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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Miles 1761 – 1938

Saturday was a lazy day as we decompressed while staying close by our campsite during a return trip to Harrison Bay State Park, TN.

Image: Vistabule Interior: Tables and Sofa

Vistabule Interior: Tables and Sofa

Vistabule Interior: Tables and Sofa

After a quick breakfast of coffee, homemade cinnamon bread and peach salsa, I took interior shots of Lily to fulfill a request made by commenter VT Teardrop Travelers.

Image: Vistabule Foot Wells

Vistabule: Foot Wells for Seating

The lowered floorboard serves as foot wells to provide a comfortable seating position while the futon is folded up. It also extends under the seat to provide storage.

Image: Vistabule Storage Wells

Vistabule Storage Wells

The elevated section of the floor under the large window has two lids covering storage compartments in underneath wells. There are screened air vents at the bottom of each side wall.

Image: Vistabule Storage Wall

Vistabule Storage Wall

When the futon is slid forward as a bed, the air conditioner and additional storage cabinets are visible.

Image: Vistabule Futon as Bed

Vistabule Futon as Bed

We can enjoy a landscape view out of the large window from the futon’s seated or sleeping position, with our heads at the storage wall.

Image: Vistabule Bed

Vistabule Bed Position

We can also change position and place our heads under the large window in order to look up at the night sky, or to hang a screen against the storage wall and project a movie.

Added Notes:

There are reading lights mounted on both sides at either end of the cabin and a room light beside each entry door.

My husband is 5′ 10″ and has several inches of space above his head when seated on the futon in sofa or bed position. I actually measured his chair seat to head to compare against cabin height measurements while shopping for a teardrop trailer.

We have a net (that came with our Walmart changing room tent) which fits the space under the large window. So far, we have not needed the extra storage, but may want to use it once we take longer trips

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Miles 1744 – 1760

This morning we hitched up Lily to take her to a museum parking lot for a show and tell meet-up with a wonderful young couple.

This is our second time officially helping out Vistabule when potential customers from our area contact the company for a showing. I previously forgot to add the short distance involved to Lily’s trip record. So, the number of miles from her storage room to the museum and back are doubled in today’s title. That corrects the grand total Lily has traveled.

Afterwards, we had lunch overlooking a nearby lake in Red Top Mountain State Park. With our annual parking pass for Georgia State Parks there was no additional cost.

During trips to Lily’s storage room, we try to add little new-to-us adventures along the way. On the way home, we also explored two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Day Use Areas that are along the Etowah River.

Image: Etowah River, Georgia

Etowah River, Georgia

These sites really surprised us. First, we visited the Riverside Day Use Area.

Image: Sign for Riverside Day Use Area, GA

U.S. Corps of Engineer’s Riverside Day Use Area, GA

The miles of narrow roads going in were paved but overhung with untouched forest, feeling a bit dark and sketchy.

Image: Forest

Roadside Georgia ACE Day Use Area, Etowah River

Suddenly, after passing a gatehouse at each Day Use site, the settings opened into well maintained picnic areas – some with views of the river. There were mowed game fields, nice playground equipment, large pavilions being used for family reunions, hiking trails, plenty of paved parking, and modern restrooms.

Image: Sign for Cooper's Furance Day Use Area, GA

Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area, Georgia (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Day Use Area)

Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area even had an interesting historic structure. All for a five dollar day use fee, a bargain.

Image: Cooper's Iron Works and Historical Marker, GA

Cooper’s Iron Works and Historic Marker, GA