Asheville/Spartanburg-Gaffney and Other Adventures

Sherlock and Mary Russell accompanied us into Asheville uneventfully. We arrived at Bear Creek RV Park after hours, change of time zone flummoxed us and what was planned as a 5:30 arrival turned out to be 6:30 on the local clock. That happens every few days when crossing the country. We got set up and made dinner and settled in for the evening. The weather in the morning was pleasant and after lunch we set off to see the crafts people in the Riverside Craft area. The area has grown significantly in the two years since we were there last. Many of the same crafts people are still there doing pottery, wood turning, painting etc and many new groups as well. It is quite exciting to see. We eventually did not want to see another mug,teapot, you name it so we headed into Asheville proper to see if we could find Blue Spiral, one of the very best art galleries we know of, anyplace. That is for those who treasure contemporary art. It is quite prominent and the art was very much what we expected, much of it new since we were there a couple of years ago.

After a pleasant stay in Bear Creek RV Park in Asheville we set out for Gaffney SC and the KOA between Gaffney and Spartanburg. The route looked too easy, I 26 to I 85 and we are there. So we got off I 26 on to US 25 figuring we would let the GPS connect us on to I 85 in Greenville. It would have been fine if I had looked ahead on a paper map, or even on Google maps, but I hadn’t and I chose an inappropriate moment to distrust the GPS. Carol was at the wheel and we ended up in the middle of the road trying to decide whether to trust the GPS or my dead reckoning. Eventually we went with the GPS and it worked out okay except we ended up going through Greenville local streets on a Thursday afternoon. Carol was not happy with me or with the GPS. Then we were involved in the audio book and missed our exit for the campground and what we thought was an exit was a closed rest area and we came to a rather abrupt stop – no we didn’t hit anything just stopped short. It took a couple of minutes but we sorted it out and made it to the KOA in plenty of time.

Friday morning we toured the Freightliner Factory where three production lines manufacturer UPS car chassis, school bus chassis and motorhome chassis. There were just three of us on the tour, Ray, Carol and me. We will be together with many others for the class in the morning.

Saturday we drove into Charlotte to visit with Leigh and Patrick. We last visited in the Fall and they were talking about how they planned to renovate the new to them house. This time we got to see the renovated house and it is gorgeous. We had a lovely light lunch at their home and we went to dinner at Halcyon in downtown (or is that uptown) Charlotte. It was a lovely meal. We capped the day on our drive home by finishing “Oh, Jerusalem” by Laurie King which we have been listening to for the past 1,000 miles.

Today, Sunday, I got out the new cleaning system I bought in Tucson and did the coach front to back and side to side. It is a waterless system that was originally designed for aircraft. It is easy to use and does a very nice job. I will qualify the easy part, that is relative to dragging out the hose and bucket and spraying water all over the place then having to dry the coach because otherwise it just waterspots. Besides the sidewalls are 36 feet long and 12 feet high and the front and back caps are 8 1/2 feet wide or 1068 square feet of walls to wash. It takes time and I had to delay for a while waiting for the sun to shift to the side I had done. The coach is beautiful, until the next rain 🙁

Fly Over Days

We held up in Mountain Home AR for six nights because we had no reservations for Memorial Day Weekend and didn’t want to give up a nice campsite without any assurance we cold find something as nice for the weekend. That decision left us fewer days than planned to cross Tennessee, a very wide state, on our way to Gaffney SC. As we looked at the route on US 64 across Tennessee it became clear that there were not a lot of camping options along the way. I am sure we could have found a state park or Elks Lodge, but we needed to have water AND sewer connections because we were 6 days behind on laundry. We are getting desperate to be connected for that.

This left I 40 as our next best alternative for getting across TN. We have often said, as did Charles Kuralt, driving the interstates is the same as flying, only slower. The “amenities” at every exit are generic and there is no way, without looking at a sign, to tell where in the country you are. After 2  hours in the mountains we found ourselves on high speed divided highway for the next 4 hours and we can look forward to more of the same for the next two days. This will take us over the Blue Ridge and maybe even to Asheville for a stop, but it is a lot of super slab. This looks like a prelude to many more miles of Interstate as we make our schedule to meet up with Dan et al and on to Vermont after Gaffney.

Today’s travel was uneventful. We are in Jackson RV park in Jackson TN. I can see I 40 out the window and the car is attached and ready to roll in the AM. The RV park is a few pull though sites on the front end of a not very well maintained mobile home park. Not our first choice, but the electric works as does the water and sewer so we have what we need and can roll early in the morning – we define anything before 10 as an early departure. We left Marry Russell and Sherlock Holmes in a cliffhanger as we pulled off the highway. something to look forward to when we roll.

and it Rained, and We Toured Between the Rain Drops

It turned out that the site we chose with no orange cone was indeed the last “walk-in” site available to suit our coach. We are in north central Arkansas, not far from Missouri. We have had some beautiful weather and it has rained. As I am writing we have just cleared a tornado watch, and a severe Thunderstorm watch is on as is flood watch. The weather map suggests at the very least we will have rain soon – whenever soon is, but clear in the  morning when we prepare to leave. I doubt we would have stayed so long, 6 nights, here if it weren’t for the Memorial Day Holiday. We had our doubts about finding a campsite from Friday and Saturday night with all the camping families looking to get out for their first camp out of the season.

The TripAdvisor list of attractions has three items, Bull Shoals Dam, Ozark Folk Art Center and a cavern. Other interesting activities included wine tasting at Raimondo’s Winery. We headed for the winery first, as the website said the wines were grown and pressed in California and shipped in tanks to Arkansas for aging and bottling. We had a blast. Gil and Joanne Rainmondo are lively hosts and love to talk. We agreed to the complete wine tasting, expecting the flight of five wines to taste and some biscuits to clear our palettes. We had a surprise, they sell olive oils, Balsamic vinegar, and several dips and spreads. The tasting encompassed all those categories. After an hour we were full and had drunk more wine than we expected, we did slow down the pour by saying we were more interested in tasting than drinking 🙂 We enjoyed the wines, buying a couple of bottles of a blend and a bottle of a port like drink. The balsamic vinegar and the oil were also exceptional leading us to buy some of those too. We have to be careful with these purchases as storage space is at a premium. We tottered back to the coach after our tasting to relax over our books and then head out to the highly rated Thai restaurant in town. It is actually run by a Thai immigrant and is surprisingly authentic for its location.

The next day we decided to head for the Ozark Folk Center. Uncharacteristically we did not check it out with the GPS. We had seen a sign on the road pointing toward it and figured we would just follow the signs. We thought we would like to arrive around 2:30 or so to have time to tour the crafts and then have dinner followed by the show. After driving for 15 or 20 minutes it became clear that we didn’t have a clue where we were going or how far. We got out the GPS and learned we still had 36 miles to go and to expect it to take up to an hour! these mountain roads do not go in straight lines. We arrived shortly after 3 PM and the artisans and gift shop close at 5. Even though we were given tickets for the next day we decided to make the best of it and get around to the artisans whose work we would most enjoy. Dinner at the Skillet followed and it was better than we had expected and surprising given the very low prices. Part of the savings was due to the fact we were in a dry county 🙁 There seems to be a lot of that in the South. We had plenty of time to repark the Jeep in the shuttle lot and take the shuttle to the music venue. This is a large round hall that seats 1,000 and it was about 2/3 full for Willy Watson, a solo folk singer with pretensions, actually almost as good as his hype, he was formerly with old Crow Medicine Show. The opening group were Lazy Goat String Band Trio. We enjoyed them greatly. They were joined by a dancer for two numbers, one a hornpipe and the other not particularly a dance.

9 o’clock saw us heading out to the parking lot for the hour plus drive back to Gee Whiz. The mountain road was pretty empty by then, but the campground was jumping as we pulled in at 10:15. The site next to us was crawling with kids, dogs and somewhat inebriated adults. They went on past quiet hour, not unexpected on a holiday weekend, but come our bedtime they were quieting down.  The impending rain and storm has caused several people to move on a day early. We are hoping to let the storm roll on by as it is forecast to be taking the same route we plan on. Maybe by tomorrow we will be behind it, just need to go slow enough not to pass it.

We will be sure to include Arkansas in our travel plans in the future. We did come through another part of the state in 2002 and I think again before we figured out we needed to go further south in January.

It Rained then We got to the Ozarks

Maybe that will make sense as you read this, or not.

We drove into Independence in fair weather with threat of rain. We stayed at Autumn Falls on US 40. the most it has to say for itself is it is almost level, it had a spot for us and the services worked. On US 40 fairly describes the spot we stayed in, a rest area might not have been as close. Dinner Thursday night with Dianne and Marty at Jax Fish House was superb and so was the company. We made it back to the coach and fell asleep, well I did anyhow. Friday we fussed around in the coach until after lunch then we rejoined Marty and Dianne at their house for conversation, a walk and a light dinner, a blessing after after the previous nights large meal. Saturday found us worshiping in a wonderful public market where we stocked up on supplies for the future. Then we gathered again with Dianne and Marty to talk some more and prepare some wonderful Alaskan Halibut we had picked up on a trip to Whole Foods. The rains began in earnest during dinner on the deck, being well prepared, Marty unfurled a gigantic umbrella that covered the table and seating area. We finished dinner and adjourned to the house for dessert.

We drove back to the coach in the rain and managed to find a brief moment between waves of rain to get into the coach almost dry. We were just settling down when we heard sirens. We had just been talking about the tornado sirens and this seemed ominous. Turning on local TV we found all channels broadcasting direct weather reports and localizing the threats. And it rained. And the wind blew. And we were assured that the storm was to our north and east and going in that direction. We fell asleep to the sound of the rain.

We headed south to Bentonville AR the home of WalMart World Headquarters, the WalMart Museum and most importantly Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I suggest you follow the link for more information about this museum which was created by Alice Walton to house a very broad collection of art, not all of it is American by any means, and to introduce grade school children to the idea of a museum of art, over 50,000 children a year with transportation, admission and food covered by the Walton Foundation. Admission for all is free.There was a charge for Vangogh to Rothko, waived for National Museum Day, fortunately for us. As I turned into the special exhibit hall I was stunned to find myself staring at the Jackson Pollock that I am so familiar with from the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo. Then I remembered reading that there was a major touring exhibit of pieces from there and we had run into it in a place so far off our normal paths. We had a nice lunch at Eleven (the name of the cafe) and resumed our tour and it began to rain. It rained and it poured. In most galleries this would not be an issue, but Crystal Bridges, designed by Moshe Safdie, is made up of several units not all of which have indoor connections. By the time we had run out of energy, both physical and mental, the rain had stopped and we could find our way first to the gift shop and thence to the Jeep and on to The Walmart Museum which is an ode to Mr Sam and a replay of the timeline of the company from a single Ben Franklin Store to the mighty giant it is today. Although there are several other industries in Bentonville, WalMart is indeed the big dog with four stores, one exclusively for Associates and all the ancillary departments necessary to oversea the worldwide operations.

Replica of Sam Walton’s truck in front of the Museum, the original truck is inside.

Soon we were back in Prairie Creek Park – hmm – from Prairie Village KS to Prairie Creek Park AR where it wasn’t raining. We began preparations for departure. I failed to describe this park experience when we got here so I’ll insert it now. There was no one at the gate to greet us so we found our own way into the campground without even a usable map. Most of the sites were most unsuitable for our 36 foot motorhome, either to short, too narrow or impossible to get into. We found a site that was reserved for Memorial Day Weekend which was of no matter to us, I saw a way to maneuver onto it with Carol at the wheel and me giving ground guidance. It wasn’t quite as level as we prefer, but we got close enough. There was no one to take our money the next day, when we left for the day, nor when we returned. Finally as we were departing the booth opened and we were the first customers of the brand new volunteer couple manning the booth. They took our money and we left for a long drive through the Ozarks. At one point our GPS – actually the on board GPS and Google Maps – suggested that the route should go down County Route 98. I was doubtful, but Carol began the turn and as we were fully committed there was a sign, “Historic Bridge, Limited Height and Weight Restrictions”. There was no height stated nor was there a maximum weight posted and there was no place to turn anyhow. Quick online research turned up no more information than that it was a one lane bridge, not good. As we got within a 1/4 mile a new sign informed  us the maximum height was 10’6″ and I was in no position to question the number. I left Carol and the coach blocking the road and walked ahead to survey the options. There were no good ones. The bridge deck was wood plank and we could not clear the overhead in any event. There was a field to our left that seemed to be set up for fair parking and I walked in and found a route through the field for the coach to turn around without disconnecting the Jeep and without sinking in up to the axles. After this jaunt I became more determined than ever to explore every route with Google Earth before committing to any more unknown back roads.

We found our way to Bidwell Point Park, another Corp of Engineers Park near Mountain Home AR, and even found a spot that does not appear to be reserved for the next few days. Of course the booth was unmanned so we will have to wait to tomorrow to learn the facts, unless they don’t open tomorrow as the sign indicated.

Road Trip and a change of plans

We have always said that we look ahead at the weather and try to find the “good weather” route. Or at least the least bad weather. As we were sitting in the KOA in Salt Lake City our neighbor mentioned that there was severe winter weather along the I 80 corridor where we planned to go. I looked it up and began to realize that May is still too early to be that far north. Laramie at over 7,000 feet was calling for lows in the teens when we planned to get there. No Way!

We decided to take US 50 through Grand Junction over the Rockies and down onto the High Plains. The last time we did that route was 2008. That was our first visit with Dianne and Marty in Prairie Village, also our first visit with Malena’s sister and husband, Simonne and Steve, in Glade Park CO. I guess after seven years it is okay to repeat a route 🙂 After some time on email and the phone we set out from SLC toward Grand Junction. Not wanting to press too hard we stopped for a night in a WalMart in Price Utah. Made some friends in an RV parked next to us in the parking lot, well, spent a couple of hours chatting about the RV lifestyle and such and offering them some tips on travel to Alaska  by RV. From there on to Glade Park. Access to the town is up the Monument Rd in Colorado National Monument. This road is a challenge, even for us. It is not really recommended for motorhomes as it climbs from about 5,500 feet to 7,400 feet in four miles and has the twists and turns of a snake with indigestion. To cap it off there is a tunnel that is officially listed with a 10 foot 6 inch clearance. we are 12 foot 4 at the top of the air conditioner. We had done it in G2 at 11 foot 6 with room to spare and the sign at the entrance booth said it was 16 foot at the center and 12 foot at the lane edge. I drove up and Carol drove down. The only problem was for the cars that had to follow us as we were in no hurry to see how close to the edge we could get. While there Steve’s brother Kurt and wife Pat were visiting from Kenai AK. So ee got to meet new people with interesting backgrounds.

From there I determined we were “three sleeps” from Prairie Village. We had allowed four or five in our planning. Our first stop was Bandera’s Bunkhouse just east of Salida, CO where we elected to stay two nights. We used the day to drive a 47 mile loop up into the mountains away from the main highway. Not too long after we turned off passed the Middle School in Cotapaxi the town fathers had decided that pavement was an unnecessary luxury. We were climbing from a base of 7,400 feet to 9,800 and the snow line was at about 8,500. We collected a bit of mud on Ruby:

This was the first coat we picked up in Glade Park

It was impossible to get in and out of the Jeep without taking some mud along. I wold love to write a book about Dave and Teresa, the owners of Bandera’s Bunkhouse. He has been a cowhand, is a trained geologist and has worked on drilling rigs all over the Americas and today they run a campground in CO in the summer and spend the winter in Arizona at an RV park where in addition to leading horse rides they entertain with cowboy song. I’m sure I have left something out and may have gotten some of the specifics wrong, but the idea is there. While I visited with Dave his wife was working with a horse that did not like to have his hind legs handled for shoeing and such. He shoes his horses himself.

We did move on again with a stop in Dodge City. We only stretched to reach there because I wanted to be able to write “we had to get of of Dodge” I would not recommend the RV Blue Campground for more than a one night stop. It had the water, sewer and electric and even cable, but I could not reach the water with a 25 foot hose and the place was unoccupied and did  not seem likely to get much better. On the other hand for $10 it was that much better than a WalMart which has no hookups.

As I am writing we are parked in a museum parking lot in Hutchinson KS. This is the Strataca Museum in a monstrous salt mine that is on a salt vein that stretches 150 east to west and 50 miles north to south. The primary vein is 50 feet thick and 650 feet below the surface. We rode the hoist to the bottom where the museum is located as well as the snack bar and the gift shop. I will admit I learned a lot about salt mining and the history of this mine. The other major business located in the mine is Underground Vaults and Storage. At least one major Hollywood Studio sends all their archival prints and material there as soon as they are done with it. They have an exhibit of some of the materiel. If you want to see the clothes worn in Giant or Men in Black or Superman they are among the items on display.

Tomorrow we will camp in Independence MO.

The Bucket List keeps Expanding

Recently we have been in territory that we didn’t know or had forgotten might be on our bucket list. In our minds we have reserved the concept of Bucket List for big things like the Great Wall of China or a drink at the Rex Roof top Bar in Saigon (excuse me – Ho Chi Mhin City) and Angor Wat, well you get the picture. Places a long way from the USA.

As we plotted our eastward trip, much later in the season than in past years, the idea of traversing the Lincoln Highway got into our heads. We have driven US 20 almost coast to coast and most of US 1 and all of US 90 and bits of Route 66. We have only come as far as Salt Lake City, but already we are overwhelmed with places that ought to be on any RVers bucket list (others too, but the road miles are great). We climbed out of Sacramento on US 50, a segment of one of the Lincoln Highway alignments, to a stop in South Lake Tahoe. We circled the lake and took a couple of wonderful hikes. Hurry now to see the gorgeous clear lake 6th in size in the US only to the Great Lakes before the developers spoil it.

From there we climbed the mountains and started across “The Loneliest Highway In America.” As we drove US 50 toward Ely NV we passed through Fallon and Austin and Eureka. Only Fallon was more then a blink as we passed. Ely was a major rail center and home to a large mine that has given silver, copper and some gold over the years. There we paused to spend time with Bev and Dan who we last saw in New Jersey in the Fall. They were westbound as we were eastbound and we decided that Ely would be an appropriate stop. For our major entertainment we road the Nevada Northern Railway behind steam locomotive engine 40 which has been running on that line since it was bought new in 1906.

Blowing down after the run!

The cars were 20’s Pullman passenger cars with an open flat car in the consist for those willing to brave the cold. I spent 5  minutes out there. The ride included a tour of the machine shop and engine shop as well as the RIP (Repair In Place). For railroad buffs I will post many more pictures and provide the link here.

I suppose I could stop and post this, but the theme of previously unintended bucket list items keeps calling. We moved on toward Saat Lake City (SLC) with a stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Here we drove out onto the flats and then drove around Silver Island which appears to be a mountain range in the middle of the flats. We did not get out to the 10 mile long speed track where so many land speed records have been set. It was early in the season and there was plenty of water on the flats and there were no signs of how to even get there. As it was I couldn’t wait to wash the Jeep. A brief drive on the wet salt flats is the same as an entire winter of Rochester salted roads and the salty mud we accumulated was frightening.
In SLC we have done the things you would expect and never were really on either of our bucket lists. Nice to do, we heard the organ recital in the new conference center as they were filming in the Tabernacle. The conference center seating holds 22,000 people (or was that 21,000?) Here are two pictures:
Taken looking back from row Z
We plan to go back Thursday night for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Rehearsal in the Tabernacle, we hope.
Items not previously on the list that we have now done: Today we set out to go to Promontory, The Golden Spike National Historic Site which is the actual site where Central Pacific coming west and Union Pacific coming east met on May 10 1869 and joined their tracks to unite the coasts. We have read about it thought about it and never really had a particular drive to get there until we learned we were within a 90 minute drive from the campground and there was a highly regarded wild life reserve, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, in the same vicinity. Two birds so to speak. As we made the turn on to Golden Spike Road there was a small sign pointing down the same road to “Spiral Jetty” This famous earth work by Robert Smithson was completed in 1970 and is in Great Salt Lake not terribly far from Golden Spike (17 miles of dirt road). We both agreed that while we never expected to see it, if someone had mentioned it and asked, it would have been on our bucket list. We made the drive and given the low lake level we were able to walk right out onto the jetty:

Looking back towards the shore
Center of the spiral

Passing white pelicans

We never made it to Bear River, we did make a brief stop at a missile display outside the plant at what was Morton Thiokol, the place where the solid state boosters for the Shuttle were manufactured.

The trip will continue soon. . .