Posts Tagged With: rv life

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: Asheville Leaves Us With Questions

 

Eclectic, mild climate, college town, surrounded by the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains.

City traffic hassles, parking challenges, a place rough around the edges.

Both descriptions fit Asheville, North Carolina. A city of 87,000, there are 425,000 in the metropolitan area.

It was raining when we set out this morning, so we jumped on the Hop-on, Hop-off trolley, thinking we could see the city without getting soaked (I mean that literally.). The weather improved, so we hopped on and off several times and explored.

Do you like college towns? This may be the place for you. UNC Asheville has nearly 4,000 students and is known as a liberal arts school. A community college technical school here has 7,000 students.

Are you a shopper? There are outlets, a mall, lots of shops downtown and in the funkier West Ashevillle neighborhood.

If you like art, this may be your paradise. The River Arts District, which is polishing the rust off the old industrial area, brags more than 220 working artists in a one-mile zone along the French Broad River.  Or, you could explore the former Woolworth’s building downtown, converted into a two-story gallery of local art. In a nice touch, you can lunch or snack at the original soda fountain.

If you enjoy touring old neighborhoods with beautiful homes, you will find them here. Of course, the granddaddy is the Biltmore Estate (see our earlier post).

Music lover? You can listen to live music nightly at various venues. Local performers, but also some big names, especially on weekends. Probably more in tune with 20-somethings. (I promised our sons not to use the “M” word.)

Food connoisseur? Lots of choices downtown. Some pretty funky, some more refined. We had lunch today at a taqueria that doubled as a night club in the River Arts District. Grungy, but the food was alright. There were better choices downtown, but we were hungry and it was there.

Beer lover? Sierra Nevada (yep, the one based in Chico, California) is the big, new brewery in the area, joining a community famous around the country for its choices in local beers.

This city has been put on the map by a host of famous authors, artists, actors, and millionnaires who have called it home. It has a vibe. After three days here, we will move on to Virginia tomorrow morning, not sure what to think of Asheville, North Carolina. Lots of positives. When you visit, let us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backroads Across America: These Stores Fit the Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe wish we had 99 cents for every one of these stores we have seen since Texas. Virtually every town has had at least one, usually both. In some places, they are two of very few businesses still open. In larger places, retail activity has moved from downtown to places like…(drumroll?) Walmart.

 

 

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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: The Place Where FDR died

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We came to Warm Springs, Georgia for its amazing scenery and to stay at Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, the state’s largest, seen at top on our drive today. History was another attraction. FDR came here for more than 20 years to bathe in the warm waters that helped him cope with the paralysis caused by polio.

He would drive his convertible, using hand controls he helped develop, from his rustic cabin into the town of Warm Springs and swim with locals. He especially enjoyed sharing the pool with children, even playing water volleyball. These photos show his wheelchair, the desk at which he was sitting when he fell mortally ill, and the bed in which he died on April 12, 1945.

We drove from the Little White House into Warm Springs and enjoyed an authentic southern luncheon buffet at the charming Bulloch House Restaurant in the tiny town. We were too stuffed to sample the boiled peanuts and deep-fried gator offered at the outdoor market, where we strolled after lunch.

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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: Drive-Thru Cocktails

IMG_0393A two-day search for wine in markets and convenience stores in Louisiana and Mississippi had proven fruitless, other than Boone’s Farm and some with mold on the bottle. Then we found this store today. Not only did it offer a good selection of our favorite Chardonnay, it sold drive-thru drinks to go. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but it is true. As long as the lid is not punctured by an open straw, you can buy a variety of cocktails from your car in Louisiana. Just no “bottom’s up” until you get home!

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Backroads Across America: Hello Ol’ Man River

Two traveling days have taken us from the Texas Hill Country to the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Natchez, Mississippi.

We have ambled along backroads lined with lush green grass, forests (even some pines) and rainbows of wildflowers. The beauty of the Hill Country continued through most of eastern Texas. Today, in Louisiana, it was more of the same colors without the hills.

We missed the picnic areas and rest stops of Texas today and settled for lunch in the trailer parked at a gas station. We passed no picnic or rest areas across Louisiana.

This is our third straight RV park next to water. In the Hill Country, it was the Guadalupe River.  Sue found a fantastic spot last night on Lake Livingston in eastern Texas. We walked along a wonderful path next to the Mississippi tonight after dinner.

Quite a river, indeed. I think we’ll settle here for a spell.

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Backroads Across America: Visiting the LBJ Ranch

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Texas Hill Country is a beautiful part of Texas and the lifelong home of Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th president of the United States.

A driving tour took us around the 2,800-acre LBJ Ranch, where the president spent 474 days, or 25 percent, of his presidency. We caught a glimpse today of Lucy Baines Johnson, who was visiting the place where her father was born and she grew up.

A tour of the home showed its unpretentious, relatively small rooms where the president hosted chiefs of state. He signed many bills on the front porch. Several rooms featured three televisions where the president could monitor news reports from CBS, NBC and ABC.

John F. Kennedy visited as president-elect and would have spent the weekend with First Lady Jackie after their Dallas visit were it not for his assassination on November 22, 1963. As requested by JFK, a pecan pie baked by the ranch chef awaited his stay. He had remembered the dessert from his first time there in 1960.

LBJ hosted many barbecues on the front lawn leading to the Pedernales River. He also presided over countless meetings under a 400-year-old oak tree in front of the house. He died at the home in 1973 at the age of 64. Lady Bird lived at the ranch until 2006 and died in Austin the following year.

An aircraft hangar houses a small jet used by the president to get back and forth from Austin or San Antonio during his 74 presidential trips to his beloved ranch. The ranch landing strip was too small for the 707.

A modest white building housed Secret Service agents and an adjoining “LBJ green” structure was home for the flight crew. It doubled as a communications center.

The Johnson family cemetery is the final resting place for many family members. LBJ and Lady Bird lie beneath the largest two headstones.

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Backroads Across America: El Paso wins lowest gas price

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A small Texas town dresses its jail community service workers in classic prisoner garb.

Tidbits from the road:
Temperature change: It was 89 degrees in Las Vegas and just 32 in Williams, Arizona the next night.
Gas prices: El Paso wins the low-price battle at $1.98 a gallon…so far.
High and dry in the desert: Gas stations are few and far between in the Southwest, so we have almost always filled up at every chance. The lower mileage that comes with towing is a big factor.
European views: Four folks from Germany about our age were parked next to us in El Paso. This is their fifth tour in the U.S. in rented motor homes. They love driving this country because of its diversity and scenery. This year, their friends in Germany questioned their trip, though. “Americans are angry, don’t go there,” one German said he was told. He brushed off the warning, saying he likes the people here.
Rough roads: Our Mariposa friends the Chappells drove to Alaska last year. Doug said the roads were so rough a window broke in their camper. The roads in Arizona may not be much better, even on Interstate 40. We were bounced around so much that normally sturdy drawers in the trailer were tossed open, requiring some minor repair. Beware!
Speed: Once we left California, truck and trailer speed limits mirror those for cars. So, the limit is often 70 or 75 and it is not unusual for a truck or RV to be going 75. Really? What are these states thinking? Do I sound like an old man in a pickup?

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