Monday, September 30, 2013

2013-33 LaGrange & West Point Georgia


La Grange Georgia
West Point Georgia

best campsite of the season
Campground:  R Shaefer Heard, Shaefer Heard Park Rd.  West Point Ga 31833.  This is an Army Corp campground on West Point Lake.  $14 senior rate, 50amp & water.  $12 senior rate for 30amp. Sites.  Sites are large with deep back in sites and a few pull-thru sites.  Most along the waters edge.

Distance traveled:  108 miles

Rome to West Point Georgia

Now that’s the kind of traveling I like to do between campsites,  108 miles.  Doesn’t sound like much driving as I took highway 27 through this western sections of Georgia, bypassing Atlanta and the horrid hwy 75.  You know, that north south interstate that is always heavily trafficked.  Actually, because I waited to get on the road this morning, and speed limits were on average 55-65 mph with sparse traffic on a 4 lane divided country highway it still took over three hours to drive 108 miles.  Ok I did stop for lunch and re-fueling.

Which got me to the campground at a perfect time of day.  I got a campsite in the first small loop around the lake.  My site backs up to the waters edge.  Literally feet away from the water on a small cove that wraps around the campsite.

Without any big plans for the area, I’m going to just putts around.  R Shaefer Heard park is pretty large and of course was created by the Army Corp of Engineers as a part of the dam project.  It’s called a demonstration project and by that they mean they’ve put in just about everything one could want in a park.  Great campsites of course, tennis courts, a large outdoor amphitheater, basket ball courts, playgrounds, boat ramps and swimming areas, you name it.  I did drive over to the dam and took a self guided tour of the hydro dam with it’s two turbine generators.  It has the capability to add one more generator in the future.  The room with the generators like so many others I’ve seen around the country is spotless.  I talked to the cleaning lady and she said she cleans one of the five floors each day.  The dam was completed in 1975 and it’s created West Point lake with I believe 9 other parks around it.  The lake itself is the fullest lake I’ve seen in years so I’d gather the rains this past year on the east coast have been very helpful in filling it up.

At the campground, sitting outside, the air is a warm 80 degrees with a nice breeze coming off the lake.  Shafts of sunlight piercing through the trees warming my legs as I lounge under the campers awning.  A thousand shades of green shimmer as light shines on layers of leaves, branches and trees.  The sound of crickets, birds and critters scuffling through the pine nettle layers on the ground.  The subtle smell of pine needles drying out after damp foggy nights.  These are the ingredients of a campsite deep in the woods of a Georgia lakeside park.  I add my own sounds with music from the Dean Martin era of music, old country tunes from the likes of Patsy Cline and Gene Autry adding the soundtrack from simpler days bringing them into the present.  A good book to enjoy.  And that’s pretty much my ideal of camping.  Then a neighbor across the way turns on his leaf blower, whirring it’s high pitched sound as dried leaves going flying from his campsite.  Some folks just can’t let nature take it’s course. A short while later silence descends.  The cawing of a crow high up in the tree tops signals the sounds of nature have returned.

I visit with a middle aged couple next door camping in their 39 foot 5th wheel camper, a real dozy of  a camper.  It’s there third camper and they finally made a list of everything they wanted and ended up with this really big camper.  She calls it her retirement home, though I think they both have quite a few years to go before retirement.

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I was going to take some pictures of a statue in the center of LaGrange, but when I got there they were decorating the whole town square in pink.  Felt kind of sorry for the distinguished looking statue with it’s glittering pink ribbon over one raised arm.  It just didn’t look very dignified, even though it is for a good cause.  Later as I drove past on my way back to the campground, I noticed they even dyed the water in the fountain pink.

Changes have been coming to this area of Georgia.  A new Wal-Mart distribution center has recently been built adding more jobs.  Have you ever seen how large those warehouses are?  And a new Kia car manufacturing factory has been built.  Now talk about big.  It seemed to go on forever sitting right along side Interstate hwy 85,  bringing lots of good jobs to an otherwise downtrodden area.  I tried to get a tour of the facility, but because it is so new, they haven’t started giving tours yet.  I noticed that the old clothing mills are being torn down in the towns of Lanett and West Point.  Once the factories of the region, they have been empty for years.  Imposing brick structures.  Many were easily 4 and 5 stories high with multi paned windows and water towers.  Railroads once ran next to them delivering raw cotton and shipping out final products to stores across the country.

the old clothing mills are being torn down

yucky laudromat
I did go into West Point over the weekend to do laundry and ended up at the worst looking Laundromat I’ve ever been too.  Some of the machines were outside, no tables for folding your clothes and mostly ancient machines.  Exposed pipes and backs of washing machines exposed like something from a bad grunge movie.  Mostly black clientele with some of the cutest looking little kids I’ve ever seen and blue collar workers.  Felt bad that this is all they have available locally for cleaning their clothes.

I even made it over to Callaway Gardens.  It was pretty much what I expected.  The gardens are really more of a wooded preserve with a couple nice building in between.  A “Discovery” center that acts as the visitor center as I didn’t really see much to discover.  A butterfly exhibit and a Horticulture building with arid and tropical plants.  It’s not what one would expect of a garden in that they only have azaleas and rhododendrons in the early spring and summer.  No profusion of flowers.  Callaway Gardens surrounds a manmade lake and they’ve added a large but not very inspiring golf course, homes are now for sale within the park and I believe rental units as well.  I wouldn’t put it as a top destination for travelers.  

along the tour route inside Calaway Gardens


my favorite new toy
Well if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know how I love electronic gadgets.  What’s neat is that they all seem to be getting really small and compact, making for an easy move into the Rv (limited space) lifestyle.

Previously I purchased the small Rabbit USB device that permits me to access tons of TV shows for $10 a year on my laptop computer as long as I have 4G internet service.  The only problem was, was that I had to connect my laptop to the TV so that I could watch those programs on a bigger screen than the laptop.

Well, I just got my Chromecast USB device in the mail the other day, and with very little setup, I can now port  TV shows or anything I’m looking at on the internet to my TV without wires.  What a great little device.  Now it does require use of Google’s Chrome to be able to port the internet to the TV, but I’ve been using Chrome instead of Microsoft Explorer for a number of years so it was no problem for me.  I currently don’t have 4G service, only 3G, but I was still able to set up Chromecast and view my Picasa pictures on the TV without the need to connect my laptop physically to the TV.  Chromecast uses the wi-fi interface.

So this is basically how it works:

I use my Droid phone as my Internet wi-fi Hotspot.  If you have a high-speed internet connection at home that would work even better.
The Chromecast device in plugged into the back of the TV in one of the HDMI ports.  (It stays on all the time)
I then turn on my laptop and look for a movie or TV show.  Google Chrome has a little icon in the upper right hand corner that looks like a small video screen.  I click on it and tah-dah, it shows up on the TV.

Chromecast also is integrated into Netflix and YouTube and they say they will be adding more programs in the future.

What a great little device to port internet stuff to ones TV with just the click of a button.  And no wires is even better.  Oh, the cost:  $39

Not much of a report this week, but that’s what’s going on in my life on the open road in Georgia.

PS: I should have some really great news for next weeks report.

more photos on PICASA

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013-32 Rome Georgia


Rome Georgia

Campground: lock and dam trading post, 181 lock & dam rd. Rome Georgia.  $22 elect/water (many are pull-thrus).  $24 full hookups with picnic table pavilions and back up to river and dam.  This used to be a Passport America campground but they’ve dropped out.  They messed up my reservation so I got a premium site for the cheaper price.

Lock and Dam park, Rome Georgia

the paddle boat once plied these waters

the old lock, no longer used.

a homemade pontoon boat

Distance Traveled:  200 miles

Pigeon Forge to Rome GA

Before leaving the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, I got word that the biopsy on my nose was benign and I wouldn’t need surgery.  Great news as I continued to enjoy this eastern Tennessee area.  Friends Ben and Walt stopped by and we had a great visit catching up.  They’re some of my Florida buddies and it was nice to see them again.

I also stopped at a thrift store and got a couple of great bargains, including two thin spruce type Christmas trees about four and a half feet tall.  They will fit perfectly on either side of the fireplace for Christmas.  A real bargain at $7 each since they normally run in the $45 range.  I have to start collecting decorations for Halloween and Christmas as well as I gave all my decorations away when I moved into the smaller/newer camper.  Should be fun searching for all those bargains once again, but only for what will fit the camper.

I headed out around 8:30 this morning and ended up traveling all the major highways including Interstate 75. Never a favorite road to travel, but at least the heavy traffic was moving and there weren't any idiots on the road.  I arrived at my next campsite here in Rome Georgia.  The Lock and Dam campground is a county park.  It’s a nice location in Northern Georgia.

the Manual Labor School

window into the Baptist Church built by slaves

The next day I did a bit of exploring, heading down the back roads to a small town called Cave Spring .  And yes, it has a cave right in town in a park called Cave Springs Rolater Park.  A natural spring comes out of the cave providing fresh spring water for the entire town, enough to fill a swimming pond in the shape of Georgia and a duck pond.  I headed towards a large two story building rather Greek Revival looking to me.  With it’s high ceilings and large oversized  paned windows.  One of the council members was coming out of the building and told me about it’s history.  It was started as a Manual Labor School, teaching farming skills and other methods of making a living to the students.  Later it became the Hearn Academy, a prep school for college.  Today, the city owns it and uses it for weddings and other large functions.  The Baptist church right next door was built in 1851 from bricks made by local slaves and was the original church before they built a larger church across the street.  The council member remembered when the black folks sat in the balcony for church services.

the castle structure is the entrance to the cave

filling water jugs with free spring water

back end of the old Baptist Church.  Slaved made the bricks.

I walked around the duck pond towards the cave entrance and saw a few locals filling jugs of water from the clear spring waters.  A man was walking away and asked the two ladies to pray for his family.  One of the ladies said “we all need prayer don’t we”.  As I approached and started a conversation, the one gal filling her jugs with water started to tell her story after I inquired about the cave.  She had never gone inside of it since she has only lived in the town for 7 years after her husband of many years had died.  While they were married he was called to the Lord to become a preacher and after fighting the notion, he finally became ordained.  She had prayed to the Lord what to do after her husband passed away and was led back to the arms of her new husband whom she had dated back when she was 17.  He had gone off to war, she married someone else and when he came back also married.  Both their spouses died and they got back together with the Lords blessing.  Her friend, dressed in a pink dress, light white knitted sweater and huge curlers in her hair, which were covered discretely by a pink scarf reiterated that her friend was previously married to a preacher and they were all blessed to have her now living in their little town of Cave Spring.  They of course invited me to their reformed church just down the road in the next town over.  They were blessed left and right with every sentence spoken.  I left just as they were about ready to grill me on the who what and where of my life.

Georgia slang

I was going to do a bit of touring in Rome Georgia, but it has rained all day Saturday and so I’ll close on a wet note.  Of course I did wash my truck for the first time in months yesterday and you know it always seems to rain after doing such a chore.  Your welcome for the rain Georgia.

found in an antique shop in Cave Spring Ga.  the owner makes
these from all the jewelry she collects.

More photos on Picasa.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013-31 Pigeon Forge Tennessee


Pigeon Forge Tennessee

detail of shingled roof

Campground:  Eagles Nest.  $22.17 (Passport rate) 50 amp, full hookup w/cable tv.  Cheaper if you insist on 30amp.  Small swimming pool and nice grassy shaded sites for tenters. A bit overpriced for my tastes.

Distance Traveled:  222 miles

I haven’t given an update on my use of vitamin D in quite some time.  You know, many folks hear about the curative powers of a vitamin and use it for a while and then before you know it, something else comes along and they jump on that band wagon.  For me, vitamin D has been a true God-send.  If you recall from some of my older posts, I had had a really bad back.  Lot of back pain, eventually migrating into my joints in my arms, hips etc.  I couldn’t find a bed that was comfortable, well you know the story if you have had back pain in the past.  Since I started taking vitamin D, since I was extremely deficient in it, all those aches and pains have vanished.  What a relief.  I take one gel pill with 5,000 iu’s of  vitamin D3 daily and it has truly saved me from the miserable pain I was once in.

An interesting side effect is that over the past couple of years all those “liver spots”, at least that’s what we always called them on ones hands as one gets older, have all disappeared.  I’m not sure if the vitamin D did it as I also started taking a multivitamin regularly and extra vitamin B12 as well.  But what ever is was, it has been a pleasant surprise.  Now please do check with your own Doctor before taking a vitamin D supplement as it’s one of the vitamins that one can overdose on which would not be good.  They can do blood tests to determine if you’re deficient in vitamin D.  You know, a more “mature” body does not mean you have to live with more aches and pain.  Of course good eating habits and exercise help too.  Ok, I know, I could do more of the last two myself.

Pigeon Forge.

That 222 mile drive took all morning long, much of it on the southern end of hwy 23 heading through Kentucky and the western tip of West Virginia.  The 4 lane road narrowed a bit but was still doable with a camper and traffic wasn’t heavy.  With a final turn westerly on Interstate 81. 81 is a very well maintained interstate highway and I enjoyed the drive immensely.  A stop along the way at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant that are very prevalent in this area made for a good lunch break and the Rv parking is always a plus.

The scenery went from deep hollows and heavily forested mountains that seemed to be right on top of me, to wider valleys and the larger more impressive Smokey Mountains.  Always with that bluish haze that seems to drape the mountains.

Since Dolly Parton opened Dollywood here in Pigeon Forge, the area has expanded and the town itself has become very touristy with all of it’s big country music themed theatres, big Believe-it-or-Not type attractions, numerous go cart, mini golf course and zip-line adventures to fill more than a few towns across the country.  Oh and tons of eateries but to me the ultimate draw are the Smokey Mountains with it‘s driving tours and multiple hiking trails.  Cades Cove is my all time favorite.  Frozen in time, it’s a great way to explore our country's heritage in this secluded Smokey Mountain cove, preserved as a part of our National Park System.  Having all that entertainment and nature at your back door makes for a really nice combination for a vacation getaway.  For the Rv-er, there are quite a few RV campgrounds in the area as well.  

Since I was on a health kick earlier in this Blog post, I may as well continue and let you know that sometimes we full time Rv-ers also need to get out check ups.  Over the summer I’d been noticing that I have a recurring spot on my nose.  So while in the Knoxville area, I made an appointment to see a dermatologist.  Too many years of enjoying Florida’s sun has given me multiple skin cancers.  Each taken care of through surgery, freezing or face peels.  The Dr. took a biopsy today and I’ll know if more surgery is needed to remove any cancer cells by next Monday.  I also went in for my flu shot today as well since it was on my mind.  The Druggist said they’d already had reports of flu in the Knoxville area so it may be an early season for the flu.  I’m fortunate to have good health coverage that permits me to go to any Dr. anywhere across the country.  For other RV-ers, they must make Doctors appointments when at a home-base and sometimes delay travel due to those appointments.

After all that stuff, I finally was able to take a day and drive up into Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.  Gatlinburg is the town sitting right on the edge of the Great Smokies and is considered the home base for many people exploring this area.  Tourist hotels hugging the sides of the mountains, crooked winding streets lined with tourist shops of all sorts and of course this area and Pigeon forge is home to many rental cabin properties as well.  On the edge of Gatlinburg is one of many drives into the Great Smokies and my destination today is the Roaming Fork Auto Tour.  It’s a narrow well paved single lane road that loops up and around and through the Great Smoky Mountains.  A wonderful booklet is available at the entrance to this Auto Tour route which explains the pioneering history of the area with well marked stopping points along the way.  The day started out with a thick mist hanging over the mountains.  The single lane road is shrouded with trees right up to the edge of the sometimes steep and twisting route creating a canopy of shade and mystery.  The first couple stops were overlooks back down into the deep forested valleys and mountains off in the distance with that blue ridge mist hugging the tree tops.  After turning off the engine and stepping away from the truck, I was enveloped in silence.  So quite that I all I could hear was the soft padding of my tennis shoes as I walked along the edge of the viewing area.  I stopped walking and stood in the stillness of it all.  Silence so deep and peaceful I continued to enjoy it just a bit longer before finally moving again.  Stopping once again to make sure it was real.  The stillness of it all enveloping me once again.  What an experience.

1st stop along the Roaring Fork Auto Tour

Back in the truck, heading to the next site, often not seeing the road for a brief moment as it went over a hill.  The big hood of the truck being the only thing I could see and the trees surrounding me.  Occasionally on the tighter turns, remember it’s only a single lane road, I would see the hood of the truck appear to go over the edge of the road as I turned a corner.  It didn’t actually go over the edge, at least I don’t think it did, but it made for some most dramatic scenes at times as I wound my way up the side of the mountain trail.  And with many of the trees right on the edge of the road, I couldn’t have gone off the road if I had wanted too.  It’s a diverse forest filled with sweet birch, the tulip tree, black locust, chestnut oak, white oak and magnolia.  Pines are higher up in the forest on dryer ridges.  Streams and cascading small waterfalls fill the park.

A number of the stops were at pioneer settlement cabins with their sheds, barns and corn cribs.  The sun has come out and it feels wonderful out here in the country but these folks were isolated and it would have taken a special effort to visit or go into town as the roads were difficult to walk or even ride a horse on.  With their uneven surfaces and rocks everywhere.  A hard life.  Their homes often had only one window and small doors to help keep the heat in during the long winters.


Coming off the mountain I’m back in civilization with cabins on either side of the mountain stream, through
Gatlinburg and then into Pigeon Forge where traffic has come to a stand still as this is the hot-rod car weekend.  With all these vintage cars lining both sides of the main road through Pigeon Forge.  Cars driving slowing down the main thorofare rubbernecking to see all those hot-rod cars.  Others have lined up chairs along the route and watch the traffic go by.  They tell me later in the afternoon and evening the cars “cruise” the main route into the night.  Making for an almost impossible situation for anyone wanting to partake of any of the shows or amusements along the way.  One family told me it took them two hours to drive to the campsite last night.  A drive that should have only taken about 15 minutes.

One of the newest attractions, a Wax Museum

heavy traffic this weekend, Hot Rod Show

typical hotel in the Pigeon Forge Area

So as a final note, it’s probably a good idea to find out what “events” are taking place the weekend you plan on coming into the area.  Since I’m here for a week, it’s not a problem.  If you’re only coming for a long weekend it could determine whether you enjoy the weekend or not.

More photos on Picasa.