Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

RV Park Review - Spartanburg NE/Gaffney KOA (Gaffney, South Carolina)

Spartanburg NE/Gaffney KOA website

Overall, this is a very nice, clean park conveniently located to the interstate (I-85) and the Gaffney Freightliner Oasis Service Center.  It has all the amenities you would expect to find at a KOA such as a swimming pool, playground, dog park, miniature golf, store, clubhouse, and more (including goats). 

This KOA has 127 sites offering varying degrees of services to accommodate RV's, tents, and those wanting to rent cabins.  We chose a 50 amp full hook-up back-in site but were upgraded to a pull-thru so we could be in a sunny location to mitigate the chilly air.  How nice of them!  Our site (#79) was perfectly level as were most others (but not all).  Water, electric, and cable hook-ups were well placed at the site and worked fine. We paid $37/night (with the KOA member discount).

Nice, large grassy area for doggies
Roads and pads are hard packed gravel with grass in between sites.  Some sites are set in a wooded area while some are out in the open with plenty of sun and satellite coverage.  The park is big rig friendly and the roads are easily navigable.  All sites have a picnic table and some had fire pits but ours did not.  Cable is included and offered over 50 channels.  Wifi worked well at our site. 

Back-in wooded sites
The laundry was small with three washers and three dryers but very clean and had a decent book exchange.  The bathroom and showers were super clean and looked like they were updated recently.

And there are flowers!

What we really liked was the convenience of this park.  We were heading to Freightliner and wanted to stop for one night to get caught up on laundry before going without water or sewer for 4-5 days.  The park very close (less than a mile) to I-85 but the road noise was not a problem and the Freightliner Oasis Service Center was only five miles away.  The park is extremely clean and the owners/employees are super friendly.  There is a short hiking trail (less than a mile) through the woods and plenty of green space in front of some of the pull-thrus. 

large swimming pool with large deck
putt putt with lots of goat humor
The not so good is hard to come up with.  Maybe the downside would be the closeness of sites but that is pretty much what you expect from private RV parks.  Fortunately, we did not have neighbors right next to us which gave us more space.  I'm usually not a KOA fan but have to say this one was great for our overnight stay and we would recommend it.

Spirit’s two cents: we were able to find a grassy field on the property right in front of the coach that was a perfect “chuck it” field in the morning and evenings.  The park was not crowded at all when we were there so not many people and dogs were outside.  The dog park is a decent size, especially for small/older dogs, that don't run a lot.  

dog park with pathetic Spirit looking for a playmate

Friday, March 28, 2014

RV Park Review – F.D. Roosevelt State Park (Pine Mountain, Georgia)

Overall, we loved this park and it is just what you expect and want from a state park campground.  It is a 9,000-acre park perched in a gorgeous wooded forest in the Georgia Hills with beautiful campsites, peaceful hiking trails, a serene lake, historic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings, and the quiet sound of the forest that permeates. 
Our site (#518 on the left) with Nealy's on Wheels and Technomadia camped next to us.
The registration office is located in an old Civilian Conservation Corps building that once served as a tavern.
The park has 140 RV/tent/trailer campsites ($25-28/night), 16 backcountry campsites ($10/person) and 22 cottages ($100-175/night; two of which are dog-friendly).  RV/trailer campsites vary from 50 and 30 amp electric service with water to those with no-hookups.  The campground is divided into six different loops.  The majority of sites are back-in but there are plenty of large pull-thrus able to accommodate all sizes of rigs.  Roads through the campground are paved but very narrow. 

Cabins with a great view overlooking the valley

Sites are gravel and most (but not all) are level and water and electric hook-ups are well placed.  Sites have fire pits and picnic tables.  Campsites are heavily to moderately wooded which adds great shade but inhibits satellite television coverage (we were not able to receive satellite with our roof-mounted in-motion unit).  Our antenna picked up a dozen channels but only one major network (CBS).  There was no problem getting phone reception or Verizon HotSpot 4G coverage.  There is no wifi or cable.  
The campground does take reservations but you can not reserve a specific site
Back-in site on the lake
Some gray water dumps are located
adjacent to campsites
There is a dump station able to accommodate two RV’s at once and gray water dump stations are conveniently scattered throughout the campground. 
There is a gift shop and camp store on-site and within a couple of miles of the campground is a small grocery store, liquor store, gas station, shopping, and a few restaurants.  Ten miles away is the small town home to the F.D. Roosevelt “Little White House” historic site which is a very interesting museum and well worth the visit.  The town has a few gift shops, restaurants, and attractions.  I highly recommend Mac’s BBQ.

For those looking for activities, there is plenty to do as the park offers many activities including education programs, ranger-led hikes, musical events, and camps.  There are stables available to take you horseback riding, canoe/kayak rentals, geo-caching, fishing, and much more.  Amenities include playgrounds, a swimming pool (open during the summer), an amphitheater, and picnic shelters. 

Awesome hiking trails
What we really liked about this campground were the nice, large campsites set in the woods, the great hiking trails, and peaceful setting.  It is a really nice campground for those of you who want to get away.  Nearby is the F.D. Roosevelt “Little White House” historic site which is a very interesting part of the Georgia history. 
Lake Delano, one of two lakes, available for boating
The not so good was that sites did not have sewer.  If sewer were available, we would have stayed longer. The roads were narrow and trees are close to the road so going slow in a big rig (ours is 40’) is a must.  Some pull-thru sites have their patios facing the road so they may not be optimal for those wanting privacy.  The bathrooms are older and vary on cleanliness depending on how many campers are in the park. 

Spirit’s two cents: she ranks this park very high.  There are miles and miles of trails that were perfect for letting her run freely and swim in the creeks that meander through the hollows.  Trails are not very strenuous and leave right from the campground.  On most occasions we never saw other hikers so we let her off-leash to run at her free will.  While we did not see any deer to chase, there were plenty of smells and squirrels to chase.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fun, Friends, and a Fine Forest

We left the chaos, craziness and crowded rally behind and headed to the Georgia hills in a mini caravan with Nealy’s on Wheels and Technomadia.  Awhile back some friends recommended visiting Warm Springs where the F.D. Roosevelt “Little White House” historic site is located and that sounded like a great attraction to see.  Just so happens that there is also the F.D.Roosevelt State Park with a campground and over 9,000-acres of forest for us to explore and immerse ourselves back into nature.

The little town of Warm Springs was put on the map when Roosevelt (who was Governor of New York at the time) came to the mountain town hoping the warm springs water would cure his polio.  While the waters did not cure the disease they turned out to be soothing and therapeutic for polio sufferers. 

Roosevelt became enchanted with the small town and the natural beauty that surrounded the area.  He decided to build a vacation cottage nestled up to Pine Mountain which became known as the “Little White House.” While in Warm Springs he swam in the warm waters, got to know his neighbors, and drove the country roads where he met farmers and rural Americans struggling to survive.  It was during this time that he developed many of the policies that were incorporated into The New Deal.  He established the Civilian Conservation Corps to put young men back to work, he put forth the Rural Electrification Administration which brought electricity to rural America, and established the Social Security Administration. 

F.D.Roosevelt's convertible that was equipped with hand pedals
so he could drive along the country roads.
Today the house is on display as a historic site and there is a museum, old Secret Service Guard Post, gift shop, and picnic area on the grounds.  Roosevelt was posing for a portrait when he suffered a stroke and soon after died in his bed in Warm Springs.  The “Unfinished Portrait” was never completed and is on display in the museum.

The bedroom where Roosevelt died.
The comfortable, unassuming living room.

After spending five days driving around this area and hiking in the state park it is easy to see why Roosevelt was so enamored with the area.  We thoroughly enjoyed the quietness of the park and the long hikes in the woods.  But, we also had to explore these little towns and dive into some of the local foods.  First up was Mac's BBQ when Deas quickly made a U-turn and pulled into the parking lot after seeing a line at the counter.  Good thinking Deas, the food was great.

Best of all, we had great neighbors and spent many evenings sitting around the campfire, sharing meals and enjoying the company of Chris, Cherie, Deas and Jen.  The feasting never seemed to end and ran the gamut of BBQ, pineapple fried rice, Mexican food, and so much more.  Wine was always a side item.

Cherie and Chris (a.k.a Technomadia)
Jen demonstrating why she is called
"Happy Hour Everyday Girl"
The Technomadia super cool GM vintage bus.
Chris and Cherie's awsome cat "Kiki"
Great camping spot for the three rigs.
 It is hard to say "goodbye" . . . so we said “so long” to our friends and look forward to meeting up with them somewhere sometime.  Thanks for such a great time!  Safe travels.  We will miss you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rally Virgins No More

We have spent the last six days hanging out at the Family Motor Coach Association Rally in Perry, Georgia.  Perry was never a place we thought we would park the RV but when we learned about this huge rally, we were game to attend our first ever rally.  Let me tell you how much fun we have had and how beneficial it was.

Here is the run down . . . there are over 3,000 attendees motorhomes scattered across the Georgia National Fair Grounds, hundreds of informational seminars, copious new and used motorhomes for viewing (and purchase), exhibitors demonstrating the newest products, giveaways, games, technicians to solve pestering problems, entertainment, and a great way to hook up with old friends (like the Nealy's and Technomadia) and make plenty of new ones (Two For(e) Traveling, the Mattis's and the Johnsons).

Arrival day was crazy!  Just imagine volunteers trying to park thousands of motorhomes on grassy fields that are makeshift sites.  Rigs were being parked in numerous different sections based on water, electric, and sewer needs.  We arrived with Nealy’s on Wheels about 1:30 pm and the madness was well underway.   Luckily, one of the golf carts driving by happened to be the beer cart from Paul Everett's RV Country in California. (Yes, anyone who gives us free beer gets a plug.)  A cold beer immediately relaxed our anxiety level that was very high after waiting for over an hour to be parked on top of a four-hour drive.  A little pestering of the parking guys proved valuable as we scored rock star parking up front.  Imagine being parked in the handicap spot at the mall on Black Friday.  Score!

Patience (and beer) was a must in a line like this.
And along came the beer.
Home sweet home.
Betsy and I attended lots of seminars.  Everything from generator maintenance to microwave cooking to bathroom TLC.  Some of the seminars proved more informational and beneficial than others but since they are free to registered attendees we figured we should go.  Besides I have always wanted to know how to replace my propane regulator and continuously looking to improve my culinary skills.

This RV was not for us.
In between seminars we dashed in and out of hundreds of new and used motorhomes.  The motorhome showcase is a great way to compare coaches without having to go from dealer to dealer looking at different manufacturers.

All the big players were there and showing off their newest models and floorplans, including the $900,000+ Newmar King Aires and American Heritages that looked like Las Vegas hotel rooms.  On the last day, we fell in love with the 44’ Entegra Anthem.  It was a good thing the show was ten minutes from closing and we decided not to pull the trigger opting to keep our money in the bank.  For sure, that was the wiser financial decision.

The Newmar King Aire actually has lights inside the sink and sparkles in the floor.
Makes our moho look a little plain.  
Deas demonstrated the impractical shower in a $450K Allegro Bus and how it would not work for a 6'4" man.
But maybe that is because he is trying to shower with a solo cup full of bourbon.
In the evening it was time for happy hour and dinner with new and old friends before venturing over to the arena for the evening’s entertainment.  The warm sunshine brought lawn chairs out and the friendly RV lifestyle was in full swing. 
The Texas Tenors filled the house.
This RV was getting a new windshield and the dog was supervising.
One of the biggest benefits of the rally was being able to get things fixed and talk to RV manufactures and technicians.  We signed up to have our Blue Ox tow bar inspected and refurbished for only $25.  That was a bargain considering the tow bar is a valuable link to making sure our car travels safely behind us.  We had Freightliner stop by to diagnose an age old problem that has never been fixed.  It is a great place and time to get your windshield fixed, new sensors on your tanks, a new satellite dish, new awnings, etc. 

I have to say that attending the rally was a great decision and I’m sure we will go to another one.  There is always something to learn and the camaraderie is great fun.  We have never seen so many motorhomes in one place before.  

And yes, Spirit didn't mind the show as long as she was swimming in the catfish pond.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tallahassee, Florida

There was one stop we had to make between leaving the Florida panhandle beaches and moving on to the RV rally in Perry, Georgia and that was to Tallahassee.  Since some good friends who have a beach house in the panhandle live in Tallahassee during the week, we thought it would be a good way to spend some time with them and see the capital city. 

Our stay was short so there was no time to waste.  Within half an hour of the motorhome being parked, we were on our way to a little hole-in-the-wall joint that I read about in a travel magazine.  Welcome to Bradley’s Country Store.  One step out of the car and the waft of smoked sausage reminded me of why we made the drive along the beautiful oak-lined, Spanish moss dripping country road out of town to this legendary joint dating back to 1927.     

The sausage hanging in the store are shipped all
around the country.  It may not look appetizing in this picture but it was delicious.
Our friend, T, nicely offered to take us to the Susina Plantation - an incredibly gorgeous farm where she trains horses for the owners.  That was an offer we could not refuse.  We loaded up all the dogs and headed to the country and we loved seeing the pine ladden property and being in the country for a few hours.  When T saddled up two horses Betsy's face lit up and she was thrilled to be back in the saddle again.  Meanwhile I attempted to tire out the dogs with a frisbee and some swim time in the pond.  Seems some dogs never tire.

The plantation dates back to 1841 where cotton, sweet potatoes, rice, and livestock made it a prominent plantation in the area.  Hard times fell on the plantation in the mid to late 1880's and owners changed hands. The original name, Cedar Grove, was changed to Susina when a New York doctor purchased it and renamed it for his wife Susan and the Italian plums called Susinas that grew on the property.  The main house is quite dramatic and the gardens around the property really make it shine.

Our busy morning in the country was followed by an afternoon trip downtown to see the capital buildings and a couple of museums.  Tallahassee was not the first capital city of Florida.  Previously, St. Augustine and Pensacola served as state capitals simultaneously since the state was divided into two political regions established way back during British rule.  Tallahassee was the midway point between these two cities and was the likely choice for a new capital (established in 1824). 

The old capital building is strikingly handsome with its inviting portico, dramatic dome, and charming red and white awnings (which were chosen to match colors of the state flag).  The building has undergone numerous renovations and expansions as the state's population and political needs grew.  The current building serves as a museum offering a glimpse at the state's political past. 

The museum houses replicas of the House and Senate Chambers depicting their
1902 character.  
Remember the "hanging chads" during the
2000 election?

A short walk away is the Museum of Florida History.  This free museum chronicles the history of Florida from the prehistoric mastodon to the Spanish arrival in the Civil War and into the modern era of industrial development.  We happened to be at the museum the day they were having the exhibit opening and reception for “The Lore of Florida Fishing” exhibit.  The clean and simple exhibit caught our eyes and we ventured in to take a closer look. 

The highlight of our Tallahassee visit was a trip to a farm our friends own that houses the “Kudu Lounge.”  The girls were getting ready for their annual dog party on the property and invited us to a cook-out the night before we had to leave.  While the dogs ran free and played we enjoyed the peaceful setting. It was paradise.  Minus elephants and giraffes walking across the empty fields we felt like we were back in Africa.

This Glamour Tent even has indoor plumbing and electric.

Kelly tending bar
Spirit and her BFF Leroy.  
We had a great time in Tallahassee and only wish it could have been longer.  Maybe we will stop back by on our way south again.  Seems like there is lots more to do that we just could not fit in during our busy two days.  Thanks a million Kelly and T.  You guys are the best!