Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017-10 New Bern North Carolina

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New Bern, North Carolina

Campground: Flanners Beach National Forest campground. Neuse River Recreation Area. $13 per night, senior discount. 30Amp. Central water and dump station. 14 over the air tv stations, average Verizon signal.

Now you know before I headed out from Pee Dee St pk I had too find a little something to write about. I could have gone to Myrtle Beach which is about an hour and twenty minutes from the park. But I'll have my share of shoreline adventures in the next week or so, so instead, I went into the small town of Mullins where they have a tobacco museum. The history of the spread of tobacco is most interesting. South Carolina was one of the largest producers of tobacco and the town of Mullins had numerous warehouses where tobacco would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Today, the tobacco companies purchase the tobacco before it's even planted in the ground for the season. And many of the tobacco companies have moved off shore, due to all the lawsuits against them. My tour guide told me his family was given 7,000 acres of land in South Carolina by the King of England. Lots of history there. And the tour was filled with little bits of information. The tobacco seed is one of the smallest seeds of any plant and a small thimbleful would be enough to plant an entire field. My tour guide did not go into the history of the American Indian who gave the first samples of tobacco to the Europeans. It's interesting to note that there is no evidence that the Native American Indian was ever widely addicted to tobacco. Using it only for special occasions, the peace pipe ceremony being the most well known. The healer/shaman were the only ones who were addicted to tobacco as they would have used it most often for their various rituals and practices. Numerous examples of people who lived to be 100 or more and smoked were provided to show that tobacco isn't all that bad.

hanging tobacco to dry 

painting of the last tobacco auction performed in town

Distance traveled: 169 miles

from Pee Dee St Park SC to New Burn North Carolina, MAP

New Bern, NC

Traveling through North Carolina, along many country roads, as usual avoiding the major highways, it was a hopscotch pattern of roads that only a good GPS signal could navigate. Passing through the occasional swamps dotted with cypress trees, small farms and rarely a cross roads town. I would be driving for most of 4 hours before I got to my National Forest destination, not far from New Bern North Carolina and the Marine Corp Air Station, Cherry Point. One of the military bases I used to visit as a Logistics manager for the Water Survival Trainers.

down the road from my National forest campground
is the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point

Flanners Beach National Forest campground
Not many National forests have campsites with electric hookups so finding this one is a real gem of a find. It's also close to the outer bank islands which I'll visit in the next day or so. My campsite isn't terribly large, but does have lots of vegetation surrounding it, providing me with as much privacy as I care to have. Besides, I'm directly across from the restrooms and showers which I'll take advantage of on this leg of my journey. Especially since I don't have a water connection at the campsite, instead using my on-board holding tanks.

New Bern

Tryon Palace

A fifteen minute drive from my campsite and I'm in the historic town of New Bern. It sits between two rivers and contains tons of historic homes, almost all of them well maintained and many available on tour. The Governor's Palace (Tryon Palace) is the highlight of the museum experience and is part of a $20 package to see it and a number of other historic buildings. I also took a trolley tour, another $20 for a 90 minute tour. I started my morning at the cafe in the Regional History museum where one picks up their tickets for most of the tours. Had to have a bit of breakfast and coffee before heading out to all the tours.

the guided tour begins

two wings off of main Palace, this is the only
original building remaining... no tours of inside

guest bedroom 

Tryon Palace library

all rooms are recreations of the original
as the building burned to the ground

Here are my impressions. The Tryon Palace, 1770, 1st permanently capital of North Carolina is an impressive looking building. Unfortunately it is a recreation of the original which burned down in 1798 and was rebuilt in 1959. none of the original furniture, wall coverings or even paint colors are true to the original. Overall a bit of a disappointment for me as I prefer to see the original bldgs restored....

The trolley tour came next. We sat for about 15 minutes at the starting gate as our tour guide enjoyed telling stories and hearing her own voice. Traveling through the historic district stopping at a dozen buildings and a grave site where we got out of the trolley but never actually entered the grave yard. Our guide continued to tell her own personal story of discovering New Bern. The route only encompassed about 4 or 5 blocks and was a disappointment overall.

Taking a break from touring I enjoyed a good seafood lunch directly across from the history center, where I continued my tour. The museum almost feels like an afterthought as one walks through a large multi-story high, expansive entry space (filled with nothing except the reception desk) back through a wide hallway where I come across dark glass doors on either side of the hall. I finally pick the history museum door. The history museum consisted of a lot of static enlarged photos, board displays and multiple audio buttons of your choosing. Overall a disappointment.

house tours

historic house tour, ship-lap siding is original

the Tailor's House, part of tour 

Brad's Drink, original name of Pepsi-Cola
founded in New Bern NC
getting ready to celebrate the 150 yr anniversary
lots of different style homes

houses along the trolley tour

So many churches abound in the downtown area

Back outside I toured two more historic houses. The John W. Stanley House which had been moved at least three times and was one of the most original of all the homes on the tour. Though at one time the home was converted into the towns Library. Once again the furnishings were not original to the house but were period pieces. This is the home Washington slept in while on a tour of North Carolina in 1791. Walking on the NC pine floors and touching the banister that George Washington would have used once again brought me “in touch” with history as only a tour like this can do.

The last house was the George Dixon House, a local tailor. The story revolving around a successful tailor and his use of indigent children who were scripted to his service because families could not afford to keep them, or as training a program for a career as a tailor. All went well until Dixon overextended himself in building and furnishing the house, just as a depression took hold. Little was known about Dixon as almost no records could be found about his life. So what little has been gleaned through research helps to fill in the story surrounding this house.

New Bern is the town where Pepsi-Cola was invented by Caleb Bradham in 1898 and was originally called, “Brad's Drink”. Later, even though the drink was wildly successful, the enterprise would go bankrupt. No Pepsi-Cola manufacturing remains in town, however I understand once a year the board members of Pepsi arrive in town for a meeting. The board members fly in on their private or corporate Lear Jets and the town is very grateful that a large company still remembers it's beginnings here in New Bern NC. Ironically the restaurant that I have lunch in, has Coca-Cola prominently displayed on all of their tables.

New Bern, historic theatre, still in use

many buildings downtown appear to have apartments
still in use on the second and third floors

Brad's drink, before being renamed Pepsi-Cola

a wonderful downtown restaurant

a lucky bird has made his nest
in a pent-house setting

Even though I would have to rate the tours relatively low, the town itself has a vibrant downtown shopping area and overall it's a great town to tour on ones own. With lots of photo opportunities of historic homes, waterfront scenes and even a train passing through the heart of town.

Atlantic Beach

some were for sale

a beach-side restaurant

rarely seen along valuable ocean front beaches.
Atlantic beach still holds onto a simpler life

About a 45 minute drive and I've arrived at Atlantic Beach on a barrier island called "the Outer Banks" off of Morehead City on the mainland. I already like this beach-side community as it appears frozen in time back to the 60's and 70's. A mix of beach houses, festively painted mobile homes lined up like a Bahamian village and of course the miles of beaches. None of the tall high rises that one sees on more popular beach destinations. At the end of the peninsula is Fort Macon and public beaches, both are my destination for the day. A quick tour of the fort which should have been built earlier than it's 1826 date as the Carolina coast was vulnerable to Blackbeard and other pirates, successive wars with Spain, France and Great Britain. Beaufort was plundered by Spain and the British in 1747 and 1782. The fort would eventually be taken over by the Union soldiers during the Civil War. But enough of that, to me the best part was a romp on the beach. With umbrella for shade and lots of sunscreen I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day at the beach. Warm and breezy, walking along the waters edge, the water surprisingly warm for the end of May. Boats of all kinds traveling through the inlet, sailboats, cabin cruisers, fishing boats of all sizes and a few commercial sized vessels as well. The feel of warm sand on bare feet. What a life. Couldn't stay all that long, having had numerous skin cancer surgeries, but every moment was special in the sun by the sea.

Fort Macon

WWII soldiers in training at the fort

main entrance to the fort
and finally, a perfect day to be at the beach

Next stop: Winsor North Carolina

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

2017-9 From Georgia to South Carolina


Marion South Carolina
one of many small rural towns along the way
great little antique shop in former bank

South Carolina

Campground: Mr Z's Rv park, Gilbert SC. $20 50 amp service, full-hookups. Cable TV and wi-fi available though I wasn't able to connect to either one. A small park, with swimming pool and laundry facilities. 40+ over the air tv stations. Excellent Verizon signal.

Campground: Little Pee Dee State Park. Electric 30 amp/ water, $18 plus $7.76 reservation fee. Dump station at exit. Lake is empty. 40+ over the air tv stations. Marginal Verizon signal.

from N Georgia to South Carolina

Augusta Georgia

While waiting for the repairs to be done on the camper wheel, I drove over to Harlem Georgia, the hometown of Oliver Hardy. Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892, but after his fathers death in the same year, his mother moved the family to Milledgeville where she became the manager of a hotel. One of the few acceptable careers for a woman. The young Oliver was enthralled with the many troupes of entertainers passing through. Starting him on an early career as an entertainer. The little museum honoring Laurel and Hardy and the many movies they were in. The Columbia theater in town is being remodeled to house a larger Laurel and Hardy museum. While I was at the museum, a group of “mentally challenged” folks came in to watch a Laurel and Hardy movie. Something they often do on a regular basis. Enjoying the slapstick humor and simple stories. A little museum providing a service to the community and special group of people.

After repairs to the camper were made, at a cost exceeding one thousand dollars, I was ready to head out of town. Well not really, I could have easily stayed at the COE campground as the lake views were awesome. But I did head out onto Interstate 20 and only had to put up with a minor delay due to construction on the highway.

camper repairs
channel bearing cracked
destroyed brakes 

the parts weren't all that expensive
it's all in the labor costs....

little me

on the road with Laurel and Hardy

South Carolina, Lexington
Distance Traveled: 89 miles

This is a minor stop, being that I didn't get on the road till after 1:30 in the afternoon and I didn't want to drive all that far. During my short stay at Mr. Z's campground, I'm making reservations and discovering that North Carolina in particular has had lots of recent flooding and many of the campgrounds I'd normally stay at are closed due to damage from all the flooding. At this point I have all but 5 days reserved. And I may just wing it and try staying in a National Forest campground along the way. Possibly with no electric but with my solar panels, I should be able to handle it. Of course that depends on how hot it will be. Temps are expected to be in the 90's this week and onward.

RV camping info: I rely heavily on a couple of internet web sites and apps to find suitable campgrounds along my intended route. Recently I've been relying heavily on Passport America, Rvparky and Ultimate Campgrounds. I usually follow up with RV Park Reviews to see what others say about a campground I'm considering, as well as using Google maps/satellite images to zoom in on a campground to get a better feel for the place.

Distance Traveled: 134 miles
on the boarder between South Carolina and North Carolina


  • roads in South Carolina are in terrible shape. From major highways, state roads, county roads and even the state park roads look like they haven't been paved in 20 years or more. A 2 cent tax increase on gas was just approved and will go towards road improvements. Long overdue.
  • While in Columbia SC at their history museum, it mentioned how cotton was king. But around 1920 or there abouts, the boll-weevil arrived and decimated the cotton crops. Not only destroying the cotton, but closing the hundreds of textile mills throughout South Carolina
  • The museum also has a large exhibit on India's culture. Why you ask? Because their recent governor, Nikki Haley was born in India. After her parents moved to the U.S. She eventually became the governor of South Carolina and is now the U.S. Representative at the U.N.
  • I previously mentioned the bark beetle as having destroyed many of the pine trees in the norther Georgia. One of the camphosts said he and his wife had a house built about 6 years ago. A couple years later, he discovered the entire back of the house was infested with pine bark beetle larva. The original contractor had to tear out the entire back wall to his two story house and replace it.

great collection of telescopes from the 19th century

the Indian influence in South Carolina

Nikki Haley, former Governor, U.N Representative
born in India and migrated with parents to SC

solid silver

South Carolina Science/history Museum
in former textile mill

a cypress canoe, still attached to the tree stump
unfinished and found at bottom of river

oh how I remember my first transistor radio
the beginning of my love of  all things tech...

big displays, weak on followup info

I ended up driving a portion of I-20, but got off when it merged into I-95, an interstate highway I try to avoid at all costs. The final rural route to Pee-Dee State park was very remote, traveling past small country farms with everything from corn, rye, wheat, cabbage, strawberries, onions, I saw it all. Including a number of small cattle farms. The campground, named after the Pee Dee Indian Tribe is much like an old country campground or fish camp in appearance. The main road leading into the park is so worn down that the gravel is poking through the once paved road. The campground loops are all sandy with mainly pine trees between sites. The main feature being the lake, which is currently empty as the earthen dam was breached in two spots during last years hurricane Mathew and it has not been repaired as of yet. Even part of US 41 is closed due to repairs being made to a bridge.

Hurricane Mathew damage

the earthen dam was damaged in two places

Pee Dee State Park, 30 amp electric/water

the lake is empty after damage from the hurricane of last year

I drove into Mullins, a small southern town worn down and tired. Had lunch at the Garden Alley. One of those local places in the south noted for their buffet lunch with lots of collard greens, catfish and fried chicken. The building was most odd, it that it was probably only about 15 feet wide and a couple hundred feet in length. Definitely a local hangout and of course I enjoyed a simple hearty meal. Barely visible from the main street.

You might be wondering about the name of the park I'm in, Pee Dee State Park. It's named after a local Native Indian tribe who were so named by the English who first arrived in the area. Giving the Indian tribe the name Pee Dee as well as the river and region it's name. It wasn't until 2006 that the U.S. Government gave certified recognition of the tribe. The tribe having only a small population as with most Indian tribes who perished due to European diseases etc.

Heading into North Carolina next week

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