Dawdle: Sweetwater and Star Walk

On Monday morning, October 2, 2017 weekend campers cleared out from Harrison Bay State Park and only about a quarter of the sites in campground C were still occupied.

Image: Campground C on a Weekday

Campground C on a Weekday

Our little Lily was more exposed, but the wonky triangular camp set-up we had configured still worked well enough.

Image: Site 18 Set-Up

Site 18 Set-Up

The site had a small strip of woods to view from the shelter set in back and we enjoyed the quiet of sitting in its shade, feeling the light cool breezes of warm early autumn weather.

Image: Woods at site 18, Campground C

Woods at site 18, Campground C

We had planned to drive into Chattanooga for a touristy boat ride, but changed our minds. The city is just a day trip from home and we have visited a lot of its sights. The boat ride could wait for another time.

The little town of Sweetwater, TN had come on my radar while researching viewing sites for the Total Solar Eclipse. I thought it “sweet”, and business savvy, of a little town to invite basically anyone and everyone to their front row seat of the once-in-a-lifetime event. I imagined the town was back to normal now. It had appeared to be a picturesque little place. So, driving to Sweetwater became our destination for a late lunch.

The layout of Sweetwater is definitely driven by its many small businesses and, seemingly a history with lack of zoning. It has a scatterbrained mix of manufacturing buildings, business lots, store fronts and offices; with a type of landscaped town center thrown in.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Historic District

Sweetwater, TN Historic District

Instead of a prominent court house square, in the part of town we saw there is more a rectangle with a long silver train car and a gazebo (perhaps bandstand) tacked on at one end. In front, the gleaming train car is surrounded by a stand of flags and various memorial markers, crowded with shrubs and flowers. The street parking doesn’t surround the park area. There’s a variety of types of street parking and a confusing tangle of intersections, with walkers probably making a mad dash across heavy traffic from some angles in order to reach this town centerpiece.

Image: Sweetwater Train, Back Side

Sweetwater Train, Back Side

While the landscaping on the back side of the train is kept plain and simple.

Image: The Hunter's Cafe, Exterior

The Hunter’s Cafe, Exterior

We parked on a dead end side street, and walked over to the corner restaurant: The Hunter’s Cafe. While there, Earl texted with our daughter who lives near Las Vegas and we learned of the tragic mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. The pain and heartbreak of victims, their friends’ and families’ trauma, will last far beyond the single day of the tragic event. We are left to consider what each person must do to help make the nation’s laws and values safer for every American.

Image: The Hunter's Cafe, Interior

The Hunter’s Cafe, Interior

Meanwhile we are sitting in the cheerful interior of  a renovated and clean restaurant, with comfortable seating. Small town USA.

The menu had soups, salads and sandwiches with a few entrees and desserts. (Standard fare, nothing stand out, but we are city folk and our perspective is totally spoilt from living near numerous dining choices.) Earl’s Cream of Broccoli soup was thin, watery, probably just made with milk. Our chicken salad sandwiches and were tasty and fresh. We ordered a piece of Carrot Cake and Apple Cake for take-out, which were both delicious and moist over the next two days.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Sidewalk View in Autumn

Sweetwater, TN Sidewalk View in Autumn

The restaurant was on a city block to one side of the train. The town’s sidewalks were decorated for autumn and Halloween. I especially liked the lamppost banners which each highlight a different historical building and business sponsor.

Image: Sweetwater, TN Depot and Visitor's Center

Sweetwater, TN Depot and Visitor’s Center

From the sidewalk, we saw a glimpse of what looked to be a small train depot building in back of the train, so we hopped into the car and rambled around to take a look at it before leaving town. The Sweetwater Depot serves as the town’s Visitor’s Center and was closed on this afternoon.

Back at Harrison Bay State Park we spent some time roaming around to find a good site to stargaze.

Friday night I had woke up and opened the trailer’s door to see a few very bright stars through our campsite’s canopy of trees. I thought twice before doing it, but woke Earl up to enjoy the sight with me. We sat on a cool bench of the picnic table and enjoyed the view of the stars together. On Saturday and Sunday night there were clouds. With luck the clouds would clear away for good stargazing on our last night in camp.

Image: Harrison Bay SP StarWalk Sign

Harrison Bay SP Star Walk

Yes, Harrison Bay State Park has Star Walk an amazing plot of land with a cleared circular path and stations with glow in the dark lettering to “enlighten” people about the stars.

Image: Harrison Bay SP Star Walk Project

Harrison Bay SP Star Walk Project

We went to check out the Star Walk area about sun down and noticed a few problems.

Unfortunately, at night there just seemed to be access to the Star Walk from the public road into the park. Each campground and the main road to the campground area has a gate, any of which may be locked closed at 10 PM. Plus, if we did get to drive up the long road to the campground entrance, in order to crawl through or walk around that gate, there’s no parking on the camp side.

Also, there is a bank of extremely bright security lights at a store on the public road facing the Star Walk. On the opposite side, within the state park entrance by the Star Walk, there is a single brightly lit flag pole.

So, we scouted around the state park more and came up with a alternative site, still without total darkness, more workable for stargazing in one direction. There’s an area beyond campground C that has picnic tables down a slight hill with a lake view.

Image: Picnic Area at Sunset

Picnic Area at Sunset

It does have some light poles at the hilltop in the parking area, but they don’t seem excessively bright. Campers can walk through the small stand of trees from the campground area to that picnic area, so you just have to be brave enough to do so at night.

As it ended up life did not give us any luck Monday night, the clouds lingered.

So, we got a good night’s rest and packed up Tuesday morning. We took time to pull over for a few last photos of the area before heading towards Interstate 75, homeward bound.

Image: Harrison Bay SP Sign

Harrison Bay SP Sign

Image: Neighborhood Day Use Area by Harrison Bay, TN

Neighborhood Day Use Area by Harrison Bay, TN

Dawdle: The Cherohala Skyway

After a nice sleep-in and late breakfast on Sunday, October 1, 2017 we headed out towards Telico Plains, TN, about 1 1/2 hours from Harrison Bay State Park. The focus of our day was to drive on The Cherohala Skyway which runs 43 miles between Telico Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC.

A few miles down the road, at a day use pull-off near Harrison Bay, we stopped to take photos of another part of the lake.

Image: Chickamauga Lake, TN

Chickamauga Lake, TN

Suddenly one of us noticed a nuclear warning sign and glancing around, we saw why! Upstream was the tell-tale vapor stacks of the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in operation.

Image: Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, TN

Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, TN

It was just unexpected to see the serenity of nature juxtaposed with potential man-made mayhem. A jolting reminder that the mind’s focus may filter out a great deal of surrounding information. As we left the area in our car, we made nervous jokes about what the sign could actually say! (After our return in the evening, we saw we had even missed the same warning sign posted by the campground’s bathhouse.)


Traveling on towards the skyway, we traveled beautiful rolling countryside that included parts of the original Trail of Tears and onward through a major rural industrial park area. Added to the fact that Harrison Bay State Park, the oldest in Tennessee, was initially segregated (plus the looming nuclear plant): it seemed history and science were entwined in our experience of the day.

As we reached the main drag of Etowah, TN, I saw a parking lot sign for The Hiwassee River Rail Adventures. We swung around at the post office and returned to check out an information board.

Image: Hiwassee River Rail Adventures, Etowah, TN

Hiwassee River Rail Adventures, Etowah, TN

Across a walkway was the town’s large historic depot which houses a train museum and offices. There were a few seats available on a train about to leave the station, but since we had not had lunch we did not feel ready to take it.

Image: Historic Train Depot, Etowah, TN

Historic Train Depot, Etowah, TN

After checking our schedule, we bought tickets to return for a train excursion three weeks away. This season has been dry in the area and autumn foliage colors are not expected be the best, but we still look forward to experiencing the train route.

Further along, we swung into the downtown square at Tellico Plains and saw people sitting under bright green umbrellas on a patio at The Cotton Pickin’ Inn that also claims a Diner and Pickin’ Hall. It was a pleasant surprise to see a local restaurant open on a Sunday.

Image: Cotton Pickin' Inn, Tellico Plains, TN

Cotton Pickin’ Inn, Diner and Pickin’ Hall, Tellico Plains, TN

We enjoyed a nice lunch and friendly service there in the pleasant outdoor seating and learned that the pickin’ begins at 6 PM on Saturdays. So, we may be able to return for the music after our train trip in three weeks.

Leaving Tellico Plains, TN, we saw a beautiful covered bridge next to the highway on private property. We pulled into a Harley Davidson’s store parking lot to stop to take photos of the bridge. Interestingly, the store had a park-like walkway to a tidy wooden building that is a restroom provided for Motorcycle riders starting or finishing The Cherohala Skyway. There were also electrical posts in a grassy area, which seemed to me to be there to accommodate tents or market stalls.

Image: Covered Bridge, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Bridge, Tellico Plains, TN

After taking bridge photos from the little “Harley Park”, Earl wanted a different angle. I u-turned our car and pulled into a gravel area directly across the street from the bridge.

Image: Covered Bridge side view, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Bridge side view, Tellico Plains, TN

While Earl walked down the road to take more pictures of the covered bridge, I took a closer look at signs along the edge of the parking space. They turned out to be Civil War historical markers.

Image: Historical Marker, Tellico Plains, TN

Historical Marker, Tellico Plains, TN

We were starting The Cherohala Skyway in lush greenery, driving along the Tellico River. There are numerous waterways coming down the mountains, so it gets difficult to keep track of their names along the route. At this point, in a dry season, the river had a shallow flow through a wide rocky gully.

Image: Tellico River

Tellico River

The skyway is known for its many curves, for cutting through both the Cherokee and Natahala National Forests, and for views that compare to those along The Blue Ridge Parkway. Its designations as National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway are well deserved!

Image: Along the Cherohala Skyway

Along the Cherohala Skyway

We expected the skyway to be crowded with motorcycles, bike riders and vehicles on a Sunday afternoon, but The Cherohala Skyway is not as well known as, as long as, or as crowded as, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Image: Mountain Views, Cherohala Skyway

Mountain Views, Cherohala Skyway

As the elevation climbed, there were overlooks for valley views and distant mountains vistas. We made it to 4,470 feet, at The Unicoi Gap Overlook, and decided turn around to head back to our campsite long before the darkness of evening made mountain driving difficult. We will just have to plan to enter the skyway from its North Carolina side to complete the route one day.

There was time and daylight left to stop at a couple of overlooks on the way back down. Our overall favorite was our last of the day, which overlooked a valley dotted with a few lakes. In the past the valley was home to the Cherokee.

Image: Valley Home of the Cherokee

Valley Home of the Cherokee

To top off the beautiful view, before we even had time to react with dropped jaws, we were buzzed by a military jet zooming through the valley and banking sharply in front of us,

On the last few miles of the skyway,  we were behind a beautiful little covered wagon.

Image: Covered Wagon on The Cherohala Skyway

Covered Wagon on The Cherohala Skyway

Then back through the town of Tellico Plains and right to the farmer’s gate, we followed the covered wagon to its home.

Image: Covered Wagon, Tellico Plains, TN

Covered Wagon, Tellico Plains, TN

Later I read about the role that townspeople and covered wagons played in bringing The Cherohala Skyway to fruition. Read the story here.

Our return trip to Harrison Bay State Park continued to be interesting as we noticed photo ops of local color along the way.

Image: Old building made from small stones, TN

Old building made from small stones, TN

Image: Flight of a Heron, TN

Flight of a Heron, TN


Entering the park, we decided to head to the marina to catch the sunset. We watched from the cafe’s deck until lackluster colors faded.

Image: Sunset from Marina Deck Cafe

Sunset from Marina Deck Cafe

As we walked to our parking spot, there was a glorious burst of vivid colors as the sun’s finale.

Image: Harrison Bay State Park Marina Sunset

Harrison Bay State Park Marina Sunset

Sighting deer on the road back to the campsite was a nice calm touch to close our day’s outing.


Sadly, Monday morning as I reviewed this post’s rough draft and double checked names of locations online, I came across news that explained the police, fire and ambulance vehicles we pulled over to let pass while leaving Tellico Plains, TN on Sunday evening.

I struggled a bit over whether or not to add our memory of the military jet we saw to this post, but decided that the last moments of the pilots’ lives and their service to our country deserve to be remembered and acknowledged with our deep appreciation. Rest In Peace.



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


Organization Part 3 of 5 – Galley

This is the third (photo heavy) part of our Doze Dine Dawdle Organization Series to share details: 1) Initial Steps, 2) Car, 3) Galley, 4) Cabin, and 5) Exterior Storage Box.

This is how our Vistabule’s galley looks when it is first opened at a campsite. The only difference is that the white pass-through privacy panels (behind the screens) are open while driving.

We carry two small fire extinguishers in our car while towing, and set one out between the trailer and campfire after arriving. That usually means the camp canister is sheltered under the picnic table.

Notice that we choose to do without a propane cook stove, which would normally be installed in the center of the counter area.

Image: Travel Ready Galley

Travel Ready Galley

Starting from the top left: The upper left cabinet has four sections.

Image: Upper Left Cabinet

Upper Left Cabinet

The top shelf holds our decaffeinated drinks: varieties of herbal teas, lemonade mix and a small jar of instant coffee or decaf coffee grounds.

Below it is a shelf with a black silicone drip coffee maker, a stack of small coffee filters and a jar of sweetener.

Image: Top Two Shelves of Upper Left

Top two shelves of Upper Left

The rod in the third section holds: masking tape, duct tape and a roll of paper towels

Inside the bottom box with a hinged lid: small amounts of several spices are stored in labeled and stacked small containers that screw together as one tube (sold in pharmacies to hold pills), and several small plastic containers hold larger amounts of spices used regularly.

Image: Upper Left - Lower Two Sections

Left Upper: Lower Two Sections

To the upper right is a cabinet with three sections, shelves at top and bottom with a lidded silverware drawer in the center.

At the top of the upper right cabinet is a shelf holding two thermal drink glasses with plastic lids, a jar of homemade ranch mix, a jar of corn chowder dry mix, a ladle, a scoop (not seen) and silicone hot pads. (We just purchased stainless steel straws for the drink tumblers and will be stashing them in the next trip.)

Image: Upper Right Shelf

Upper Right Shelf

The center silverware drawer has a hinged lid. At left are: a plastic scoop, and a random package of instant potatoes. The top horizontal section holds: pot lifter, can openersteak and butter knives (2 each). The center holds: a small whisk, four forks and four spoons. The bottom section holds: 4 corn cob holders, 2 small tongs, and two sets of sturdy plastic utensils.

Image: Center Upper Right: Silverware Drawer

Center Upper Right: Silverware Drawer

A bottom shelf holds: a small jar with a mix of dried vegetables to add to omelets (diced, dry – red and green sweet peppers, celery, onions and mushrooms), a jar of dried tomatoes, small packages of dried spinach, dried onions, and mushrooms. (Dried and canned foods we carry serve as back-up provisions and staples in case of emergencies. We normally eat fresh and frozen foods.) Also, stuffed in this shelf for easy access is a quilted hot pad and 2 gloves for handling high temperatures.

Image: Upper Right Bottom Shelf

Upper Right Bottom Shelf

Across the counter, from left to right: a cutting board is atop the sink, the black battery monitor is plugged in, and the induction cooktop rides on the left. The cooktop is moved to the center when operated. (When traveling we also cook with a thermal cooker, BioLight Campstove2 with Kettkepot and Grill, plus a Fire Box Stove, including a Zebra pot and pans for use as an oven.)

Image: Travel Ready Galley

Travel Ready Galley

The sink holds: a small bottle of Dawn dish soap, a small bottle of Camp Suds, a round scrubber, a handle held scrubber and a bottle sprayer to rinse dishes with water. The Vistabule has 9 gallon clean water and gray water tanks. The water pump for the water (no hot water) is quiet and, beside the faucet, there is also a long-neck spray nozzle.

The bottom cabinet at left (under the sink amongst the plumbing lines) holds our BioLite Campstove2, along with items that are used with water: a water filter, clean water hose, water pressure regulating valve, water jug (collapsible), two small tubs (collapsible),  a funnel, and a foldable pet pool (used to collect shower water.)

Image: Cabinet Under Sink

Cabinet Under Sink

At bottom center, a pull out shelf holds the portable Dometic refrigerator freezer. In it, we use two sets of rectangular collapsible containers to hold food. Blue ice blocks are rotated between the refrigerator freezer and our cooler, with at least one blue ice block in the freezer at all times when we are traveling.

Image: Dometic Refrigerator Freezer

Dometic Refrigerator Freezer on Slide Out

The bottom cabinet at right has a slide out bread board at top with three drawers underneath.

Image: Three Galley Drawers Closed

Three Galley Drawers Closed

On the top, smallest depth drawer, we place a thin cutting mat and a thicker plastic cutting board. Inside this drawer are: slow cooker bags (for use in the thermal cooker), 2 microfiber wash cloths, salad tongs, hand mixer, food thermometer, medium whisk, 2 wooden spoons, a short handled spatula, a serving spoon and a package of fire lighters. I also add 2 clean cloth dishtowels before each trip.

Image: Top Galley Drawer

Top Galley Drawer

The middle drawer is topped with two plastic plates. The drawer holds: paper hot and cold cups, plastic lids for hot cups, aluminum pie pans and wet wipes.

Image: Middle drawer of galley

Middle drawer of Galley

The bottom, deepest depth drawer is topped with a silver heat protector for the counter top. Inside the drawer are: a spiralizer, a small cast iron pan, a pot and lid, a handheld strainer, a stack of plastic bowls and lids, 2 plastic cups, 2 red drink cozies, 2 ceramic coffee cups, and a small plastic storage container with lid. At bottom, there is  a peg board with bamboo pegs which secure and cushion the cup, pot and pan in position during travel.

Image: Bottom drawer of galley

Bottom drawer of Galley

Our Teardrop Trailer stores a lot more belongings than most people would expect! We definitely are not minimalist campers, we are travelers.

Though several years away, we are gearing up for full-time travel. This means organizing to carry the comforts we would like on-hand; making sense of the space we have. On short trips we do not need and do not carry everything shown or mentioned.

The five part Doze Dine Dawdle Organization Series will continue with two additional posts to give more details: 4) Cabin, and 5) Exterior Storage Box.