Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unscheduled stopover

We are at the Ralph Andrews County Park, on Lake Glenville north of Cashiers, North Carolina (map). We are in a "full hookup" site for $16, between two trailers that have been here so long they no longer have wheels. The power-and-water only sites, $2 less, are nicer, but it would be a bit of a struggle to get into them with a couple of low trees, and we'd have to dance around to get the dish on line -- worth it if we were planning to stay a while, but not for just one night.

We had actually planned to be here last night. However, after passing through most of the National Park and finding it very pleasingly cool at the higher elevations, we decided to tough out one night without air conditioning at the Smokemont Campground, at 2,200' elevation and right off US-441, the main park road (map). Most of the campground is under tree cover, but the check-in rangers gave us a nice site in the RV loop that had enough of a clearing to get on-line.

Unlike the TVA and state parks we had just visited, where $20 bought us power and water as well as access to bathhouses with hot showers, the same $20 in the national park gets you a place to park. There are bathrooms with cold running water and flush toilets, but no hot water. There are no showers anywhere in the park, so we gave the tenters a wide berth; many looked to have been there at least a week.

It was a bit too hot and sticky in the bus when we first arrived, so we had our dinner outside on the picnic table, where it was quite pleasant. At least we could have our glass of wine there, too, something not allowed at the TVA or Tennessee state parks. Before dinner we took our chairs over to the creek and sat with our feet in the water, very refreshing. We saw several people with inner tubes, but the water was actually quite cold, and the flow was such that a straight tube shot downstream was not really possible. The RV loop actually has a number of creekside spots, but they were all taken when we arrived.

After dinner we rode our scooters 20 miles back up the hill to Clingmans Dome to catch the sunset. We both walked about halfway up the steep trail from the parking lot to the observation tower, and I did the rest on my own. (My plantar fasciitis really dislikes steep downhills, so while I can ignore my thighs complaining on the way up, my feet will ache for days after the walk down. -Louise) The view was stunning, and we both caught the last of the sunset from the parking lot. It was 20° cooler there than when we left the campground, and I needed to bundle up for the ride back down.

We stayed until the noon checkout today and then got back on the road. With less than 50 miles to this spot, we debated skipping this stop and heading in to South Carolina for tonight. The heat wave is just catching up with us, though, and here at 3,500' it is a good deal cooler than it will be when we come out of the mountains, and we opted for one more day at elevation. Tomorrow night we should be somewhere near Greenville.

Yesterday's drive into the park was about as I predicted, slogging through Pigeon Forge. We came in from a different direction when we did the park by motorcycle, and managed to avoid this world-class tourist trap. I think we were just about passing the Titanic when I announced that we were in "Cheesemageddon," which gave Louise a chuckle. We managed to escape without stopping, or hitting any wayward tourists. A similar but very much more low-key set of cheeseball attractions awaited us on this side of the hill, as we drove through the Cherokee Nation. We'd seen this side before, and some of the older attractions actually have a Route-66 sort of charm to them.

We had a nice drive through the park, but it was equally nice to get away from the endless attractions and souvenir stands on the outskirts and back to a more normal (for us) mode of back-road travel. North Carolina 107, which brought us here, is wide and well graded as far as Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee. After that it narrows considerably and becomes hilly and twisty for a good stretch, reminding me of the lyrics to C.W. McCall's "Wolf Creek Pass." There were sections where it was impossible to keep Odyssey completely between the lines.

Once we turned off 107, things got even steeper, and the coolant temperature hit 205° before we made it to the summit. Still, that seemed subjectively much better than previous performance on similar grades, and we also had nary a problem coming over Newfound Gap in the park, at 5,046'. Admittedly, the speed limit on 441 on the Tennessee side of the grade is just 35mph, which is about what we have to slow to on the steepest grades anyway.

We are still on schedule to be in Myrtle Beach by Monday night, in the hopes that the new batteries will be ready sometime Tuesday. Between now and then, we will be driving through the worst of the heat, which will give both our cooling and electrical systems quite a workout. At least I won't have to worry about damaging the batteries.


  1. plantar fasciitis-I beat it, believe it or not, and without surgery. Had it something fierce at Katrina and when I worked with you in PA. Three different types of inserts, all expensive, and $180 SAS shoes made most of the difference. It was so bad I had to use two canes when I got out of bed in the morning. Mine was caused by mountain bike riding over nasty trails with shoes that clipped on to the pedals and put pressure on the forward part of my feet. The Trek Y bike has hung from the garage ceiling for four years now without moving. I do have a bit of bursitus in a hip which took a cortisone shot to assist once. But, I now can walk anywhere without pain, and no surgery. If the bursitus acts up when walking or hiking, a short break solves the problem. I had three different doctors diagnose the foot problems, one even wanted to operate. Absolutely not, the average results don't seem to be very nice. IF you want to talk about it, send me a note and I'll give you a call. Regards, Ed Thomas

  2. Hi, Ed. I'm glad your PF is doing better. Mine is under control, and after 25 years of various treatments and adjustments, I'm content with it. I know my limitations, and they aren't much of a problem. Agree that surgery is NOT the answer! I also have prescription orthotic inserts and wear the right shoes. PF is a chronic condition in my family, not caused by a discrete injury event. Normally I wouldn't even mention it, but I didn't want anyone to think I was too wimpy to climb the hill to Clingman's Dome!

  3. Hallo Louise and Sean!

    Good to hear that you are mobile again, batteries on the way, etc. The Mighty And Majestic Land Mass Moves! ;-) I read through the past three blogs, lots of interesting details.

    I see that heat wave back East and I don't envy you that at all.

    Felipe says, "Hi!"

    Rubber down, Paint up. :-)

  4. Another big plus one for SAS shoes...they're very expensive at $180/pair but your feet will thank you...they're the only shoe I've worn in over 5 years now.

    Re: the batteries...I guess they came down on the $500 per they wanted, or are you still going to have to haggle?

  5. Understand the chronic. Believe my Dad had it, and daughter does right now. Hurts. I'm really fortunate to be rid of it. You're doing everyting correctly, obviously. Not fun, who said everyting in life was perfect? We just make it as perfect as possible. Happy travels.


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