Football, Fixes, and Fun!

Rather than write 4-5 posts to catch everyone up on where we are at, I think I will try and do it all in one post. So, bear with me!

After the fiasco with the RV damage repairs I made my way to Hell….Hell, Michigan  that is, where I met my brothers Craig and Chad and my Dad for some fun camping and the University of Michigan homecoming football game. What a great time we had! It was a relief to see them win, given the long journey we all made to get here (Craig and Dad from NY). But, we would have enjoyed ourselves even with a loss as we did when we came in 2009 when Penn State walloped them in The Big House. Some of the highlights of the weekend were eating at Zingerman’s, going to The Big House, Rocket Man (video below), and, of course, spending time with my family.

Dad and I

The Big House

Me and my brothers enjoying burgers for breakfast.

Craig, Chad, Dad at Zingermans in Ann Arbor, MI

Also while in Michigan I took it upon myself to run a 5k…the Halloween Run through Hell! There were probably 800 or so runners and the costumes were interesting.

Tie Dye Man was running with Marijuana Leaf Man

Angry?

Where's Waldo?

No costume required

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From Michigan I drove (sans Lisa and Kylee still who are in Delaware) to Elkhart, IN for warranty repairs on the rig. I had a heat pump that did not work and DRV installed the wrong pinbox on my rig. They installed a 21k pinbox on a rig with a 23k GVWR. When I questioned both DRV and RVsForless on this they both told me that it is the right pinbox but the wrong sticker was placed on it (the large one that says 21,ooolb GVR!). I initially said okay…but then thought I would look into it further. I called Lippert (the manufacturer of the TrailAir pinbox) and they advised it was the wrong pinbox for my rig. DRV finally admitted the error and replaced it.

My warranty work was scheduled with Paul Cross (crossrv.com) in Elkhart. They fouled up the schedule and said they could not fit me in for a few days! So, I went with Tiara RV instead. I worked with Scott @ Tiara and he fixed me right up. Scott was great to work with and I highly recommend Tiara RV for repairs.

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I left from Elkart, In around 3:30 pm on Wednesday and drove until about 1:00 am and stopped at a service plaza in Pennsylvania, parked and slept. I woke up at 7:00am and hit the road, arriving at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware to meet my girls. I was in DE by 11:00am. I made great time.

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We stayed at Lums Pond for 12 days and loved it. Who’d of thought right here in DE would be such a nice park! Great running, walking, and biking trails. Plus, it was virtually empty. While in DE I did some home repairs to appease the city inspectors who gave me a 3 page list of demands when they got wind that I was renting my house. Of course, I did the right thing and applied for a city permit before renting, thus the ‘wind’.

Site 21...the only pull-through

Lums Pond

Peaceful dock on a foggy Lums Pond

Now we are in Rehoboth Beach, DE at Delaware Seashore State Park en route to Florida. We will take our time getting there by December. This place stinks…literally of low tide smells. It is not a destination park by any means. It’s an overpriced parking lot. But, it has hookups and serves our needs for a couple of days.

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Taking Out the Trash…Literally.

(It has been way too long since my last update. I am quickly learning that a blog is a real commitment of time and unless I schedule myself to do it regularly it will get neglected. I am in the process of getting one business website revamped and another new one launched…so the blog has fallen by the wayside a bit…not for lack of anything to blog about because things have been happening almost daily for the past few weeks. It will take me 3 or 4 posts to get back on track; but try I will. )

So, we stayed at Happy Holiday RV Village in Cherokee, NC for almost a month and it was time to move on. It was a great place to stay and I will write a review on this park in a separate blog. But I have something much more exciting to blog about today. The plan was to leave Cherokee, NC and head to Michigan while Lisa and Kylee went to Delaware. I was scheduled to have a few repairs done to the new rig in Elkhart, IN after I met up with my brothers and dad for the University of Michigan vs. Purdue football game on Sat 10/29.

I got all packed up on Tuesday Oct 25th and we were ready to pull out. I pulled my truck up to hitch it up and, funny thing is, it could not get underneath the pinbox of the house truck. Say what?! Yes, the pinbox was about 2 inches too low for me to get my truck and hitch underneath to hook up. I had the jacks all the way extended and still could not get underneath it. To make a long story short, after collaborating with some other guys at the park we determined the only solution was to manually jack up the rig with a car jack. We did just that and finally got ‘er hooked up. I had told Lisa to go ahead and leave earlier so she could get an early start back to Delaware. She had been on the road for about an hour by the time I was finally hooked up and ready to leave.

I was on my way out of the parking lot of the RV park and I decided I should call Lisa and let her know I was hooked up and on my way finally. So, while calling her on the phone and pulling through the parking lot, I hear, “screeeeeeeeeeeeeeetttttttttch”. “Lisa, I gotta go”. I look in my sideview mirror and see something very big and very blue…very close to my house truck. It’s a commercial trash receptacle. Okay, it was embedded in it. Apparently, while talking on the phone I failed to assess how wide of a turn I needed to make and here is the result:

If you think this is bad, you should have seen the trash receptacle!

My heart sank to my feet when I saw what I had done. We had to chain the receptacle to a truck and pull it away from my rig in order to make the turn. I came really close to taking out a window…glad I didn’t. Well, I was on my way to RVsforless en route to Michigan, so I figured they could tell me how much it would cost to repair. I decided to stop fretting and move on. Yeah, right, don’t fret.

I arrived at RVsforless at around 3pm and set up for the night. It was too late to get to me that day so they said they would work on mine in the morning.

Mark at RVsforless took a look at it and said, “I can fix that”. I could’ve hugged him! He didn’t seem like the hugging kind so I thought wiser of it and just gave him a manly, “You’re the man, Mark”. It took him about 6 hrs…but lo and behold, he restored it to almost-original condition. 
While he was working on this, I decided I did not need any more damage to the rig and went and put new tires on my truck. I had been debating it for a while, but knew it would be expensive and decided I would try to get a few more miles on the existing tires. But, when you’re pulling 23k lbs it is not a good idea to nonchalantly try to get by with 4/32 tread on your tires. I went with 4 Michelins on the the rears and it cost a whopping $2200! But, I feel safer on them and they look pretty sweet, too.Finally, with new tires on the truck, damage repaired, and blood pressure almost back to normal it was 5:30pm and time to move on to Michigan. Total cost for this stop for  tires and damage repairs: $2650. Joy.

I am quickly realizing that I am dealing with a whole new animal with our 43′ beast. Driving the 36′ motorhome was like driving a Smart Car compared to this thing.

Next blog: Knoxville, TN to Ann Arbor, MI…this drive had it’s own little challenges of which I shall write about next time.

Hike Review #2: Charlie’s Bunion, GSMNP Tennessee/NC

Name: Charlie’s Bunion

Location: Located at the Newfound Gap parking lot at about the midway point of where Hwy 441 cuts through GSMNP. 20 mi from Cherokee, NC and 15 mi from Gatlinburg, TN.

Distance: 8.1 miles out-and-back

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately Difficult. There are moderate climbs on both the intial 2 miles and on the first return mile. In between these climbs, the trail is relatively flat with gradual climbs and some steady descents. Total elevation gain is 1640 feet. I might have given this a 6, but because the terrain is pretty rocky, a 7 is appropriate.

Features: 8/10 Excellent You are rewarded throughout this hike with panoramic views to the North and South. The pine trees emit a very strong, sometimes pungent smell. It is quite refreshing to be at this elevation (6122 ft!) with the fresh air and smells. In the Spring there are wildflowers. I saw a few birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and a mouse. This hike utilizes the infamous Appalachian Trail (AT). 

Here is how it got it’s name: Charlies Bunion is a rock out-cropping that was originally known as Fodderstack. The current name was derived when Charlie Conner went hiking one day with Horace Kephart, one of the early proponents of a national park in the Smokies, and author of Our Southern Highlanders. When they paused for a rest on the rocks Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion that looked like the surrounding rocks. Looking at Conner’s feet, Kephart remarked, “Charlie, I’m going to get this place put on a government map for you.” And so he did. (Taken from http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/charliesbunion.htm).

Solitude: 4/10 Poor Unless you get up early you will not avoid the crowds that swarm Newfound Gap, probably the most crowded stop in the entire GSMNP. I was on the trail by 7:30 am and I had the trail all to myself. I arrived at the peak at 9:10am and there was 1 other hiker already there. However, on the return I passed at least 20 other hikers. Anytime after 10:00 am, there is rare solitude here. Plus, there is the Icewater Spring Shelter…a popular stopover for backpackers on the AT.

Overall Experience: 7/10  Very Good I have hiked this trail 3 other times and it used to be a favorite of mine in the park. However, because it has become so crowded, it is hard to get the solitude I enjoy when on a  hike. Nevertheless, the views are amazing and the fresh coniferous air makes it a nice hike. I probably would give this hike an 8 or 9, but with the overuse of the trail comes trash. There were at least 6 incidents of trash along the trail.

Map:

A Festivus in Waynesville, NC!

Frank Costanza: “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”

Cosmo Kramer: “What happened to the doll?”

Frank Costanza: “It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!”

Kramer: “That must have been some kind of doll.”

Frank Costanza: “She was.”

What this excerpt from Seinfeld has to do with an Apple Festival in Waynesville, NC I have no idea; but anytime I think of festivals I think of this scene from Seinfeld. There were a few dolls and plenty of people to make it feel like a festivus, but in reality, it was just a fun family-friendly festival in one of our favorite Smoky Mountain towns filled with arts, crafts, street performers, and good food!

Waynesville, NC is a small town dear to our hearts. We lived here from ’05-’07 and really fell in love with its charm and proximity to the GSMNP as well as the eclectic town of Asheville about 20 min away. It has a population of less than 10k but has great coffee shops, a fantastic walking downtown district, and its natural setting will rival most mountain towns.

We had a great time watching Kylee shower herself with leaves and decorate apples while Lisa perused the interesting arts and crafts. As usual, I hovered the sidelines and just enjoyed the gorgeous Autumn weather, reminding myself that this is why we are out here. It wasn’t even very difficult to skip watching my first University of Michigan football game of the season (the first one I could get down here in the South) to come hang out with the interesting people of Western North Carolina. Having DVR doesn’t hurt, either 😉

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Hike Review #1: Smokemont Loop, GSMNP North Carolina

Of course one of the best parts about this lifestyle is I get to pursue one of my great passions: hiking! So, I am going to keep a log of my hikes. Hopefully after a few years of this I will have a nice collection of hike reviews for my readers to take advantage of.

Name: Smokemont Loop Trail

Location: Hike begins and ends in Smokemont Campground which is located 3.5 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in GSMNP outside of Cherokee, NC

Distance: 6.5 mile loop

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately difficult. Not recommended for young kids without hiking experience. The first half of the hike is easy, but there is a 2.5 mi section that has a very respectable climb. You are rewarded with a decent view.

Features: 7/10 Very Nice A good portion of the trail follows a very pleasant and sometimes swift stream. This is a great fishing stream. I witnessed one fly fisherman snag a nice trout! In addition to the stream, the flora is nice with hardwood forests, wildflowers, the longest foot bridge in GSMNP, and an old church to explore. The view from the top is a decent reward 3/4 seasons and probably spectacular in the winter.

Solitude: 9/10 Excellent Being that this hike starts and ends at a popular campground I expected to run into several other hikers…but I never saw a soul. It was a gorgeous day and the campground was busy, so I assume the somewhat difficult climb on this hike is a deterrent for the casual camper.

Overall Experience: 7/10 Very Good This hike is pleasant and challenging with decent aesthetics. Better views at the top would have bumped it to an 8.

Map:


Elevation Scale: 


“Wave over Wave” Cataloochee Valley Elk

Cataloochee Valley used to be a well-kept secret tucked away on the eastern edge of the Smoky Mountains National Park. When we lived in Waynesville, NC we would frequently visit this place to witness the revival of the elk population that was hunted out of existence about 150 years ago. When we first started coming here there were only a handful of onlookers watching the 50 or so elk. Now…7 years after our initial visit the elk population here has surpassed 15o elk and the spectators have also tripled! Great news for the elk population, but I liked it better when it wasn’t so crowded here. Oh well, it is still a fantastic trip to take if you are ever in the Maggie Valley/Cherokee/Waynesville North Carolina area! October is prime time to come here as the elk are in “rut”…they’re looking for some action 🙂 Come here enough days in the fall and you will likely see a good fight and hear some bugling as well.

I still need that zoom lense, but we did get to witness a good chase. One bull elk came out of nowhere and charged another that we had been watching for about an hour as a third bull decided to come out of the woods and join in the fun. Dominance must have already been established before this incident because the charging bull easily removed the other two from flirting with his girls.

The Losers

Cataloochee is Cherokee for “wave over wave” or “fringe sticking straight up”, probably referring to the mountains that serve as the beautiful backdrop of this pristine valley.After a while, Kylee got bored watching the elk and thought everyone else could use a little entertainment while we waited for something to happen.

Kylee practicing her bugling

Anyway, if you get a chance to come here…do it! There are spectacular hiking trails, horse trails, camping, and wildlife. I have hiked back here before and run into a few bears even. A special place, indeed. A 1/4 into the woods and the crowds are gone.

Cherokee Parade

I started the day off with a 3mi jog around the RV park here. This is one of the great perks of the RV lifestyle…having new and interesting places to run all of the time. The mountain backdrop and cool temps made for a very pleasant jog.

Today we decided to head to the Annual Cherokee festival parade here in Cherokee, NC. But, first we cooked up a nice lunch. It is soooo nice to be cooking regular meals again and not eating out so much. I grilled up some type of chicken artichoke something-or-other while Lisa prepared something called “tabbouleh”. It was pretty tasty (and healthy too! She’ll have the recipe on her blog is she ever figures out how)…

Tabbouleh

Kylee wasn’t a fan, though…With lunch all done, Kylee and I got a boost of energy and the bluegrass music we were playing got the best of us and we decided to cut a rug…Then it was off to the Cherokee parade. Just down the road we found a LOT of people lined along the streets waiting for the start of the parade. We couldn’t figure out why all the kids (and some adults) were holding on to empty grocery bags, but once the parade started we figured it out.

Candy was being strewn everywhere!

After a while Kylee just stopped and said, “I don’t want to pick up anymore candy”. Thank Goodness for that! Three weeks before Halloween and we already had enough candy to last us a year.To me the parade was a little disappointing. I was hoping for a little more of a cultural parade; but, instead, it turned out to be a pretty basic town parade with high school floats and local businesses advertising their wares and services. All in all Kylee had a good time, though, and that’s what we were there for.

One of the cuter moments of the parade

Any guesses what his job was?