Tuesday, May 31, 2016

James River State Park

Fri (5/20) to Wed (5/25):

We spent five days at the James River State Park. The state park is located along the James River north of Appomattox. We only had to travel 30 miles to make it from our campground in Appomattox to the state park. The park opened in 1999 and has about 15 miles of trails that can be used by hikers, mountain bikers or horses. The down side to this park is that we had no AT&T service so we were out of phone range along with no internet connection. The visitor center in the park has a public wifi that works OK to get your e-mails. We had hoped to do some hiking while we were at the park, but it rained every day we were there so the trails we muddy. The park is very hilly and so you are walking either uphill or downhill. The James River was up and running very fast so we were not able to put our kayak in the water there. We did some walking everyday but stayed on the pavement since the trails were wet.
Our site at the park.

We did take one day to travel over to Charlottesville Virginia which was about one and half hours north of the park. We picked up a few items at a local hardware store to repair the cover for our cooktop in the motorhome which had broke.

Charlottesville is a small town but it is home to the University of Virginia. There was a light mist off and on while we were in town, so our outdoor activities were limited. We were able to walk along a pedestrian mall located in the downtown area.
Court Square with statue honoring Confederate soldiers

There was a pedestrian mall that covered several blocks in downtown
Charlottesville that we walked.

One of the local shops

Madison, Jefferson & Monroes homes are located near Charlottesville.
On Tuesday we decided to walk to the top of the park to visit the Tye River Overlook. This where the Tye River runs into the James River. It is unusual because the junction of the two rivers is a "T" and not a "Y".
Tye River running into the James River

A view from the top.
Wednesday morning we packed everything up and make the trip up I-81 to New Market VA where we will spend Memorial Day weekend at the Endless Caverns RV Resort.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Appomattox VA

Monday (5/16) to Friday (5/20):

On Monday morning we packed up and made the 125 mile trip from Mebane NC to Appomattox VA. We are staying at the Parkview Mobile Home & RV Park which is located across the street from the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox. The front park of the park is for RV's while the back section contains a number of old single wide mobile homes.

We got set up and went into town to the Visitor's Center. We picked up a few brochures about things to do and got a few of our questions answered about the area. We walked around downtown for a few minutes (it is very small) and then drove around to look at a few "historic" houses in town. The houses are not open and the only thing historic about them seem to be they were built over 100 years ago. After picking up a few items at Walmart, we returned back to the Duchess for the evening.

Visitor Center in Appomattox - Old Train Station

New Appomattox County Courthouse with
Monument to Confederate Soldiers

Queen Anne House near downtown Appomattox
Tuesday morning we awoke to rain. The forecast was for the rain to continue all day. We ended up driving over to Lynchburg VA to make the final mortgage payment on one of the rent houses we own back in Austin. We found a Bank of America branch, stood in line for a while, and then completed the transaction. They only had one teller on duty and when I asked about a restroom was told they did not have any public facilities. Our experience with Bank of America makes us appreciate the fact we use an Austin based credit union as our "bank". We returned back to Appomattox, stopped at Kroger's to pick up some groceries and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening inside. Connie cooked a shrimp/chicken/sausage gumbo that tasted good on a cool, rainy day.

Wednesday we visited the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park which located a couple of miles east of town. The park is a collection of original structures along with others that have been recreated during the 20th century. The house, the McLean House, that was used for the surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to U. S. Grant's Army of the Potomac had been torn apart to be relocated originally to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and then to another location in Virginia. The original courthouse burned in the 1890's. Both of these building have been rebuilt and furnished with period furniture of 1860's. The McLean House has replica's of the tables and chairs used by Lee and Grant to start the end of the Civil War. The originals are in the Smithsonian in Washington DC. We heard an hour talk by Graham, one of the volunteers at the park, about the armies and how they ended up here in Appomattox Court House. We also watch a short film about the park and the surrender ceremony that happened there along with seeing some of the artifacts from the events.
Cemetery where 18 Confederate and 1 Union soldiers are buried

It was a cool day with temps in the 50's.

Our tour guide - Graham

View of courthouse with general store on the left.
McLean House where the surrender took place.
I got up early Thursday morning to get one of Jeep tires replaced. A local shop, Webb Tire, had the right size tire and was able to work me in to make the change. Later in the day we visited the Museum of the Confederacy which is located across the street from the campground. This is a satellite museum with the main one being in Richmond VA. Between the two facilities they are able to display only 20% of the items in their collection. The museum does a good job of presenting the confederate side of the Civil War while also showing the Union response.
Death mask of Robert E. Lee

According to tradition, Lee only worn this coat one time
at the meeting with Grant at Appomattox Court House

One of Lee's swords. This one was made in France
and given to him by a couple from Maryland.
Thursday afternoon the sun finally came out. Tomorrow we will move about 30 miles north to the James River State Park.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mebane NC - Triangle & Triad Areas of North Carolina

Monday (5/9) to Monday (5/16):

On Monday morning we got up very early to get the motorhome to Rowell's so that they could replace the valve on our leveling system before travelled north. While they worked on the motorhome we returned back to Johnny's K restaurant to eat breakfast. We finished our breakfast and waited until we heard from Rowell's that the work was done. I asked them about maintenance on the leveling system and they told me that the fluid in the hydraulic reservoir needs to be checked from time to time and that the jacks need to be kept clean. Other than that there is no recommended maintenance on the system.

From the shop we hooked up the Jeep and headed 125 miles north along I-85 to Mebane NC. Jones Station RV Park is a newer campground (opened about 2.5 years ago) with 36 sites. They are in the process of adding an additional 20 spaces. We have a pull through site with full hookups. Only complaint is that although where we park the RV is level the rest of the site is sloped. They have the nicest bathroom & shower facilities we have seen on our travels. We got set up and the leveling system worked getting us level and stable.

On Tuesday morning we restrung one of our day/night shades. If you ever live in an RV with the old style day/night shades, from time to time the strings will break. We had replaced one last year and this is our first one of this year. After completing this task we did some shopping at the Premium Outlet Mall that is located here in Mebane. We were going to walk at one of the local parks, but it was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so returned back to the campground and walked around it.

On Wednesday morning as we were cooking breakfast our power went out. We reset the all of the electrical connections but were not getting any power to our 120 volt electrical plugs inside the coach. We tried waiting a while and still no power at the plugs. We even tried running the generator to see if that made any difference: it did not. I called Newmar RV Customer Service Department to see if they could help with the problem and they quickly diagnosed it as an "inverter" issue. I ended up having to remove everything from two bays so that I could get to the inverter/converter (it is mounted between two of the chassis rails). Newmar walked me through resetting the fuse and then restarting the inverter/converter. Once we did this we had power again in all our electrical outlets.

That afternoon we went over to the Mystery Brewery in Hillsborough NC. This is a small brewery that does not brew any beer on a consistent basis: they are constantly trying new brews. Each Thursday they introduce a new batch of beers and whenever they run out they may or may not make another batch in the future. So it is a mystery as to which beers are available on tap. We tried a sample of their dark beers and liked all four that we tasted. I ended up ordering a glass of a dark IPA and Connie had a glass of one of the brews we tasted.

From there we drove past an historic house located in Hillsborough: the Nash-Hooper house. Hooper was a North Carolina representative who signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. The house was not open, but we stopped and took this picture.

On Thursday we went to Lake Michael Park (we had to go to this place since I'm sure it named after me) and walked one of the trails in the park. The trail goes along the lake and then ends: so you end up walking back on the same trail. We were lucky they have put bridges over the drainage areas along the path so it was not too muddy from the recent rains.
Mike hiding out in the forest.

Connie had to lift this tree so we could pass under it.
Friday we decided to visit the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro. This was the site of a battle that occurred during the Revolutionary War in March 1781. The battle was won by the British but at a great cost: They lost almost 25% of their men in the battle. Nathaniel Green was the American general who led the troops and came up with the battle plan. He also planned an orderly retreat to avoid capture by the British troops. This battle was one of the bloodiest in the entire Revolutionary War. We view a short film in Visitor Center and then took the 2.25 mile walking tour of the battlefield.

The Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway runs through the battleground park and it is a "rails to trails" pathway that runs for 7.5 miles in Greensboro. We rode our bikes along the pathway for about an hour before we decided to head back to the Jeep.

After we had dinner that evening, we had a nice visit with our neighbors, Bob & Jackie Hood. They are both from this area and are spending the winter here. They have been "full-timing" for 17 years in two different motorhomes. They gave us some tips and pointers about some things they have learned over the years along with stories of the places that they have "work-kamped" over the years. They are also planning on visiting Nova Scotia this summer in June & early July.
Bob & Jackie Hood - Full timers for 17 years
On Saturday we decided to visit Durham. We stopped by the Visitor Center and found out there was a history bike tour that was happening down town starting at 1:00 PM. We walked around the downtown area for about 45 minutes waiting for the bike tour to start before heading to the Museum of Durham History to start the tour. The tour lasted about 1.5 hours, covered 6 miles on our bikes and made a number of stops in downtown Durham. The tour was lead by Ernie Dollar who is a native of this area of North Carolina. There were over 100 people who went on the tour.

Ernie Dollar who lead the tour
One of our stops was at the baseball field where the movie Bull Durham was filmed. Another stop was at a church where the services were only celebrated in American Sign Language (ASL) for the deaf community in Durham. When it was built in 1930, it was one of only four churches in America that only held services in ASL. This church for the deaf lasted until the 1990's and it is now used by a different denomination. Brodie Duke, the son of Washington Duke the founder of the Duke & Sons Tobacco Company which later became the American Tobacco Company, owned a lot of land that eventually became Durham. The only non-Duke family member who owned an interest in Duke & Sons Tobacco was named George Watts. Brodie named the streets in a section of land he developed in the following order: Washington, Duke, Hated, Watts. So if you named the streets in order it was Washington Duke Hated Watts. Later the street known as Hated was renamed Gregson.

After we finished the ride we joined a group of tour riders for a beer with Ernie Dollar (who lead the tour) across the street at Bill McCabe's Irish Pub along with some of the riders from the tour. We spent some extra time visiting with Damien (originally from Florida) and Christine (originally from Michigan) who live in the area and helped with the tour.

From the pub, we walked a few blocks to the 21c Museum Hotel (which Damien & Christine told us about). It is located in the Hall Building which originally was built as a bank. The architectural firm that designed the building also did the Empire State Building in New York City. The hotel has modern art on display that you can see along with the old bank vault that is located in the basement.

From there we went and visited the Duke Homestead & Tobacco Museum. Washington Duke returned from the Civil War to his farm of 300 acres and started growing/selling tobacco. From this humble start he later founded the American Tobacco Company which during his lifetime was the largest tobacco company in the world. The Duke family trust money started Duke University and the Duke Medical School along with a number of other ventures over the years. We walked around the homestead for a few minutes before viewing a short film about Washington Duke and the tobacco business. We then took a quick tour (it was near closing time) of the Tobacco Museum. We learned a lot about tobacco, it's history and how it became a multi-billion dollar business.

Duke Homestead
Sunday we repaired another one of our day/night shades that was about to have the string break. Since we had just done one a couple of days ago, this repair went rather quickly. In the afternoon, we returned to Lake Michael Park and took a shorter trail for our walk. From there we went to a local Chinese restaurant, China King, and ate a late lunch. Both our meals were very good: Connie had Chicken-Garlic dish and I had the Peppersteak-Onion.

The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area is known as the Triangle. It is the home of the Research Triangle Center which is one of the first collaborations between universities (Duke, Univ of North Carolina & North Carolina State Univ) and the business community for the high tech world starting in the 1950's.

The Triad is Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Highpoint. I think that they came up with this name because they were excluded from the Triangle.

Mebane is located half-way between the Triangle and the Triad.

Tomorrow morning we will continue our travels north to Appomattox Virginia. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Charlotte NC

Monday (5/2) to Monday (5/9):

On Monday morning we made the 115 mile trip from Greenville SC to Charlotte NC. We are staying in a small RV park, Elmore RV Park, located "in town" behind a used car lot/auto maintenance shop. Almost all of the residents are long term but there are a few spaces available on a short term basis. We were assigned to Site 4 and backed the Duchess into the site. I glad that we have an extension to our 50 amp cord so that we could us this site instead of the one a next to it. We got set up and then ordered a pizza from Pure Pizza, a local chain here in Charlotte. It was not much of a pizza, but we didn't have to do any cooking.

Tuesday morning we were up bright and early since we had an 8 AM appointment to have our jacks/leveling system looked at. Our right rear jack is not working at all and we had some times where the jacks would not go up & down with out us having to turn them off & on several times. We dropped the Duchess off at Rowell's which is located in Indian Trail NC, a suburb of Charlotte. From there we went and ate breakfast at Johnny K's a local restaurant recommended to us by the shop. We both ate a large breakfast that was very good and enjoyed the coffee (several cups) which was brand called Java Jeff's. After breakfast we went to Costco where we bought: Lenovo MIIX 700 laptop, electric toothbrushes, COBRA dash cam and few other items. After finishing up at COSTCO we did a 4 mile walk (2 miles up and 2 miles back) along the 4 Mile Creek Greenbelt.

You can see how much rain this area has gotten lately.
We found a Trader Joe's across the street from the greenbelt parking area and bought something to drink to refresh ourselves after the walk. We returned to Rowell's where they were waiting on a phone call from HWH Leveling Systems. So we went to a restaurant next door and ate an early dinner. Upon our return to Rowell's they had talked to HWH and decided that a valve that was sticking open needed to be replaced. We will return on Monday morning to have the work done since the valve had to be shipped from HWH.

On Wednesday we went to Freedom Park here in Charlotte which is a 98 acre park located a few miles south of downtown. There are walking trails, a large pond stocked with fish along with numerous sports fields.

It started raining on Wednesday PM as we returned back to our park. We visited a local brewery in the late afternoon, the NoDa Brewery, which is located a couple of miles from the campground. We did a sampling and then each of us had a glass of one of their brews.

Thursday it rained all day and the temperature never got above 60 degrees so we did not get out except to go to the grocery store. We have great WiFi service here in the park and so we were able to stream Amazon Video on our TV. We started watching a series call Orphan Black that has been on Showtime and were able to watch a number of episodes.

Friday the weather was better so we headed to Reedy Creek Park and walked along the trails within the park. Some of the trails were wet but most had gravel on them so they were not muddy.

From there we took a trip out to Concord NC to visit the Hendricks Motorsports Racing Team Museum. They have a number of the winning cars from the racing team on display along with exhibits showing you how the cars are built.

From there we went to the Tom Johnson Camping World Center and took a look at the 2016 Newmar motor homes they have in stock. We didn't see anything we liked better than the one we are in. They are nice inside, but don't have as much storage as we have in the Duchess.

Saturday we went to visit downtown Charlotte. Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank both have several large buildings downtown along with a number of other banks. Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the USA only trailing New York City. There was a music group playing smooth jazz in one of the parks which we stopped and listened to them for a while. They were very good when they played an entire song, but they spent most of the time starting and stopping. From there we took the Liberty Walk along which there are 18 plaques dealing with the Revolutionary War in Charlotte. The buildings on the walk are all gone, but the plaques gave you a history of that location and what was there. Charlotte was occupied by the British for several years during the Revolutionary War and several battles were fought in Charlotte and the surrounding countryside.
Music in the park.

This was not part of the Liberty Walk.
We also visited the Wells Fargo Museum which is located in their bank (they took over Wachovia Bank several years ago). The museum gives a brief history of the Wells Fargo bank, shipping and other business through the years.

After we walking around downtown Charlotte for about 3 hours we decided to visit the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, which is the oldest craft brewery in Charlotte. We tried a sampler of 6 of their beers and didn't particularly like any of them.

There was a place across the street called the Broken Spoke, so we had to see what it was. It ended up being a distillery, but the rules in North Carolina were so complicated we decided not to go in.

After a visit to one of the Whole Foods store in Charlotte, we returned back to the Duchess for the evening.

On Sunday afternoon we drove out to Belmont NC and visited the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. It was packed with people since they were letting any "mom" get in free today. These gardens were nice but not anything like the ones in Atlanta.

Monday morning we will get the motor home leveling system repairs completed and then head towards the Raleigh/Durham/Greensboro area.

FYI: This is our 100th post to the blog.