October 2015 - Not Quite the Smokies

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Having bid my brother goodbye, we headed toward Camp LeJeune, NC to visit our daughter Jessie. (Truth in reporting - Jessie is my biological daughter, but as far as Judy and I are concerned all of our kids and grandkids are our kids and grandkids regardless of the genetics. Love is far more important then DNA.)

We did make a stop in the Raleigh/Durham area to visit Judy's old union friend, Rick. It was a dangerous stop as Rick/'s wife Janice was baking delectable things that diabetics shouldn't think of eating. I went back for seconds and Made sure not to watch Judy so I am unable provide a record of her actions. I was fortunate that Janice was there so when Judy and Rick started talking social work I had someone to converse with. Judy doesn't know how lucky she is that I don't have any nerd friends to discuss business with.

Well, I have to modify that a bit. Way back when Judy and I spent a Christmas with my son and my ex-wife, who also happens to be a social worker. My son and my ex's husband are computer geeks, so you can guess how the conversational groups were arranged. We all had a good time.

We were a bit nervous heading south as there had been a hurricane only a couple weeks ago. We timed it pretty well, by the time we got into the affected area most of the mess had been cleaned up, but things were more than a bit soggy.

The guards at the marine base let us in despite our left-wing hippie bumper stickers and were even very nice about it. The term base is a bit of an understatement, Camp Lejeune is a good size city, complete with bowling alley, schools, grocery stores (called the PX - Post Exchange - for us non-military types), fast food chains and speed traps on the roads.

Since Jess and Brian have a good size, relatively flat back yard that appeared to have dried out, we decided to try and park the RV in the yard, rather than staying at the RV park some distance away on the base. The term to notice here is relatively. After barely missing the stone pillar at the turn for the utility road behind the house, (the one the big garbage trucks use, so we knew it should be safe) sized up the situation and gunned the truck to enter the yard at a slight angle. I almost made it to where I wanted to be before we sunk in the mud, leaving eight or ten feet of ruts behind me. The tail of the RV was a good six inches off the road, so there she stayed as we let nature take its course and dry out the ground. Good thing we had planned to stay for three days.

I unshipped the 100 foot extension and plugged it into the outside plug on the house, promptly blowing the GFI. Since I am an electrician and have my tools I checked the RV and it should not have been popping the GFI, but the fool thing wouldn't listen to my logic. So I got out another extension and we ran it through the window and plugged it in inside - problem solved. Good thing we were there after the bugs come out.

Once inside I came face to face with two giants who were impersonating my grandsons; the both of them were taller than I was; not only that but one had red hair and the other green. Oh yeah, Jess had rainbow colored hair. Brian, still in the military, had his normal, boring crew cut. (One of these things is not like the other?)

With a little bit of effort we were able to have several good meals together. This is not as simple as it seems - Jess is allergic to almost every food on the planet, Grandson Joe is the king of picky eaters and son-in-law Brian doesn't eat onions. That leaves a pretty small area to work with, but it can be done. Score one for culinary creativity, but it's a good thing we were only there three days or we would have run out of options.

Jess and Brian took us down to the beach to see the hurricane damage; that took some effort as most of the stairs to the beach were damaged. We did have fun sliding down the sand landslide to get there, though. As you can see from the picture, about fifteen feet of the beach is no longer there. Shira thoroughly enjoyed fetching the stick in the ocean, and we were pleased that the base provided a shower to wash the salt water off both you and your pets.

Naturally, Judy couldn't visit a female child without instigating a 'day of beauty'. The results are immortalized in this picture.

In preparation for leaving, I visited the nearby Lowes and bought a shovel, 8 bags of topsoil, a bag of grass seed and one sheet of plywood I had them split into 4 1 foot by 8 foot pieces. We put the wood behind all 4 tires of the pickup, put it into 4 wheel drive and carefully backed out. To my surprise it actually worked the first time and we backed the RV onto the road with no problem. I even guessed right, there was just enough to fill in the ruts.

The next stop was an overnight across from the Charlotte Speedway. Nothing happening there, but there sure was a lot of space for people to park their RVs for the race.

In order to figure out when we needed to get up the next day, I plugged our destination into the GPS. Unfortunately, I somehow pressed the wrong button and didn't notice I had set to display the arrival time and not the time it takes to get there. Wow! Only an hour and a half drive, we can sleep in!

Problem was it was about four in the afternoon and the arrival time read 1:30 AM. Not only that, but Jolene the GPS (think Dolly Parton: Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene! Please don’t take us just because you can.) took us thither and yon ignoring the direct route on the Interstate. Somewhere around five PM we realized we were going North when the destination was to the West. I also discovered the display error and found we had another four hours yet to drive.

I was too tired to swear, an event in itself, so we turned to the Faithless Jolene to find the nearest RV park, which was about 45 minutes behind us. When we got there it was completely filled. Since there was at least phone service even if there was no room at the inn, We started calling down the list of RV parks, and got the same answer: nope, no room. At last the Black Forest RV park said they had one space left, but it was more than ah hour away. Beggars can't be choosers, off we went.

The last 20 miles were up twisty mountain roads in the pitch dark. To get a feeling for these roads, take a piece of wet spaghetti, dye it black and drop it on a piece of paper, then tip that piece of paper so that the top of the spaghetti is a few thousand feet above the bottom of the spaghetti. That's the kind of road we were on. Fortunately there were pullouts every so often to the line of cars who were behind me could pass. Even without the trailer I sure wouldn't be driving that fast on that road at night, but we saw no burning wrecks so they must have been used to it.

We finally pulled in and fortunately one of the campground people guided us into the site. Since we were intending to spend only one night, we didn't even bother to detach the RV, jut lowered the legs, hooked up and went to sleep. It got pretty cold that night, luckily the heaters were ready and we were comfortable. Not so our neighbors; when we met them the next morning we found that they were a group of college students jammed into an unheated tent and completely unprepared for the weather. I wish we had known; we could have loaned them a heater and an extension.

Sunday morning began with an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast on the expansive porch of the home that serves as the campground office.

We perused some tourist brochures as we ate and decided that there was enough interesting stuff to do right where we were that driving another day was a waste of time. Thus our vacation in the Smokies became a vacation in the Blue Ridge. Not that the Blue Ridge is smoke-free, as this picture will attest.

The decision having been made to stay, we set off to view the local waterfalls, of which there were plenty. I won't attempt to name them for you (mostly because I forgot the names) but we hiked around and enjoyed some wonderful scenery.

View from the front

View from the back

The next one required a bit of a hike down the stairs, but it was worth it.

Our trip to this falls solved the riddle of why Jolene didn't want us to take this road to the Smokies - it was worse than the twisty road to the campground. I really wouldn't have wanted to try it with the RV. I have one last picture from this waterfall that was done by demand of the little cutie who jumped in front of the camera and pleaded "Take my picture!", so I did.

The trees were just starting to turn when we were there, too bad we weren't a couple of weeks later to see them in their full glory. I did manage to catch a shot of the moon over the hills in the late afternoon.

Here's a first: a drive-through waterfall. It wasn't much more than a trickle while we were there, but who would have thought there would be such a thing.

It made the normal, walk-behind waterfall seem kind of tame.

I'll finish up with another cute kid and a picture of Judy as we went on a very nice hike at a nearby park. We thoroughly enjoyed our unexpected stop, but it was now time for us to head to Florida.

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