Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two Weekends in Neighboring States

Tennessee Cumberland Plateau Campground, Tennessee

In August we got an invite to the all-Airstream park in Crossville Tennessee, Tennessee Cumberland Plateau Campground (TCPC).  At TCPC, the lots are individually owned with the exception of a few visitor lots.  We stayed on an improved lot.  (It is for sale.) I've only backed the trailer up a handful of times.  I was a little nervous parking this close to a structure but I didn't hit anything.

Notice the bikes.  This was the first time we have taken bikes since we've had the trailer.  The two smallest bikes we put in the back of our SUV, the biggest one we put in the trailer with a cargo bar.  (Who knew you could use those things for anything other than putting in endcaps?)

The smallest bike hasn't had training wheels in over a year but its rider has refused to use it (with or without training wheels.)  I was hoping to have three bike riders by the end of the weekend. 

Loved the charm of this place...

This swan holder was at our site.  I saw a few of these around at different campsites.  They made me smile.  Clearly someone made them (and presumably gave them to friends).  There's something about seeing these hand crafted things around the whole campground that make me think the people here enjoy each others company. They are a connected community.

Neighboring Cumberland Mountain State Park has a well-attended catfish dinner on Friday nights. 

 We joined the crowd and were delighted to find another fantastic CCC bridge, too. 

Saturday, we went with our friends into Crossville to see the large tree house there.  Our friends, who own lots at TCPC, had never been to the treehouse.  They thought taking the kids was a perfect excuse to visit.

One man began building this house in 1993.  It's made entirely out of reclaimed wood.  It's quite a thing!

Samuel is waiting his turn while our two girls ride the 5-story lawn-chair swing attached to the side of the tree house.  I saw just as much duct tape as I did rope.  I'm still not really sure if this swing is a good idea.  The kids sure enjoyed it though.

With our friends at the treehouse.
Check out the "support post" on the right.

For just spending two nights here it sure felt like we crammed in so much.

We spent time with friends, made new friends, and miraculously came home with three bike riders. 

Goodbye, TCPC.  Maybe we'll see you down the road again.  We'll certainly never forget the kind words from our new friend, "A campground without children is like a forest without songbirds."

a little down the road, and a whole month later....

De Soto State Park,  Alabama

Our first Airstream caravan.  I actually thought it was our first caravan ever but then I remembered the rescue caravan last Thanksgiving when we left the swamp.

All lined up and ready for our weekend of fun.  

As the only people who had ever been to DeSoto State Park, we got to be the leader.  (Yikes!)

Rome, Georgia is about halfway between our rendezvous point and the park.  We decided to stop there for lunch.  Brian had the clever idea to consult Google maps to find trailer parking for four.  Easy as pie.  There was a parking lot close to the restaurant.  We followed the GPS to said parking lot.  I turned down the one-way alley only to discover a parking deck instead of a parking lot!  Oh dear!  It makes me wonder how often those Google maps are updated.  After a little (stressful for me) meandering, we found a church parking lot nearby.  Lunch was great.  I only had one complaint... it was that we had to get up and leave (to go to the park to spend more time with each other.)

The hiking at De Soto is great, it's mostly shaded.

Great rocks for the kids to climb all over: 
billy goats?
Water to stick your toes in:
 We have an knack for finding waterfalls with no water so Laurel Falls was a treat.

Back at camp, another Airstream owner came by on a golf cart with the camp host.  We knew there were two other Airstreams at the campground but hadn't been to visit yet.   Golf Cart Guy told me there was a third Airstream "older than yours but not polished" at the back of the campground.  I hardly let him leave before all of us set out to find the 'airstream older than mine.'  I was more than a little skeptical.

But I shouldn't have been.

He was right.
At the back of the campground there was a 1957 Custom/Flying Cloud (it's a bit of a mystery.)  We  were offered a tour.  After a few minutes, we soon realized had met these Airstreams before.  That is, we previously met the people, not the trailer.  Brent and Vanessa bought this trailer just a couple of months before the TAC rally at Cloudland Canyon (Labor Day weekend 2011.)  They came to Cloudland Canyon to visit friends in an SOB (Some Other Brand trailer.)  While they were at Cloudland they looked at our trailer.  Surprisingly, it still took us a few minute to recognize each other. It was nice to get to meet their trailer this time, too.

Ahhh....DeSoto!  The company was spectacular, weather was perfect, the food was perfect-er.  (Anybody seen a thesauraus around here?)

What a weekend!  Complete with candlelit dinner.

For many years, before we ever had our trailer, we would go camping with friends in our tents.  About those trips, we would say, "We eat like kings and queens and sleep in tents."   Sunday, after the trip was over, I was putting Annabelle to bed and we were talking about the weekend.  I think she put it best when she said, "We ate like kings and queens and we slept like kings and queens."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Frankly Savannah, You Don't Have to be so Dramatic!

I haven't quite finished telling the the story about our Savannah trip.  This makes me feel like a high-pressure salesman:  "But wait!  There's more!"

Monday morning we weren't feeling any special rush to get back home.  Our goal is to get home by dark.  I finally remembered to snap a couple photos of our enormous campsite.  If you look close you can see the baby moons we finally coaxed onto our rims:

Skidaway Island State Park, site 68
As we were breaking camp the girls played outside.    Samuel was looking at a travel book we previously failed to consult for Savannah activities.  He found a very interesting sounding "Streamliner Diner" in the book.  How could we go to a city with a restored 1938 diner and not visit?  We took down our awning and got in queue at the epic Labor Day dumpstation line. 

With six rigs in front of us, we decided to park and grab a geocache/go for a 2 mile hike at the park instead of waiting.

After the hike we hit the dump station again... only third in line. We had the...let me think of appropriate word...opportunity to watch someone de-winterize a rig as we waited our turn. 

Across town, the Streamline Diner wasn't looking very "open."  

  We had to pull into the parking lot and check it out though.

Boy did we ever get to check out that parking lot!  As we pulled into the diner Brian hit a curb, bent a rim, and deflated one of our tires.  No sweat!  (Ok, not really "no sweat" since the temperature was hovering around 90.)  We got jacks and the spare and got to work.

While we (I use this term so loosely, like I actually had anything to do with the work) were changing the tire, two business men with keys arrived and went inside the diner.  After "we" finished with our tire and found the hand cleaner we followed the men into the diner.  Nope.  They weren't open.  We did learn that the diner was changing hands and would be open for business in about a week.  Sucks.  Just missed it.  Glad we got a little peek at the inside!

About 10-15 minutes later we started heading home, west on I-16.  We almost made it to exit 4 when we had a blowout on the other side of the trailer!

What to do?  Our spare was already on the trailer!  We left the trailer on jacks and took our two messed-up rims in search of tire shops open on Labor Day.  (Just one note here:  If you have a tire shop or are thinking of opening one then let me offer you a word of advice.  People TRAVEL on Labor Day.  If you're open, you'll get all the business.)  I lost count of all of the tire places we tried.  The open ones sometimes had tires but no rims.  Neither of our rims were viable.  I was soon eyeing the one of the "rims for rent" places that we always seem to see near military bases.  Brian just looked at me and laughed.  No rims to be found on Labor Day.

Perhaps all this Savannah civil war history has gone to my head.  I couldn't help but feel like a Gone With The Wind character when we were unsuccessful at the third open tire shop.  I fretted "But! But! But our Airstream will be stuck at the side of the road if we can't find me some rims!" 

This is when Brian graciously and calmly realized that the problem wasn't being stuck in Savannah but having to endure another sleepless night with our baby at the side of a busy road.  We made our way back to the trailer, hitched up, reattached the rim from the blow-out tire and crawled down the road at a whopping 10 miles an hour to the next (thankfully very close) exit. Such a relief to find and an industrial area with the perfect quiet spot for the night!  

Well, it was mostly quiet.  We did have had three different people stop to see if we needed help; there is something to be said here about the kindness of strangers!

Siting in the trailer in the evening: for the first time on any trip ever I found some time to write about the trip while on said trip.  I also got to play the role of Scarlet, as I sat by the side of the road in a trailer on jacks  "La de da!  I shall worry about rims tomorrow!"

In the morning our tire and rim set were ready as promised.  
Thankfully, we made it home without need of another spare.  
(Which we didn't have.)

Our new baby moons fixed up just fine.  You like 'em?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Greetings from Savannah

Making our best attempt at turning our Labor Day weekend into four days, we left Thursday evening for a trip to Savannah.  We drove part way and found a quiet place to stop for the night.  Savannah is about six hours from home.

Leaving home on Thursday evening put us in Savannah just in time for breakfast on Friday, the only time of day when there seems to be trailer parking available in the riverfront area.

Clearly, we don't have the details worked out for "park someplace quiet for the night to break up the long travel day." I still sleep better at a campground. In fact, I sleep so much better at a campground that I spent a good deal of the day on Friday catching up on the sleep I didn't get on Thursday night.  Hmmm.... 

By Friday evening I had recovered from my Thursday night and we slipped back to the riverfront area for some excellent people watching.  I really appreciated how unpretentious Savannah is on a Friday night.  (Especially after having visited  Kansas City's Country Club Plaza on a Saturday night which was decidedly fussy.) I think it helps that sensible shoes aren't optional on Savannah's cobblestone streets.   We strolled around the riverfront then wandered to many of the little squares (see: Oglethorpe Plan) before heading back toward our trailer at Skidaway Island State Park.  On the way back I begged Brian to stop at the beach  "on the way" (not really on the way) since we were so close.

We loved getting our toes in the sand even if it was dark,
Saturday we spent the morning exploring Skidaway Island State Park

there's a kid in that tree
 We hiked through trails with spanish moss, live oaks, palmettos, palm trees, egrets, fiddler crabs, and all things coastal.  

Look!  It's our vintage kin, Avion!  Where's the Airstream loop?

After our hike we headed to Wormsloe State Historic Site, home to the oldest standing structure in Savannah.  I use the term "standing structure" very loosely.  There's not much left and they are indeed ruins.  Visiting this site has certainly made us more interested in Georgia's early roots.

For us, the true the highlights of Wormsloe are the entrance and the magnificent live oak driveway leading to the ruins. 

Wymberley Jones De Renne planted over 400 oaks sometime in the early 1890s to celebrate his son's birth.  Now that's a birthday present!

We find that there is always something to be learned from living history demonstrations.  At Wormsloe, we got to see pewter spoon making which we'd never seen before.  We also listened to he garden guy for quite some time.

After Wormsloe, we got back in the car without any real intentions about where to go next.  We saw a sign for "Old Fort Jackson" and went to investigate.  Thinking we wouldn't have time to tour a whole fort in just the hour we had before closing, we almost left.  The gift shop guy assured us that our tickets would be good for three days.  In that case, we decided to see as much as we could in the hour before closing.

Old Fort Jackson is a fort with many names.  It has been called: 
Fort James Jackson, 
Fort Jackson, 
Old Fort Jackson,
Fort Oglethorpe

 Having been to Forts Sumter and Macon, the scale of Old Fort Jackson was shocking.
Sabrina in an archway.
It is tiny. I could walk under the archways without ducking but Brian had to duck.  An hour was plenty of time to tour the whole fort.  Why is it so small we wondered?  Well, it is older than any of the other forts we have visited.  Fort Jackson was built between 1808 and 1812 making it a "second system" fort. 

Samuel thought there was plenty of work to be done at Old Fort Jackson.

From the fort's upper deck there is an an incredible view of the Savannah river.  Such a treat to watch this ship pass, its three man crew waving back at the five of us on top of the fort. 

Having worked up quite an appetite, we looked for an early dinner and scored an outside table at the french Cafe 37

Cafe 37 was a delicious treat!

Sunday we made good on our promise to take the kids back to Tybee beach, grabbed seafood at a place keen on atmosphere and mediocre on food, then found another fort to tour.

(briefly, a little fort history)
Fort Pulaski is on Cockspur Island, just across the bridge from Tybee.  Fort Pulaski has an important civil war history.  Confederate soldiers/some guys from Savannah occupied Fort Pulaski even before Georgia seceeded from the Union.  (These guys heard about the Union occupation of Fort Sumter and didn't want the same thing to happen in their backyard, at Fort Pulaski.)  Soon, Union forces came to nearby Tybee and positioned cannons in the direction of Pulaski over cover of night and heavy shore vegetation.  Confederate soldiers were aware of nighttime activity on Tybee but really weren't too concerned.  At the time Pulaski was built (between 1829 and 1847) cannons had a range of 1/2 mile with not-so-great accuracy.  Confederates knew that cannon ranges had increased to a mile but were still feeling pretty invincible with Tybee being 2 miles away.    They were mistaken.  In April of 1862 Union soldiers used new rifled cannons which were both accurate and had a much longer 4-5 mile range.

Checking out the damage and looking for alligators in the mote.  We didn't see any, darn.  I did hear someone in the visitors center say he saw one though.
The fort was no match for the new rifled cannons; they shot dangerously close to Pulaski's magazine rooms.  Thirty hours after the Union assault on Fort Pulaski the Confederate Colonel Olmstead surrendered, saving the fort and its occupants. 

Notice the darker red brick at the corner. This is part of the repair work done by Union soldiers after the Confederate surrender.   It took them six weeks to make repairs to the worst sections of the fort.  The battle at Fort Pulaski made it clear that brick forts were no longer useful against modern weaponry.
 This place couldn't be any more like a castle! 

Complete with moat and draw bridge

A view from the castle, I mean fort

Sabrina in an archway at Fort Pulaski.
 Notice how much higher the arches are than at Old Fort Jackson.  Fort Pulaski is a "third system" fort which basically means it's newer, bigger, and badder than the older forts.

More living history, a cannon demonstration.  
Thank-you, Colonel Olmstead, for saving Fort Pulaski. 
We so enjoyed visiting it.

Also part of the national park on Cockspur Island is a lighthouse.  The Cockspur lighthouse isn't visable from the fort but you can get near it via a short hike.  (A short hike requiring a very good bug spray unless you intended to give blood to the mosquito population!  Oops.)

 The tiny lighthouse is only accessible by boat.   I think this picture is a little deceptive. It looks like a larger lighthouse in the distance. To get a better perspective about the scale note the size of the door compared to the rest of the lighthouse.  

The Cockspur Island lighthouse is famous for its waving girl, Florence Martus
When the lighthouse was operational, a small girl lived with the light-keeper on an an isolated island near the lighthouse.  She waved at the passing ships with a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night.  The story says that she didn't miss a ship for 44 years. 

 Savannah, you are lovely.  Thank you for your hospitality, Darling.