Miles 1654 – 1743

Our September 7-10, 2017 campsite at Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee was a pull-through. It was shown as the last available site on the online reservations page when we checked. However, there were actually a number of empty campsites during the entire time we were there – even some choice lakeside sites.

Here’s our experience and review of the C campground.

Our site was a bit different than expected, based upon the size stated and photo provided on the park’s reservation page. (The photo was actually from the opposite direction than I thought, so my planning was totally kaput.) Seems the campsite had been renovated and website information was not yet updated.

The entire site was covered in rough gravel; expected since it was an RV site. Though, erecting a tent is still allowed, so a section with a bed of smoother pea gravel would have been a nice touch. We brought a mat as padding to go under the floor of our little changing room tent, but will add a second layer next visit.

The picnic table was affixed to a cement slab. The table area and the fire ring seemed fairly new.

Image Vistabule in Campground

Vistabule in C Campground at Harrison Bay State Park, TN

We were in the center of a road loop, with a few trees on the site toward the lakeside and no tree coverage for privacy facing into the main campground. To each side of the center pull through section there were additional strips of rough gravel.

As we arrived, another site’s visitor was parking in one side. On another day, they politely asked permission before parking a different visitor. Obviously, locals enjoyed the campground, yet their gatherings were respectful of noise levels, etc. Several chatted with us during their walks around the campground and seemed to enjoy welcoming “outsiders”.

Image Campsite

Campsite C-22 at Harrison Bay State Park, TN

We stayed pretty basic and did not test putting up our new screen tent due to space restrictions. It ended up being a bug free outing, so the netting was not needed anyway.

Though this one site seemed a fishbowl, it is a beautiful camp (plus this State Park has other campgrounds) with generally nice sites of varied sizes. People in lakeside sites were able to fish, boat and paddle board right from their camp.

We enjoyed ourselves and do have a reservation three weeks ahead for a return trip to the same campground in a smaller campsite with a wooded setting.

The bath house had four large individual rooms, all designed for universal access. (Though it was a bit steep uphill hike to reach the bath house, which is a negative impact for accessibility.) Nothing fancy inside, though they were kept fairly clean throughout our stay and had plenty of hot water. One bathroom did have a broken shower head.

There were, consistently, two data bars for internet and phone access. Never a problem with checking news stories or watching YouTube clips. The campground was about three quarters full, and quiet times were well respected. Park staff were visible making regular rounds.

Beyond going to Tennessee Volun’tears’ Tearjerkers’ gatherings in the evenings, we spent our time relaxing during the days. I was leery of straining my body after the rib cage damage, and Earl needed detox after several weeks of hard work. Just chilling was perfectly fine with us.

Though, keeping watch on developing news and checking in with friends or relatives about Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katina created an undercurrent of unease for everyone.

Image lake view of marina

Lake view towards the marina at Harrison Bay State Park, TN

Watching the boats, fishermen and birds on the lake, or moving our camp chairs as the shade shifted, were our major camp activities.

Image Grazing deer

Deer grazing in Harrison Bay State Park, TN

Plus, deer sightings during the drives between campgrounds or other areas of the park were delightful.

There were several couples and individuals who dropped by for a tour of Lily. Otherwise, we relaxed inside at night playing Rummy before preparing for bed.

There will be other visits to Harrison Bay in the future to explore hiking trails and nearby towns.

 

Sunday morning’s peaceful view from a roadside overlook on the State road along Harrison Bay was hard to leave.

Heading out, we started preparing for Hurricane Irma’s winds and rain to reach Atlanta as a Tropical Storm on Monday. We kept our car gas topped off and bought groceries along the way, because there were already reported shortages in metro Atlanta.

We ended up giving two more tours of Lily in a grocery parking lot.

Image: Stored Vistabule

Vistabule Backed Into Storage Room

Arriving at Lily’s storage room, we unhitched and cleaned the refrigerator/freezer. This time we kept the portable toilet, fire box and wood pellets in the car as backup supplies in case our electricity went out at home when the storm passed through. We locked the Vistabule into her storage room, hoping for the best and planning to check back next weekend.

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Miles 1567 – 1653

Harrison Bay State Park Campsite

Harrison Bay State Park, TN
Pull Through Campsite C-22

We spent a long weekend, September 7-10, 2017, at Harrison Bay State Park, Tennessee where we joined group festivities with awesome people from several states at the Tennessee Volun’tears’ Follies in the Fall gathering.

Good people, good food, beautiful weather, and being able to see all types of small trailers added up to a wonderful time! A huge thank you to each of the organizers and participants for being so welcoming to us first timers!

Fall Follies Gathering

Tennessee Volun’tears’ Playing “Camping Feud”

Tennessee Volun’tears’ is a chapter of the international Tearjerkers group. The parent body is now in its twentieth year of bringing together Teardrop Trailer (or other small trailer and tent) owners who are Teardrop enthusiasts! It is free to join the international group and to locate your area chapter by registering at tearjerkers.net.

Earl asked permission to take photos of several attendees’ campsites in the gatherings’ “official” area of the A loop campground. Many were beautifully handmade. We also saw some interesting small trailers throughout other campgrounds at Harrison Bay State Park.

Here are just some of the photos of the cute and comfortable camping trailers we saw during this outing…

Miles 1452 to 1543

The first week of June 2017 we were able to reserve the last available campsite for three nights in nearby James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, Summerville, Georgia. I fixated on planning meals and Earl focused upon re-evaluating our campsite supplies.

The forecast ahead showed two mild sunny days and two with light rain. What we actually got were hot humid days with very still air.

For the travel and set-up camp day, our Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker finished up Lasagna in the top pan for lunch. Corn on the cob and sweet potatoes cooked in the bottom to add as side dishes to grilled pork chops for supper.

During the rest of camp, we ended up just eating light meals because the heat diminished our appetites. Along with breakfasts and suppers prepared at home for camp cooking, we also relied on prepped salads and fillings for lettuce wraps to make lunches easy.

Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

Lentil & Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes Lettuce Wraps with Side Salads

To escape the heat the people around us retreated into their RVs during midday to dusk. We had a great ceiling fan, even air conditioning, and comfortable seating in the Vistabule. Still, we also wanted to enjoy being outdoors.

The humidity and heat made it stifling to sit under the shade of our REI Alcove, even with cold drinks in-hand. Earl suggested getting a box fan and we considered strapping it to the ridge pole of the Alcove. At the Summerville, Georgia Walmart Earl bought a lightweight Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan.

Fan

Mainstays 20″ High-Velocity Fan

I came up with the idea of placing the new fan on the Vistabule’s countertop to serve two purposes. With the screen doors of the pass-through closed, the back of the fan could draw and circulate air through the Vistabule’s cabin from open vents and windows. Meanwhile, the front of the fan blew air into the outdoor sitting area under the Alcove.

Fan on Countertop

High-velocity Fan in Front of Pass-through

It was a surprise that the fan fit between the cabinets of the Vistabule’s counter space so perfectly.

We checked the noise level from various distances surrounding our campsite. The hum of the fan was not intrusive, barely heard beyond a car’s length away. The noise it did make was primarily directed toward the front facing into the Alcove.

The fan’s humming noise did not interfere with our conversation while sitting under the Alcove enjoying the breeze. We were spaced about 3-4 feet away from it. Plus, the white noise and air flow certainly helped me get a comfortable quick nap inside the Vistabule.

We would have left a day or two early without that fan, that is how much it helped us while outdoors during the day. I do not believe any fan could be enough relief when the nighttime temperatures also hold above 90 degrees. At least, our old bodies do not handle heat well anymore!

Thank goodness there were still cool mornings and nights, the teardrop’s ceiling fan provided comfort while we slept.

The high temperatures and humidity made for challenging conditions on our first test run of the teardrop’s air conditioner. What better test than during the hottest part of the day with direct overhead sun?

When the futon was up in the seated position, we found that its doubled over back blocked the air conditioner’s output too much. We tried adjusting vents and placing a bag to hold out the back of the futon more and got some improvement.

When the futon was down in the bed position, allowing full air flow, the air conditioning worked very efficiently.

The forest around our campsite was so quiet and still that we just had one tiny toad visitor to the campsite. I did not even see a squirrel until the last morning. The lake had several ducks. It was along the roads just outside of the state park that we saw more wildlife: three deer, two snakes, one box turtle, and wild turkeys.

We ended up enjoying a relaxing time at James H. (“Sloppy”) Floyd State Park. The campground had a narrow twisty road through the 25 campsites. Sites were roomy and well-equipped.

Tire Jack Chock

Securing Lily the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

The park was clean, maintained by friendly hosts. Phone reception averaged zero to one bar, with an occasional two bars hiccup in the evenings. It was just enough coverage to track the weather and check news headlines. There was a fishing lake that could not be seen from the campground, but was accessible by taking a short path. Separate picnic areas around the lake were heavily used by the locals on the weekend.

The camp was not far from home and it suited the main purpose of our trip; we got more experience with equipment and organization skills. While we enjoyed our stay, there was nothing in the area that would entice us to return.

Miles 1 to 120

Hitched Vistabule Preparing to Pull Out

Hitched Vistabule: Preparing to Pull Out

After an orientation session from the Vistabule team, we drove out of St. Paul, MN in the late afternoon of Thursday, April 27, 2017. Our shake-down trip from St. Paul, MN to metro Atlanta, GA was already undergoing major changes from the plans I had researched and mapped out while still at home.

In the last week, Mother Nature had thrown a major, tragically dangerous, springtime hissy fit. Driving from Georgia to Minnesota on Interstate highways, we saw flooded creeks, rivers and fields throughout the Central Plains States.

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Central Plains Flooding April, 2017

On the morning we arrived to pick-up Lily, there was a heavy dusting of snow in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fortunately, that snow was melted by noon and roads were clear, but unusually cold temperatures were in the forecast for several days ahead. Unfortunately, there was another round of snow expected for St. Paul and additional rain targeting the states already heavily flooded.

We also found that while some Minnesota State Parks remained open year round, they did not normally turn on water and heat for the rest room facilities until May 1st.

So, instead of heading east for a night at Frontenac State Park, we checked weather apps in order to head toward sunshine. There was a sweet spot in Albert Lea, Minnesota about an hour and a half drive southwest of St. Paul.

We tried to enter Myre-Big Island State Park, but was unable to find the sign-in forms or register by phone. So, we¬†settled for a hotel on that first cold night with Lily. She was secured in the parking lot within sight of our hotel window and we had a good night’s sleep.

Luckily, we found an alternative campsite in the morning. The Albert Lea/Austin KOA campground was open. It was a relatively small KOA by a quiet road with a train track in the distance. About half of the park seemed to be filled with permanent RVs, there were some cabins being used and additional open campsites with gravel pull-throughs, water, electricity and sewer hookups available.

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Albert Lea/Austin KOA, Minnesota

The daytime temperatures remained in the 40s. While there was about half a day of light rain, the KOA had Wifi, a camp store, and automatic heat in the restrooms which we truly appreciated. Meanwhile, we were able to practice unhitching and hitching the trailer and putting the sofa bed combination up and down. Plus, we managed to cook in the galley between raindrops, and gave our little heater a good trial run as temperatures fell to 30 degrees at night. We settled into the KOA for two nights, quite happy and comfortable.
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