Our “Grand Adventure” has finally begun. Oh, I know, this is just a “trial run” but it does seem like a beginning. The church dedication yesterday was a milestone. From now until Feb. 3 we live in two worlds. I feel kinship with Grandpa Doten today.
Monday 10-8 Cool and cloudy, true fall weather
Left Gray 10:30 am. Filled up with gas and went to bank at Boone’s Creek, then went back home again to get GPS. 11:05 Took back roads (TN 81) to I-26. On I-26 @11:45 at Erwin. Light rain in spots.
Stopped at NC Welcome center, trip mile 55. Spent some time there. Left at 1 pm. Cold and drizzly. Briefly visited Mars Hill, NC (Exit 11). Nice little college town. Decided to stop at Ingles for a nap in the rainy weather. After it cleared up we fixed “lupper” (non-cooked)—leftover slaw, ham and cheese sandwiches, Pringles and pecan pie(b-day gifts), LO apple cake, radishes, cookies. Drove to a park we had seen and made coffee. Drove to Lowe’s in Asheville. Got Art a windbreaker at the Goodwill across the street ($5), then went to Asheville Mall for a while, walking around and looking through books at the bookstore. Back to Lowe’s & set up for the night. Watched a video on Netflix, had a snack of LO chicken, then went to bed 10:30 pm. Slept pretty well, not as cold as we had expected. We had emailed Joanne Phebus and she said it’s better to do internet at Lowe’s and sleep at Wal-Mart, so we’ll try to do that. But we’re also more “invisible” than they are. We were at the far end of the lot at Lowe’s and there were cars next to us when we went to bed and when we got up.
PEOPLE: The lady at Goodwill who was buying blankets to give to the homeless.
Tuesday 10-9 Cool and sunny Trip Mile 95
Woke up about 7:30, made coffee, cleaned up, had devotions and then found a park with the GPS. Went there and made breakfast (eggs and ham - yum!). Finished devotions. We’re reading “The Prodigal God” by Tim Keller, part of Art’s b’day gift from Bryan. Also reading Scriptures from the SS quarterly study of Galatians.
Went to WM, then to French Broad River Park and had a nice river walk. They also have a dog park there. (Note: Sometimes “park” on the GPS takes you to a housing project, eg. Carlos Park in Asheville, even if you search under “recreation.”)
As we walked through Walmart, I found myself thinking a new way—much less attached to “things.” I saw how little there was, even in that very “practical” store, that was at all necessary to life. Last night also, in the bookstore, I had the same feeling, while looking at books about fashion and make-up. I compared those books, in my mind, to photos I had recently seen of everyday life in Mali. How little those folks “need” to live and even thrive. They don’t even need the pen and paper that I’m using right now.
I can already see how it would be easy to spend several weeks here, just “living” in Asheville. Haven’t you ever been to a place on vacation and thought, “I wish I could just ‘live’ here for a while and see and do all of the interesting things there are to do?” Van Trekkers can!
Spent some time in the River Arts District, exploring, appreciating the creativity of these folks. Not too many people around, which was nice. It was another nice walk. We decided to go down to Brevard next. Stopped at another Lowe’s and got a duplicate key for the van, then went to Cracker Barrel (gift card) for lunch—meatloaf & dumplings, their Tuesday special $6.99. I don’t think I’d get the meatloaf again. Note: Thursday special is turkey and dressing (in case we’re given another gift card). We had birthday pie with milk for dessert (in the van). Got our first “daily visitor” in Cracker Barrel parking lot, a young salesman who just bought a conversion van and is camping in the area. We gave him the vanabode link written on a napkin.
On the road again, a little warmer. Went through Brevard and up US 276 to Looking Glass Falls. Stopped along the road and took fall pictures. Went to Brevard and walked around town. Went to Lowe’s, checked email & watched a movie, “Canterville Ghost,” had some leftover chicken again, uploaded photos, did email, then went to Walmart. Bedtime 9:50.
NOTE: Brevard Walmart is not a 24 hour store, but we had no problems, except that we parked near a part of the lot where the big trucks come in to restock the store. They sounded like jet engines and shook the ground a little. We probably could have stayed at Lowe’s instead.
PEOPLE: Young mom who ran an art supply store, and her new baby
Young salesman who just bought a conversion van, and is living in a campground. We liked him because he admired our set-up.
Wednesday 10-10 Cool and sunny Trip Mile 175 (80 miles on Tuesday)
Got up at 8:30 and used the bathroom at Walmart, which is handy. Bought duct tape. Drove to a roadside table in Pisgah NF (on US-276) to make breakfast and have devotions. Found a nice spot with tables, by the river. Back to Brevard to do email and buy stove fuel. Finished our devotions at Walmart, under a nice tree.
Drove to Dupont State Forest and spent the afternoon hiking to waterfalls—Hooker, Triple Falls, and High Falls. At the welcome center for Pisgah, we met a nice volunteer named Dan Scallin who retired to Brevard from Plymouth, Michigan! He knew of Beitner Jewelry and knew Uncle Bill’s name. He even asked aboout “the man in the wheelchair” and we told him that was Bill’s brother Fred. He seemed pleased to make a Plymouth connection, since he had lived most of his life there.
After our hiking adventure we went back to Hendersonville and fixed supper (leftover stew, slaw, pasta salad, pie, banana bread, bananas) at Patton Park. Then to Lowe’s to do internet and email. Took a long time to update the Garmin maps. Then went to Walmart, which wasn’t far away, bought water, and watched “White Christmas“ (which was one of only 3 movies on Art’s computer) before bed, about 11:30.
NOTE: It probably cost us more to drive back to Hendersonville that it would have cost to camp at Davidson River Campground near Brevard.
PEOPLE: Dan Scallin, the volunteer ranger who lived most of his life in Plymouth, MI, and knew Uncle Bill.
Thursday 10-11 Cool and sunny Trip Mile 231 (56 miles on Wednesday)
Woke up 7:30 am. Breakfast and devotions at Jackson Park. Hendersonville has some nice ”sports complex“ parks with walking trails, tennis courts, soccer fields, and at Patton, even a skateboard center. Now that we know, we could eat (Jackson Park), sleep (Walmart), and do internet (Lowe’s) all within a mile or so radius. Nice to know if we decide to go to Hendersonville again.
We decided to go back through Brevard and then farther down US-64 to Gorges State Park. It wasn’t well-marked, and the GPS couldn’t find it. After we did (It’s on NC-281) we toured their lovely new visitor center (dedication was the next day) and hiked to one of the falls. Their maps and signage weren’t very visitor-friendly, but eventually we found Upper Bearwallow Falls, then went farther along 281 to Whitewater Falls, the largest falls we saw on the whole trip. In fact it’s one of the tallest falls in the eastern US, over 400 feet, but not a straight drop like Toccoa Falls.
When we entered South Carolina, the road turned to SC-130, and a little farther along, we saw a connecting road to go over to SC-107, where there were more falls we wanted to see, so we crossed over. It’s a good thing we did, because we accidentally discovered Cherry Hill Recreation Area in Sumter National Forest. We only intended to fix supper there, but discovered that it was a campground, and being in a national forest, we got to stay for $5 with our senior pass. It had nice individual bathrooms with shower, sink, and commode, something we hadn’t seen before, but very nice. So we took advantage of that feature! NOTE: Cherry Hill Park closes for the season Nov. 1, and only has 10-12 sites that do not require a reservation. You can reserve the others ”on the spot“ by phone or internet, but even that requires a $10 fee, and you have to drive to a spot where you can get a signal. No electricity, but since we are ”off the grid“ we did fine. Had burgers with fried potatoes and onions, and carrots for supper. Took a shower and looked at our photos until bedtime (9:30?). We could have had a campfire, there was a fire ring, but didn’t think of looking for wood until it was too dark to see.
NOTE: If you’re not in a campground, heat a thermos of water in the evening to use in washing up in the morning before dressing.
PEOPLE: Campground host was an evangelist/pulpit supply. We had a nice conversation. He grew up in Clayton, GA, and knew exactly where Brenda’s house was, when we described the place.
Friday 10-12 Cool and sunny Trip Mile 299 (68 miles on Thursday)
How nice not to have to hide my towel and toiletries when walking to the bathroom! I was even able to ”uncurl“ my hair because there was an outlet by the sink. In other national parks, we’ve made coffee in the bathrooms, but now that we have our propane setup, we don’t have to do that anymore.
We took our time and didn’t leave the campground until 12:40! We seem to be developing a slower pace, not getting on the road until noon or later, and having two meals a day, one around 10 am and another at 4 or 5. We continued down 107 stoppping at Yellow Branch Falls, about 5 miles north of Walhalla on SC-28. It took over two hours to walk the 1.5 miles to the falls and back, but we had the falls and the return hike all to ourselves, which was nice. We got back to the entrance around 4 pm and made supper at the picnic area (leftovers from Thursday night, plus raisin bread french toast). Finished our first tank of”white gas on the two-burner stove; we changed out the propane on the one-burner yesterday.
We left the falls at 5:15, and discovered that we wouldn’t get to see Issaqueena Falls across the street, because the gate closed at 5 pm. And when we got back in cell phone range, discovered that Brenda expected us for supper and Jenny’s birthday party. Fortunately, we were less than an hour from their house at the time, and arrived in time to eat a second supper with them. Who can resist Quang’s eggrolls and a rich chocolate cake!
Slept in the van in Nguyens’ front yard, very nice.
Saturday 10-13 Warmer and sunny Trip Mile 351 (52 miles on Friday)
We got up late again, and after devotions and breakfast, went with Quang, the kids, and Jenny’s party guests to the Apple Festival in Cornelia. Brenda was working the Chick-Fil-A booth from 10-2. We met Frank and Suzan Clay there and had a nice time talking with them while looking at the old car show. We showed them the van at their request. They’ve been retired for just a year now, and are still loving it.
After Brenda got off work we walked around the fair with her and the girls (Quang had taken Mom and Ben home earlier), then went to Clarkesville Mill Mall for a while with them before going back to the house. Quang had made a nice stir-fry and we had leftover birthday cake, and also kettle corn and caramel corn for dessert. Just hung out with the family in the evening.
Sunday 10-14 Warmer and sunny Trip Mile 383 (32 miles on Saturday)
Went to church with the family. Nice service, Gideon speaker. Quang had fixed a big ham for dinner. Played Monopoly with Ben, watched Brenda make a cake (to sell), and just visited in the evening. Talked about garage plans.
Monday 10-15 Cooler and sunny (rained overnight) Trip Mile 400 (17 miles on Sunday)
Left Nguyens at 9:30 am, with me in a nice lawn chair in the back (We had to bring Mom home—she had been at Brenda’s while we traveled). Art needed to go to the Apple store in Knoxville, so we decided to drive through the Smokies up US-441. The color was very nice and we got some good photos. After we were done at the Apple store we drove up I-40 and stopped at the rest area just before the split to make corned beef sandwiches (reubens) and invited a young cyclist (Mark) to join us. He was biking ”home“ to NH from New Orleans, where he works, to see his family. Arrived home 5:30 pm.
TOTAL Trip Miles 659 (259 on Monday)
42.2 gallons of gas
Avg. MPG 15.6
8 days, avg. 82 miles a day (including return trip)
7 days, 400 miles, avg. 57 miles a day (not including return trip)