Miles 2895 – 2905

Lily, our Vistabule, has been stored away for the first half of 2018.  Yep, a recent little ten mile round trip. We finally had a chance to roll her out on Sunday, July 9th as part of Vistabule’s “Ambassadors Program.”

We had a meetup with a really great couple, Steve and Brenda, who were interested in a hands-on view of the Vistabule. There happened to be a kids’ hero theme day being held at the museum where we parked. So, several families and a couple of individuals also stopped by for a quick look.

Then, Lily went back into storage probably for the rest of the summer. She gets a new DampRid and battery check periodically.

During the lull in posts we have traveled by air for additional business and family visits.

Otherwise, Earl has been putting in long hours for work. At home he enjoys genealogy, movies, updates with his gaming buddies, and more work.

I have been trying out various crafts that do not require a lot of storage space. Right now that means various techniques of making buttons, from historical to modern. Also, I have started making Japanese knot bags, and gathered materials for Sashiko and Kumihimo projects.

Keep enjoying life between camping trips!

2 Dorset buttons and a pair of embroidery scissors

Dorset Buttons






New Year 2018

We washed and sheltered our Vistabule on a warm autumn Sunday, ahead of an unusually early cold snap that was forecast to blow into the Southeast. Supplies such as linens, batteries and pantry items, liquid or dry, were packed in the car to take home. Items left in storage were neatly stacked up off the floor. It all took less than an hour.

This preparation for our first winter season of separation created strange feelings, we felt reluctant to leave Lily and the fun camping trips behind even for a few months.

Days later Atlanta had an early dusting of snow. I took a snapshot of one of the courtyards in our apartment complex before the snow disappeared.

Courtyard Dusted With SnowLooking at the blog’s previous November 2017 post, I am surprised that it was written just six weeks back. We have been on several trips without the Vistabule during that time.

On a sunny weekend day between cold snaps, we returned to travel the length of the Cherohala Parkway from east to west, North Carolina into Tennessee.

Cherohala Skyway OverlookA couple of weeks later there was a flight out to the Seattle area to visit our children, grandkids and the furry grands. Two of the fur babies give Earl’s allergies a fit.


To give Earl’s dog allergy a break we normally stay overnight at a hotel or Airbnb. This time we had the fun of sleeping in the kids’ new travel trailer; driveway surfing.

Travel Trailer

The generations always mix family meals, crafts, and games with some outings. Our favorite meal of this trip was at Din Tai Fung, a restaurant known for great Dim Sum.

Dim Sum Restaurant

During our photo I think the kids and my grandson, Milo, were telling me that I’m not allowed to order one of everything on the menu.


Veteran’s Day while my daughter-in-law had her normal workday in her home office, I hung out with my granddaughter, Mabry, who was recovering from an illness. We read, measured and drew layouts for her bedroom. We talked crochet and baking.(Last year at age nine she started baking and decorating her own creations.) We even had a fun time together while emptying the dishwasher and putting clean dishes away. We also played a video game requiring problem solving skills: Unravel.

Here are photos posted by her parents of Mabry reading. It helps that she has long legs.

May Reading

While we stayed home, all of the guys headed out to Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. This time it was its 20th Anniversary and the exhibits covered Jim Henson’s Muppets, along with Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds.


Another day the guys and I walked along Lake Washington and ended up at Ivar’s Seafood Bar for lunch. One of the joys of visiting the Northwest coast is stuffing ourselves with seafood, anywhere we can get it.


One evening Earl and son, Eachean, headed out to see the movie Blade Runner. It disappointed both of them. Meanwhile daughter-in-law, Stephanie, took the rest of us to Glazed Art at the Landing in Renton. I had never painted ceramics before. Both Stephanie and I struggled, while the grandkids quickly whipped out their creations.


Soon after our return, Earl had a business conference in Fort Lauderdale. I tagged along to assist him since his limited eyesight makes solo travel a bit challenging. For the first time, we did not have an ocean view room. It was a nice change to watch the boat traffic on the Intercostal.

Ft. Lauderdale Sunset

Naturally, we could overlook the beach while dining and still reach it easily from the hotel. Still, no touristy outings this time; we focused on relaxation mixed between Earl’s work meetings.

In the New Year ahead we expect to repeat business travel, along with flights to Las Vegas and Seattle to visit our children and grandchildren. While Earl continues to work, as expected, the Vistabule stretches our budget to add numerous additional outings into three and four day weekends and gives us more connection to the great outdoors.

Happy New Year’s! Our hopes of peace, health, happiness, and wonder filled travels go out to you.

Miles 2289 – 2894

Three chapters of the international Tearjerkers group formed the Mighty Southern 3X gathering on November 2-5, 2017 at Georgia’s Skidaway Island State Park.


We headed south a day early, on Wednesday, and arrived after dark. It was late enough that the park office was closed. Stopping by a host camper’s site in the campground, we met Greg who graciously welcomed us and gave information about the layout, facilities, and how to finish check-in in the morning.

Looping around in the darkness to select a site, I glimpsed a campfire on the next road with a group of people waving their arms at us. Soon flashlights were moving through the trees toward us. Several people quickly looked over a few sites. With group consensus, they guided us through trees like an airplane into a terminal and parked us at a pull through campsite for the night.

And so, we quickly met Lois, Richard, Bonnie and Terry. I believe there were more friendly faces whose names I am missing. It was a blur of chatty laughter with a quick Q&A session. Our welcoming committee dispersed back to the warmth of their campfire as we unhitched.

We wanted to grab a quick meal and return before the campground’s gate was closed at 10 pm. Fortunately, there was a shopping center nearby with a Publix grocery store and a sports bar & grill still open. Bellies satisfied and tucked in for the night, we remained curious about what the campground would look like in the morning light.

For the next four days of the Tearjerker’s gathering we had perfect weather, a large campsite and a lovely clean campground for relaxation.


There were one to two optional get-togethers for loads of good food and company each day, some craft time and occasional music, and night time bonfire groups.

There were an estimated 20 Teardrop Trailers to tour, many of them lovingly homemade.

There was plenty of time during any mid-day to enjoy the campground trails, or the numerous nearby sights of Savannah, GA.

I once lived in Savannah’s suburbs and have visited many times over the years. Together, Earl and I previously enjoyed the Riverwalk area and a side trip to Tybee Island. This time, we opted for an Old Town Trolley tour of the city so Earl would get an overview of Savannah’s  history.

Following the suggestion of one of Earl’s co-workers, we also drove to nearby Pooler, GA to visit The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. Earl wanted more information about his father’s service as a pilot during WWII.


I felt lazy the entire trip and initially had little interest in going due to having attended far too many air shows and museums during childhood. My aircraft mechanic father had a career as a civilian worker with the Air Force and we had lived by bases in three different states, including Hunter AFB in Savannah.

This Friday, Earl and I arrived 45 minutes prior to the museum closing and a volunteer immediately directed us to the second floor archives. As a retired librarian, I was happy with the turn of events since the exhibits were not our main focus this visit.

Earl had previously submitted a request through The National Archives and had been informed that his father’s service records were destroyed in a fire, so we did not expect to locate any specific information about him. His father’s discharge papers, a training class album and a few pieces of memorabilia are all the information that Earl has in-hand.

A very knowledgeable volunteer in the library unearthed further clues for Earl’s quest. He pointed out that as a transport pilot, Earl’s father had earned ribbons for three theaters. Earl and the volunteer discussed events and timelines as I did quick searches through two reference books provided.

The most comprehensive title was available from online booksellers, so Earl was able to purchase a copy when we returned home. There’s no index of personnel. We will go through the numerous photos labeled with names to see if we can come up with any connections.

This entire camping trip was simply wonderful and we look forward to returning to the unique Skidaway Island State Park.


Miles 1939 – 2288

It was a sunny late afternoon drive, on Friday, October 6, 2017, along state highways curving the edge of foothills (and driving near some of the areas we had visited last weekend) to reach Townsend, Tennessee in a little over four hours.

Image: Townsend/Great Smoky Mountains KOA

Townsend/Great Smoky Mountains KOA

Lily was hitched and towed to the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains where we stayed overnight in a very crowded KOA.

Image : Early Autumn Campsite - Townsend, TN

Early Autumn Campsite – Townsend, TN

The Vistabule was quickly secured. We headed out for supper at the Carriage House Restaurant, returned to play several rounds of Rummy, then tucked in for the night.

Image: Apple Valley Stores and Cafe, Townsend, TN

Apple Valley Stores and Cafe, Townsend, TN

After the luxury of sleeping a bit late, we were ready to eat again. Earl had noticed the Apple Valley Stores and Cafe in passing and wanted to head there for breakfast.

Image: Breakfast at Apple Valley Cafe, Townsend, TN

Breakfast at Apple Valley Cafe, Townsend, TN

Though it caters to tourist crowds, the staff knows how to do it well. We enjoyed the food and service on its porch. It was a great start to our day, but definitely not doctor approved food.

Image: Wood 'N Strings Store Townsend, TN

Wood ‘N Strings Store Townsend, TN

I had planned a secret outing especially for Earl and could not resist dropping a few hints. I gave him an address to enter into the GPS and told him to accept a gift, without complaint, for himself as an early retirement gift.

Image: Instrument Showroom at Wood 'N Strings

Instrument Showroom at Wood ‘N Strings

Since he can not see sign boards well enough to read them from a distance, Earl had no inkling of where I was taking him until we walked into the house used as a show place for the Wood ‘N Strings Dulcimer Shop.

A couple of years prior as we discussed retirement and what he might like to do with free time, he had mentioned a desire to learn to play a Lap Harp. It was an unexpected notion to me, he’s a city boy after all.

Image: Dulcimer Display at Wood 'N Strings

Dulcimer Display at Wood ‘N Strings

I was fully expecting that with some hands-on shopping we would walk out with one of the shop’s specialities: beautifully handmade Dulcimers.

Earl was in awe and held back from touching anything, though the clerk had invited us to play any of the instruments we wanted to try out.

Image: Flute Display at Wood 'N Strings

Flute Display at Wood ‘N Strings

I finally ran my fingers across the strings of a large Festival Dulcimer and got Earl started. He roamed around taking a close look at all the instruments, art and gift items, while I sat and waited since I dislike shopping.

Image: Gift Room Display - Wood 'N Strings, Townsend, TN

Gift Room Display – Wood ‘N Strings, Townsend, TN

After circling the rooms, Earl focused in on the display of Lap Harps in a cupboard.

Image: Lap Harp Display at Wood 'N Strings

Lap Harp Display at Wood ‘N Strings

The clerk mentioned the various ways people hold a Lap Harp and different options used to strike or pluck the strings.

Image: Case, Music Sheet, Lap Harp, Pick and Hammer

Case, Music Sheet, Lap Harp, Pick and Hammer

He showed how music sheets are inserted under the strings so that even beginners are able to play songs.

Image: Lap Harp, Pick and Hammer

Lap Harp, Pick and Hammer

Earl decided upon a dark wood Lap Harp because the strings contrasted with the surface and were easier to see. He got outfitted with every accessory needed, and picked out several packets of music sheets.

Earl is a low-key guy. I only knew his excitement because he made the purchases without hesitancy. He was thankful, but I was overjoyed to fulfill his wish and appeared more gleeful than he did.


Once we left, I said, “Aren’t you going to thank me with some driving music?” He immediately leapt to pull out the lap harp. That’s when I knew just how happy he really was to have it.

I pulled into a Day Use Area by the river and Earl started a mix of using sheet music along with teaching himself by sound to get acquainted with his Lap Harp.

Image: Townsend, TN Entrance to The Foothills Parkway

Townsend, TN Entrance to The Foothills Parkway

Later, after grabbing a sandwich from The Apple Valley Cafe, there was still plenty of day ahead of us. So, we headed to the Townsend entrance of the Foothills Parkway at mile 16.9. The planned 71 mile parkway is still under construction, there are just separate sections completed.

The piece of The Foothills Parkway we drove is lower in elevation and more gently curved in comparison to other parkways we have enjoyed.

The beauty of the views from its overlooks are outstanding. We had a beautiful, relaxing experience with sparse traffic.

Image: Early Autumn Colors: Foothills Parkway, TN

Early Autumn Colors: Foothills Parkway, TN

The area trees showed a bit more changes in color than we noticed during our previous day’s drive. We drove in several miles before turning back.

Once again we left a parkway without going the full distance available. There was yet another hurricane approaching a southern coast and it was coming rapidly to bring tropical storm conditions to Tennessee. We are no storm chasers, Nate is the second tropical storm chasing us from a camping trip this year.

Skipping the second night of camping, we opted to pack up and get away from trees and rivers during the expected winds and rain.

We took the interstate home with Earl practicing on his Lap Harp at times. Lily stayed dry all the way into storage. Afterwards, back on the road there was a road delay entering the outskirts of Atlanta. Our return drive took about two hours more than expected, but the wind and rain held off all the way home.