Posts Tagged With: RV

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: USA’s Biggest Home

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It is the Gilded Age and you have become one of the world’s richest people by means of the shipping and railroad industries. What do you do with your riches? If you are George Vanderbilt, you spend 1889-1895 building America’s biggest house near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Biltmore Estate, by the numbers: 255 rooms, 2.4 million cubic feet of interior space, 135,280 square feet, nearly 8,000 acres. A brick kiln on the construction site produced 32,000 bricks a day.

It is a house beyond imagination, even for HGTV addicts accustomed to the expensive whims of home buyers.

We were among throngs who visited today (yearly visits total 1.2 million). The gardens, especially the azaleas, were spectacular. We enjoyed about two hours walking many of the informal trails. The self-guided house tour was fascinating, but we missed getting a feel for how the family lived. It was dark and felt stiff. Exceptions were the 22,000-volume library and the billiard room. The enormous indoor swimming pool was impressive.

They put us in the old horse barn for lunch. We ate in a stall next to the trough. I should point out that it had been tastefully cleaned up and decorated. It is one of 15 restaurants on the property.

Is the tour worth the $60 admission? If you cannot secure a private invitation from George Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, who owns the property and lives in the area, then we think it is a place for the ages, not to be missed when you come to Asheville.

 

 

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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: A Day at the Beach

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The Isle of Palms near Charleston, SC,  hosts miles of huge beachfront homes fronting small dunes and miles of beautiful beaches. Today, the water was warm, almost matching the near 80-degree air temperature.

We toured Fort Moultrie, which, along with Fort Sumter, was built to protect Charleston Harbor. Some of the cannons could fire balls weighing several hundred pounds up to four miles.

A bridge away on Sullivan Island, we found the buzzing Poe’s Tavern for lunch. Lots of Edgar Allen Poe illustrations hung on the walls. Why was it called Poe’s? Well, he served at Fort Moultrie for 13 months. I had no idea, did you?

We have decided we could be comfortable in one of the homes here, at least for part of the year. That dream settles as I write this in our tiny home just a few miles away, but in a slightly less glamorous setting.

Dreams aside, it sure felt great to splash in the warm Atlantic water!

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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: 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: 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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Backroads Across America: Thinking Small in Texas

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Small-town Texas was on display today as we drove southeast to the Hill Country, where we are staying for a few days at the By the River RV park in Kerrville.  Our site is on the Guadalupe River and spring green is the color of the month. What a view for happy hour! It is quite a change from the stark desert scenery of western Texas and much of our journey through Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

Brady, the geographical center of the Lone Star state, and Mason were welcome chances to walk and soak up the atmosphere.

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Backroads Across America: Where to Park the RV?

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So, where do you want to park your RV? Nearly two weeks into our cross-country adventure, our feelings about this question have evolved.

Last year, when we first got our wee trailer, Oregon State Parks were perfect. Lots of space, privacy and beautiful scenery. We thought we would stay in these kind of parks on this trip, and we still may do that. But, much of the time, they require planning and booking. That is not what this adventure is about.

So, what do we look for on this trip? Convenience, amenities, dependable facilities, and location come to mind. So, we chose a concrete pad in Las Vegas (shown above), a short walk to the Strip. And the KOA in Tucson, which allowed us to visit with Reg’s college friend. It also had a pool, a great way to unwind after a day in the truck! See the photos above for the Tucson pool, plus a shot of the covered area, with a solar panel roof. Also, in the photo at bottom right, our site offered a patio with table and chairs.

Tonight, we are at another KOA in San Angelo, Texas (top photo) on our way to the Hill Country. We have also stayed at several Good Sam parks. We don’t spend much time at any campground. We have stayed more than one night several times, but are out exploring during the day.

Like our son Andrew pointed out about good coffee, sometimes you just want something dependable when convenience matters. So, you grab a Starbucks when there might have been better coffee a few blocks away. We  are happy with the chain RV parks so far. We know what to expect.

As for the rest of the trip? Who knows?

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