Third time’s the charm, right? I’ve written this piece twice before. The first time was on my MacBook. When I got almost to the end, it began a spontaneous restart issue. Fudgsicle! Fudgsicle! Fudgsicle! (Nice of me to clean that up for you, wasn’t it?) After spending a bit of time diagnosing with Apple, they determined that I have a hard-drive issue. That is a problem for a tax preparer/bookkeeper during tax season! Apple being Apple, they sent me a box to return it for repair, and despite the fact that it was slightly out of warranty, are repairing it for free. THAT is why I’m a Mac! While I was waiting for the box and trying to figure out how to get through potentially several weeks without my computer, I turned to my iPad for the rewrite. It’s hard for me to write when I’m bored. It’s even harder to write something AGAIN, but I bit the bullet, got down to the task, and finished it for the second time, hitting “save draft” out of paranoia several times along the way. What happened? I have no flippin’ idea! When I logged back in to have MW (Mr. Wonderful) proof for me, all of the new stuff was gone. Just GONE! What the fudgsicle????!!!! Back to the Mac issue, doing without a computer for potentially several weeks is not an option. (Thanks to everyone’s favorite virus, service is backed up because the Genius Bars are closed.) We ordered a backup computer, which arrived in a day and took another day to get set up. Now I’m back to work. So, here goes the third try. I will just say up front that, if anything happens this time, I’m probably going to explode, and you will not be hearing from me again.
What crazy times we are living in! If I told you in January that we would all be confined to our houses, planes would be grounded, vacations cancelled, and the government was having discussions about “opening back up the economy”, you’d have called me INSANE! But before we hit on the current realities, I’m going to play a little catch up.
First, something I forgot to tell you from January. One afternoon we were heading home coming down our little one-lane county road. I was talking to someone on the phone, when MW exclaimed “peacock”. “There’s a peacock in the woods! Look!” No way. Really? Yep! There was a beautiful peacock sitting up on a hill right beside the road. He dropped me off at my car, and I headed to the post office while he ran an errand in the opposite direction. At the hardware store I asked if anyone in our direction raised peacocks, and found out that Laymon Burke does. Left him a message just in case it was his. It stayed in that vicinity for a couple of days, then was gone. We assumed a fox or coyote got it. I didn’t find out the full story until I saw Laymon a couple of weeks later. He came over to help our neighbor Jerry Lee with a fence. When he started up whatever piece of equipment he had on his trailer, the peacock jumped out and ran. Apparently it was hiding behind the bucket for the ride over. I told him I tried to catch it, but it was having none of it. The last time I talked to him, he said the peacock showed up back at his house, which is probably 2 miles away, several weeks after it disappeared in our woods.
After the highs and lows of January, February found us back in Tennessee working on some barndominium projects. It was raining. Let’s just assume that was the case every day, because there were a LOT more rainy days than not. I started comparing Sneedville to Seattle! In April of 1977, this area of Appalachia had a horrendous flood. My Uncle Tommy’s family lived in Virginia not too far from where we are now, and the flooding was so bad that their trailer washed down the river, and they lost everything. It was terrible! In the first half of February, we had three straight days of torrential rain. I’m not talking about rain that pours down for a few minutes, then drizzles for the rest of the time. I’m talking about torrents coming down for 10-12 hours at a time, repeatedly. The result was a massive flood. This area of the country is very rugged with steep hills and mountains everywhere. The water runs down into the crevices and creates creeks and small rivers anywhere it can. Roads wash out or fall off of the sides of the mountains. The Clinch River goes nuts. Overnight our creek became a torrent, filling the tile with silt, washing out our driveway, and overflowing the pond. I’ve never seen so much water in my life! At first we were trapped at the barn. (It is on high ground, so there would have to be a Noah’s ark-type rain for it to reach.) I called Laymon Burke, and he and Sherry brought their backhoe over to dig out the creek and get the water flowing correctly. We thanked him for coming so quickly, and he said he had to get us out so that we could go see the river, which we immediately did. OMGosh! The backwash up into the feeder creeks had roads completely covered more than 1/4 mile from the actual river! Fields going into Sneedville were now lakes, and some homes had water coming up into their basements/underpinning. The Clinch River rose above the lower and upper banks, through the field, and all the way to 33, which was completely underwater for quite a ways. Talking to a few people in town, there were many comparisons to 1977. Now I understand how an entire trailer could just disappear. The power was awe-inspiring. (I really should have been a storm-chaser, because this stuff fascinates me!) Almost as soon as the rain stopped, the waters began to recede, and the river was back to almost normal levels in two days. Amazing!
After all of that rain, we had a couple of problems to get worked out. First, our septic system has been overwhelmed. Before you start with the poop jokes (Larry, I know you were going there), the issue is ground water seeping into the tank. We met with or septic guy Laymon and the inspector, and a plan to correct the issue has been made. However, the ground needs to dry out, and it rains every few days. SOOOOOO that’s on hold. While we had the tank uncovered, MW did add a couple of risers on the top, which gives us what looks like manhole covers, so that we can pump it if we need to without digging anything up. That may come in handy if this rainy weather doesn’t change soon. The pond is our second problem. In the big flood mentioned above, the driveway was overtaken and a creek was cut down the middle. A good bit of the new gravel we installed with it was washed into the pond or off into the grass. There was also a LOT of soil erosion from both driveway runoff and pond overflow. Fixing that mess, too, will have to wait until a drier season because the large equipment will just sink into the mud.
We had a flurry of visitors in February. First, my BFF Tina came over for a weekend. She is family, and along with my kids and Boogers, a big part of what I miss about living in Greensboro. It was really nice to get caught up. We checked out a couple of local restaurants (before the craziness, of course), went up to Cumberland Gap to check out the view, and rode around giving her a good look at the area. One cool thing happened on a drive: A coyote ran across the road in front of us in mid-afternoon. The visit was too short, but she will be back.
Next my oldest friend Lori and her crazy hubby Jimmy came for a long weekend. Lori and I met when my Dad transferred in 1978 to Paducah, Kentucky, and her family lived across the street. We only lived there for a year before returning to Georgia, but Lori and I have been friends ever since. The last couple of years have given us more opportunities to get together, and I’m loving that. Like my crazy brother-in-law Mark, you can’t spend much time with Jimmy without sore ribs and cheeks from laughing. (The two of them together would be lethal!). We always have a good time. Jimmy is a big NASCAR fan, so we took a ride over to Bristol Motor Speedway for a tour. Once done there, the plan was to pop in at Taco Johns for a snack of potato oles. I put the directions into the GPS, which you would think would lead to…well…Taco Johns. Instead we ended up in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end road. Jimmy and I were laughing so hard it hurt. Lori was trying to figure out where it was on her phone. We were ready to head off in that direction, but then she found a note saying it was CLOSED PERMANENTLY. Talk about a bummer! If you’ve never had a potato ole, then you just cannot understand the overwhelming desire instilled in you immediately to get more. Seriously, we think they are sprinkling them with crack or something.
The final visit was my Mom and bonus Dad Larry. He is a civil engineer, and aside from the normal spring visit, we asked him to help us figure out how to fix our pond issue. He brought his equipment and mapped out a plan for adding drainage and raising the driveway. (Again, until we get drier weather, this is on hold.) They were with us for several days, and we really enjoyed the visit. Because the hand rail wasn’t installed in the barndominium’s stairwell, we gave them our bed in the RV, and we stayed upstairs. It was nice to give the place a try, and I really enjoyed the large window beside the bed looking out to the field and cemetery hill. We gave them a tour of the local area, enjoyed the mountain scenery, checked out some restaurants, and took them over to Morristown for a little shopping. It is always sad when our visits end, but I think they were ready to get back to their beds.
A couple of days later, we took a ride over to Jonesborough, Tennessee, about 1-1/2 hours east of us. One of the lists we are working to complete is visiting the oldest town in every state, and Jonesborough checks that off for Tennessee. Established in 1784, it is the first capital of the autonomous state of Franklin. The historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and there is a beautiful old hotel, the Chester Inn, that has been there since 1797. Our first stop in town was lunch at the Olde Towne Pancake House, where we found the food delicious. Later we walked around the downtown area and checked out a few shops. It was cloudy and cool, but the walk was nice. Our last stop was the Tennessee Hills Distillery were MW did a little sampling, and we both enjoyed meeting the owner. I love a good back story, and this one was cool. Hailing from a couple of generations of moonshiners, Stephen Callahan, himself, was once jailed for being caught with illegal hooch. (He was on his way to a wedding where he was asked to provide the drinks, and of course was carrying a little more to sell at the event.) He and his wife eventually became chemists working at a local plant, but he always knew his true calling. Having admired his current location for years, when the building went up for sale, they decided it was time to jump in. After restoring the premises (where they kept the cool pulley elevator, they opened the current distillery and are now in the process of expanding to add an outdoor bar area. Did I mentioned that they look to be about 30? Quite impressive. We purchased a few things for ourselves and a gift or two before heading back home.
In early March (before all of the shutdowns began) we had a family celebration to get to in Alabama. While the title implies that we shot out of the gate and hit the road like contenders in the Run for the Roses, that’s not what happened AT ALL. About three days before jacks up, MW (Mr. Wonderful) got sick. Before you ask, no, it wasn’t the beer virus. Our friend Lori had Bronchitis when she visited, although she thought she was on the back end. He rested a good bit on Saturday, but with warmer temps projected for that Sunday afternoon, we had plans to give Brutus and Petunia a good bath. Despite feeling puny, there was no way the Marine in MW would let him put it off. Who knew when we would have another chance, and they were both pretty dirty…no way to start a trip.
In her covered parking spot in Sneedville, there is enough clearance above Petunia to work on her roof. There isn’t, however, enough room to stand upright with the long-handled brush and clean it. MW started the task, but quickly realized that his back wasn’t going to hold out to do the job alone and hunched over. Since he’s taller than me, I climbed up to give it a shot. Ouch! First, I am not a little wisp of a woman, and hauling my out of shape butt up that ladder with my double fake knees counted as a lot more than a full workout. I took one for the team, though, and we were able to finish up the roof by switching off. Did I mention that I have a fear of heights? Going up the ladder was fine-ish. Standing near the edge scrubbing was less so, but looking over the side and trying to figure out how to maneuver myself to get back on the ladder was the worst. It took a bit of trial and error and would have been laughable if I wasn’t so close to pooping my pants! After returning to terra firma, we spent a couple of hours giving the rest of her a good bath, then did the same for Brutus. It is amazing how much dirt comes off when you wash a white truck that you thought was “a little dirty”, but was actually beige! With the chore complete, we were DONE and rested for the evening.
On Monday morning, MW was a bit tired from not sleeping well, but feeling a little bit better and anxious to get on the road. We were both a bit sore from the previous day’s work, though. The plan was to strike out in a timely manner so we could enjoy the evening later in Alabama. We aren’t newbies anymore and usually have a pretty good departure routine. I guess everything was a little thrown off, though, after sitting still for several months in TN (as opposed to moving a couple of times a week). MW forgot to raise the rear stabilizer jacks before lifting the front end up to attach to Brutus. By the time he realized it, there was a LOT of pressure on the landing gear. He immediately tried to reverse….no dice. Pushed the button…nothing. Crap! (Well, that wasn’t really one of the many words we used at the time, but you don’t need to hear all of that!) He was not happy! He tried raising the rear stabilizer jacks, which would not budge with the rod, but finally moved when he pulled out a long, cheater bar. Meanwhile back at the button…NOTHING! Crap, crap, crap! We brainstormed possible issues. We checked all of the manuals to see if there was a reset or manual method. Nope! We checked out the motor. Nothing we could do. Well, we could probably have started pulling out electrical stuff to test, but we really thought the motor was dead. We were stuck. That’s when MW remembered the mobile RV repair ad from our recent visit to the always delicious Green Tomato Grill. At the time I even had the presence of mind to put the information in my contacts! Amazing! He gave Jack’s Mobile RV Repair a call. Jack was great. He first tried to save us some time and money by walking through a couple of things over the phone. No dice. He then said he had an appointment first and would call us later. Well dang…guess we aren’t leaving town today! Ugh! We decided to head into Sneedville to get lunch and check the mailbox (and also walk away from the situation before we exploded). We were gone about 1-1/2 hours, and just after we got back, Jack called to say he was about 5 minutes away. That might not seem like a big deal to you, but he was coming from Kodak, which is about 2 hours from us and made it to our place 2-1/2 hours after we called him! He and his cohort spent a little time diagnosing and figured out that the switch had burned out. Bing, bang, boom…he was done. He also showed us how to test the motor and see if it’s working, then use the wires as a switch. By a little after 1PM, he was on his way, and we were on the road. What a great outcome! If you are ever in eastern Tennessee and need RV help, definitely give him a call.
Since we got such a late start, we jumped on the interstate and drove straight through to Fort Payne, Alabama, only stopping for gas and a sandwich. It was great to finally be on the road again! We were set up and relaxing before dark. Definitely not the outcome we expected at noon, so we were happy campers…literally (and we have a sign to prove it courtesy of my baby sister – LOL).
Desoto State Park is on Lookout Mountain, which is less a mountain and more a long ridge. It spreads out along the state line in Chattanooga, through the NW corner of Georgia, and into the NE corner of Alabama. (You may remember that we camped on the Georgia portion at Cloudland Canyon State Park a few months ago.) The mountain was the site of the Last Battle of the Cherokee and the Civil War Battle of Lookout Mountain. Having lived a good portion of my life in Georgia, I was familiar with the latter and have visited both the battlefield and Rock City at the Chattanooga end. When viewing the mountain from there, it looks like, well, a mountain. I had no idea it stretched out the back end so far southwest! This park has a lot to do, including more than 25 miles of hiking trails, 11 miles of biking trails. There is also a store, swimming pool, picnic areas, playground, and cabins. You can check out Desoto Falls and the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, too. This is definitely a family-friendly park. Nearby Fort Payne is the home of the country super-group Alabama, and you can check out their bronze statues in town and their museum, too.
Tuesday was laundry day. I took my time getting going, then headed into Fort Payne to get the chore done and run a couple of errands. MW hung out at Petunia resting up, since his cough is keeping him up at night. On the way back I popped in to Krystal to get him some of his favorite little hamburgers. (Those are only bested by What-A-Burger in his book.) The weather was still grey and gloomy, but any day in a campground is a good day.
Wednesday it was time to head on down to Montgomery and the Gunter Hill Campground on R.E. “Bob” Woodruff Lake. We arrived just after lunch time, set up camp, and then headed to catch up with the Florida Jones contingent, Mark and Jennifer, plus long-time friends, Jeff and Tracy Lanier, and of course, the man of the hour, Alex Jones. Maxwell Air Force Base is home to a huge number of Air Force training programs. After waiting a year and a half to get in, Alex completed Officer Training School, and this week is the commissioning celebration. There were originally several activities planned for today, but corona chaos struck and cancellations ensued. We ended up hanging out and waiting for the rest of the family. After Colin and Peg (the newlywed Bagwells from my previous post) made it in from Huntsville, we had happy hour at the hotel, then headed out to dinner at Pies and Pints. (Truly unique pizzas…delicious!) After dinner, MW and I headed back to Petunia for the night.
Thursday we headed straight to Maxwell to meet up with everyone. My sweet Taytay (Taylor Jones from Houston) made it in town last night, along with her Aunt Susi and Grandmother Mem from Chattanooga. MW was proud and a bit nervous that Alex asked him to administer his oath, but he pulled it off like a pro. After the pinning by his parents and sister, we were all introduced to Second Lieutenant Alex Jones. Remember that name, because with his dedication and work ethic, one day he might just be running the whole Air Force! Since he needed to hang around on base, we all headed over to the PX Mall Food Court for lunch on base. The awards ceremony that was scheduled for later in the day was changed to a live stream, so MW and I headed back to Petunia to change clothes, then over to the hotel to catch up with the rest of the crowd. Mark treated us all to dinner at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. (We’ve been to this place once before after watching one of Alex’s college baseball games. It is VERY good!) After a couple of hours of food, drink, and family, we headed back to Petunia, exhausted.
By Friday morning the base had changed the plan from a live stream of the parade to total cancellation. Originally Alex was staying on base to participate in that, then heading to P’cola with his family for a few days. Everything was up in the air for a bit, then word came down that they were locking down the base for 24 hours and maybe until Monday. (Apparently there was someone suspected of having the big C. Amazing how that phrase is quickly gaining a whole new meaning.) Almost everyone had already headed home, so Mark, Jennifer, and Taylor came out to hang with us at the campsite for a while before heading south. Meanwhile MW and I headed up to Prattville to get some supplies at Target (it is sounding more and more like we are going to be on lockdown) and grab a bite at Jack’s. After we returned, a lot of folks started showing up at the campground for the weekend. The site next to us had a whole crew of people in tents with a couple of little kids. We thought we were in for a loud night, but they were quiet as little mice. That was awesome since MW is still under the weather and really needed some rest. (His coughing isn’t too bad during the daytime, but when he lays down, it gets worse and keeps him awake.)
Oh, I almost forgot…Gunter Hill Campground was pretty cool. Our site backed up to the lake, which was just 20′ from the back of site. Seemed to be a good place if you are into boating/fishing. Most of the sites were nestled in the trees and fairly level. The facilities were older, but clean. It filled up somewhat on the weekend, so I can see where it gets pretty busy during the summer months.
On Sunday we headed out to our next stop, Little Ocmulgee State Park in the sand hills of middle Georgia outside of McRae-Helena, Georgia. This is a resort park with a campground, cabins, lodge, golf course, pool, and lake access for fishing, boating, or swimming. The campground was extremely clean and well-kept, although our site was a little tight due to short walls on either side (the fire pit and sitting area were up a couple of steps to another level). Some of the pads, including ours, were not level front to back, but there were many that were fine. We spent two nights there relaxing, our only outing a quick run to the grocery store in town.
On Tuesday morning we received a cancellation notice from the campground in Greensboro. We were due to get there on Thursday to spend a week so I could catch up with a few clients, go to the doctor, and visit with the kids, Boogers, and Tina. We headed to South Carolina (after checking to ensure the park was open) where we would plan the next step. On the way we stopped to grab a bite (restaurants were still open), which would turn out to be our last time eating out. Santee State Park was beautiful, although not as well-maintained as the one in Georgia (particularly the roads). The campground was right on the lake, and our site was a pull-through facing into the woods with the lake to the left. It was very quiet, and the facilities were pretty old, but very clean.
The day after we arrived, we took a walk to park headquarters, but it was closed. This is the point in the Big C where people were starting to discuss social distancing, but closings were just beginning. Since we typically pay online and can often check in via a drop box, we don’t come into contact with people much anyway. While there are plenty of folks who spend all of their campground time socializing with their neighbors, we tend to remain to ourselves with only the occasional “hello” while we are out walking. That’s about as social distanced as a person can get. We had a quiet couple of days, before heading out.
On Thursday we headed to the KOA in Greensboro for a couple of nights. It was important for me to get to my Friday morning doctor’s appointment since I don’t have one in Tennessee yet. I also needed to see the kids and Boogers, since none of us are sure where this virus situation is going to take us. We arrived at the campground early in the afternoon. It was a basic, private campground with pull-through, gravel sites, and it was LOUD, situated right beside I-40. But, in a pinch, beggars can’t be choosers. We arranged to meet with Amber and her Boogers, trying to be safe at the same time. We picked up pizza and drinks for dinner, then headed to a local park to stay in the outside air. Let me just say that seeing the Boogers without getting kisses SUCKS! Especially when there was no reported virus anywhere on the eastern seaboard (at that point). We stuck to it, though. After visiting for a bit, we said our goodbyes (for who knows how long) and headed back to Petunia.
On Friday morning I was at the doctor first thing for hand shots (ouch!!!), then met Tina. (I have arthritis in the joints at the base of both of my thumbs that is just terrible. The shots help, usually for several months, but are unpleasant to say the least.) Our original plan was to go to Costco, but there were lines everywhere so we aborted that one. She rode back out to the campground with me, so we would have a little time to visit, then MW and I took her back to her car when we went to Target. (The news is getting more and more ominous, so we figured we better stock up a bit more.) Later we headed over to Ryan’s for dinner…Texas Roadhouse takeout, which we ate out back in the open air. After a good visit, we headed back to Petunia.
The next morning we got up early and hit the road for Tennessee. By now schools had begun announcing closings, most restaurants were becoming take-out only, and the tension level was definitely going up. We wanted to get back to our home state to ensure we had a place to set up camp. We arrived at the farm mid-afternoon where we have been parked since.
While waiting for the weather to dry out, we have managed to get the final electrical inspection done on the barndominium and have some other work scheduled for the next couple of weeks. Our days mostly include some work (it is, after all, tax season), hiking around the property, a few chores, and a lot of reading, TV, and puzzles. We go into Sneedville occasionally to the grocery store, the post office, the drug store, and the laundromat. We also pick up takeout at our local restaurants (because these people need to stay in business). I’ll admit, I’m bored. I’m not a stay-at-home-all-the-time person. MW is definitely ready to hit the road, but there is nowhere to go. We’ve done some exploring around the property and hiked up the mountain. There are occasionally deer to watch (one evening we had eleven including three bucks with nice racks), and there is an almost daily turkey show. (We think they are sitting on nests nearby, so are keeping an eye out for poults.). On one of his hikes, MW saw bear poop up by a spring, so now I’m looking for that, too. (The builder said he is hearing about more and more sitings in this area lately.)
Yesterday we reached the absolute, undeniable sign that all of this home quarantine stuff has been going on waayyyy too long. MW had a 15-minute conversation with the FedEx guy. He tried to tell me that the guy had a lot to say and wanted to talk, but I heard the whole thing. MW was asking questions AND making comments that prolonged the interaction. This is BAD! Either the world is actually coming to an end or hell is freezing over!
See you on the road….sometime….maybe this year….or at least before we die??!!!