01 November – Uggh!! A cold wet day with snow on the higher ground and not really nice enough to warrant trying to get back on the Blue Ridge Parkway which had been closed overnight, so headed south-west on Interstate 81 along with a constant stream of trucks. Leapt off to visit a bit of the Wilderness Road – one of the main wagon roads taking early settlers westward into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. At the small settlement of Newburn decided to go into the warmth of their little Regional Museum. Again another enthusiastic volunteer manning the museum which was in the founding family’s original house. Some interesting displays and a short video kept us occupied for quite a while. Bob discovered later that what they didn’t tell us at the museum was this was the area where the Ku Klux Klan started. By the time we came back the sun had burst through but it hadn’t done anything for the frigid wind temperature. Decided that we would try a small WMA we had listed on our favourite website. It was a really pretty drive through rolling farmland, but as we climbed a little we noticed white stuff on the ground and in the paddocks – snow! Decided it probably wasn’t going to be the best place to stay overnight with more snow forecast and a very steep access road, so opted for Plan B and Wallies at Wytheville. Plenty of other rigs joined us through the evening and it was so cold that we even spent some time inside Wallies just to take advantage of the heating. Boy racers were hooning around until about 11pm and then it all went nice and quiet.
02 November – Daylight saving has ended and so has the warm weather. It was -1C this morning and a bitter wind was blowing as well. Best thing is just to get on the freeway and get the heaters going to keep warm. Trundled down I81 crossing over yet another State border, this time into Tennessee. Their welcome centre had a swathe of brochures on the different regions so we took them back to Wanda to digest and sort out where we might like to visit. On checking the weather overnight for the immediate region and with expected lows of -5, decided to move a bit further south and westwards to Morristown and the Panther Creek State Park so that we could have electricity for the night and be a bit more comfortable. Nice place – they do 50% discount in the off-season, so for $11 we get power, water, waste dump, free clean showers (no spiders!) and there is also an inexpensive laundromat which I may try and use as well.
03 November – Decided to stay another day and do a bit of exploring of the park. Nice hiking trail took us to the lake’s edge – it was a dammed lake and the level was quite low. Made use of their super cheap laundromat and spent the rest of the day trying to plan what we can do for our visior “time-out” and finally narrowed down our choices. Nice sunny day but the air still a bit chill so nice to be “plugged in” so that we can run our small fan heater and keep the inside temperature at a more comfortable level.
04 November – Headed out of Panther Creek and got filled up with propane in nearby Morristown, had lunch in the local greasy spoon diner before finally getting on the way. Noticed an Air Museum sort of on our way south at Sevierville so Bob got his fill of yet more planes and was thrilled to witness the owner taking out one of his Republic P47 Thunderbolt WW11 fighters for a spin, complete with close passes over the airfield.
Got quite close enough to Pigeon Forge, thank you (the billboards advertising all sorts of shows and attractions were enough to put one off) and bypassed Dollywood – that would have been too much excitement for Bob in one day! Daylight saving caught us out and we ended up driving in the dark on quite narrow roads to get to Maryville and Waldorf for the night.
05 November – Grey English sort of day but not too cold. Stayed on the 411 stopping off at a nice State Park in Tennessee for a break and little walk before crossing into Georgia. Have been watching the gas prices as we go through each state and we have been fortunate to be able to enjoy quite cheap (relatively) motoring since coming back into the States (almost half of what we had to pay in Canada) and even cheaper than when we first arrived. Gas prices have dropped by about 50c a gallon with the fall in crude oil prices getting passed on to consumers. It makes about $300 a month difference to us – from high prices of $3.40+ a US gallon, the lowest we have seen in the last week was $2.55 and average around $2.70. Stopped off en route at an RV store to get yet another replacement inverter (this is number 4) and do some running repairs to our fresh water inlet fitting which was leaking every time we filled up. Nothing much of interest to see along the way so motored into Georgia and Calhoun for yet another night at Wallies. Seem to be making a bit of a habit of them at the moment, but it is hard to find anything else suitable on the routes we have been taking.
06 November – Target today was to get close to Barber, Alabama to be in a good position to hit the motorsports complex the following day, so on a combination of freeways and other major roads via Rome, Cedartown, Anniston, finally arrived at Leeds for our stop for the night, again at the local Wallies. Ugggh – we crossed over into Central Time at the Alabama State line – back the clocks go yet another hour so it was dark just after 5pm.
07 November – Just a short hop down the road and we were at the fabulous set-up that is the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum. Even I was blown away by the number of bikes and how nicely they were displayed. With 5 floors of displays, all of which were easy to get around so you could see the bikes from all angles, and bikes in all sorts of other display stands and cases it was an interesting visit.
The afternoon was well gone by the time Barber was over and done with and we headed back out of the environs of Birmingham on the I20 to Oxford. Had a short diversion to Helfin in search of a website published campsite, but the last leg of the journey to reach it was not suitable for an RV so it was back the way we came to Oxford and that W place again.
08 November – What a different couple of days, we headed eastwards today back into Georgia and luckily got back that hour from a couple of days ago. Started the day with a rather large breakfast for us of bacon, eggs, hash browns and as if that wasn’t enough a waffle to finish it off. We stopped off along the way for a break at a US Army Corps of Engineers recreation area and then made our way to Warm Springs and our contrasting museum visit for the day. Barber was well organised, clean and spacious and today’s visit was the complete opposite – dingy buildings, grotty displays but very unique. Not quite what we expected from the website description. When we entered the museum it was like stepping into a sideshow – the owner delivered his spiel almost like in the old fashioned carnivals when they tried to get the public to come see the bearded lady. We got a guided tour of the bike museum and its other oddities – this is the sort of place where they follow you around and turn off the lights as soon as you are out of that room so that they can save on the electricity. The owner and our guide was quite a character and he had amassed quite an eccentric, eclectic range of stuff including: Houdini’s padlocks from his various performances, hoards of early movie posters, a range of different motorcycles including a very early Pope, many nicely restored Triumphs, old Indians, an Ace combination, Henderson and a 1973 Harley AMF still in it’s packing crate. Also a fantastic array of huge and valuable music boxes, novelty automatons and pinball machines to name but a few. The museum says on its website that he only opens when the temperature is over 50 Degrees and we now know why – they are so cold inside with no heating that it would be unbearably unpleasant. With that tour finished we were taken up the road to his other establishment, the “Follow the Leaders” wax museum. This was housed in a 1920’s house with a different historic scene in each room of the house.
The collection had been obtained from a liquidated museum in Kentucky and a lot of the figures had been created by Katherine Stubergh who was well known for creating wax busts of famous individuals and even had many individuals “sit” for portrait busts such as Charlie Chaplin, Mae West and Albert Einstein. In this museum was a signed figure of Albert Einstein who had actually allowed her to make a “death mask” of his face (while he was still living) and was so impressed he signed a thank you note right on the neck of the figure. Some of the figures were incredibly lifelike and good likenesses of their subjects, whilst others in the collection were not of the same standard and were tacky by comparison.
We had a guided tour for this museum also from yet another interesting character who gave us stories for each of the different scenarios. Our day was totally gone by the time we were released from the wax museum – it was dark and we had no where planned to go, so it was on with the GPS to find the nearest Wallies which happened to be about 45 minutes away. Fortunately the roads we had to take were better than our last night time drive and we managed to find the store easily enough.
09 November – Just a cross-country motoring day and nice to be off the freeway and onto quieter roads. Had a lovely chat with a local couple from Atlanta when we had stopped for a cuppa along the way. They had driven from Florida that morning and were heading home. Crossed over the I75 at Forsyth and continued our way eastward through Eatonton. Stopped off at Wallace Dam where Georgia Power have a nice picnic area with walks and protected rock effigies of Hawk, Eagle and Snake.
Sadly the campground at the dam was closed due to budget cuts, as it would have been a nice place to stay, but not too far down the road we found a perfect spot beside the Oconee river – a small boat launch area with a spot large enough for us to park for the night. One fisherman came by late in the afternoon and that was the sum of our visitors.
10 November – Moved on eastwards, first stop Sparta where Bob was in his usual optimistic mode of finding a cafe – ha ha!! Downtown Sparta probably had about 30 shops lining the main road and not one of them was occupied – everything was boarded up. After that, spent some time trying to find a nice pull-off for lunch – what a difficult road – it was either forested or inhabited, so in the end had to settle for a church car park which is one thing that is not in short supply in this area and they are not modest buildings either, despite the obviously parlous state of the local economy. Our target for the day was just out of Millen at the Magnolia Springs State Park. What another nice park; although a bit pricey it had immaculate facilities and another nice cheap laundry. Magnolia Springs is advertised as having a crystal clear spring – the small area around the spring was clear, but probably only about 20 feet in diameter and the rest of the stream was clear but had a lot of weed as well. The neat thing was it’s wildlife – dozens of turtles, many different sorts of fish and if we had timed it right there would have been alligators. That was a surprise – supposedly they are around in the warmer months. The turtles obviously are used to getting fed by humans as they all swam up as soon as we got to the bridge to look into the spring and looked up at us with their little beady eyes.
11 November – after fluffing around trying without success to stop our water inlet leaking when filling, it was nearly 1pm before we got on our way. Headed off, bypassing Millen and on into Sylvania where we managed to find a small bakery/deli to stop at for lunch. Cotton fields abound in this area – it is harvesting time at the moment with about half of the fields denuded of their cotton buds and the other half waiting. Funny things, cotton plants, they only grow about 3ft tall and are ready for harvest when the leaves fall off and all that is left is their spiky branches with the bolls on them – haven’t actually seen a harvesting machine but it is a big machine with rollers that pull the bolls off the plant and onto a conveyor – like a big combine harvester – each plant probably has 20-50 bolls of cotton and the harvested crop is left on the field edge in huge bales – some round and others of conventional shape. The latter are so big, heaven only knows how those get picked up! There is not much going on in the backwater towns of Georgia – very run down – businesses boarded up, motels derelict and the towns are fairly bleak – hardly any open petrol stations either.
Crossed over into South Carolina and the story is much the same – following Highway 301 through Allendale and Bamburg, before stopping at a boat launch site just north of Bamburg for a quiet night beside a small dark river.
12 November – Continued on our journey to the coast, first on 301 with very little traffic through to Orangeburg, then joined the Interstate 95 for a while which was a different story – loads of trucks and a lot more traffic – this Interstate goes straight down to Florida and there was a constant procession of ‘snowbirds’ heading down to the warmth. A lot more cotton fields dotting our landscape as we progressed along the road. At Manning we left the Interstate back into the peace and quiet, stopping at our destination of Georgetown on a river delta near the Atlantic coast. This is more our sort of town, not touristy but with a quiet charm. Walked the small harbour boardwalk before visiting the Rice Museum – the country around Georgetown was first renowned for cropping indigo for it’s blue dye properties, but later made famous for it’s rice growing up until the early 1900’s, so the museum told that history. Headed out of town for Wallies so that we can do some more exploring in the morning before moving south. Have been watching the cold spell hitting the north near Michigan and dumping 3ft of snow there overnight; it is due to move south but at the moment we are basking in the warmest weather we have had for a few weeks.