Sunday, December 30, 2012

Home Again

It has been over a week since our last posting.  During that time we’ve been traveling: by airplane, van shuttles, car, and RV.

Last Thursday we left Orlando very early for an uneventful flight to Minneapolis, followed by a dangerous shuttle van ride to Duluth to get Paige’s mother, Joyce, and to drive back to the Twin Cities for the Christmas festivities.  The week went by in a blur visiting family and friends. We spent time baking lefse and shopping with the granddaughters. We had a Riewe family dinner and gift exchange at Brett’s home.
Christmas Eve was spent at a nephew’s place in suburban Wayzata. All six of Joyce’s Great Granddaughters were there.
Christmas Day we enjoyed going to the first showing of Les Miserables with Dave, Valentina, and Grandma Joyce followed by dinner at a deli.  What a great movie!  On Wednesday Aunt Lu/Uncle Clark had everyone to their house for lunch so we were able to see cousins also.  We also were able to get a dinner out with the Gunderman's - we hadn't been able to connect with them last summer so it was so good to see them!

Friday was another travel day: getting Joyce and her car back to Duluth, followed by another (safer) shuttle ride back to the Minneapolis airport, followed by a late return to Orlando (touching down after midnight) and finally arriving back at our RV about 2AM.  Now that we are back in the land of shorts and sandals, we can confirm the weather here is much nicer (but we won’t irritate our readers with details) and we can confirm that airplanes are a horrible way to travel.  Their only advantage is when traveling great distances in a short time.  We much prefer traveling shorter distances over much longer times.

While it was wonderful to be in Minnesota visiting friends and family, it is great to be back home in the motorhome resting and relaxing.  We’ve moved to a new location, a very nice commercial RV park outside of Mims, FL.  We plan to do more exploring prior to the start of our next project on Jan. 7th.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Spirit - Florida Style

On Monday we had a day off to play tourist.  Based on a Groupon offer, we had a reduced cost admission to a National Historic Site called Bok Tower and Gardens about 60 miles away (see ).  This place is also nicknamed “Florida’s Taj Mahal”.  There is a carillon there that plays a concert of Christmas music twice per day as well as a brief tune each half hour.  We enjoyed one of the concerts from a bench in the garden.  It was a very pretty, quiet garden designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  Also on the site was a historic house decorated for Christmas.  It was beautifully done with a million Christmas trees (actually, the docents didn’t know the actually count but there were a bunch!).  We had a very good day!


Tuesday we moved the motorhome to the church in Rockledge.  The trustees have allowed us to leave it there while we’re in Minnesota.  One of the couples on our project in Satellite Beach is working at this church for 3 weeks, so they are going to serve as “guards” for our rig.  He is actually retired police from Hawaii, which eases our minds.

Today we left Rockledge early to meet a group for breakfast outside of Epcot.  We have belonged to this “Friends of the Mouse” group for a few years now but have never been able to attend one of their functions until today.  There were about 30 people attending and great conversations around the group.  After breakfast, some of us walked/boated around the area looking at all the wonderful decorations at some of the hotels. 
Disney sure knows how to do it!  We even got to stop at Downtown Disney and get Paige’s favorite treat – the ice cream “Mickey”.

Tonight we’re at a hotel near the airport so we’ll be able to get up early, drop the car at long term parking, and catch the plane for Minnesota.  It was in the low 80’s here today so we know it’s going to be a shock to our systems tomorrow!  But we’re looking forward to seeing the family!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back on the Mainland

We have moved; all of 5 miles across the Banana and Indian Rivers, back to the mainland of Florida.  By road, this move took about less than 15 miles and less than 20 minutes. 

Wickham Park is operated by Brevard County and has recently been re-opened after being closed for upgrading.  There is plenty of space between sites and quite a bit of shade.  Sunday was our first cloudy day in a long time, but temperatures still made it to the mid-70’s. 

When setting up our utilities, we realized that a water connection had been left behind in Satellite Beach.  This was not a problem, since we are still close by.  When we returned to pick it up, we happened upon a big group of carolers from the church who asked us to join them. 
Then it was back to the mainland for a dinner at home for a change.

We will hang out here for a couple of days and play tourist for awhile.  Then, on Tuesday, we plan to move again, about 16 miles to our next project (at this rate, we don't need much fuel).  We won’t start working there until early January, but they have given us permission to park the motorhome there while we fly back to Minnesota for Christmas.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winding Down

Another project is over.

Our project officially ended on Thursday with another group dinner, this time on the mainland.  Friday was a time for unwinding: sleeping in, starting slowly, doing our own things.  One couple left mid-day, but the rest of us are taking our hosts up on their offer to let us stay until Sunday.  We got some laundry done, and will finish it up on Saturday.  We had a good lunch and conversation with the minister, his wife, another couple from the church, and Judie from our project.  We also did a little shopping, trying to re-establish the feeling of Christmas-time.  For a couple of former Minnesotans, this is difficult when the daytime temps are in the 70’s.  

While at lunch on Friday, we saw the TV with Breaking News.  We are so sorry to hear of the awful school shooting!  Our hearts go out to that community! 
The past 3 weeks has been different from earlier projects, since we were the primary contacts with our hosts, and provided direction to our team members.  Since this was our first time in this situation, the weeks seemed to be more intense, and the time off gives us noticeable relief.  We plan to take another day to wind down and take a walk on the beach while we can.  The forecast is for partly sunny and highs in the upper 70’s.  Have to soak this in before going to Minnesota!

We’re so anxious to see the family next week!  Only 5 days until our trip back!!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another week behind us

Once we get into our work mode, we put in a lot of effort, doing whatever needs to be done.  Our workday ends at 4:00 and we are usually too fatigued to write blogs.  That’s how it turned out this past week. 

The painting of the classroom areas was completed and moved into the office area.  The guys in our group worked in some local houses where people need help maintaining things. Thursday night we celebrated the end of our work week, and the birthday of one of our members, with a dinner at SquidLips, a local seafood grill. 
On Friday we all did our own things. While others did laundry and relaxing, we went sightseeing to Daytona Beach:
It was high tide with a strong wind off the Atlantic, so not much beach activity was going on.  A pretty dreary, gray day.

In the evening, we took a walk to a neighboring chuch’s live nativity scene, complete with a live baby, and a cast of dozens.  We kept on walking to a neighborhood known for their lighting displays, then returned to our RVs.  This walk added up to about 5 miles, so Saturday we stayed off our feet.  Paige did laundry, Bob took a quick motorcycle ride, and then we spent some time at Barnes and Noble – one of Paige’s favorite stores – on Saturday.

Only 4 work days left!!  We’re ready for a little break and a trip to Minnesota for Christmas. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Week’s Work with a Field Trip in the Middle

On Wednesday we took a field trip to have a guided tour of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, not to be confused with the Kennedy Space Center which is on the mainland.  Our tour started in the Air Force Space and Missile History Center.  This place was active with rocket launches in the 1950’s, before NASA was created and before manned space shots took place.  Launch control bunkers originally had to be within 400 ft of the launch pad because many control signals were hard-wired DC and the signals were lost if the cables were longer.  The old computers were museum pieces. 

     There are many different launch pads, each unique to the type of rocket that was used. 

The rockets became larger and more complex with each new generation.  It was a very educational way to spend a whole morning.

We went to lunch nearby, at the Port of Canaveral, where many cruise ships load and unload.

During the rest of the week we were able to complete most of our high priority jobs around the parsonage and the classroom buildings.

The weekend came along just in time to allow us to recuperate.  We had enough energy for a walk along the beach to watch the surfers and pick up seashells on Friday evening.

 Saturday, we went sightseeing and stopped for lunch at a highly recommended seafood shop.  We will be back there again, Count On It.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday’s Over

We had a family Thanksgiving, but with another’s family.  We spent the day with the pastor of the local church where we are about to work.  We were joining his 2 daughters, 2 grandsons, and 2 dogs so it was quite informal.  On our way back to the motorhome, we stopped with his daughters to see a group of manatees that had come into a nearby shallow channel for warmth.  These gentle giants are sensitive to water temperatures, and the north wind has caused cooler air and water temps.

Friday we got a good look at the facilities here, and reviewed the listing of work to be done.  There will be lots of painting (which is common) but also some light carpentry and plumbing to keep things interesting.  We also drove around the area to get our bearings.  We watched the surfers on the Atlantic, found the big RonJon surf shop, and got some fresh citrus at a local orchard.

Another local church has a history of setting up a large living Nativity display.  On Saturday, members of 4 or 5 local churches came together to assist with its setup.  We went with Dr. Joe to help them.  The first of our co-workers also arrived here about mid-day.  Judie has been traveling solo in her 13 ft Scamp trailer.  She's living fulltime in this rig - amazing!

After attending Dr Joe’s early service on Sunday and having an early lunch, we were back in time to welcome the last members of our team: Bill and Ogie, from Hawaii, and Tom and Evelyn whose address is the same as ours (just a file cabinet or two away) but originally from Kansas.
We've now worked one day - the women painted one room in the Sunday School area and the men are working at the parsonage.  We'll be busy for the next 3 weeks!

Now it is time to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve been invited to share Thanksgiving by the pastor at our next project in Satellite Beach Florida with his family, and he had suggested that we arrive there Wednesday afternoon.  Tuesday we drove over halfway there, stopping outside of St Augustine, and allowing for an easy 155 mile drive today.  This morning I’ll be making Chocolate Éclair Ring for tomorrow’s dessert.  It will be a little bit of a slower day.

Dr. Joe (the minister in Satellite Beach) is making 3 turkeys in the fryer; two for other local families.  Bob will be helping him with that.  Also, on Saturday Dr. Joe will be helping another local church to set up a Christmas display and Bob and I will help with that.  The other members of our project will be arriving on Saturday and Sunday.  There will be 7 of us eventually.

As hoped for, we caught up to the warmer weather.  Yesterday’s high temperature here was 70 and the overnight low was 55.  The long range forecast for Satellite Beach is for highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s.  Finally – we can sit outside and enjoy the weather!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family!  We sure miss seeing everyone – Thanksgiving has always been Paige’s favorite holiday.  We’ll be thinking of y’all (the southern influence!) and will be looking forward to our visit home at Christmas.  Have a good one!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dedicated to our Nieces and Nephews

We found the above awning in one of the shopping areas along the river in Savannah today.

 Saturday we finished traveling to the edge of South Carolina.  We found a quiet RV park to settle into for a couple of days.  The name of a nearby town looked familiar so Paige Googled the name of some friends that we thought now lived there.  Rob and Sherri were fellow members of our home church in Minnesota until they retired to SC about 6 years ago.  We were able to reconnect, and they came to our campground Saturday evening for a brief visit.  On Sunday, the socializing continued with an early church service, a lunch with a very southern menu, a tour of their home and the “Low Country” around here.  We had a great time reconnecting with them!



On Monday, we toured Savannah GA by trolley and by foot, seeing many of the small parks and monuments that this city is known for.  There is a lot of history and beauty to be found here.

We also went to the restaurant and souvenir store of another local celebrity (click on the picture to zoom in on the sign):


Tomorrow we leave for Florida.  The weather is getting warmer and sunnier finally!! 




Friday, November 16, 2012

Leaves have Left

And so have we; left that is.  We arrived in Tennessee about 4 weeks ago amid the gorgeous colors of autumn.  As we were leaving today, we noticed that most of the leaves have fallen and the area is getting ready for winter.  Here is one small exception, taken in a sheltered canyon from I-40.:

It is time for us to move south.

Since we haven’t posted since the weekend, we should mention a dinner we were treated to last Monday.  The President of Holston Home has a very old, rustic cabin in the woods at the foothills of the Smokies.  In this case, rustic means no electricity and no water.  Lighting is from candles and older gas lamps.  He prepared a sit-down 4-course gourmet meal for 14 on his hearth and outdoor grills (with some help from his wife).  She admits that he does most of the cooking for the family.  A great time was had by all!

Another good meal was our own going away dinner at a local BBQ joint.  The best part came after the meal as we gathered at the History House back on campus for a last night of cards and laughter.  After working and being together for 3 weeks, we’ve made some good friends.  We will be working with Gene, Carolyn, and Janet at another project in January so we’re glad we’ll be seeing some of them again so soon.  As Mike, one of our project members and a minister, said, each project changes your life a little bit.

We have had great weather over the weekends, and last Monday was rainy, but since then the guys have been able to work outdoors putting in 3-rail wooden fencing while the gals were able to do some more painting and Christmas decorating at the History House. 

Our 3 weeks are up and 5 rigs hit the road this morning, two going north, two going south, and one to the west.  Paige wants to see Savannah GA so we got halfway there today (Friday) and will easily finish that leg tomorrow.  We will play as tourists for awhile before continuing on to our Florida project by mid-week.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

History and Geography

If we had known how much fun these two topics actually are, we would have paid more attention when in school. 

First off, everyone knows of the 13 original colonies, which became the first 13 States in the Union.  What was the next state, the 14th?..............................................Give up yet?
It was Franklin and Greeneville was its capitol.  This area was at the western end of the colonial state of North Carolina, but was ceded back to the federal government after the War of Independence.  It lasted for 4 years until being absorbed by today’s state of Tennessee.  There are also a lot of Civil War sites near here, but we found the history of Franklin to be more interesting, especially after meeting with a man who reenacts the history of the 1780’s last week at church.

Greeneville is also the home of our nation’s 17th president, Andrew Johnson, who was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President when Lincoln was elected for his second term.  Johnson became President as a result of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.  He made a lot of enemies during the post war reconstruction, and became the first President to become impeached.  During his trial by the Senate, he was acquitted by one vote.  We learned a lot about this man and his politics at the National Parks Visitors Center on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday we had gorgeous weather.  We took the motorcycle for coffee and a donut in Asheville, North Carolina, a little over an hour away.  The shortest way there is TN70-NC208 and it was a great ride.  After our donuts and a short freeway detour, we returned on an even nicer motorcycling road – NC209 also known as “the Rattler”.  According to the website this is the 7th best motorcycling road in the whole state.  We came across this by chance and rode all 264+twists, turns, and curves.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another Weekend, So Soon?

Time has been flying, so I guess we are having fun.  Once again the physical labor continued, though not as strenuous.  The storage building is now completely emptied, with lots of room for new stuff to be stored.  The weather still hadn’t cooperated for outside work, so we cleaned up the gymnasium

 A lot of interior painting was added to our list of accomplishments.  This was done at a couple of locations, both off-site. 

The weather improved late in the week, allowing the guys to get started on the 3-rail fence. After a day and a half, here is what more than 200 feet looks like:

 That is the History House beyond the new fence.  Those posts will be shortened later.

For social activities, we spent election night playing cards in the History House where there is no TV connection.  Also, 2 of our 9 workers turn 65 this month, so with Medicare replacing high priced private insurance, we have 2 “happy campers”.  Carolyn’s birthday was Thursday, so we all went out to dinner together.   

Here is a photo of our parking area: 2 motorhomes and 3 fifth-wheels, all with 30Amp full hookups.  We view the horse’s pasture and periodically the horses come over to look at us.  There are 5 horses that are available for the kids to ride and learn to care for.

The weather has finally gotten better this weekend.  We’ve been able to sit outside and hope to go on a motorcycle ride today.  Sunny and in the high 60’s!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekends are for Recuperating

The physical labor continued last week. The storage building is almost neat, with lumber racks built and wood sorted (somewhat). We are holding onto the dumpster (the second one) for awhile in case we need to dispose of more stuff. One trailer load of metal items weighing over 2500 lb has been taken to the recycler, plus more trailer loads for Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity.
Meanwhile, the ladies have finished getting the History House ready for inspection and moved to the library of the on-site school.  All of the books had been removed recently while some work was being done.  They moved all the books back where they belong, and put them in the right order too.

 As the weather has slowly improved (lows in the 30’s, highs in the 50s) we may be doing the outdoor work that was originally scheduled.  A pile of new lumber has been delivered for us to create a fence.   

Since we work a 4-day week, we took a little field trip on Friday to try a BBQ joint in a nearby town.  They serve “Carolina Style” with a number of different sauces to choose from.  It was very yummy!  On the return trip, we stopped at a state park honoring the birthplace of Davy Crockett.   

Saturday was a free day – laundry and some errands.  After sitting outside and visiting with everyone in the afternoon, we met at the History House for cards and snacks in the evening.  We had a great time with a card game that one of our members created.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No Storm Damage Here

We, too, are watching the TV reports of all the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  It appears that the worst damage is in New York and New Jersey.  We are far enough south and west that all we have to endure is unseasonable low temperatures, wind, and rain from the edge of Sandy.  There is a lot of snow nearby, but that is in the higher elevations near the Blue Ridge.  Our hosts had no reason to expect anything other than normal temperatures of mid-30’s for lows to mid-60’s highs.  Most of planned work was expected to be outdoors.  Instead, our days and nights have both been in the 30`s since Sunday, so there has been some scrambling to find indoor work. 

Today, Tuesday, the ladies were able to work indoors preparing an on-campus historical house for inspection in order to obtain an occupancy permit, now that many major renovations are complete.  Meanwhile, the men in our group continued emptying a large storage building, where a mixture of “stuff” has been stored for a long time. We now have a 10 cubic yard dumpster full and ready to be hauled off tomorrow.  It was filled by hand over a day and a half.  We also have a 20 ft trailer filled with salvaged construction materials that will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.  Both the dumpster and the trailer will be filled at least once more before we are through, so there has been a lot of manual labor. 

This storage building is near the stables on this property.  Yesterday we had some very inquisitive spectators come to see what we are doing:


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ready to Get Back to Work

Friday was another nice day, but we didn’t go anywhere or do anything special; laundry, cleaning, baking.  It was a quiet “day off”.  As predicted, the cold front came through on Friday night.  Saturday was cool, cloudy, and sprinkly but that was OK for a road trip to Nashville, where we met with our niece, Jamie, and her family.  We had blogged about our last visit here in April of last year.  Their daughter, Shay, has grown a lot since then.  She is all set for trick-or-treating (as a pumpkin):

The cold front intensified for Sunday, as the weather became even colder and wetter.  We packed up amid cold showers and moved back east to the town of Greeneville, where we will be working for the next 3 weeks.  If past projects are any indication, we might end each day a little too tired for daily postings here, but we will try to get updates online a couple of times per week. 

We noticed a lot of power company service trucks on the road yesterday, but didn’t think too much about it.  When we saw more today traveling north and east, the realization sunk in: the crews and equipment are on their way to repair the damage that is about to take place when Hurricane Sandy comes ashore in the next day or two.  There were many dozens of bucket trucks caravanning together. 

We have just come back to the motorhome from our first meeting with the other volunteers here, and are all set to get back to work in the morning, regardless of the weather.  The predicted snow in the Appalachians is expected to hit Pennsylvania and West Virginia pretty hard, and it is possible that some of that might reach this far south.  There are 9 team members with a potential of 2 more joining us later this week.  Janet is from Florida and is a “snow virgin”.  She’s never seen snow fall so this potential snow fall would be exciting for her.  We’re going to be doing inside work this week and hope it warms up soon!

By the way, Thursdays trivia was “ TVAs Norris Dam was named after who?” . . . 

{Answer: The dam was named in honor of Nebraska Senator George Norris (1861–1944), a longtime supporter of government-owned power in general, and supporter of TVA in particular}                          taken from Wikipedia                  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We’ve Been Sightseeing, Again

Since we’ve last posted, we have been busy seeing a lot of this countryside.  I have always been curious about this area: where Tennessee meets up with 5 neighboring states.  For anyone who likes “up, down, and twisty” all mixed together, this is the place! 
Monday we took the motorcycle east and north to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (see ). 
This is where Daniel Boone led 18th century settlers over a relatively low spot in the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky.  At a scenic overlook, we looked down on the spot 3 states (including North Carolina) all come together.


On Tuesday we took the car (for a change of pace) to Greeneville, where we will be volunteering for the next 3 weeks.  Holston Home for Children (see ) is easy to find, and has a very large campus.  We will learn later this week where to find our parking area.  On the way back to the metro Knoxville area we found the corporate headquarters of Bush’s Beans.  The headquarters are found way out in the country – nothing else is around.  This is a huge canning plant, and a major employer in the area.  While they do not offer plant tours, they do have a museum, gift shop, and café.  It was a fun, informative, and tasty stop.

Wednesday was fairly quiet.  Paige found the website of a yarn shop that we searched for.  They had moved from their original spot, but we were successful finding their new place, although they didn’t have what she was looking for.  We finished that trip with grocery shopping, and a little larger dinner.

Today, we took another motorcycle ride.  First we went back to Oak Ridge for a little more history, then to the north to Norris Dam.  This was the first flood control dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the mid 1930’s to control flooding and provide electricity to this area.  It was named after someone named Norris, but can our readers figure out who this person was? 
Most of the days this week we have returned in time to get to the Happy Hour sessions at the RV park.  We have met many of our neighbors.  They are a very interesting bunch.  Tonight there is the regular Thursday night Bluegrass jam session so we may walk up to catch some of that. 

The weather here is still beautiful; in the high 70’s.  On Saturday a cold front is forecasted so highs will dip to the 50’s.  Still warmer than the 37 in MN today!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Answer Is . . .

For those who are still puzzled about the town we mentioned in our prior blog, the town is now known as Oak Ridge TN.  This is where 5 little villages ceased to exist and 3,000 area residents were ordered to vacate their homes in 1943.  Their place was taken by 4 large production plants and a complete “planned” community of about 3,000 prefab homes.  The homes were completed and ready for occupancy at the rate of 30-40 houses per day.

One of the plants was a mile long and covered 44 acres, the largest factory in the world at that time.  It was built to separate 2 isotopes of uranium and to collect the unstable one, U-235, for use in the first atomic bomb which brought an end to World War II.  How they got so much done, so quickly, amid high security is amazing.

Saturday was a little cool and cloudy, not bad but it just never turned nice.  We did a little shopping but nothing special.  Sunday we found a good sized church and attended a rather interesting service.  For a “traditional” service, the first half was like a rock concert and the sermon was very casual.  Sunday afternoon the RV park held an ice cream social that had a pretty good turnout.  After everyone was served, we went around the table introducing ourselves.  There are some really interesting people here.  One common theme we found is that many of us volunteer in some capacity: Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps, and other organizations also. 


Friday, October 19, 2012

Visit to a mystery town

Thursday we had an easy driving day to the vicinity of Knoxville.  The Escapees RV club has their own RV park just north of town and we got a site here for the next 10 days, until our next NOMADS project starts.  We went to the clubhouse in the evening to watch a bluegrass jam session – 7 musicians and many singers from the audience just having fun, many without sheet music. 

Friday we went to a nearby town that was created early in the 1940’s by the government and was closed to the public.  Nobody got past the security fences which surrounded the town without authorization.  Residents were not allowed to talk to outsiders about this town.  At its peak about 75,000 people lived and worked here, but the town was not on any maps of the day.  Can any of our blog followers figure out the name of this town and what its purpose was?  We learned about it while visiting a museum.  It was very interesting and informative!

There is a lot more touristy stuff for us to do in this area.  The weather this weekend is going to be in the low 60’s but the forecast for next week is sunny and in the mid 70’s. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Biking Day

For today’s ride, our “bike” had an engine and no pedals.  We are still recuperating from yesterday’s pedal ride.  Our local campground owner suggested a route for us and we followed most of it.  Damascus is only a mile or two from the VA/TN state line and the next town south is Shady Valley, TN.  On the way there, we stopped to see the world’s shortest tunnel, through Backbone Rock
The following is taken from the home page for Shady Valley Country Store:
Nestled in a remote, high mountain valley of far eastern Tennessee, The
Shady Valley
Country Store opens it's doors and hearts to the
motorcycle and sports car community. We are surrounded by 3 mountains
and some of the most scenic rides in the eastern USA. Within a 12 mile
radius of The Country Store there are 489 curves that is called "The
Snake".  It can be very gentle and tons of fun or mean, vicious and
extremely dangerous all depending on how you handle "The Snake".
Before leaving the store, we had to get a picture of someone’s labor of love
This is a V-8 powered lawn tractor.  What it is used for is anyone’s guess.
We came into town from the north, and left toward the west, through the Cherokee National Forest and over “Low Gap”.  It was not as intense as Deals Gap (11 yrs ago) so we can say we’ve survived the Snake.  The roads were hilly, curvy, and smooth & clean.  Very nice weather and ride! 
We continued west to cross South Holston Lake and turned south to see the massive earthen dam built by TVA that created this lake.  We rode over the top of the dam, turned around, and rode it again.
The outlet area had a lot of fly fishermen.
We returned to Damascus in time to visit with some neighbors from Alabama who are here for the month to do a lot of bicycling. We went to dinner with them and had a great time.  It sure is easy to make friends with total strangers in this lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Virginia Creeper Bicycle Trail

We have moved to southern Virginia, to a small camping area in the town of Damascus.  We chose this location based on very positive reviews on the internet from other customers.  Monday was a pleasant drive to get here; mostly freeway driving for a change.  Without reservations, we were lucky to get a site here.  The owner was very chatty and informative.  As it turns out, Damascus calls itself “Trail Town USA” because so many trails come through here.  There is the famous Appalachian Trail for hikers, and many other trails for birding, music, history, and other activities.

After getting some errands done this morning, we spent the afternoon on the Virginia Creeper bicycle trail.  For overall details see .  We caught a shuttle bus about 2 blocks from our front door, and it took us up the Jeb Stuart Highway to an area called Whitetop Gap.  From there it is a 17 mile downhill bike ride on a former railroad grade back to Damascus.  For a couple of once-in-awhile pedalers like us, that was a long way.  Good thing it was all downhill, dropping by over 1500 feet.

 It was a beautiful day for this ride – sunny and in the 60’s.  The first 3 miles were the steepest then it tapers off to a more modest grade for the next 11 miles.  The last 3 miles are fairly level.  This ride ended right where we are camped.  Along the trail you could see and hear the fast moving stream which had occasional water falls.  That, along with the beautiful fall colored trees, made for a great ride!

Here is a picture of the view from our motorhome window.  We’re in a valley with hills all around us. Right behind us is the river – we can hear it flowing along.
We will stick around here all day tomorrow as well, but get the other 2 wheeler down and ride (not pedal) some of these gorgeous roads.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Into Virginia

After a couple of quiet days at Raystown Lake and the Corps of Engineers campground there, we picked up our mail in Altoona PA Friday morning and left the area.  A hard freeze was forecast and the South was calling.  We took I-70 across one of the narrowest parts of Maryland and West Virginia and into Virginia.  Then I-81 brought us into the Shenendoah valley with the Blue Ridge off to one side.  We stopped for a long weekend (3nights) in western Virginia, south of Staunton.

Saturday we wandered around an art fair on the streets of Waynesboro and looked for some geocaches near Staunton. 

We had lunch at an old-style drive-in recommended by a website called Roadfood, but thought Gordy’s in Cloquet was better.

 We had pleasant fall weather on Sunday.  After a local church service in Mint Springs, we took a motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 We were back in time to fix a big Sunday dinner, while we watched our Vikings lose to the local Redskins.  This was the first full football game we’ve watched this season.  Did we jinx the game??

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hello Pennsylvania

Monday was a quiet day spent cleaning and organizing stuff in our rolling house.  Top to bottom, inside, that took maybe an hour.  We took a field trip to another Wegmans grocery store (simple pleasures for us old cogers).  We also learned that a niece was only about an hour away, assisting with a training class for one of her corporate sites.  Since we don’t have to be anywhere special until late this month, we changed our plans and delayed our departure by an extra day in order to meet her for dinner.
Monday evening had a bit of excitement for us when Paige spotted a mouse by the driver’s seat.  It just sat there for several seconds while Bob determined what he was going to use to hit it.  When Bob grabbed the shoe (HIS shoe, thankfully!), the mouse scurried off.  Bob set up 3 traps in the area and Paige sat watch.  About an hour later Paige spotted it sitting on her tennis shoe.  Again, the mouse was faster than Bob.  Another hour later, Paige spotted it on the floor next to the brake pedal.  Bob checked it out and it didn’t move.  He got several paper towels and was able to grab the mouse and throw it out the door.  Phew!  Anyone who knows us knows Paige doesn’t cohabitate with mice!!

Tuesday became our extra day in the state of New York.  We did laundry in the morning, and took another little field trip to the historic town of Owego on the Susquehana River.  We explored the town on foot and learned that this river is the longest in the USA that drains into the Atlantic Ocean, and that it is the longest in the lower 48 without commercial boat traffic.  They have a neat walking path along the river with many postings of historic tidbits.  We met Carrie for dinner in a jail cell at the Calaboose.

None of us were rowdy or disorderly; this restaurant is located in the former county jail, and they put their booths into the old cells, making for a unique atmosphere. 

Today, Wednesday, we headed south into Pennsylvania where the colors of fall have not yet peaked.  Other than a minor issue with an 8 ft clear overpass,
it was a rather uneventful travel day of about 200 miles (maybe a little more with the U-turn).  We are parked on the shores of Raystown Lake, at a Corps of Engineers facility.  Here is Paige enjoying her Nook and the view as supper is cooking.

The largest town nearby is Altoona, where our mail is now being sent.  We will stay here until it actually arrives in a day or two.  There is no TV reception here, so we won’t have to deal with any political campaign ads.  Sure is peaceful.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Our Last Weekend in New York

That weather forecast mentioned in our last post has been accurate.  Saturday was cooler and cloudy so we took the car to Corning and spent the day indoors – in the museum of Corning Glass.  The place was packed.  There were tourists from all over the world.  It was an entertaining and educational visit for us.  We saw a glass-breaking demonstration (how different glass breaks, ie safety glass for cars, etc.), learned about fiber optics, and watched vases being created by a glass blower. 
We recommend this tourist stop to anyone coming through this area.
We recognised the work of Dale Chihuly from across the room:
Sunday started out even cooler.  (I can’t say “cold” since we looked up the weather back home in Minnesota.)  After a local church service here in Campbell, where we were the only strangers, we visited a couple of vineyards/wineries back in the Finger Lakes.  Bully Hill is highly recommended for being low-key and fun – and they have good wine!  They also have a great restaurant which we tried out – yummy!
Here is some more Finger Lakes scenery.  Just imagine if the sun had been out.
In some places, it is like being in a jigsaw puzzle (with all those colors).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Colors are Peaking

Thursday was another short travel day, but included a little Interstate driving for a change.  We moved to the southern edge of the Finger Lakes area.  The local long-range weather forecast had said to expect a beautiful Thursday, an OK Friday with rain moving in late, a wet Saturday, and a cold/wet Sunday.  As of Saturday morning, that was very accurate. Here is the view out our windshield:
We got settled into our latest campground early and unloaded the motorcycle for a very nice afternoon of riding on back roads, along the Canisteo River Rd.  It was a gorgeous afternoon.  So many homes decorate for Fall with pumpkins and mum plants – beautiful. 
We used the car on Friday for a trip to Watkins Glen and along the shores of Lake Seneca and Lake Keuka.  We have been here a number of times in years past and it remains a favorite place to see.  Pictures of Watkins Glen don't begin to capture the beauty, but we will try:
The rain moved in, right on schedule, while we were enjoying a local Friday night fish fry.  Light rain has stuck around all night and into Saturday morning, as this is being written.

This is Columbus Day weekend, and Monday is a school holiday around here.  The campground will be closing for the season very soon, so this is their last big weekend.  A lot of “weekenders” have arrived yesterday filling the campground, and the staff has pumpkin carving and trick or treating planned for later today.  The rain is likely to put a damper on both activities.

We will be here through the long weekend.  While the “weekenders” will likely leave sometime Monday, we will wait until Tuesday morning to pack up and continue our rambling south.  Our next stop is planned for a Corps of Engineers park in Pennsylvania where no reservations are taken.  Campsites are “first come/first served” but we don’t expect an issue this late in the year.  After we get our mail by the middle of next week we will continue further south, but both the route and the schedule are uncertain. 
The latest forecast shows possible frost, so it’s time to move further south.