10,550 Miles Later….

Home! We’ve been home for a week and a half now, and it seems like forever already. Life has been a flurry of catching up with family and friends, and trying to whip our neglected homestead into some kind of reasonable shape. (Note to self….make some real plans for the spring yard work to get done next year!) The grass in our back yard was nearly two feet tall in places – in ten days, I’ve mowed four times already. BUT, the herb garden is planted, and I’m already dreaming of the sweet tomatoes that we’ll be harvesting later.

Before I relate stories from our last week of camping, I have to share a remarkable photo from our last stop at the Ocoee River, and the National Whitewater Center there. Here’s a photo of the whitewater section when the upstream dam is open, and the water is pouring over the rocks. A friendly raft guide told me that section is a “solid Class IV whitewater”. 20170513_112715On Sunday, the dam is closed again. This is what that same section of the river looks like.20170515_093922-3 Amazing, isn’t it? We could hardly believe our eyes.

Our last week on the road in eastern Tennessee delivered some of the most beastly camping weather we have ever encountered. Temperatures soared into the mid 90s every day. Zero wind or breeze, and humidity around 80+ percent. While we were camped in Cades Cove Campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we were lucky to have a mostly shaded site. T@DA friends Gail and Sid from Virginia were camped nearby, so we had someone to share complaints with. It was truly miserable. John and I decided to do a ten-mile hike one day, intending to get an early morning start to beat the heat. Ha! We didn’t get going until 10:45am, so we hiked through the worst of the heat all day. When we neared the end, we had a cool stream to cross, and the first thing we did was soak our hats in the cool water and slip them back on our heads. We did the same thing at the next two crossings, and it saved us. Truly miserable conditions for a hike. I didn’t even take any photos!

The Cades Cove area of GSMNP has a twelve mile scenic loop, with old homesteads, churches, and other historic and scenic sights. Best of all, it’s closed to automobile traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10am. So, of course we hauled out bikes out and did a fast spin Wednesday morning. What a pleasure to roll through the blue-green road, with no cars to dodge. The big disappointment for us was that once again, we saw no bears. We’ve been to GSMNP five times now and spent a total of at least 15 days there, and have yet to see a bear. Along the route, I stopped to take just one photo. 20170516_152137-1 (My intention was to add a link to an earlier post with photos from Cades Cove, but I couldn’t find it. My tags in earlier blogs were not very complete – I understand that now.) We were in a hurry to move on to our next spot – the long-awaited Blue Ridge Rally. Camping with about 60 of our best T@B and T@DA friends.

As you probably know, private campgrounds are not our favorite spots to stay, but Big Meadow in Townsend, TN is pretty nice. Sadly, they have a problem with some type of blight which is killing off their large shade trees. Bad news when its 95 degrees out. We had a nice view, but we baked in the heat!20170518_064754In a moment of foolishness, we had decided (weeks ago) to enter a bicycle ride called the Tour de Blount (we were in Blount County). Riders could select one of four distances – 78, 54, 42, or 25 miles. John and I decided that 42 rolling miles would be plenty for us, since we were on our mountain bikes, instead of lighter, faster road bikes. In fact, we were the only people on mountain bikes that I saw. What beautiful countryside for a bike ride! I sacrificed any thought of speed, and stopped frequently for photo ops.20170520_07185020170521_21322620170521_213144 20170519_11511520170520_080853It was still super-hot that day, and although we hit the road at 7:30am, the temperature climbed quickly. As long as we kept rolling, it was fine, but stopping was torture. Post-ride, we enjoyed beer and BBQ with the 350 other riders. I had the misfortune to miss a turn, so I tacked on about 5 ‘bonus’ miles to the 42 I had planned. Note to self:  Pay Attention!!

For four days we swapped camping stories with like-minded folks, shared meals, beers, coffee, and laughs. Some of our best camping tips have come from these groups, and getting together to hang out for a few days is always a blast.

But, we were SO ready to hit the road and get home. On Sunday May 21, we rolled out and pointed the Campsh@ck (our new name for the Fireball) directly north. Four hundred and twenty miles or so later, we rolled into Grand Lake St Marys State Park in Ohio for the night. 20170521_195933This gorgeous campground was pretty quiet on a May Sunday night, but it’s easy to imagine it being jam-packed all summer long.

Monday morning, we hit the road early and gave a little cheer when we hit the Michigan border. It wouldn’t be a complete trip without stopping at Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall MI for a pint and a sandwich before rolling into our driveway around 3pm.

148 days away from home. It feels good to be back.

The Campshaws Crap Out

Arriving home from our winter odyssey earlier this month, we attacked our spring chores with a vengence, in anticipation of a departure in three weeks for another month of camping before the summer hoards descend on our favorite campgrounds.  As it turns out, we needn’t have rushed to work.

One of the items on the ‘to do’ list was to get the Fireball into a shop to get the brakes and bearings checked out one more time.  Since our Louisiana tow/repair debacle, we’ve never been quite confident that everything is A-ok in that department.  The earliest appointment we could get was April 20.  John purchased a new jack to replace the one damaged in the tow (STILL waiting for AAA to respond), and left the Fireball with the service department, telling them our sorry story.  Two hours later, they dropped the hammer on us – Fireball ain’t goin’ nowhere.  The axle is severely damaged, and needs to be replaced.  The service technician told John he was amazed we drove home from Louisiana without incident.  Something about the spindle being damaged, yadayada.  At that point, I could hear John’s voice on the phone, but all that registered was, “I’m sorry, Babe, but we can’t go to the Blue Ridge Rally” (a camping extravaganza with 70 other T@Bs and T@DAs in the Smokies).  Axles are all custom-made, and take three weeks.  Any way we can go pick up the part and still hit the road?  Nope.  Any way we can still make the trip?  Nope!!

We can only surmise that the service guys in Louisiana didn’t recognize the severity of the damage to the axle in our bearing blowout.  Either that, or they just patched us up to get us the hell out of there.  The place to which we had been towed, on Sunday naturally (do these things ever happen on a weekend when someone is around to answer questions?), was a semi-trailer repair shop.  Yet, that was where the AAA dispatcher told our tow truck to take us.  At this point, it’s water over the dam.  We did get home safely.

Don’t want to overdramatize, but I’m in a black funk.  We were really looking forward to this trip.

But, we did get the estate sale for John’s folks’ house done.  Lots of work to sell off a lifetime of possessions.  They love their new home in a senior independent-living apartment, and that made things easier for everyone.

On the home front, I’ve gotten most of my spring yard cleanup done, and uncovered this bright green rock, hiding under a pile of decomposing leaves.  So many colors!wpid-20150411_152833.jpgOn top of it all, it snowed here on Earth Day – April 22.  Really???  Until happier times return to Chez Campshaw, the blog is going to go dark, so you might not hear from me for awhile.

Camp on, if you can…..