Posts Tagged With: Backroads

Backroads Across America: Scenic Drive Yields Surprises

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After an hour or so of monotonous interstate driving from southwestern Virginia, we veered northeast toward Highway 60, which follows the Kanawha River in West Virginia. It climbed and twisted along the narrow, rocky river gorge. We had to wait for a wide spot (yep, next to a Family Dollar Store) at a reservoir to take a photo.

Our destination was Charleston, where we are visiting our son Chris and his girlfriend Gail.

It was a beautiful drive, a challenge with the trailer, but as backroads often do, it revealed a surprise: Coal. Our scenic drive book didn’t mention it, but the last section leading to Charleston featured several large coal and chemical plants. It was busy and the surrounding communities looked like thriving company towns.

The valley has been an industrial region since the mid-1800s and the Kanawha River feeds the Ohio River. Daniel Boone and Booker T. Washington spent time in the area.

We paused for a bit of southern culture at a cafe next to a coal plant, where the luncheon buffet featured mashed potatoes that may have had more butter than potato. Delicious! The servers must have liked us, because they called us “Darlin’.”

The state capitol dome dominated the Charleston skyline, but we had to keep going about 30 miles westward to our KOA campground in Milton, where we are staying for five nights. There are other RVs here, although they did not show in Sue’s photos.

 

 

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Backroads Across America: Squeezing in Our Campground

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We’re spending the night in southern Virginia where spring is just beginning to show its colors.  Our campsite was surrounded by trees, but there was barely a leaf to be seen.  It looked quite winter-like.

A good night for what Reg calls “Comfort Food.”

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Although he rolled his eyes when I dropped this in our grocery cart the other day, we thoroughly enjoyed our Deluxe Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinner, incredibly easy to make with the enclosed packet of squeeze cheese!

And what better way to dine on this gourmet delight than from good old fashioned TV trays!  Bon Appétit!

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Backroads Across America: Scenes From the Rearview Mirror

Today was a turning point…literally.  This morning we headed left out of Hickory Knob State Park Campground, where we spent the last two nights, and watched as South Carolina disappeared behind us.  Today marks the point of our trip when we get serious about heading west and eventually returning home to Oregon.


Hickory Knob was a perfectly fine place for our two night stay, although neither Reg nor I could put a finger on why we didn’t love it.  Our site (pictured above) was tidy and spacious, surrounded by trees – I assume some were hickory trees – and the bathrooms were clean.  I gave my hair a good sudsy wash and powerful blast from my blow dryer, which was a real treat!  


From our campsite, we  walked nearly all of the 7-mile Lakeview Trail Saturday morning, following a part of the shoreline of (controversially named) Strom Thurmond Lake, a 71,000-acre reservoir forming the border between South Carolina and Georgia.  The sheer size of the lake is unbelievable and it appears to be a fisherman’s paradise.  It felt good to lace up the hiking shoes and follow the blue markers along the dirt trail.  As a reward for our enthusiasm, we lazed around the campsite for the rest of the afternoon!


This morning, on a road as straight as an arrow, we aimed for Asheville, North Carolina where we hope to stay dry during our four-day visit.  As South Carolina vanished in the rear view mirror, we wondered what new adventures await us on the return trip.


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Backroads Across America: Crossover Hookups!?

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Notes from the road

Cowboy bar: Get on your motorcycle, drive to Bandera, Texas, in the Hill Country just north of San Antonio. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar is not to be missed.

Backroads? Have we been true to our blog title? Mostly. We found it tough in Arizona and New Mexico. There aren’t as many roads and some go nowhere, which might be interesting, but the rest of our title is “across America,” after all. From Texas on, we have mostly stuck to our non-plan. Texas calls backroads “farm roads” or “ranch roads.” In the Hill Country, there are many deep dips, with markers showing how deep the water running across is…the marks go up to five feet!

Lonely path: We have usually tried to avoid cities, leading us through the middle of the southern states with some long, lonely stretches. We found ourselves hoping for a small town to break up the monotony. The ones we found were often Twilight Zone-like deserted. An RV from Oregon was not a common sight, let me tell you.

State parks: They are great, of course, and we have lucked out by getting some amazing sites. In RV parks, you see license plates from all over North America. In state parks, you rarely see a vehicle from out of state. But, like I mentioned a while back, RV parks are often more convenient. Plus, the swimming pools don’t have alligators.

 Language, accent. Well, this is a sensitive matter. How do I phrase this? Since Texas, when I ask where something is in a store, I usually hear enthusiastic, friendly replies. Couldn’t be nicer. I think. You see, sometimes I am not sure, if you know what I mean. I smile, say thanks, and continue my search.

Crossover hookups?! OK, RVers, what are they? The guy at our RV park in the Texas Hill Country explained that our sewer line was on the usual side, but the water and electric hookups were in the other side of the site. Are you kidding? Nope. He said our lines would reach. He was right, of course, but it was a challenge stringing them under the trailer. Our next door neighbor called it “backwards plumbing.”

 

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Backroads Across America: It’s the East Coast!

Cross country, coast to coast, backroads across America — whatever you call it, we have alas made it to the East Coast!

The Mt. Pleasant KOA (photos above), just east of Charleston, SC, is our home for the next three nights. We will have to cope with 80 degrees and low humidity. This is yet another lakeside campground where you put your toes in the water at risk, although we have looked carefully at all the logs on our walks around the swamps, and none moved.

We spent the last three nights in Georgia state parks and were most impressed. They rival the facilities in our home state of Oregon, except they have even more space per campsite.

Driving on backroads across the middle of Georgia? It was gorgeous: Lush green landscape, thick forests, rolling hills and some beautiful ranches, farms and homes.

We have logged about 4,500  miles in the Tacoma and Rockwood. Coming up on four weeks. So, how is the RV life? Sue says it is “the best way to experience the country.”

 

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Backroads Across America: Alabama Paradise for $11

 

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Perfect spring conditions framed our drive today, which began with the first 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful 444-mile two-lane path from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. We left the National Park Service-maintained trail at Jackson and caught Highway 80 east across Mississippi.

A fellow camper (traveling from Santa Barbara, California) in Louisiana had advised us to watch for the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. So, here we are at one, Prairie Creek, just past Selma, Alabama. What’s not to like! Quiet, lush, spacious sites. Lakeside vistas. Electricity and water hookups. Just $11 with a National Parks senior pass. If we were cats, it would be time to curl up and purr.

 

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Backroads Across America: Historic Natchez, Mississippi

Perched on the bluffs above the Mississippi River is the historically rich town of Natchez.  The area was home to the Natchez Indians when the French arrived in 1716.   Soon after, with the arrival of English and Spanish settlers, the inevitable territorial tug-of-war began.

In 1797, the first American flag was raised and the Mississippi Territory was established.  Statehood followed in 1817.

Natchez is proud of its history and a great number homes and buildings date back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  Its proximity to the Mississippi River and fertile, cotton producing land created great wealth for landowners in the early days.  However, it’s important to remember the riches came at a great cost.  Slavery allowed the landowners to become rich beyond their wildest dreams.  By 1860, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. City.   Life for most came to a screeching halt with the end of the Civil War.  Fortunes were lost, plantations were returned to the banks and the cotton markets never completely recovered.

By chance, we arrived in Natchez during the annual Spring Pilgrimage month when many of the historic homes are open to the public.  Above is Brandon Hall, dating back to 1856.  This dapper gentleman on the right greeted us as we began our tour, filling us in on the history of what used to be a working plantation.  The home currently operates as a bed and breakfast. 

Below is a view of the pond from the front yard.

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Backroads Across America: Two wheels and a tent


The editor of the community newspaper I worked for used to say, “Everyone has a story to tell.”  
Meet Australians Rachel and Skip, two fellow travelers who will have quite a story to tell when they return home.  Our paths crossed today at the Onalaska KOA campground along the shores of Lake Livingston in eastern Texas.  As we head east, they are heading west on the home stretch of a year-long motorcycle odyssey that has taken them on a crisscrossing journey, tent camping their way through the U.S., Canada and into Mexico.  

Positioned just below their motorcycle windshield is the above reminder that life is short.  Rachel and Skip claim to be “not escaping life, but just stopping life from escaping us!”  We couldn’t help but admire their spirit of adventure.  

So, as the sun sets in Onalaska, Texas we wish Rachel and Skip safe travels and many new adventures to come!  Tomorrow we will cross into Louisiana, headed toward new adventures of our own.

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Backroads Across America: A Texas-size storm


My phone screamed at 7:00 this morning, signaling an emergency alert:  Tornado watch in your area-take shelter now!   

As the wind, buckets of rain, hail, thunder and lightening intensified, we circled each other in the trailer wondering what to do.  Our truck was hitched up (in the hopes of getting an early morning start), but the trailer jacks were still down. We couldn’t safely unhitch in the increasingly stormy weather, and the office wouldn’t open for another two hours.  


In an effort to calm me down, Reg poured coffee.  We finally opted to sit in the truck. My thinking (however flawed) was, “If a tornado blows through the RV park, I want to at least have the security of a seatbelt and airbags.”


At 7:45 am, right on schedule, the weather began to calm down…and so did I!  As the storm moved through, fellow RVers surveyed the damage.  Not too bad, although a falling branch damaged a trailer hitch across the way.  The storm is moving east and so are we, so we have opted for one more night here.  Tomorrow is another day!

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Backroads Across America: Carlsbad Caverns

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Our hike today led us in an opposite direction – 750 feet down a steep and winding path – into the depths of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We chose the self-guided walk, beginning at what is known as The Natural Entrance, a gaping black hole where the 1.25 mile trail awaited.

An hour later, we reached an underground rest/snack area located in The Big Room, a chamber 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide and 255 feet high.  Here exhausted explorers can call it a day and catch the elevator back up.  For more curious folks like us, the path continued on for another 1.25 miles, allowing us to take in such sights as The Lions Tail, Hall of Giants and the incredible Bottomless Pit.

It’s was impossible to capture just how vast the caverns are, but I did manage to snap a couple photos that illustrate the intricate detail of the numerous formations that grow in this fascinating park.

 

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