Thursday, July 14, 2016

Veterans Memorial Park - Mount Airy, North Carolina

Becky pointed out as we were driving into Mount Airy, North Carolina that "Mount Airy" and "Mayberry" have a similar sound and rhythm when you say the names aloud. I never noticed that, but I am sure TV star Andy Griffith did. His classic TV show, the Andy Griffith Show, was in the fictional town of Mayberry, which was based on his home town of Mount Airy.

Replicas of some of the memorable landmarks from the show are in Mount Airy. These include Floyd's Barbershop, the Mayberry Courthouse and Wally's Fillin' Station. Needless to say, these were fun to visit and you cannot help but notice that these places are exactly as they are in your mind's eye.

We planned to park Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer in Mount Airy's Veterans Memorial Park, located next to their VFW Post. We called for reservations the day before we planned to arrive and the park attendant said there was plenty of room and that we could simply register once we arrived.

Sign at entrance to the park

We arrived a little after 5 p.m., but were relieved to see there was an "honor system" registration box. The envelope used to put your payment in required your campsite number, so we drove in to find our site, complete the required information on the envelope, insert our payment then place our registration and payment in their secured slot. Well, that was the plan.

When we drove back to the camping area, it was easy to see that "something big, really big," to use one of Deputy Barney Fife's phrases, was going on. Vendor tents were going up in the middle of the camping area and people there all seemed to be setting up for an event.

Before selecting our site, we asked someone what was happening there. The response was a terse, "It's a Native American Pow-Wow. We rented the entire park and you have to leave." We turned Rosie around and were about to leave when Becky saw someone who appeared to be a leader of the event and appealed our case to him. Since we were staying only one night and most of the participants were arriving the next day, he said we could stay if we made a donation to the charity the event was supporting that weekend. We quickly agreed and they directed us to a site off to the side and out of their way.

Rosie parked off to the side at the park

Sometimes you simply luck into things while traveling the roads. The Native American Pow-Wow turned out to be interesting and we felt honored to be allowed to observe it.

At the Native American Pow-Wow in Mount Airy

We didn't disconnect Rosie from our truck and rode the mile from the park to "Mayberry" on our bikes. While Mount Airy isn't setup for bike traffic, we enjoyed exploring the town using that mode of transportation.

Some of the places we enjoyed in Mount Airy included Floyd's City Barbershop, the "Going Fishing" statue of Andy and Opie, the Mayberry Courthouse and Wally's Fillin' Station.

Becky starting a new career at Floyd's Barber Shop

The squad car

Going fishing with Andy and Opie

The Mayberry Courthouse

Becky trying to get Sarah on the phone

Steve working as the deputy in Mayberry

And I didn't get the cell Otis uses!

Deputy Fife keeping everyone safe

When we returned to Rosie, we spent some time shopping the Native American crafts at the Pow-Wow. We enjoyed both our trip back to Mayberry and observing the Pow-Wow.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • The park was an open field with campsites marked close together.
  • Our site had 50, 30 and 20 amp electrical connections.
  • Our site also had water and sewer connections.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over this park.
  • We could only pick up one TV signal using Rosie's antenna. It was a PBS station.
  • There was a wonderful walking and bicycle path behind this park that went into town. It winded along a cool creek and helped make our ride into town more pleasant.
Bike path in Mount Airy

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lake Hartwell State Park - South Carolina

We attended our first Wally Byam Caravan Club International Rally last year. We were able to join the WBCCI Region Three caravan to the Rally and that helped make that long journey more fun. 

When we decided to attend the WBCCI International Rally this year, our first thoughts were to travel again with the Region Three caravan. One of the big differences this time was that we didn't have to travel 1,500 miles, as we did to get to Farmington, New Mexico. Instead, Lewisburg, West Virginia, was a mere 640 miles. While the Region Three caravan wasn't going to cover as many miles as last year, it had several fun excursions planned along the way, so, once again, we said we wanted to join the group. 

The plan was to take our time in joining with the group. Instead of putting in one long and tiring day, we decided to travel two half days. High on our wish list was to get through Atlanta when it wasn't rush hour. We also wanted to start our second travel day with Atlanta in our rear view mirror. 

Between the directions on our GPS and the tips on avoiding traffic delays from the WAZE iPhone app, we managed to make it through Atlanta without slow downs or incidents. 

There was a Corp of Engineers park that we wanted to camp in for the night. The reviews on All Stays were positive and it appeared that many sites were along a lake. About 45 minutes away, we noticed that this campground was about 20 miles off the Interstate. We were tired and the idea of adding more travel time to our day was rapidly loosing appeal. 

Once again, the All Stays app found a state park just a few miles off I-85 and we were there in a few minutes. 

Lake Hartwell State Park is just over the Georgia border as you travel into South Carolina. We were pleased to see that it was very wooded and most sites had shade. Arriving midweek without reservations, we were fortunate to get a nice site along the lake. 

Rosie's campsite in Lake Hartwell State Park

It doesn't take long to setup when you are simply spending the night. We didn't uncouple Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream Trailer, from the truck.

Suzy, our seven month old Yorkie puppy made it clear that she needed to burn off some energy and convinced us to take her out for a walk around the park. It was easy to see that this is a park that families love to visit. There is a lot to like at this state park.

Suzy seems to be uneasy with the "wolf: display

Family Selfie

The condition of the bathhouse is one of the things that needs improvement in this park. You expect rustic accommodations at state parks, but you expect them to be clean. They weren't. You could tell that the "essentials" we're glossed over on a somewhat regular schedule, but there were dead bugs inches away from the sink moments after the cleaning crew left. Add the growing crop of spider webs where you would not expect to see them to the dead bug collection and you end up concluding that keeping the park clean is a low priority.

Here are a few specifics about this park:
  • The park is located along a beautiful lake.
  • Our site had 30 and 20 amp electrical service. (We had to be careful both connecting and disconnecting electrical power because of an active wasp nest inside the power box.)
  • Our site had water connection, but no sewer connection.
  • There was a dump station in the park.
  • We could only find one TV signal while in the park and this was a PBS station.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over the park.
  • This is a pet friendly park. 
The lake

Rosie with the lake in the background

Another view of the lake

View of the lake
Our campsite

Original watercolor painting by Becky of our campsite

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wind Creek State Park (Alabama) - 2016

Sometimes you simply forget about the campgrounds in your backyard. We used to camp in Wind Creek State Park once or twice a year. Of course, that was before we retired and I could easily commute to work from the park.

Wind Creek State Park in Alabama

Commuting distance is no longer a priority when selecting campsites. Of course, our still-too-busy schedules and appointments are the things we need to work around now and it seemed that our calendar was crowded with other things for too long. We started itching to go out in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, but our calendar was limiting this trip to a single week.

Instead of commute distance being the deciding factor, we were looking for a place close to home to maximize our time in the woods. There are two campgrounds we frequented back when the distance to work was high on our agenda. It had been several years since we camped at Wind Creek State Park, so we decided to load up Rosie and head there.

We were pleasantly surprised by the changes in the park since our last visit. The State of Alabama invested some money in improving the park by creating some "premium" sites.

Our campsite in Wind Creek State Park

Wind Creek State Park is on a huge lake, not along a tiny creek as the name suggests. Many of the campsites are along the shore and overlook the water. The premium sites were created by removing some sites along a popular section of the park and using that space to make the remaining sites larger. Full hook-ups were also added to the premium sites along with a premium camping fee.

While the premium sites are very nice, we elected to camp in one of the more basic "water and electric" sites along another finger of the shoreline. We found a good site that had easy access to the lake, an important feature since we brought along our kayak.

Rosie at Wind Creek State Park

Another view of Rosie at Wind Creek State Park

Our camping loop was about 30 percent full. That meant our loop was quiet. That was a good thing since this was Suzy's, our five month-old Yorkie, second time camping. Less distractions were seen as a positive thing.

Suzy with her stuffed toy

Suzy in the park

Suzy out for a walk

The "star of the show" turned out to be our inflatable kayak. We were able to explore the park from the perspective of the shoreline. We found several interesting natural features from the vantage point of our kayak. It was also fun to paddle around the various camping loops in the park.

The view from our kayak

On the lake in our kayak

We did have a big storm while at Wind Creek State Park and lightning destroyed my 30 foot vertical amateur radio antenna and its tuner. I'm thankful it didn't break anything else.

Antenna knocked out by storm

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • There are multiple camping loops in this park. Some, but not all, are along the lake's shore.
  • Some sites have full connections and others have water and electric.
  • Our site had 30 and 20 amp service.
  • One bathhouse served our loop. The bathhouse was clean and well stocked.
  • We could not receive any TV signals using Rosie's antenna.
  • AT&T placed a good 4G signal over the park.
In all, we enjoyed our adventure at Wind Creek State Park and will return again when we are looking for a quick getaway.

Looking at the lake

Selfie at our campsite

Silo in the park