Southbound to Tyler State Park – January 2019

We had a late start south this winter. We spent the holidays at home and then took care of some medical appointments. A weather window opened up right after our appointments so we packed very quickly (forgot so many things). Finally got ourselves in order and left on January 6th.

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RV Shopping

Back when we were younger, we transitioned from tents to sleeping in trucks and, especially, vans. This was nothing fancier than a mattress in the back of the vehicle. Cooking was outside on camp stoves, a bathroom nearby was required (or at least preferred), and showers were often heated (or not) by the sun. It saved us the trouble of setting up and taking down a tent and rain was less of an issue. (I don’t like setting up and taking down tents in the rain.) We usually travelled without reservations even in the summer, could sleep nearly anywhere (parking lot, rest area, National Forest Campground with small sites), and could (and did) stop pretty much anywhere we wanted along the way.

As much as we loved that life, adding a cat and large dog made a van way too small. Trips are much longer since we’re no longer limited to a week or three of vacation. And having an inside bathroom is just much nicer for most of us as we get older. We purchased a small, inexpensive fifth-wheel five years before I retired and enjoyed the comforts of a bathroom and kitchen on our vacation trips and learned what we would want in a retirement fifth-wheel.

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Happy Holiday RV Village in Cherokee

One of the creeks is across the road from us

We moved 80 miles west to Cherokee, NC, the southern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee is a town on the reservation and has a lot to offer with their rich culture and history. Besides the National Park, attractions include The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Oconaluftee Indian Village, the casino and much more.

We stayed at Happy Holiday RV Village, a large but decent RV park not far from the casino. From Cherokee we had access to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains.

One of the creeks that bordered the park
One of the creeks that bordered the park

Happy Holiday RV park worked out well for us. It was a lovely location, especially during the week when it wasn’t so full, and gave us access to the places we wanted to be at. Most of the park was surrounded by creeks, and there was a large pond in the center. As usual, with our week-before booking, we were not on either, but during the week we had great access to the creek and nice views of the pond.

Wandering along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is about 469 miles which begins in Virginia at the southern end of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and continues through the Blue Ridge Mountain Range (a part of the Appalachians) to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. The parkway is a beautiful road with stunning views, trails which are pet friendly, picnic grounds, campgrounds, and pull outs all along the way. Although some people drive 5th wheels and larger class A’s along the parkway, we chose not to drive the 5th wheel on it. Reservable campsites were all booked for the weekends, and we did not want to just hope for available first-come sites that we fit in, so we looked for RV parks along “easy driving” areas with nearby accessibility for leisure drives on the parkway.

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Buck Creek RV Park

Our site was tighter than most.

As we moved south from Shenandoah, we found a RV park in Marion near Asheville, NC. We stayed at Buck Creek RV Park and had a nice site along the creek. For the weekend, it was quite crowded, as it had not only the usual weekend usage but also evacuees from Hurricane Matthew. Sites varied in size; ours was pretty tight, but others were roomier.

Most of the sites were along the creek, but some were on the other side of a very large field. We were able to let Coda run in the field if there were no other dogs around.

It was a nice and scenic campground with a good location near the Blue Ridge Parkway where we took the dog along some nice short hikes for views of mountains and waterfalls.  We also spent a day visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. More on that in our next posts.

The large field in the center of the park was originally used as a driving range, but is now available for RC aircraft - at least when it isn't a foggy morning.
The large field in the center of the park was originally used as a driving range, but is now available for RC aircraft – at least when it isn’t a foggy morning.

From Fallingwater in Pennsylvania to Shenandoah National Park in West Virginia


The view of our campsite on the river
The view of our campsite on the river. Notice the reflection of the trees on the river.

We had a beautiful campsite near Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, although getting to it via very steep hills was no easy feat. We certainly have learned to be more attentive to our map skills as a result of the very white knuckle drive we took there. But the campsite at the KOA we picked was great to chill at. The sites were on the river, had trees, were spacious, had fire rings, and full hook ups. There was a great biking / walking trail adjacent to the campground that also went along the river which Coda enjoyed daily walks along. It was a joy to hang out there for a while.

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12% Grades and Twisty Mountain Roads

The trip from Finger Lakes to Southeastern Pennsylvania was a bit longer than we prefer at 340 miles, but certainly doable. It was a mix of back roads and some interstate. In order to avoid low bridges and road weight limits, we try to stick to truck routes when towing the fifth-wheel, and that’s exactly what we did on this drive. I use Google, the Allstays app, and a truck atlas for guidance.

We’ve driven through the mountains in the west with no issues. Through either luck or good planning, we’ve never needed to take the trailer up or down a grade more than about 8%, something that is usually very manageable for Opa by downshifting into 3rd or 4th gear and using the brakes occasionally to fine tune our speed. He’s always felt comfortable on descents as long as he has relatively cool brakes (because the engine is keeping the truck/trailer at speed) and has a lower gear to shift into should the road get steeper on the way down.

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Clute Park Campground

After leaving the casino near Erie, we headed to the Finger Lakes. We considered several state parks, but the weekend was booked up on the sites that we seemed to fit in. After looking at a lot of options, we chose to stay in Clute Park, a municipal park in Watkins Glen. The location seemed to be a good base for exploring the Finger Lakes, it was across the street from Seneca Lake, and we could have the luxury of full-hookups for the duration of our stay.

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I-90 and the RV/Motorhome Museum

Our destination was the Finger Lakes, in New York, about 800 miles from home. We got the house closed up and were on the road before 11:00 am. Five (six with the time change) hours later, we decided to take advantage of free overnight parking at the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana.

Our "campsite" at the museum. Two other RVs were parked to our right.
Our “campsite” at the museum. Two other RVs were parked to our right.

For free parking, our spot was fantastic, with the trailer door opening onto a nice grassy area. The grounds were nicely landscaped, with plenty of room for the dog to wander. We ended up being one of four RVs that stayed overnight. The only negative was traffic noise from I-80, which was fairly loud with the windows open.

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On the road again

Finally! After more than a month and a half of being stuck at home, we’re back on the road. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I have more weeks of healing before my wound is fully closed (estimates range from ten days to more than a month). So we’re adjusting our plans … again.

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