are calling so I have to go”. There is no electricity (a brake down somewhere) and lots of people in Franklin are without power. Instead of having breakfast at home we take Mike’s new car and drive to Clayton, Georgia to have breakfast at the Huddle house. I try Grits, it tastes not bad and reminds me of my early childhood. But it’s not so tempting that I take that, I prefer hash browns, eggs and bread. The food is good and it’s fun to experience a breakfast outside. In Europe we are not used to that. After breakfast we board the beautiful Chrysler 300 and Mike drives into the mountains of North Georgia. It is beautiful here, the Sun is shining and the temperature increased, it’s now 62 degrees.
When we pass a Fish Hatchery we get out. Three types of trouts are hatched here and after admiring Garfield, a yellow colored Brown Trout, which is rare, we may take a look at the smallest trouts, grown indoor in breeding ponds. The small fish get food 8 times a day and double their weight in two weeks. It’s interesting to hear from the ranger how everything works on a hatchery and after seeing the whole process from hatching the eggs till setting the large trouts into the rivers, we leave this hatchery. From here it’s not far to the starting point of the hike to the Ana Ruby Falls.
A beautiful trail leads us to two gorgeous waterfalls. We’re not the only ones hiking today, it’s still spring break and lots of people, attracted by the beautiful weather, climb up the falls. After many pictures at the Falls and along the river we drive to Helen where we buy cereals at a grain mill (so we can make porridge at home) and at a bakery we have a Black Forest Kirsch Torte. The entire village is built in German style and the Torte is really German and taste well, it’s delicious! On our way back home we pass Lake Hiawassee where after some inquiries we find the road to Bell mountain.
A steep road up, very narrow and very winding. With our RV we would never make it up here. We end up near the top of the mountain, walk up the final part and are rewarded with a magnificent view of the surroundings. 360 Degrees around is the mountain world, we see the Blue Mountains and enjoy every different view point. Below us is the Lake with many fingers. For some time we enjoy this beautiful place. Not until the end of the afternoon we drive back to Franklin, North Carolina. After freshened up we leave again to have dinner at the Thai restaurant in Franklin. Three years ago we had dinner here too and it was excellent. Now again we enjoy the good food in this restaurant and of course the great company of Mike and Dee. At home we talk about the good day we had and then go to bed. I don’t feel my pillow, staying outside did its job. Again we are out of bed at 7.15 am on April 6th and after having breakfast we get into Mikes car and drive to Smokey Mountains National Park. The weather is less than yesterday and there are many, many clouds. The sun cannot get through. In a large line of cars we drive higher and higher up the mountains and stop at many viewpoints. Despite the weather we have great views of the Smokey Mountains and see their blue color.
We take the exit to Clingmans Dome where we park the car. There are more clouds, the wind increased and it starts to snow. After buying a jacket in the Visitor Center, no one was prepared for this cold weather, we hike the trail to the dome. It’s a steep trail and we are slowing down, it’s also very busy . The snow is getting thicker and lays on our hair and the ground. It’s also freezing cold, not warmer than 38 degrees and my hands are numb and cold to the bone. But on top of the Dome, we are over 6600 feet, we have an impressive view of the surrounding mountains. After many, many pictures, of course also at the Appalachian Trail which crosses our trail nearly at the top, we walk back to our car where we can warm up. This Chrysler has (on all seats) built in heating and before we know our back glows. In a traffic jam we drive across the Smokey Mountains to the State of Tennessee, take pictures at the border of both States and drive to Gatlinburg.
Because I have a bright yellow hoodie with the name Gatlinburg, we must have been here 6 years ago but we don’t remember this little town. Now it is very busy, people walk and sit everywhere and there are lots of children. It’s a popular destination for a getaway in the Spring break. After the climb and the cold we are hungry so we search for a terrace to sit outside because Purdy (Mike and Dee’s dog) is with us. We look around and find a “Five Guys” restaurant with an outdoor terrace and an empty table. The Sun is shining now and it is great to sit outside. We get a good burger, really, really tasty because they are freshly made and have a good lunch in the Sun. What a nice day, we experience three seasons in a day, winter, spring and now summer. Around 4 pm we leave Gatlinburg (with a new, beautiful, bright yellow hoodie for me) and drive back to Franklin where we arrive two hours later. The meal at Five Guys was so lavish that none of us is hungry so with a glass of wine we talk about this awesome day. Together with Dee I look at the photo albums she made of their adventures in the Adventurer (their RV). Especially the photo book Dee made of dog Purdy is hilarious.
At 10 pm we go to bed, it’s still raining outside. We really were lucky today with the weather. We definitely are in the mountains because at night the temperature falls again and our heating starts. Saturday morning april 7th it is still cool and the clouds cover the sky but there is no rain and it seems to brighten up. After a good breakfast we say goodbye to Dee and Mike. We had wonderful days together.
At 9 am we leave the house and drive towards Asheville. At the visitor center of the Blue Ridge parkway we stop to view the movie about this scenic road. We drove parts of this road 6 years ago but were not really impressed. It was end of march and it was drizzling when we drove here. We soon take the road through Hickory Nut Gorge. This road is very beautiful and winds through a narrow valley. At Chimney Rock we stop to look at this high protruding rock. The road goes straight up and we wonder whether we could drive this with our RV. We decide not to venture. We leave the higher mountains and around us are flowering trees. It’s spring! In Forest City, we call it a day and park our car at Walmart. Unfortunately it starts to rain so we sit inside, read and do our administration. The advantage of Walmart is that there is Wifi so on Sunday April 8th I can congratulate my sister Hannah on her birthday. The service is not good so it’s a short conversation and we continue our trip. It’s is very cold, only 40 degrees. We are longing for the Florida temperatures. But we have to go north and expect low temperatures.
Again there is a cold spell over Washington DC and Baltimore and snow is expected so instead of driving directly to the North we first make a trip to the South East. We found out (actually Mike found out) that the factory of Blenheim Ginger Ale (the strong ginger ale we got from Bob in Montana) is in Hamer, South Carolina and we want to take a look. It brings us through the city of Charlotte.
On the outskirts of Charlotte is the Cache Across America of North Carolina. Finally we find a cache from this series that actually has meaning because it brings us to the place in Mecklenburg where on March 20th 1775 the first “Declaration of Independence” was signed, followed on July 4th 1776 by the other “Declaration of Independence” we know from the history books, signed in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately Billy Graham’s library, he died recently at the age of 99, in Charlotte is closed so we cannot look around. In Fort Mill, just south of Charlotte, is a Cabela. We want to spend the night here and also need new Keens. Our old ones have to replaced after a year of intensive use. We both love this huge outdoor store and walk around. I find nice waders on sale. I love to have this. Great when we have to walk through a river to find a cache. The waders fit perfectly. Unfortunately for Dick we don’t find waders but instead nice sunglasses placed over his glasses. The late lunch we enjoy, a Yeti burger, is a bit too much food so the rest of the day we don’t eat anymore.
The clouds are disappeared and the sun shines again when we finally leave the store late in the afternoon. We enjoyed to see all those beautiful outdoor stuff. We can cherish in the last sun rays. Monday April 9th, the sky is completely covered with clouds and it is only 50 degrees, there’s a little bit of drizzle.
After leaving Fort Mill we stop at the birth house of James Polk, the ninth president of the United States but this historic site is closed on Sundays and Mondays so we drive on. Around us are huge cotton fields and the road is very quiet. We know now that the factory tour of Ginger Ale is by appointment only and only on Friday morning. A souvenir shop in “South of the Border” sells bottles of Ginger Ale but nowhere is a factory to be seen in Hamer, SC. What a disappointment.
We stay overnight in Dillon, South Carolina, of course at Walmart. We are not the only ones here because RV after RV is entering. At one point practically the entire parking lot is filled with RV’s. And we are the smallest RV. It’s still cold and the wind is nasty when we leave Dillon, SC. April 10th. Instead of a factory tour we look for some caches in Hamer (they call it here: South of the Border).
The caches are fun and all different and one is very challenging because Dick is stirring for at least 20 minutes with many different keys and locks to open the cache. At half past 11 we leave Hamer and South Carolina and drive further to the North. Over narrow and hilly roads surrounded by flowering trees we drive to Burlingham in North Carolina. Despite the fact that it is only 3 pm we stop. It gives Dick a chance to log our caches at Walmart and once again I can work on my “shopaholic’s” (not that I buy much).
Now it’s still possible, in three weeks there is no longer a huge store to walk through. I find two movies we wanted to have, one is the movie “12 Years a Slave”. In New Orleans we tried to buy it, but it wasn’t available and the other is: “The Fugitive” filmed in Franklin, near Mike and Dee. We visited the wreckage of the train and bus. Although the parking lot of this Walmart is very quiet and we’re the only RV, so we don’t suffer from loud generators in the huge rigs, a vacuum car is passing in the middle of the night, again. He makes less noise than those in Newnan, GA, but nevertheless we wake up. Wednesday morning we don’t manage to reach auntie Ank on skype so we leave Walmart around 9,30 am and go further north.
The odometer of our RV passed the 62500 miles (100.000 km) and this trip we already drove over 33,000 mile in the USA. The clouds are chased away and the Sun appears around 11 am. Unfortunately the temperature is less than 53 degrees. Again Dick succeeds to find the narrow roads further north.
In Lynchburg we stop at the old cemetery. We want to visit the Pest House, Medical museum. Along a steep narrow road we drive into the cemetery. This road is definitely not suitable for an RV but in one piece we arrive at the museum. The Pest house turns out to be a small house where, during the civil war (many Confederates had infectious diseases) soldiers were treated. Not many doctors wanted to do that but one doctor, Dr. John Jay Terrell, thought it was his duty to help and he kept lots of soldiers alive, by putting layers of sand on the floor of the hospital (he read that in the Bible, easy to swipe away), by painting the walls black (not too bright for the eyes), by cooking his instruments (killed the bacteria) and giving food like sauerkraut.
The mortality rate dropped from 50 to 5 percent. Next to the “pesthouse” is the impressive cemetery, huge fields of graves with poles. Although we expected more, the museum is nevertheless interesting and it brings a piece of history. The city of Lynchburg in Virginia is very hilly and when we try to find a place for the night we drive up and down over narrow and steep roads. Not really suitable for our RV. Eventually we don’t find a campground or a Walmart where we can stay and drive to Appomattox in Virginia where we call it a day. The Sun is shining in full swing and it is 62 degrees so we cherish the late Sunrays and read. Although it seems very quiet here the silence is disturbed at 10 pm. A truck broke down, another truck, consisting only of a generator, arrives and starts to make repairs. Apparently we are so accustomed to noise that we wake up and directly fell asleep.
Thursday, April 12th we fuel up with propane in Appomattox (the nights are so cold that with our current quantity of propane we don’t manage), do our laundry and then drive to the Courthouse Historic Site. On this spot in Appomattox, April 1865, the largest surrender in the American civil war was signed between General Lee of the southern States (the Confederates) and General Grant of the Northern States (the Unions or Federals). Thanks to the wisdom of President Lincoln (he didn’t want to humiliate the Confederates soldiers and let them go home) peace was a fact, officially slavery ended and the reunification could start. Not always easy because the South was ruined and the economy there was built on slavery.
It is impressive to watch the movie over the surrender and the end of the civil war and we walk through the House where the surrender papers were signed. It is unfortunate that a week later president Lincoln was assassinated in Washington DC. Our historic picture about the USA is increasingly colored and more and more the history of this immense country, where we already travel around for almost 3 years, comes to life. In the afternoon we leave this historic place.
Our Hakuna (navigation) is confused in this part of the country. We always choose winding and small roads and now, in spite of the fact that we exclude dirt roads, the Hakuna took very dirt roads. One of them is a forest trail (we could have known, it’s called: forest lane) but because it is dry Dick can drive it. Every now and then I have to push away some trees and Dick manage to stay on the trail and continues driving. One mile from our destination, Bear Creek Lake State Park, the forest trail stops. Because of the thick line of trees it’s impossible to drive any further. Fortunately, there is a turning loop but this loop is steep, sandy and full of deep holes. However, Dick has no choice but to drive, the path is too narrow to reverse. He drives carefully through the holes and the sand and climbs the hill. Several times the wheels are slipping and I am concerned but Dick manage to bring up the RV. We don’t need to use our snow grabbers or chains. We drive the nearly 3 miles back over the bumpy forest trail and arrive at our destination. There is place in the State Park but only for one night.
When we find a nice spot near the lake, we park our RV, grab our GPS and go find some caches hidden along the trails. This State Park is very hilly and we have to climb a lot, partly through the forest partly over trails, but we have a beautiful walk, find our caches and at 7 pm we are back in our RV. Although it was nice and warm, at least 77 degrees, we walked in our shorts, on the campground is a cool breeze and so we sit inside and enjoy a beer. We earned one.
Friday April 13th we get up at 7 am because at 8 am we can check at the office or we can extend our stay. We’re lucky, it’s possible. Not bad because the weather forecasts is good. Today it will be nice and warm and the temperature is around 82 degrees. On Sunday rain is expected. After breakfast, we chat with fellow camping guests and the host. There are very few people on the campground. We take a walk along the Lake and over the Dam built by the CCC in 1938, see a lot of turtles on trunks in the water and find some caches. At 1 pm we are back and in the warm sunshine I am behind my laptop and write. It is time to publish again.