Well, let’s see if I can sum it all up…
We made it to San Carlos!
And without incident. Gotta love that. I pull into our boat slip without a scratch. Yay me!
We get the truck out of storage.
Runs great, but smells funny as soon as the air conditioning starts up. After a couple days with no dissipation, Brian investigates. A mouse had made a snug little nest in both the engine and cabin air filters. Awww… NOT cute. Judging from pee & pellet quantities, he’d moved in permanently. Ah, mouse urine, the new car fragrance. Nice. Our furry antagonist also chewed all the surrounding insulation stuffing to bits…tastes like cotton candy maybe? At least he left the electrical wires alone. Fortunately, AutoZone had the replacement filters and we were breathing free in no time.
12 days putting the boat away.
Wash. Wash. Wash. Remove this. Store that. Hard work. Hot sun. Ho hum. See last year’s post for a detailed blow by blow. It was just like that. Again.
Haul out day.
Motoring the boat over to the launch ramp, I thought I was gliding in just fine. It didn’t feeeel like I was going fast. Turns out, I misjudged. When docking, a boat’s side should kiss the quay, no more than a polite peck; air-kisses are best. Today, Indigo’s port belly collided with the dock in a lengthy, firm, 1950’s movie smooch, complete with sound effects. Ewwww. Gross. And right in front of everyone. So embarrassing. My mistake led to a nice 2ft long, white scratch. Argg. Expletives ensue. Poor me.
BUT…That afternoon with the boat on land, I buff out my scratch. Took an hour of elbow grease; but no one will be the wiser. Whew. Don’t tell anyone.
With the boat put away for another season, we drove and drove and drove. Up to Tucson, veered left to California for a few days, then back across the country through 7 states. Driving is Dull.
3 weeks in Atlanta. Put truck away. Prep van for touring: added 2 solar panels, new solar controller, fixed a stubborn leak in the roof. Fixing stuff is boring. Get to the good part.
4 days with Brian’s dad & wife and their friends camping in northeast GA. Middle of freakin’ nowhere. The campground is an hour away from the nearest town. Not due to proximity, but because one can only drive 10mph… for 7-MILES down a snaking, rutted, gravel road. Lacking 4-wheel-drive, I thought we were going to get stuck in the wilderness for days. But we made it. Primitive sites = no water or electric. But steps away from a babbling brook & fairytale forest, with hardly anyone around, a warm fire, good company and lots of beer. Relaxing. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Next, we spent 3 weeks and 2500 miles traveling Eastern Tennessee. OK, now you’re talkin’.
Wait, 2500 miles? Is that a typo? No. No it’s not.
From Ducktown in the southeast corner, west to Lynchburg in the south central area, then back east through small villages across the Cumberland Plateau, to the heights of the Smoky Mountains, as far north as Johnson City, back down to Knoxville, and as far west as Gallatin (Nashville outskirts). Our final map looked like a squashed Z. We basically tacked back and forth through TN. Countless quiet country roads, multiple mountain ascents, oodles of S-curves, minimal highway-time. Here are some highlights…
- Four days in Chattanooga. Loved this town. We visited the Tennessee Aquarium (best thing we did), Raccoon Mountain Caverns (a low-key, non-touristy cave), Rock City (cool ‘cause I love natural rock formations) & Ruby Falls (go early morning before the insufferable crowds, otherwise don’t go).
- Factory tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. Fun tour guides. Well worth it. 5 stars out of 4000 reviews on Trip Advisor can’t be wrong.
- Explored Falls Mill in Belvidere, a working grist mill with waterwheel and museum filled with antique machinery.
- Sat IN a waterfall. How cool is that? Inside Fall Creek Falls State Park is Cane Creek Cascades where one can climb all over the rocks and slosh about in sparkling, ankle deep water. So fun! We hiked and viewed more waterfalls at Rock Island Park further north for a total of 9 waterfalls in 3 weeks.
- Camped high in the pristine Smoky Mountains for 4 nights. Lots of mountain driving and hiking.
- Spent a day in touristy, but cute Gatlinburg sipping too many free whiskey shots at Ole Smoky and Sugarland Distilleries…mini-golfed to sober up. Breezed straight through adjacent Pigeon Forge, the ugliest town in TN and possibly biggest tourist trap of all time.
- Visited Davy Crockett’s Birthplace near Greeneville.
- Toured the tiny Cumberland Homestead Museum in Crossville.
- Went for a quiet kayak on Watts Bar Lake.
- Lunched at an amazing restaurant in Gallatin called “Chocolate Covered Strawberry” (‘cause every meal includes them).
- Stopped by Mammoth Cave in Kentucky on our way up north.
Funny story #1 - The Great Escape
On a whim, we stopped at a large park alongside the Ocoee River. Lots of folks hiking, biking, picnicking, sitting in lawn chairs, watching the water. I aimed for the waterline and began climbing around on boulders, as usual. The water level was so low and calm; I could have boulder-hopped all the way across. And I was about ready to try it. Suddenly, the water at my feet started to churn. And rise. Rapidly. What the heck? As I moved toward the bank, a loud horn shrieked incessantly. It took a second for that warning noise to register…
Crap! The damn dam is being let loose! And the dam horn was delayed! I got the heck out of there. That water flow amplified from babbling brook to whitewater wipeout in 30 seconds. SO glad I did NOT attempt a cross-creek boulder-hop. I cannot imagine standing in the center of that idyllic, lazy brook and seeing a wall of whitewater barreling downslope right at me. Heart attack!
Pretty soon, hordes of whitewater rafters & kayakers begin flying down the newly swollen river. Come to find out, we stumbled upon the Ocoee Whitewater Center - home of the 1996 Olympic whitewater kayaking slalom course. Who knew? Rafting companies proliferate ‘round these parts, ready to take you for a ride… whenever the damn dam cuts loose. Hmmm. Sounds like fun! Maybe next time.
Funny Story #2 – Doppelganger!
So we’re at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, milling around the gift shop, waiting for our tour. I spot Brian holding a bottle of Jack, contemplating. So I sidle on up behind him, lay my hand on his shoulder and inquire: “Whatcha got there?” He replies without missing a beat: “I’m buying myself a birthday present.” Now, it’s WAYYY past Brian’s birthday. Not to mention, his voice is not right. And in that same second I look up and realize it is NOT Brian. It is Brian’s doppelganger! O.M.G. How embarrassing!
Fortunately, after my flustered apology, the guy brushed off my blunder without a care and resumed buying his present. I snuck a photo just to prove I wasn’t crazy. He wore practically the same red plaid shirt, shorts, ballcap, hair and build. Blame it on the whiskey. Wait, that was BEFORE the tasting!
25 Days and 14 Campgrounds
Over those 3 weeks, we stayed at 14 different campgrounds, a mix of private & State & National Parks. Usually 1-2 nights only. We camped in wilderness forest surrounded by trees, and also enjoyed on-water sites on Douglas Lake, Tim’s Ford Lake, Tellico Lake, Watt’s Bar Lake, the Cumberland River and Toccoa River. Tennessee State Park Campgrounds are all very nice, with level concrete pads & good bathhouses. Some even have internet! Many are on beautiful bodies of water with miles of shoreline. While we only visited Fall Creek Falls State Park for a day because their campground was booked, I’d recommend it above all others for the hiking & waterfall excursions.
Why so much time? And why so much criss-crossing?
Well, we are scouting towns…semi-looking for property, somewhere Brian can build his dream-pole-barn-workshop… eventually, not right this second, but maybe in a few years, when we’re tired of living on the boat and desperately yearn for a real bathroom with running water. We don’t yet know where that perfect location is, but Tennessee is high on our list due to low taxes and central proximity to family, specifically the eastern area for its beautiful topography and mild climate. We’ve never explored TN, always driving straight through on the 75 to Florida or Georgia. So we thought we’d take our time and check it out. We especially liked Chattanooga, Lynchburg, Greeneville, Johnson City, Rogersville and the area near Fall Creek Falls up high on the Cumberland Plateau sort of in the middle of nowhere. Eh…We’ll see.
After our Twisty Tennessee Tour we slacked for two months in Michigan visiting my parents, Brian’s parents, our siblings, nieces and nephews. But we never really rested…
Our 8-week Michigan stint included: 10 (count ‘em, ten!) doctor’s visits between the two of us, 2 funerals, 1 awesome Disney-themed-adult-costume-birthday party, a family reunion, a Fowlerville Dawn Patrol Breakfast (local airport fly-in) and a trip to Uncle John’s Cider Mill for cider donuts. Brian sewed some stuff for the boat: 6 fender covers and a new dinghy cover. We spent one fun-filled week with Brian’s sister & family visiting from Wisconsin. We did 3 trips to Grand Haven to visit Grandpa before he passed, and two after. I spent two weeks sorting through old photos to produce a monster 124-slide, 13 minute PowerPoint for his memorial. Subsequent visits to Grand Haven/Muskegon involved the memorial and reconnecting with my Minnesota aunt, uncle & cousins. Busy, busy, busy.
During those couple months we camped 3 days in the Irish Hills of Michigan with my parents, 2 in Grand Haven, 3 in Muskegon. We fixed more leaks in the van, changed out some failing lights due to said leaks and completed a Winnebago recall. Oh, and don’t forget 3 days in Algonac, celebrating 22 crazy, unpredictable and adventure-filled years of marriage. Yee haw!
On Oct 8th we, headed back down to Atlanta by way of Huntsville (visited the Air & Space museum) and Ft. Payne Alabama. Why? Never been there. And I got to see two more waterfalls.
Overall, we camped in the van for 39 nights, the rest with family. Stayed in 21 different campgrounds. 1 GA, 13 TN, 4 MI, 1 IN, 1 KY, & 2 AL.
Back in Atlanta now, we are working on the van, prepping it for storage. Brian made and installed shelves for the bathroom hanging closet to maximize storage. We had a leak under the fridge, pulled up the vinyl floor, cleaned and aired it out. We fixed yet another window leak. F-in’ leaks. So we bit the bullet and purchased a fabric car cover. Hopefully, it will remain dry all winter, cross your fingers. Despite the leaks, we LOVE our “V-Ger” van. We still believe it was the best option, considering the amount of traveling we tend to do, moving every other day.
Meanwhile, Brian has been helping his Dad with the woodworking business…making wooden kids’ puzzles & savings banks, cutting boards & keepsake boxes for sale at local craft shows.
It’s good for him… getting in some father-son time, yelling at his dad. Just kidding, Brian has to yell at him because he can’t hear worth crap. So every day for 8 hours, this is what I overhear in the workshop downstairs: the loud drone of sawing & sanding…mixed in with shouting out directions & questions, two or three times each. It’s like living a real-life Progressive Insurance motorcycle commercial…
”We did get an early start, took the kids to soccer practice.”
"You want me to jump that cactus? Alright.”
“That lady’s awesome!”
“ I don’t see a possum.”
On the Road Again
The 2nd week of November, we’ll drive cross-country to Tucson once again, hit my favorite Trader Joe’s store and head back to Mexico for another season of fun and adventure!