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 http://www.nps.gov/cuga/index.htm ). 
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
http://www.holstonhome.org/ ) 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 cafĂ©.  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 http://www.vacreepertrail.com/index.html .  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.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tourist Time, Once Again

After moving only 50 miles on Tuesday, we spent Wednesday playing tourist again.  Letchworth State Park is near here and is touted as “The Grand Canyon of the East”.  It is composed of over 14,000 acres along the Genesee River.  The southern entrance is less than 10 miles away.  Inside the park, the river drops over 3 waterfalls and flows through a narrow gorge over 600 ft deep in some places.


We walked a number of trails on the southern end, and drove the length of the park, exiting through the north gate at Mt Morris NY.  At the end of the park is a “dry dam” built by the Corps of Engineers as a flood control project.  There had been devastating floods about every 7th year before this was operational.  It looks like there is room for a lot of water when it is needed.

The town of Mt Morris has a lot of well-kept older buildings, and we found a nice deli for a late lunch.
We got back to the campground and had time to do laundry and make a pot of chicken with spaetzle soup.  Yum!  Good end to a nice day!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tourist Time

Sunday was cool and drizzly, so we stayed home and read and napped after attending the local church in the morning.  The Buffalo Bills football team turned a surprising lead into an embarrassing loss, but we really haven’t been following any of the teams yet this year.  We are camped at the fairground which is pretty close to the stadium – we could see the blimp hovering over the stadium furnishing views from above during the game. 

Monday was forecast as a nice day, so what did we do after renewed our wedding vows last week?  We went to Niagara Falls!  We have been there a couple of times before, on the Canadian side.  Yesterday we played tourist on the NY side of the falls.  The NY side is not as touristy and the city is actually a pretty depressed looking area.  The park is pretty and scenic but the shopping area is pretty vacant and unkempt. 

Before going to the Falls, we stopped at a store we had heard of – Made in America Store.  Everything in the store is made in America.  Apparently this store has been featured on some of the national news shows.  It was very nice and since we were there at the same time a tour bus was, the owner gave us the 10% discount and homemade cookies! 

Today we’re taking our time getting ready to move to a different campground.  It’s another dreary, drizzly day again.  Minnesota weather is sure looking better than this!!