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After a week in Cherokee, we moved to the other side of the mountains immediately outside the park in Townsend, Tennessee. We were right against the park; so close that while walking a trail inside the park I could look down and see our trailer. Nice. We enjoyed a week of hiking, driving in Cades Cove, and simply experiencing the park in the spring. The weather was nice and we had a good time. We saw a couple of bears and had the pleasure of identifying bear scat which was about 15′ from our RV. And fresh. Good thing we don’t need to walk to the bath house in the middle of the night. Turns out the bear is a regular every year and this was his first appearance of the season. His name is Pedro.

I sure do like the Smokies and it was lots of fun showing Patti my favorite spots. The campground was perfect and we will be back.

Prior to my 2012 heart attack, I would head off to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a week or so of solo camping and hiking. (See here and here, for example) Since my cardiac adventure, we deemed it unwise for solo trips of that kind, so I haven’t been back since 2011. Until now.

We have four “destination” stops planned for our spring tour and the GSMNP is our initial one. Our first week here was spent on the North Carolina side of the mountains. The goods news was that the crowds weren’t too bad for the GSMNP, which can get quite crowded. The not as good news was that our campground, which was large, was packed to the gills with families due to spring break. It was crowded and noisy during the daytime. It was nice to see all these kids running around, though, since we got the impression that these families come back year after year and these kids were being with their “annual” friends.

We did lots of hiking, saw Bryson City, bagged a bunch of waterfalls, and did lots more hiking. Spring was just kicking in and the trees really greened up while we were here. It was interesting to experience the park this early since the views are obviously different without leaves. It was also interesting to watch the whole area get greener every day. It was nice.

Here are just a few shots that don’t do the park justice. It needs to be experienced for that.

Our travel style is such that we look for a destination, for example, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and then work our way there with random stops along the way. Often we don’t research those intermediate stops but rather plan them based upon travel time. We’re retired so we generally aren’t in a hurry. Therefore we base our stops on making our travel days comfortable, meaning a 3-4 hour drive. When you throw in the time to tear down and set up our site this makes for a pleasant journey. And since we’re not in a hurry, we stay at least several days in each location.

A by-product of this strategy is that we look for cool things to do in places that would normally not be, at least for us, a “destination” location. This is one of the great things about traveling as we do; we have always found interesting things to see and do, interesting people to meet. Our recent stop near Newberry, SC was a typical example. We discovered that a Revolutionary War battle, The Battle of Musgrove Mill, took place nearby. Fun fact: there were more Revolutionary War battles fought in South Carolina than in the surrounding states combined. Who knew? Anyway, we checked it out and it was informative as well as a nice walk on a cold blustery day. We also took a field trip to Greenville, SC. Nice little city with an awesome downtown area. We would never have seen either of these had we not been moving slowly.

Just a few pictures this time. Prepare for a bunch more since we leave this area to spend 2 weeks nestled against the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Life can be rough.

After our brief run-in with the medical establishment and a bit of cardiac plumbing maintenance, we finally headed up the road. Prior to leaving, we got up before the crack of dawn and drove over to the FEMA vaccination site in Orlando. They were advertising the availability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and no wait times. I had only become Florida eligible a few days before and the J&J vaccine was very attractive since being on the road presents difficulties obtaining the second shot so off we went. Got there as they were opening and discovered they did not receive the shipment of the J&J vaccine. Home we went.

Our first stop was in Brunswick, GA just for a few nights. While there we tried getting me vaccinated again. Jacksonville had a FEMA site so off we went, again at the crack-o-dawn. Same result: no Johnson & Johnson. This time, after a bit of googling, we decided to go with the “bird in the hand” school of thought and I got the Pfizer first shot. Since I already had the antibodies and it seems I have at least 12 weeks to get the second shot it seemed like the thing to do.

From Brunswick, we moved up to a lovely park in Hardeevile, SC. We were close to Savannah, Hilton Head, and several old, quaint South Carolina small waterfront towns. We hit up those spots as well as Hunting Island State Park. It was great to be getting back into the swing of things by taking walks, taking pictures, and even enjoying a socially responsible lunch on a deck overlooking the water in Beaufort, SC. Wow, a small return to normalcy!

We also took a tour of the Hilton Head Margaritaville retirement community. It was…interesting. Nice floorplans, excellent workout facilities, very nice pool, and an acceptable bar/restaurant. You never know.

And so up the road we go, looking forward to seeing national parks, walking in mountains and across historic battlefields, seeing friends and family, and perhaps enjoying a good meal or two along the way. You know, just another season on the highway.

So here we are, back where we started. Since we made the decision to return to Florida late in the season, we had to put the RV into storage and rent a townhouse owned by a former co-worker of mine. We spent three months just a 10-minute walk from the beach in Cape Canaveral. Nice. It was very strange being back in a sticks-and-bricks house here on the Space Coast. We didn’t have to worry about if our tanks are filling up, there were hundreds of stations on the TV, peacocks were roaming around everywhere, and we once again watched rockets lifting off. The first time we watched a liftoff just a few days after we arrived we turned to each other when the roar hit us and said it was the sound of home.

And, of course, we saw friends and family. It was nice catching up with everyone, but very odd after the isolation of the previous year. Fortunately all were healthy and thriving. That’s not a given in this day and age. We also saw all of our doctors over the course of the visit and, for the most part, we confirmed that we are healthy and still kicking. More on that later.

The biggest change was that we sold our F150 and our 40′ Class A motorhome for a RAM 3500 dually and a 41′ 5th wheel. We had several reasons for this, among them ease of driving and more interior space. After several years in the motorhome we were on the top of the learning curve and were very confident in our skills in dealing with the day to day issues (and there are many) that pop up along the way. Now we’re back at the bottom of the curve looking up. I used to be able to back up the coach like a pro. I still have issues backing up the new trailer. But we’ll get there.

We were all set to start this new season of adventure (Smokies, Shenandoah, Gettysburg and Finger Lakes just to start) when the proverbial wrench hit the works. Because it’s been 9 years since I had the heart bypass, I took a stress test a couple of weeks ago to make sure the plumbing was still in good order. So instead of getting back on the road last week as planned, I went to the hospital for a stent. Crap. Since it’s impossible to find suitable campsites at the last minute in the Florida springtime, we stashed the RV back into storage and took a hotel room for 10 days. (I love overnight stays in the hospital, particularly since the last time I came home from one I brought COVID with me.) I’m healing nicely, we’re on track to leave next week, and we only had to make some minor tweaks to the schedule. This lifestyle isn’t for sissies, but it sure is worth it.

Stay tuned for our upcoming adventures.

The Beast

Our new rig. Now if I could only back it up. 2/15/21

SpaceX Booster returning to port. Cape Canaveral, FL 12/9/20

One of the neighbors. Cape Canaveral, FL 2/11/21

Cape Canaveral, FL 1/8/21

Cape Canaveral, FL 2/16/21

The strangest things wash ashore. A sea turtle corpse … the paint indicates that it has been identified for removal. Cape Canaveral, FL 1/26/21

We crossed the Mighty Mississippi heading eastbound after almost two years of adventures in the west. We stopped for a visit with family in Louisiana and then sped towards Florida. Spent some time with close friends in north Florida over Thanksgiving and then we were back on the Space Coast for a three month stay in a townhouse.

I didn’t take a whole lot of photos during this dash. We were moving kinda fast and staying places that weren’t, for the most part, scratching my creative itch. One place we did stop that is totally worth mentioning was the Whitney Plantation. It is best described in their own words: “Whitney Plantation Museum is the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people.” It was a moving and educational experience that left us humbled and which my words can’t begin to bring to justice. Below are some photographs of just a handful of the wonderful art scattered across the grounds. I strongly encourage anyone in the Baton Rouge area to invest a few hours visiting this powerful place.

The Whitney Plantation Chapel with sculptures by artist Woodrow Nash of enslaved children. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Nash’s sculptures at Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

A view of the main house at the Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Woodrow Nash also created this memorial of the German Coast Uprising, the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

The punishment cages at Whitney Plantation. Wallace, LA 11/13/20

Set up on Mobile Bay. Nice site. Mobile, AL 11/14/20

Sunset across Mobile Bay. 11/14/20

Wow, it’s been way too long (again) since I posted. We’ve been a bit busy, what with driving across the country, moving into a condo for a few months, many doctors appointments, and implementing major changes in our lifestyle. That latter item is a subject for a later post. Patience, grasshopper.

Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. Beautiful Bryce. This place is awesome and the pics you’ll see below don’t come close to actually capturing the natural wonders that make it up. It needs to be seen to be appreciated. So we went, spent a week, saw beautiful things, and left wanting more. As it should be.

We also took a couple of side trips while there, specifically to Red Canyon just outside the park, and Kodachrome Basin State Park just a short drive away. Both were well worth the time, particularly Red Canyon. It is literally directly on the way to Bryce from the west and has insane (and easy) walks straight from the parking lot. It’s a “must not miss” stop for anyone in the area. (Note from the editor: The hike at Red Canyon is one of my top five fave hikes so far.)

On an “RV’ing isn’t for sissies” note: when I was setting up at the campground, the water intake attachment on the RV blew up when I turned on the hose. This is a one way hose attachment and is, obviously, critical to our getting fresh water. I took two quick actions. One was to order the part and to have it delivered to our next stop. The second was to drive to the thriving metropolis of Tropic, UT, population 530, where there was an Ace hardware store. I bought four (4!) adapters to convert the H2O input piping to directly connect a hose. There was a small amount of dripping even with the use of plumbers tape, but it would do. The lows overnight were forecast to be about 36 degrees, so no danger of freezing. No problem.

At 3AM I got up to answer the call of nature and checked the outside temperature from my weather station. It was reporting 28 degrees. Crap. So at 3AM, this Florida boy found himself outside disconnecting an already partially frozen hose and capping the icicle-encrusted half-assed connection. Good times. Fortunately I got to it before any of our interior pipes were affected. Two lessons were learned: 1) always keep your eye on the actual temp vs. the forecast one and 2) the furnaces on our RV were able to easily keep our basement storage area (where our tanks and water lines live) nice and warm. Both of these are good to know.

Enjoy the photos and stay tuned. I hope to resume posting more regularly over the coming month to catch up with actual real-time events. Stay safe y’all.

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/6/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Bryce Canyon NP 10/7/20

Kodachrome Basin SP 10/8/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

Red Canyon UT 10/9/20

After a too short stay in the Moab area, we slipped a bit east for a week stay in the Grand Junction area in SW Colorado. We stayed at Palisade Basecamp right on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Very nice. Anyplace where we can walk to a vineyard is okay with us.

While there, we took two major outings. One was for a scenic drive and some walks along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. This is a very nice drive up the Mesa where we hiked around a small lake and took in the Fall colors. Side note: these were the first foliage colors I had seen in almost 4 decades. Florida doesn’t count. Palm trees are pretty boring trees. The hiking was at elevation, but no problem, we did fine.

Our second excursion was to Colorado National Monument. This was another very nice trip on the Rim Rock Drive which offers a bunch of vista viewpoints as well as some hikes. Another good time.

Otherwise we just hung out as usual, living this rough life we’ve chosen and looking forward to our next stop back where the idea of going full-time was planted.

The view from our RV. That’s the Colorado River in the foreground. Palisade, CO 9/28/20

Colorado National Monument. 9/29/20

Waiting for our lunch crumbs. Colorado National Monument 9/29/20

Fall colors! Off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. 10/1/20

On our walk Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. 10/1/20

On our walk Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. 10/1/20

View from our lunch spot off the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. 10/1/20

We didn’t spend all of our time in Arches, just most of it. We took several nice drives including a couple of trips on Rt 128 as well as the La Sal Loop Rd. which was literally right outside our RV Park. Officially the La Sal Mountain Loop State Scenic Backway, it is a beautiful drive into the mountains SE of Moab that takes you down Castle Valley and spits you back out onto Rt 128. Think windy mountain roads with nice drop offs (and views!) with a bit of cattle in the road every now and then. Keeps you on your toes.

We did a quick drive through Canyonlands, but that place is so vast it really needs more time than we were willing to give it this time. Shockingly, we didn’t make it to Dead Horse State Park. Next time, for sure.

And after this, it just keeps on getting better.

 

View from the La Sal Loop Rd, 9/23/20

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP, 9/16/20

Canyonlands NP, 9/16/20

Trucks navigating White Rim Rd., Canyonlands NP, 9/16/20

Sculpture on the Colorado River pedestrian bridge in Moab. 9/22/20

The view into Arches NP across the Colorado River from just off RT 128. 9/23/20

 

Back in 2012, I had a bit of a health issue (see here for those posts). Following my recovery, or at least a good portion of it, we went to Utah and a bit of Arizona for what became known as our “I’m Not Dead Yet” tour. We hit many of the big parks for three night stays in their lodges or nearby and had a blast. Those posts start here if you’re interested. One thing that we learned is that just a few days in these types of locations is not enough. There is a direct line from that lesson to our going full-time in the RV last year. You can’t say we’re slow learners. At least in this instance.

So now we find ourselves back where it started. We booked a 2-week stay just outside Moab and it still wasn’t enough to even begin to see everything there is to see, but we saw a lot. Our lifestyle (ie: staying at a destination location in our own home) allowed us to take our time, but still go see cool stuff. If we decide to take a day off for laundry, chores, naps, and perhaps a bit of Xbox, no sweat.

Obviously this is a target-rich environment for photographers. This post will cover Arches National Park since it was our most visited destination with five separate trips (thank you once again America The Beautiful Pass!). It’s hard to pick just a handful, but needs must.

Sunset view of Balanced Rock, Arches NP, 9/21/20

A closer view of Balanced Rock. Arches NP 9/18/20

Sunset in Arches NP, 9/21/20

Early morning in Arches NP, 9/18/20

Early morning in Arches NP, 9/18/20

Landscape Arch, Arches NP 9/18/20

Pine Tree Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Tunnel Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Navajo Arch, Arches NP, 9/18/20

Arches NP, 9/18/20

Fiery Furnace, Arches NP, 9/17/20

Broken Arch, Arches NP, 9/17/20

The Fiery Furnace, Arches NP, 9/21/20

The Courthouse Wash Rock Art Panel. Arches NP, 9/22/20

Sand Dune Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

Broken Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

Skyline Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20

We felt like Randall Flagg was following us around. #TheStand Arches NP, 9/17/20

Skyline Arch, Arches NP, 9/21/20