Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Townsend / Great Smokies KOA - Townsend, Tennessee

Townsend is advertised as the quiet side of the Smokies. We know from our family vacations when our children were young that fewer people visited the Townsend side and this made it easier to spend more time enjoying the mountains instead of dealing with the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge traffic.

We scouted last year while visiting the Smokies for a campground where we could stay in Townsend and decided to reserve a site in the KOA. When we called for reservations, the site next to the restroom was our only choice. We felt that wasn't the best site, but we booked it.

After we arrived and setup Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, Becky noticed a bad smell coming from the restroom. It was bad enough that we went to the office to see if we could move or check out.

There were a few cancellations and the office staff drove us around on one of their golf carts to see them. We quickly said we would pay the additional fees to get the shaded site along the river.
Rosie along the river

Rosie's site at the Townsend KOA

So, we found ourselves hitching up Rosie moments after setting up in the site next to the restroom and moving to our newly reserved site. The new site proved to be one of the most difficult sites to back Rosie in. It appeared that our site was added after the park was initially laid out and there wasn't enough room left to get into the site without pulling forward and backing in many times.

The effort required to occupy the site was well worth it. We had a beautiful site with a great view of the people floating down the Little River, which was immediately behind Rosie.

Of course, the real reason you camp in Townsend is to visit Cade's Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove the 11mile loop around the Cove three different evenings. Suzy, our seven month old Yorkie enjoyed barking at the deer along the road. We stopped when we saw a herd of horses and let Suzy see them up close. She didn't make a sound until she was safely back in the truck. That was when she bravely started to growl at the horses.

Cades Cove

The loop road in Cades Cove

Horses in Cades Cove

Speaking of Suzy, we were amazed at how quickly everyone seemed to learn her name. People passing us on walks would call Suzy by name and someone in a passing truck yelled out, "Hey Suzy!"

The mountains around Cades Cove

A deer in the Cove

A cabin in Cades Cove

We ventured into Gatlinburg one afternoon for lunch. The constant crowds and traffic problems reaffirmed that our decision to stay "on the quiet side of th Smokies" was best for us.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had water and sewer connections.
  • Our site had a cable TV connection that delivered 40+ analog signals.
  • The park had Wi-Fi service. It was very slow and easily overwhelmed during the evenings.
  • We were amazed at the size of the KOA staff working in the park. Any problems were quickly resolved by their staff. For example, we mentioned that we smelled a bad odor coming from the bathhouse. Plumbers were there the next day fixing the problem.
  • There are multiple pricing tiers at this park. We paid a premium price for our site on the water. Having made that point, we plan to reserve our site again the next time we visit the Smokies.
  • While it would be difficult to chisel in an additional site for campers in this park, we welcomed that there was some room between campsites and most sites had shrubs or some other feature separating them.
I have expressed my disappointment in several KOA campgrounds in the past. The Townsend / Great Smokies KOA is well worth visiting because it delivers on the idea of being an above average family-oriented campground. We enjoyed camping in this KOA park.

Suzy learning she can swim, but prefers not to.

Becky and Suzy outside Rosie

Suzy in the truck

Suzy in the Townsend KOA Campground

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Levi Jackson Wilderness State Park - Kentucky (2016)

We were heading south and needed a park for a night or two. There were some Army Corp of Engineer parks that looked good on the AllStays app, but it was a weekend and those parks were small. The probability of us getting a campsite in those parks was slim.

We found a Kentucky State Park while using our AllStays app that had more than 130 sites and called for a reservation. We were glad we called because we booked one of the last few remaining sites. Whew! We were glad we had somewhere to park Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.

Welcome to Kentucky

The park's name sounded familiar and a quick check of our Cozy Rosie blog confirmed that we camped in the Levi Jackson State Park in 2015. I guess this park is conveniently located for our trips through Kentucky.

What we wrote about in 2015 seemed valid when we arrived for this visit. We noticed that this is a very family-oriented park. The streets were full of children riding their bikes and skateboards. Another group of kids were on the basketball court shooting hoops. It appeared to us that the park was full of regional campers who frequently spent their weekends there.

There were an amazing number of activities scheduled at this park for all age groups. Park workers had multiple craft times and sporting events planned for the children.

The park was full over the weekend. We enjoyed watching people having fun at the Tree-Top Adventure in the park. In fact, we ended up watching park workers rescue an overweight person who ended up stuck on a zip line between two trees.

Tree-Top Adventure

Someone enjoying the Tree-Top Adventure

There is a "wilderness life" museum in the park. There is an additional charge to tour it. We skipped the museum because of the "no photographs anywhere on the museum's grounds" rule and not because of the cost to get in.

Another popular spot in the park was the gristmill. While it wasn't open, the exterior was fun to photograph.

The Grist Mill

Selfie by the Grist Mill

We asked while checking in if anything special was going on that weekend. The office staff said a car show and fish fry was scheduled near the swimming pool on Saturday. It was fun seeing the classic cars and we enjoyed the fish fry.

The car show

The car show

The fish fry was very good

A couple things we noticed about the campground were the lights and smoke. I don't think we have ever been in a park with more streetlights on at night. The park was very lit up at night, to the point that you wanted to add additional window shades to block some of the light.

Smoke was another issue. It seemed as if a rookie campfire builders' convention was going on because everyone had a fire that produced more smoke than flame. Anyone suffering from a respiratory ailment would have suffered while camping over the weekend.

You can see the smoke while looking out Rosie's window

Things changed Sunday afternoon when a large number of families pulled out, probably to get ready for the coming work week. The park wasn't as crowded and the number of children playing in the park was much less than over the weekend. Strangely, the level of smoky fires around us continued at an annoying level.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had water and sewer connections.
  • We could pick up a PBS and an Independent station that mostly aired infomercials using Rosie's TV antenna.
  • AT&T placed only one-to-two bars of service over the park. It was very difficult to maintain data service while camping here.
  • There was Wi-Fi service in the park available for a premium fee.
  • This was a pet-friendly park.
  • There were several restrooms and showers in this park. The one we tried to check on was locked.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Smith's Pleasant Valley Family Campground - Loudonville, Ohio

We knew the general direction we were heading when we left Pennsylvania--south. We didn't know our route nor did we know our destination for the evening. We were simply turning south and driving until we had the urge to stop. That urge to stop came sooner rather than later.

Becky's sister mentioned that there was a large Amish community in Ohio. That planted the seed and we decided to stop at a family-owned campground on the edge of Ohio's Amish community that was highly rated by the users of the AllStays app.

A road sign we don't normally see in our travels

Both our GPS and Google Maps agreed on the best route to the campground. What neither knew was that part of the preferred route was blocked due to a road being out. That meant we were having to second guess our navigational aids to find the park.

We both remarked about how narrow the road was becoming when we saw an RV campground. While it wasn't the one we wanted, that sighting let us know that other campers had safely traveled down that road before us. We saw our campground a few moments later.

Not the normal type road we travel to campgrounds!

Our campsite backed up to the Mohican River. This is a popular river for people to float on using tubes, rafts, kayaks or anything else that had a good chance of not sinking. Calling this "popular" is an understatement as we watched hundreds of people float down the river going past Rosie's, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, rear window.

Rosie in the campground

Raft on the river

Looking through Rosie's rear window at the rafts on the river

While that was certainly entertaining, we wanted to explore Ohio's Amish communities. The campground staff gave us directions and we were off.

The road quickly went from being paved to gravel. Next it was dirt. What bothered us was that we were on the roads we originally would have been on if we had followed both our GPS and Google Maps. We were glad we were forced to travel the longer, but paved, way with Rosie when we saw the "Road Closed" sign.

We started running into Amish communities a few miles down the road. Wednesday evening meetings were taking place and we noticed several buggies parked around a house and the families were sitting on the porches. We also saw a young Amish girl with a 22-rifle standing next to some buggies. We doubt she was on a buggy security detail, but was probably looking for rabbits for an upcoming meal.

Buggy in front of a barn

We drove into town the next morning. The local Walmart was the first one we ever saw with parking stalls for horses and buggies. We soon noticed that several stores had parking areas for horses and buggies.

The WalMart parking lot

Buggies at Walmart

We stopped by an Amish grocery store before heading back to the campground. Nearly everyone shopping and working in that store was Amish and the store's parking lot was full of horses and buggies.

Grocery store parking lot

Driving through town

Another thing we discovered was that you need to be careful where you step while in Amish country. We found horse dung in parking lots and in the road.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Nearly all of the sites are on grass.
  • Our site had 50, 30 and 20 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had both water and sewer connections.
  • AT&T placed one bar of marginal service over the park. The data connections failed more often than they worked.
  • The park did not offer any Wi-Fi service.
  • We were unable to receive any over-the-air TV signals while in this park.
  • This park featured many recreational activities for families. It had a swimming pool, basketball court, volleyball court and a big playground for children.
  • Restrooms were pit toilets.
  • There was a shower facility. We didn't check it out.
  • The park has one dump station located next to a pit toilet.
  • The park sold pizza, chicken wings and ice cream. Delivery service was available to campers in the park.
  • Many of the sites in this park backup to the Mohican River.
We enjoyed visiting Ohio's Amish community and watching the rafters floating down the river while at this park.

Suzy wants her toy!

More rafts behind Rosie

The river

Selfie at Smith's Pleasant Valley Family Campground

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Titusville, PA - Visiting Family

This is a posting that will make no sense to anyone beyond our immediate family. It is here to provide an accurate record of where we have camped in Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.

We planned to visit Becky's sister in Pennsylvania after the WBCCI International Rally in Lewisburg, West Virginia. Our early exit from the Rally gave us an opportunity to head north and spend a few more days at their family cabin in the woods.

Road heading to the family cabin

Rosie in the woods

We enjoyed our time visiting Becky's sister and her husband back in the woods of Pennsylvania. We did see a doe and her two fawns behind Rosie one morning and we saw a groundhog.

Deer behind Rosie

Groundhog behind Rosie

We drove through Amish country and enjoyed seeing them use their horse and buggies.

Buggies parked for the night

The children out for a spin

We shared a family nostalgic moment when we bought a desert for the evening meal. Becky's Mom was partial to a specific type of cake. That's what we shared at dinner one evening and Becky's sister understood the connection the moment she saw what we bought.

It was time to move on after several days. We hooked up Rosie, hugged everyone and left heading for our next adventure.

Rosie parked at Becky's sister's cabin

The cabin

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

West Virginia State Fairgrounds - Lewisburg, WV

The West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Lewisburg was the site of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International 59th International Rally. We attended our first International Rally last year in Farmington, New Mexico. The thought of having this rally closer to home was very appealing to us. We signed up, and similar to last year, joined the Region Three Caravan to Lewisburg.

Our caravan to Lewisburg turned out to be very eventful. You can read about our narrow escape from the terrible flooding in West Virginia in several earlier postings. Several members of our group wondered if we should even head into Lewisburg because of the relief efforts centered there. That was when our caravan leader said we could help the community more by going in, contributing to the relief efforts and by shopping in the community.

Our first evidence that something was going on was the traffic as we entered Lewisburg. There were around 100 power company trucks from multiple states there to help restore electrical power to the area.

Next, we saw vehicles with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on them converging in the K-Mart parking lot. We saw many other church related disaster teams working in the area while in Lewisburg and a group of students from Liberty University took time out of their summer recess to help the community. It was reassuring to see so many groups showing up to help the community.

Our caravan finally made it to the fairgrounds and we were parked by the WBCCI volunteers. We were warned before arriving that the city had issued a "boil water" alert so we arrived with a full fresh water tank plus four gallons of spring water for drinking. We lost electrical power twice while camping in the fairgrounds. The longest power interruption lasted a little more than five hours.

Rosie at the WBCCI International Rally, Lewisburg, WV

We had a problem one morning as I was opening Rosie's awning. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) The strap used to unroll it broke off. I learned last year that the people in the vintage trailer area seem to be able to answer any maintenance questions about Airstream trailers. As expected, one guy I was talking to had a similar problem and he told me to buy a specific type of fishing wire to sew the strap back on. About an hour later, the strap was reattached to the awning.

Rosie's awning strap reattached

We signed up for three excursions while in West Virginia. One was cancelled because it was a cave tour and was flooded out. We were able to ride the Cass Railroad up to Bald Knob in an old coal-powered train. The view from Bald Knob was spectacular. We wished we had sat in the center of our open-air car instead of the end because less of the coal soot and cinders fell there. We sat in the last row of our car and ended up being covered with soot when we left the train.

Coal-fired train heading up the mountain

View from the top of the mountain

the Cass Scenic Railroad

Our excursion on the next day turned out to be very exciting. We signed up for something called the bridge walk. There is a narrow two-foot wide catwalk under the longest arch-supported bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The walk is more than 3,300 feet long and you are more than 860 feet above the river at the bridge's highest point. You are strapped in with a safety strap, but the views were unforgettable.

The bridge from a distance

Selfie with the bridge behind us

Walking the bridge

All strapped in

People rafting on the river

Our feet hanging over the edge

The river below us

View of the catwalk

Success! We reached the other end

We noticed at the International Rally last year in Farmington, New Mexico, that there was an art exhibition and contest. One of the categories was watercolors. We brought one of Becky's original watercolor paintings to Lewisburg and entered it into the competition. There were six watercolor paintings entered and they were all very good. We were thrilled to learn that Becky's painting was judged to be the second place winner at this competition.

Becky earns second place in the WBCCI
watercolor painting competition

An award winning watercolor artist!
The award-winning watercolor painting

We ended up being glad our WBCCI Region Three caravan continued on into Lewisburg because some participants had talked about going home after the flood. I think the town's residents were also glad the 600+ Airstream trailers and motorhomes arrived in Lewisburg after the flood. I overheard a store owner talking to someone about his business. He said that local business dried up and it was the Airstreamers that kept his doors open that week. Without the business generated by the Airstreamers, he said he would have closed the doors and sent his employees home for the week. In addition, the Airstreamers donated more than $30,000 and pitched in and helped with the recovery efforts. Was it good to participate in this Rally? The most logical answer is a strong "Yes."

Eating out in Lewisburg

At a Lewisburg restaurant

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had only 50 amp electrical service. I'm glad we were warned to bring a 50-to-30 converter cable or we would not have been able to connect to their power.
  • Our site had both water and sewer connections. After the "boil water" advisory was lifted, we thankfully connected the water.
  • Our parking area was on grass. Some of the Airstream trailers were parked on gravel.
  • I'm of the opinion that there isn't a level patch of ground in West Virginia. We used every leveling tool we had and we still had a pronounced right-to-left lean.
  • We had enough room between us and our neighbor's trailer to extend our awning and to park our truck. Not all of the sections in this park were that lucky.
  • We could only pick up two TV stations using Rosie's antenna. These were CBS and FOX affiliates.
  • AT&T provided terrible service over the fairgrounds. To be fair, they probably lost a tower or two in the flood and their system was overloaded with flood related traffic.
  • The park provided Wi-Fi service. It was overwhelmed by having to serve 600+ trailers. Since the fairground's camping area can support more than 750 trailers, I would have expected their Wi-Fi to easily accommodate a measly 600. It didn't.
We were supposed to stay in this campground until July 5th. The weather forced us out a couple days early. The forecast called for two days of rain and we didn't want to chance leaving on the wet grass that was going to be in our section of the park. We left early, but we signed up for the WBCCI International Rally next year, which will be in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Flying our flags from Rosie

Sunset in Lewisburg

The officers of the Amateur Radio Club of the WBCCI