Our trip August to November 2012 (October 1-7)

Sunday October 7

A Happy Thanksgiving To All

We are spending ours in Ashdown, Arkansas, at the Millwood Landing RV Resort, chowing down on AYCE (All You Can Eat) tacos in the Clubhouse.

At least we won’t be having the leftovers for a week!

We had an uneventful freeway drive from Memphis to here, crossing over the Mississippi into Arkansas around 10:00 am, and arriving in Ashdown around 2:00 pm. The weather is cloudy and on the cool side, but the resort is nice:

In almost every campground, we feel like the baby of the family

But there is a very nice little lake a stone’s throw from our site

We wandered over to the Clubhouse and had an order of fries and a Dos Equis. (Having a conversation with anyone here is like talking to Larry The Cable Guy). In all seriousness, everyone is wonderfully friendly, and we love the accent. A couple of interesting observations:

We passed by a couple of signs for liquor outlets, pointing out that “The next 5 counties are dry”.

Health regulations governing animals in eating areas appear to be somewhat lax, considering we were sitting next to the resort manager’s wife, who was holding a 14 week old kitten named Precious. (And she was, being a tabby/calico cross). She apparently got her from a lady who insisted she was a cat-lover, but couldn’t stand the sound of the kitten’s purring; go figure; what did she expect it to do, bark? As another example of health regulations, or lack thereof, Memphis apparently allows smoking anywhere; people were smoking inside the restaurant we were in last night, and apparently this is perfectly OK. Hopefully the smokers are not among those bashing Obamacare, as they are likely to need it someday.

The guy next to us is in a 34 ft. motorcoach, and they are into their 4th full time year on the road, having sold their home in Washington State right before the crash.

Saturday October 6

From Gunshots to a Good Heart, or “Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Enjoy the Play?”

Forgot to mention yesterday that early in the evening, we could hear a series of gunshots coming from the woods surrounding the resort, which made us a little nervous, but did solve the mystery of why there were trailers scattered around, but no cars/trucks or people in evidence. This was confirmed by the return later that night of a number of trucks, some of which contained ATV’s. Most of the people here are hunters, who leave early in the morning and return at night, using their trailers as a base of operations. Fortunately we didn’t see any carcasses, although we did discover a skinning shed (euphemistically called a “deer preparation area”) on thje property.

The weather had turned quite cold and very windy when we woke up, so we decided not to spend another day and night here, but to push on to Memphis instead. By the time we had settled into a Best Western, it had begun to rain. We had booked tickets for a play called “Hot l Baltimore” before we left the campsite, and had the desk clerk call us a cab, We had him drop us at a pub close to the theatre, where we had a good dinner. We then walked to the theatre, a beautiful, newly-completed facility called “The Playhouse on the Square”. The play, put on by a professional resident company of actors, was very good. The cab driver had assured us that we would have little trouble getting a cab back. Not so. The Front of House Manager tried for 3/4 of an hour to get us one, but apparently in Memphis, you can get there from here, but you can’t get back. She eventually felt so badly for us, that she drove us back to the hotel herself, and would not accept any payment. She said that having the chance to talk to other “theatre people” was payment enough. There are good hearts everywhere, it seems. We are heading for Ashdown Arkansas tomorrow for two nights. The weather is supposed to be getting better over the next few days.

Friday October 5

No Big Bucks in Big Buck

Great weather again today, sunny and about 25 degrees Celsius. We had an uneventful 7 hour drive past Knoxville and Nashville, arriving at the Big Buck Resort at about 4:00 pm Central Time. Because of the length of the drive, it was actually nice to gain an hour back today. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence to arrive at a resort, to be greeted by a large sign informing all and sundry that the entire place is up for auction. There are relatively few people here, and the place is showing signs of neglect. The setting is quite pretty however, and since we are here for two nights, we may just kick back and relax tomorrow. The weather is very humid, and apparently there may be a thunderstorm tonight, with cooler temperatures tomorrow.

Thursday October 4

Turn, Turn, Turn,  A River Runs Through It

Under brilliant sunshine all day, we completed the second half of The Blue Ridge Parkway. In all, the Parkway is almost 800 kilometres long, with not a single stretch of straight road longer than 100 metres. Hence, you “turn, turn, turn” constantly. It takes a lot of concentration, so we divided up the driving to keep us both fresh. The maximum speed is 65 km/hr, with every corner marked at 40 km/hr, and they mean every word of it! That said, the two days we spent completing the drive was one of the absolute highlights of our trip thus far. The trees are a mix of conifers and deciduous, and the colours, while not at their absolute peak, are quite something. You come across long stretches of road where the trees arch over the road, forming a tunnel of yellow and red leaves spiralling down in clouds. Every turn reveals a scene that could be a calendar picture, and provides quite a sense of peace as you pass through.

At one of the lookouts, we met up with two extremely friendly and curious couples from South Carolina, and we had some interesting discussions about Canadian and American politics and health care. They were also interested in Priscilla, so we showed them around. Here are a few scenes from the second half of the Parkway:

Highest elevation on the Parkaw – 6053 ft. (about 9000 metres)

Another view from the same lookout

Waterrock Knob – 5820 ft.

In late afternoon, we finally reached Elkmont Campground in the Tennessee part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had one of the nicest sites we have had yet:

Elkmont Campground – note the river right behind our site

Down by the Riverside…

We had a wonderful night’s sleep with the windows open, listening to the river.

In the morning, a somewhat domesticated group of wild turkeys showed up to scavenge; nobody paid the slightest attention, except for one fool Canadian sneaking around with a telephoto lens:

A Thanksgiving Selection

Pick Me, Pick Me!

We didn’t. There wasn’t enough meat on the whole group to make a decent turkey sandwich. Off to Big Buck Resort in the southwest corner of Tennessee, an hour and a half from Memphis.

Wednesday October 3

Mississippi Motorcycle Mamas and Wild Turkeys

We began our journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning, and soon stopped at one of the many lookouts offering spectacular views over the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. There were two motorcycles already there, each carrying a couple from Mississippi, who were not only very friendly, but had accents you could cut with a knife. They asked where we were from, and then asked “British Columbia, is that part of Canada?” They had us in stitches. The Parkway is indescribably beautiful, the road wandering along the ridges and valleys of Virginia and North Carolina, with the changing colours of the trees and the emerald green farmlands alternating along the way. We had to constantly be watchful for roving bands of wild turkeys (the birds, not the bourbon) crossing the road. There are whole stretches of road bordered by huge rhododendron bushes. It must be a spectacular sight in the spring and early summer. It is easy to understand why this is classed as one of the most scenic drives in North America. We were also fortunate that the weather turned warm and partly sunny for the first half of the drive.

I say the” first half” because it became evident that we (actually, I) had badly misjudged the length of time it takes to drive from one end of the Parkway to the other, a distance of over 600 kilometres. Accordingly, we have notified the Elkmont Campground that we will not be there until tomorrow and have stopped at a lovely Best Western in Jefferson for tonight. Will update again hopefully on Friday. Here are a few pictures from today:

Otter Lake

Otter Creek

Clouds in the valley

Blue Ridge Parkway

Rocky Knob Picnic Area

How the “Blue Ridge” got its name

Tuesday October 2

Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjo Music

Tonight finds us in the wilds of Virginia, at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, after passing briefly through Maryland and West Virginia. The weather remains cloudy and showery, but actually warmer than we expected. We had breakfast in the Country Kitchen restaurant on the main street of Taneytown (pronounced “Tonytown”) Maryland, among a group of very friendly locals. We had a breakfast big enough to choke a horse for $7.99, and since it was Tuesday, the coffee was free. It reminded me of Mayberry (in a nice way); I half expected Goober to come through the door.

We arrived at the campsite after a very scenic drive through the countryside and checked in, then decided to drive about an hour south to see what some people advertise as one of the Modern Wonders of the World; the Natural Bridge. When we bought our tickets, the lady asked us for our zip code (a common practice, we have found). When I told her it was a postal code, she asked what part of Canada we were from. When I told her, she looked something up on a piece of paper, then tapped away at her keyboard. With a triumphant smile, she announced “I’ve made one up for you-all!”. I could have told her the right information, but couldn’t bring myself to spoil her sense of accomplishment. Here’s the Bridge and a description: (as always, click on a picture for a larger image)

Natural Bridge description

Natural Bridge

From the other side

Cedar Creek

The Bridge and surrounding 137 acres was originally purchased by Thomas Jefferson for the equivalent of $2.40 in today’s money, and has changed hands several times over the years. It remains the property of a private company today, rather than winding up in the hands of the Parks Service, which one might have expected. It is certainly impressive. To give you some perspective, there is a sound and light show every night (which we were unable to stay for), called “The Story of Creation”, in which the Bridge is lit from below, and the Genesis creation story is told from speakers high above, interspersed wih appropriate musical selections. When we talked to one of the employees, and remarked on the fact that the site was in private hands, he was quite insistent that we take some literature about the show, and made the point that if the site was in “government” hands, the show would not be permitted because of its religious content. It’s all about the separation of Church and State, which is enshrined in the Constitution.

We will be following the Parkway south tomorrow,  through Virginia and North Carolina, into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Halfway through the park, we cross into Tennessee, and will be spending two nights (depending on the weather) in the Elkmont campground within the park itself. It has no wifi service, so it may be a couple of days before I can update again, hopefully from the next campground in Tennessee. The weather is supposed to be a little better for the next couple of days; fingers crossed!

Monday October 1

Stepping into the Past

The Washington trip did not pan out, so we spent 6 hours doing a self-guided car tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield Military Park, which took us chronologically through the battle of Gettysburg, which resulted in a Union victory, and truned the tide of the Civil War. The war would continue for another two years, but the Confederacy never advanced again into any northern state. athe park is incredibly well-organized, and leads you easily from place to place. Fortunately, we had a beautiful day to do this, as we did a fair amount of walking. (unfortunately, the good weather does not look as if it is going to stick around). The pictures below are just afew views of the park and some of the significant monuments and places. If any of this piques your interest in learning more about Gettysburg and the Civil War in general, I urge you to Google some of the items below.

McPherson Ridge and McPherson Barn, where the Battle of Gettysburg began at 8 am, July 1, 1863

Eternal Light Peace Memorial (see picture below)

Eternal Light Peace Memorial info

Partial view of the battlefield from the Peace Memorial

Looking across part of the battlefield from the Confederate side

View from Little Round Top, from the Union side

Virginia Memorial – every soldier from Virginia is listed here

Looking out over the site of Pickett’s Charge – it was turned back at a cost of thousands of lives. Lee began his retreat the next day

The Soldiers’ National Cemetery – many soldiers, almost all Union, both known and unknown, are buried here.

National Soldiers’ Cemetery Memorial – stands on the spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address

We have spent a wonderful two days in Gettysburg, and will be turning south to Greenville, Virginia and the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow.

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