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.

IMG_1049

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 just as outstanding as those from other parkways we have driven.

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.

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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

After a quick breakfast of coffee, homemade cinnamon bread and peach salsa, I took interior shots of Lily to fulfill a request made by VT Teardrop Travelers. (Organizational details for the cabin will follow mid-week.)

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

 

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.

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 1544 to 1566

The Teardrop enlivens even mundane tasks, taking us down roads we would have never tried, past sights we would have not seen otherwise and into new experiences.

This week we took Lily out of her storage unit to get overdue initial maintenance done: her bearings greased and brakes adjusted.

On the way to a neighboring small town RV sales and service business, we raced a line of identical camouflaged military vehicles loaded on a freight train.

Train on Bridge Image

Train on Bridge Passes a Stop Sign.

The train and its repetitive load stretched beyond our line of sight. We never saw the total length.

Military Vehicles on Train Image

Stretch of Train Loaded With Military Vehicles

We had to leave the Teardrop at the RV garage Thursday and Friday night, to allow flexibility for fitting our maintenance requests into their workload. The shop workers got their tours of the interior, and told us that the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer would be an attraction in their lot. They even decided to secure her inside of the garage at night.

Before we got out the door, a couple of customers asked to have a close look at Lily. So, we also gave them the complete tour before leaving.

We returned to the garage Saturday and the work was completed as planned. The buzz was that eight very interested people had noticed the Vistabule; four of them offered to buy her on the spot. (No telling if that was exaggerated, or not.) We did see that the mechanic resorted to hiding the Teardrop between two large RVs so that he could get some work done.

On the way back to Lily’s storage unit, we stopped to clean her exterior at a self-serve wash. We take our car to an automated car wash or for a rare hand detailing session, so a DIY wash was a first for us.

Washing the Teardrop Trailer Image

Washing the Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

I made the dial selections and ducked spray as Earl did the actual work. Washing Lily was as close to cleaning a cute baby elephant as I’ll ever get.

Rinsing Lily Image

Rinsing Lily

We barely needed to dry off the Teardrop. The outdoor temperature was 93 or 97 degrees, according to if you believe our car thermometer or the bank’s sign. It is not summer yet! On the way home, we cooled down with ice cream from a Dairy Queen.

Can’t wait to take the Teardrop out to get her dirty again!

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.