Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back to Gaffney

If you're traveling along I-85 between Spartanburg, SC and Charlotte, NC and you come across this giant peach, you've arrived in Gaffney, SC. We've yet to pass by these parts during peach season, but anytime we're in the neighborhood, we take time to stop. You see, this "peachy" town is the home of Freightliner Custom Chassis, where Bullwinkle's chassis was born.

Not too far from the factory sits FCCC's only factory-owned service center. It is, in our humble opinion, the best place for chassis service in the country. They work exclusively on motorhomes, school busses and small delivery trucks. But, it's mostly motorhomes, especially this time of year. Unlike every other Freightliner service center we've visited, this place welcomes motorhomes. And, they definitely know what they're doing. We're calling this next leg of our travels the Spring Moose Maintenance Tour. We're making Gaffney our first stop with Bullwinkle's annual chassis maintenance check-up.

We'll be in northern Iowa (on the third - and hopefully final - stop on our maintenance tour) before the first appointment here becomes available, so we decided to take our chances as a "work-in". We arrived at the service center Tuesday afternoon and checked in with Pat, the friendliest customer service person in the world. She invited us to set up camp in one of the dozen or so sites in their lot. From our corner spot, we watched the parade of motorhomes moving in and out of the service bays. This place is very busy this time of year!

We made the most of our waiting time to enjoy the pleasant early Spring weather. We did a bit of geocaching, explored downtown Gaffney and appreciated the beautiful dogwoods in bloom.

Yesterday afternoon, Pat made us an offer. If we could have the moose ready to roll in 15 minutes, they could work us in. We had no idea we could get this moose ready to move so quickly! Before we knew it, Bullwinkle was in a bay ready for his "spa" treatment, and we were sitting in the comforts of the waiting room, cats and all. A few hours later, the moose was released and we were free to roam about the country. Given the late hour, we decided to spend another night at Camp Freightliner.

This morning, we took in the plant tour. No pictures were allowed inside, so you'll just have to trust us when we say this it was very interesting. We got an up close and personal look at how all of Bullwinkle's essential parts come together. And, the factory was humming today. According to our guide, business is definitely looking up!

With our business complete in Gaffney, we decided to head for the hills. We made the short drive to North Carolina and are all settled in to our quiet spot in beautiful Waynesville.

Monday, March 26, 2012


With a bit of stormy weather between Hilton Head and Gaffney, it didn't take much to convince us to extend our stay another night. We made use of our "extra" time by daytripping to nearby Beaufort. A highlight of this Low Country gem is a tour of the southern plantation homes in its historic district. Today, many visitors took advantage of the horse-drawn carriage tours to take in the sights.

Visitors are discouraged from driving through these historic neighborhoods. The three-centuries-old streets are narrow. The ancient live oaks make touring in any high-profile vehicle impossible, and dangerous. We opted to take our time on this beautiful spring day and explore the neighborhoods on foot. We picked up a walking tour map at the Visitor's Center and spent a couple of hours making our way around this charming town.

Several of the most lavish homes are situated right on the water. Imagine the sweet teas and mint juleps that have been enjoyed on the sprawling lawn and wrap around porch of this fine historic home.

This collection of historic homes is largely privately owned. The folks who buy these pieces of history must get used to the foot and carriage traffic through their very special neighborhood. Strolling down this sidewalk we got a real sense of old-time Beaufort.

Other homes are not quite as approachable. Many of these majestic beauties are guarded by lovely iron and brick gates.

If you're a fan of the movie "The Big Chill", this place should look familiar. The Edgar Fripp House, aka Tidalhom, was the set for Harold and Sarah Cooper's home where they reunited with college friends. The handsome antebellum home was also cast in the movie The Great Santini.

When it comes to majesty, here it's a toss up as to which has more, the stunning house or the striking live oak dripping in Spanish moss. It's all gorgeous.

Blooming azaleas provided a colorful frame for this lovely home.

Of course, there's more to historic Beaufort than beautiful old homes. Our walking tour included a most informative stop at St. Helena's Episcopal Church. This very proud religious community is celebrating its tricentennial this year.

After all that walking, we enjoyed a tasty lunch near Waterfront Park. This expansive park features walkways, benches, a bandstand and a playground, and plenty of room to roam and enjoy the views of the Beaufort River. This is just the kind of place you could stay awhile. But, we really do have to get moving. Vowing to return and spend more time when we pass this way again, we made our way back to Hilton Head Island.

Tomorrow's forecast looks like smooth sailing to Gaffney. Our fingers are crossed that our stay there will be short.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hilton Head Island Revisited

Our trip to Hilton Head began with a fuel stop north of St. Marys. If you're traveling in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, The Peach State will save you a few bucks when you fill your tank. We hadn't filled Bullwinkle's 100-gallon tank since the middle of January. This stop was an eye-popper. And, this was just one swipe of a credit card. Flying J limits transactions to $150. We put three credit cards to work at this stop.

By the time we arrived here in Hilton Head, the cost of fuel was a distant memory. Island views like this make the price of diesel worth every penny.

We have returned to Hilton Head RV Resort, where we stayed in Fall 2009. It was a treat tucking Bullwinkle into this palmetto shaded spot for a few days of rest, relaxation, reconnecting with family and basketball.

With our beloved Jayhawks in the NCAA Tournament's "Sweet Sixteen", we incorporated basketball into our schedule, as we did in Bonifay. Friday night we cheered the Jayhawks on to a close victory against NC State. So, it was on to the "Elite Eight".

This evening we watched Kansas defeat North Carolina to move on to the Final Four next weekend. We watched the game with Paul's Uncle Lyman, who is a big Tarheel fan. But, as a Kansas native, he really couldn't lose. We very much enjoyed the time we've spent together the last few days.

We also enjoyed a wonderful visit with Paul's Cousin Nona, who was quite busy with special events at work this week. We so appreciate her sharing some of her very rare time off with us.

Nona's husband Mike was also hard at work this week, so this afternoon before the game we stopped by Hampton Lake, the beautiful community in nearby Bluffton where he was hosting several open houses. Mike invited us to poke around the neighborhood, and we happily obliged. This model was one of our favorites.

One of the things we love about Hampton Lake is that the community is designed around the lake. Nearly every home features a water view. Many homes also featured spacious "Carolina rooms".

We decided we like Carolina rooms! Our favorite featured plenty of space for fireside outdoor dining. Wherever we live, someday we'd love to have a house with a taste of Carolina like this.

Between basketball, family and house hunting, we made time to see a few sites we missed on our previous visit. The Honey Horn Plantation has a history dating back some 300 years. The 68-acre property is now part of the Coastal Discovery Museum, which highlights the heritage and history of the Low Country.

Rockers on the porch of the main house make it easy to imagine life on Hilton Head Island during a quieter time.

Behind the house, a 1200-square-foot butterfly enclosure is home to some 13 species of native butterflies. Our visit was a bit early for prime butterfly spotting, but we were lucky to see a few early arrivals.

Honey Horn also features three boardwalks that extend over the salt marsh. At low tide, the boardwalks provide a great venue for watching crabs and other creatures in the mud. During a sudden downpour, as we experienced, the boardwalk became a place for Paul to race the rain. One moment it was dry (but quite humid). The next it was a deluge! Thankfully, the storm was short lived, and there was a sturdy shelter at the end of the boardwalk.

Despite the sudden downpour, we especially enjoyed our stroll around Honey Horn. Truth is, I'm a sucker for the flowering dogwoods and majestic moss-draped live oak trees of the low country. And, Honey Horn treated us to plenty of both. This photo doesn't do either justice. But, trust us, they were lovely.

As our Jayhawks are moving on to New Orleans, it's time for us to move on from this charming island. We're hoping to get Bullwinkle in for some annual maintenance at the place where his chassis was built. Then, we're planning to watch the Final Four from somewhere in North Carolina. (And, yes, we're finding some poetic justice in that.) Rock chalk!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

St. Marys

From sunny Florida, we made our way to hot and steamy St. Marys (Really, there's no apostrophe!), on the south Georgia coast. Our comfortable spot at A Big Wheel RV Park was nice and shady. But, with the mosquitos out in full force we didn't spend much time outside.

We didn't need to set an alarm clock during our stay. The last two mornings we've been awakened long before it was bright and early by the resident roosters. This is one of the several little cluckers.

Our site was on the not-exactly-what-you'd-call-flight path of the yardbirds' coop. Twice a day we had a front row seat to their comings and goings. Our boy kitty kept a keen eye on it all.

The friendly owner of the park explained that these are no ordinary chickens. She referred to them as "Martha Stewart Chickens". Apparently, they are the same breed (or breeds) the domestic diva raises on her Connecticut farm. That might be a good thing. But, we wouldn't know.

Between chicken runs, we managed to get out and enjoy some of the local sites. After poking in and around the quaint shops in historic St. Marys, we enjoyed a stroll along the serene St. Marys River. Cumberland Island is down river just a bit. We had planned to visit, but with the sticky weather we opted to save that for next time.

It's doubtful there will be a "next time" for this dingy dinghy. 

Next time we visit St. Marys, we'll stay at Crooked River State Park. We took time to walk the palmetto-lined sandy trails to see what the park had to offer. 

This lovely 500-acre park sits on its namesake river, which is crooked indeed!

We scouted out the 62 campsites and there were many that would be just fine for our big ol' moose. Number 27 was one of our favorites. These shady sites offer water and electric hookups only. But, most importantly, there wasn't a chicken to be found in the entire place!

Now that we've found a quiet place to stay in St. Marys, we are looking forward to our next visit. Meanwhile, we don't need to set an alarm before we hit the road tomorrow for Hilton Head. We'll be up with the chickens. Guaranteed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Less than an hour after leaving our beautiful spot in Lower Alabama, Bullwinkle was in a new state. Florida had been one of the few blank states on our "states visited" map (see right). We were thrilled to finally "color in" the Sunshine State.

We made our first travel day in a couple of months a short one, landing in this cozy and perfectly shaded spot at Florida Springs RV Resort in Bonifay. Located just off I-10, this park is a convenient yet tucked away spot for folks traveling across the panhandle to spend a night or two, or in our case three. Our timing was perfect to see the brilliant pink azaleas in bloom.

We weren't the only creatures admiring the lovely flowers. The butterflies and bees were abundant.

We chose this park to see more than just the flowers. Virtual friends Terry and Randy are camp hosting here this winter. Our paths have come close to passing a few times over the last couple of years. We were happy that we were finally able to connect. We really enjoyed getting to know this wonderful couple. We so appreciate them taking some of their very precious free time to spend some time with us. With these good folks hard at work during much of our stay, we felt not quite so bad for holing up and watching wall-to-wall NCAA basketball during our stay. Our beloved Jayhawks played a couple of exciting tournament games that had us shouting late into the night. Thankfully, Terry and Randy didn't get any complaints!

Between basketball games, we got out and about on a very sunny and warm Saturday to take in the Bonifay Down Home Street Fair. The highlight of this annual affair is the Black Eyed Pea and Cornbread "Samplin'".  We enjoyed tasty portions of these Southern favorites by a lovely and good-spirited princess.

The Street Fair included a classic car show. This bright-eyed Lady Bug was especially cute.

Bullwinkle's first stay in Florida will be short and sweet. Tomorrow, we're scooting across the state toward southern Georgia.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Fun in Lower Alabama

Our second month in Lower Alabama has flown by. And, by the looks of the virtual stack of photos that are slated to be inserted into this post, it's obvious we had lots more fun. We kicked off the "second half" of our stay on Fat Tuesday by attending three of the last of the Mardi Gras parades in downtown Mobile. 

When it comes to Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans may have the most famous. But, Mobile hosts the "original". They've been celebrating Fat Tuesday here since 1703. That was more than 15 years before The Big Easy was founded. The festivities in Mobile are very family friendly. But, like New Orleans, the day is all about the beads here, too. As Mardi Gras "newbies", we joined fellow Bella Terra guests in spending much of the day reaching for the sky and took home a bunch of beads. It was all very festive!

Between activities, Paul found time to complete a moose-sized waxing job. (My job, of course, was to be the official photographer!) With this annual job wrapped up, Bullwinkle is one super shiny moose! 

A highlight of our stay here in Lower Alabama was a day trip to the nearby Naval air station at Pensacola, Florida, to visit the Naval Aviation Museum. We spent a morning here, and it really wasn't enough time. 

Our visit began with a trip out to the "flight line" to view the planes on display outside. Our tour guide was this retired Naval aviator who added so much to the experience with his very personal perspective. His flight jacket alone told many stories.

Inside, in nearly 300,000 square-feet of exhibit space, the museum houses a most impressive display of more than 150 aircraft and spacecraft from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

NAS Pensacola is home to the Navy's Blue Angels. The squadron conducts practices here twice a week, but we were a couple of weeks early. These retired A-4E Skyhawks on display in the museum's atrium were as close as we got to this elite aerobatic team. (One of many reasons to come back!)

Can you guess what makes this helicopter famous?

This VH-3A Sea King helicopter was part of the Marine One fleet during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Doesn't Paul look presidential?

As a couple of kids who came of age in the 70s,  we found the display saluting those who served in Vietnam particularly poignant. This replica of a typical Vietnam-era Navy stateroom was a reflection of that "groovy" time. 

It had been years since either of us had seen a POW/MIA bracelet. But, this simple and powerful display rekindled vivid memories of wearing a simple metal band engraved with the name of a captured or missing member of the military whom we hoped and prayed would make it home safely. 

The museum is definitely the type of place you can visit again and again. We look forward to making a return visit the next time we're in the area. It's a very interesting and special place, indeed.

We topped off our day in Pensacola with a wonderful lunch with fellow travelers. Marti and Paul (center) are new fulltime travelers whom we had yet to meet in person. And, we hadn't seen Chuck and Anneka since we tracked each other down at Winnebago's Grand National Rally in 2010. It was a real treat to see these good people and spend time getting to know each other. 

Lower Alabama is a popular spot for winter travelers, which has made it a wonderful place to reconnect with friends. We enjoyed catching up with Darrell and Judy and Mike and Peggy over a delicious lunch in Gulf Shores. 

We also had the great pleasure of meeting Loralie and Lee, with whom we lunched in nearby Summerdale. These two fine folks are members of our fulltime RVing "Class of 2009", but it took the four of us a few years to cross paths. We're so glad we finally did. 

We met lots of wonderful people during our stay at Bella Terra. A couple of our favorites are neighbors and new friends Christi and Kim. We thank all of our traveling friends for the great fun we've had together during our time in LA. We wish them all safe travels and look forward to seeing them down the road. As exciting as it is to visit so many amazing places, it's the people we meet that make this journey so satisfying. (Thanks, y'all!)

We marked off another stop on our "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" list and paid a visit to Panini Pete's in nearby Fairhope. The Muffaletta panini was a tasty reminder of our recent visit to New Orleans. And the handmade chips were worth every calorie. (And, of course, we washed it all down with some sweet tea!)

With all that food-oriented socializing, we made sure to make extra time to get out and exercise. We particularly enjoyed the trails in nearby Gulf Shores State Park. We spent enough time on these trails to log some much-needed miles and pick up a few geocaches, too.

Speaking of geocaches, we went back to the scene of our record-breaking caching day to break another record! This map shows more than 200 caches that have been hidden along a 30-mile stretch of a highway between Bay Minette, AL and the Florida state line. This is how our map looked before our return trip. The yellow "smiley faces" are the 67 caches we found on our first record-breaking day. (Click to enlarge and actually see those smiling faces.)

On our return trip, we picked up 100 caches! Here's the map after we logged all those finds. A "century day" is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these geocachers! The little green icons are caches we left for next time. (We will be back!)

The highlight of our record-breaking caching day was making our 1000th find. With that, it's official: We are geocaching geeks!

Between the parades, motorhome maintenance, tours, food, friends, exercise and geocaching, we have managed to make time to kick back, relax and just chill.

We're just following the lead of our boy kitty. When it comes to chilling, he's a champ!

As the sun sets tonight on the last night of our stay at lovely Bella Terra, we're looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow. It's always a bit tough to leave a place after you've fallen in love. We will take with us many wonderful memories, and we look forward to returning to this lovely spot again.