Try to keep cool….

LOCATION: Near Gainesville, GA – north of Atlanta, on Lake Sydney Lanier

CAMPGROUND: See previous description

WEATHER: 100ish and sunny

We hung around the camper in the AM, perusing the Airstream’s instruction manuals. Good thing to do — we realized that we were doing the A/C incorrectly and that George needs to do one additional thing while unhooking and hooking up. I found my answer, perhaps, to using the convection oven option in the microwave.

Then, we went driving around. We were looking for a new craft beer bar in a small town near us. We couldn’t find it. We think its advertised fall 2017 opening may have slipped a bit. Finally, we found a nice chicken wing bar/restaurant. It was nicely air-conditioned and had great wifi, so we hung out there for quite awhile.

Then, more exploring of the area. We stopped at this beautiful winery, also well air-conditioned. They grow muscadine grapes, so their own wines are sweet. They also, however, bottle some good California wine, so we had a taste. Along with the chateau, which doubles as an event center, there is an inn, restaurant, golf course, and housing development. All very much “over-the-top”.

From there, we drove around the lake. We found a cute bar at this marina and sat in the shade, enjoying the lake breeze.

DINNER: I boiled a package of frozen mixed seafood (clams, octopus, calamari, fish) and served it with rice in a pesto/lime juice sauce. Added the last of the farmers’ market spinach.

Driving through Atlanta – Need I say more?!

LOCATION: Outside of Gainesville, Georgia – north of Atlanta

WEATHER: Still hot, but mornings and evenings are tolerable

CAMPGROUND: Bolding Mill Army Corps of Engineers Campground. On Lake Sydney Lanier. Electricity (50 amp) and water hookups. Long, paved sites, very spread out. Nice pine trees for shade. Both a stand-up cook grill as well as a campfire ring. Picnic table. Rocky sand on campsite pad was even raked when we arrived. With national senior park pass, $11/night. Good bathrooms with decent showers. Washer and dryer at $.75! 5 stars out of 5.

…..It was my fault. ….

We got a nice, early start from the campground in Northwest Alabama. I turned out the GPS and off we went. Only after about 15 miles did I finally look at the map. GPS was taking us south (wrong) and through both Birmingham and Atlanta. Had I looked at the map, I would have ignored the GPS and gone directly east from the campground, then approached tonight’s campground from the northwest. Oh well, too late.

So, we first went through Birmingham, filled with spaghetti-junction construction. Not too bad except the semi-trucks.

We realize that the GPS likes the Interstates as that is generally the fastest route. So, today we were destined to be on about 5 interstates throughout the day. After Birmingham, we had about 130 miles to Atlanta. Again, full of semi-trucks, one that cut us off and almost made us go into the ditch.

Then, we came up to an accident worsened by construction. Traffic was just sitting there. So, at our first chance, we got off the interstate, cleared the accident, and found our way back on it 10 miles later, almost traffic-free (as the traffic was still sitting there behind the accident).

Then, Atlanta. It was indescribably horrible. I hid my head most of the time, except when George asked for help with directions; I tried to minimize my gasping and screaming so as not to distract him. Our first exit wasn’t clearly marked, and we had to wait for a kind soul to let us in. Then, the lane we were in ended abruptly and we had to merge with people who were not feeling kindly. Finally, finally, after about 2 hours north of Atlanta, the traffic cleared. Then, happily we were on country roads toward our destination, with glimpses of the large lake.

As we entered the campground, we realized that we have been here before. It was a few years ago, and was just a quick overnight, so we will enjoy it more this time.

With the loss of an hour entering Eastern time zone and the Atlanta traffic, today was a 7-hour day on the road. We were exhausted.

We relaxed at the campsite. We can see the lake from our site. Interestingly, there is another Airstream right by us. This is the first Airstream we have seen so far on this trip.

George fired up the stand-up grill and made tonight’s dinner as well as cooking up some meats for future meals.

DINNER: Blue cheese hamburgers. Decadently delicious. Sides were spinach salad, steamed green beans, and roasted potato wedges. We are still eating veg from the farmers’ market from a few days ago.

We sat outside in the dark, while the fireflies put on a show for us. A deer ran past us in the dark. Pretty cool. This is camping!

PS – Sorry – no photos today. They would have been of Interstates and/or grid-lock traffic.

Stormy weather…

LOCATION: Outside of Double Springs, Alabama in NW part of state

WEATHER: Hot and muggy. Thunderstorm in PM

CAMPGROUND: I thought I was reserving an Army Corps of Engineers campground, but it turns out that it is a National Forest Service one. It is run by a commercial company, so they didn’t discount much with the National Park Senior Pass. Nice and shady; on a lake. Full hook-ups. We have a pull-through site. Bathrooms quite nice. Way too expensive. $30, even with senior pass. 2 stars out of 5.

We had a short drive today – only 140 miles. We were mostly on good, backroads with a few miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Not much traffic, as it is Sunday. Based on the overflowing parking lots at country Baptist churches, it is because all the population is inside.

We kept hoping for a picnic area for lunch, but didn’t pass anything. Finally, we saw a nice paved, shady parking area in front of a church. Since it was 1:30, church was over and we had the place to ourselves (others than those in the cemetery). 😦

We arrived at the campground in the early afternoon. Since we are only here one night, we are not unhooking. We took a walk down to the lake and dipped our toes in the water. The clouds started getting darker and we heard some thunder, so we didn’t tarry.

George watched a bit of the U.S. Open, but the TV reception is not very good. About 5:00 it really started pouring. Then, horrors! The electricity went out!!!!! No A/C!!!!!! I wanted to cry. Thank goodness, it came back in about 45 minutes.

DINNER: Appetizer – Asian cucumbers — cucumbers that we bought in yesterday’s farmer’s market sliced thin marinated in a soy/lemon/wine mix. Very refreshing. Main was a leftover chicken/pasta casserole that I had made back before we hit the road.

Checking out Oxford

LOCATION: Grenada, MS in north central part of state – on Lake Grenada

WEATHER: Same ole’; same ole’

CAMPGROUND: North Abutment Army Corps of Engineers Campground – see previous description

We went into the town of Grenada for their weekly farmers’ market on the (otherwise deserted) town square. There were only a few stands, but we were able to buy some good-looking veg and fresh eggs.

Then, we drove around the lake. Sometimes you just can’t trust GPS….

We planned to visit a brewpub in a little town nearby, but it was closed. So, we drove on to Oxford. If I had to live in Mississippi, it would be in Oxford. It is a nice college town with beautiful southern mansions all around the town. I read that it was named Oxford, after Oxford, England with the hope that the state would place its university there. It worked! Oxford is home of Ole’ Miss. The downtown square is really cute with small book shops on every corner. Authors William Faulkner and more recently John Grisham became famous here. We found a craft beer place where they have about 25 taps. It is called Growler as you can buy beer by the pint or fill up your growler there.

We had lunch there in cozy chairs in front of TV while George watched the U.S Open.

DINNER: We are still experimenting with the convection oven function of the microwave. Obviously, we have a lot to learn. I made a casserole with grilled chicken and the veg we bought at the farmer’s market (spinach, onions, bell pepper, squash) with Parmesan and bread crumbs on top. I just couldn’t get it to bake like a regular oven. I did figure out how to bake a ciabatta roll.

The best dam view!

LOCATION: Grenada, MS – in north central part of state

CAMPGROUND: North Abutment Army Corps of Engineers Campground at Lake Grenada – See previous description

WEATHER: Heat advisories. The weatherman said that his next good forecast would be in September!

This morning, this white heron was nibbling on fish right outside our door.

Normally, we don’t frequent any chain restaurant while we are traveling. The exception is to get free wifi at McDonalds when we are camping at places without wifi. Instead of the $2.50 iced coffee, George gets a $.65 cup of regular senior coffee and puts a bunch of ice cubes in the cup! I get a free cup of ice water, and fill up our thermoses with cold water and ice. Do you think we will bankrupt McDonalds? This morning, we spent quite a bit of time in the one in Grenada with the wifi and nice A/C.

Then, we drove into the “historic downtown”. Unfortunately, almost every building is empty. Very sad. The main highway outside of town has attracted the shops and restaurants, and everyone has migrated out there. We did find a cute New Orleans bistro for lunch. We sat under a metal sculpture depicting a cypress tree in a swamp. We shared a Cajun po-boy.

We drove around the huge lake and stopped to watch an informative movie in the visitors’ center about the lake’s dam construction after a horrible flood in the 1920s. We were looking for a lakeside bar/grill for a cold drink, but couldn’t find anything. So, we returned to our campsite for one where we have a “dam good view”!

DINNER: Smoked salmon over spaghetti with a sauce made of cream cheese, dill from my planter, and capers. Side salad was basil (also from my herb planter) and tomatoes.

We enjoyed watching the clouds roll in for a beautiful sunset over the lake.

In the Deep South

LOCATION: Grenada, Mississippi – north central part of state

WEATHER: Cooler – high of only 95. 😦

CAMPGROUND: North Abutment Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) campground at Lake Grenada. Electricity (50 amp) and water hook-ups. Central dump station. Beautiful, long paved sites. Very spread out – no nearby neighbors. Air-conditioned, clean bathroom with decent showers. 5 stars out of 5. With national park pass – only $10/night!

We started out only a half hour later than planned – at 9:30 AM. We drove about an hour to Louisiana, passing by lots of swampy areas.

Then, most of the day across the entire state of Arkansas – more bayou areas, rice fields which they will flood, plant rice, harvest rice, then stock with crawfish. We also drove through lots of pine forests with the accompanying logging trucks. We took back roads, which were mostly good.

Finally, to Mississippi. It was a long day on the road – 8.5 hours. We will be at this campground 3 nights, so we can rest up.

Our campsite is RIGHT on the water – I can touch my toes in the lake about a foot from the back of the trailer. Beautiful.

The only negative is that we don’t have much shade, so we put out all 3 awnings.

DINNER: Pork chop with Cajun dirty rice. Side salad

Uncertain?

LOCATION: Outside Jefferson, TX

WEATHER: Ditto from every other day. 100ish

CAMPGROUND: Last night at Alley Camp ACOE – see previous description

Today’s destination was Caddo Lake, about 30 miles from here. It has a much different look as compared to Lake O’ The Pines, where we are camping. Caddo Lake is full of centuries-old cypress trees with Spanish moss hanging from them. It feels like a southern Louisiana bayou.

The town called Uncertain is in the bayou country. We aren’t “certain” how it got its name, but I’m guessing it is because they say you can easily get lost on a boat and are “uncertain” where to go down one of its many little inlets. The same goes for the roads – we went down endless narrow farm roads, “uncertain” of where we were. The church is called Uncertain Church, which I thought was interesting/thought-provoking.

Most of the houses near the water in Uncertain are on stilts, as it floods here periodically, and the residents get stranded for weeks.

We had planned to eat lunch at a riverfront restaurant, but it was closed. So, after our uncertain Uncertain tour, we went into a bigger town and found a Texas Cajun restaurant. We shared a crawfish etoufee over blackened catfish wish a hush puppy and dirty rice.

We circled back to Jefferson, where George returned the loaned fishing rod to the Visitors’ Center, and stopped in the general store.

It is chock-full of “stuff”, including a soda shop bar….

Back at the campground, George grilled some chicken and pork chops for me for future meals. I don’t like to cook meat inside the camper.

I brought my herb garden with me – basil, oregano, and dill. It looks pretty perched on the LP gas cover. From the inside, it looks like the planter is on a window sill. We’ll see how long the herbs last, and/or if we can sneak them through the Canadian border in a few weeks.

DINNER: Grilled shrimp with Asian stir-fried rice.

Victorian splendor

LOCATION: Alley Camp ACOE Campground at Lake o’ the Pines, near Jefferson, TX

WEATHER: What else? Hot and humid. 100ish

CAMPGROUND: See description from first night.

Historic Jefferson was our destination today. We are about 15 miles from the town. It is really cute, with beautiful Victorian mansions, many of which are B&Bs, and a very well-preserved downtown, full of antique shops.

Jefferson is in my book “Thousand Places to Go Before You Die” and is particularly famous at Christmas with home tours and a decorated downtown.

We found a bar/restaurant that looks like a cowboy saloon. With a nod toward nearby Louisiana, we shared a half muffaletta. (Can’t imagine trying to split a whole one).

We drove around town, admiring all the restoration. George particularly liked these gas stations that have been converted to shops.

We stopped at the visitors’ center where they loaned us a fishing rod. Back at the campground, George checked it out….

DINNER: Leftover riced cauliflower/hamburger casserole and broccoli/cheese.

Texas is a BIG state!

LOCATION: Near Jefferson, Texas – in far NE Texas

WEATHER: Still hot – 98

CAMPGROUND: Alley Creek Camp at Ferrells Bridge Dam, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) Park. We try to stay in ACOE parks as much as possible. They are always woodsy, usually on water, have nice hookups and sites, and are a good bargain! This one did not disappoint. 5 stars out of 5. We are right on Lake o’ the Pines, with a view of the lake from our site. Nice long, paved, level site with fire pit and picnic table. Lots of nice shady pine trees. Electricity (50 amp) and water at site; dump station nearby. Bathrooms are private – each with its own shower. $14/night with National Senior Park Pass.

We left Goose Island State Park at 9:30 AM. We hadn’t unhooked or even put the stabilizers down, so it was easy to get going. Our Mapquest had told us that it would be 5 hours to today’s destination, but we wanted to avoid Houston. So, 5 hours turned out to be 9.5 hours by the time we skirted around Houston on backroads.

It was interesting to see how the landscape changed as we drove north. First, we were along the coast, then through farmland – lots of corn, potatoes, and sorghum. Then, the Texas Hill Country, and finally here in the area called Piney Woods. We drove through towns that sadly have seen better days, and passed contrasting, stunning ranches and mansions.

We are not far from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, but it seems like it takes forever to get through Texas.

We arrived at the campground about 7:00, pretty pooped out. These deer greeted us….

Our site is beautiful. We will be here 3 nights. We are trying to slow down our travels a bit. On previous trips, we have zipped through the country, staying generally only 1-2 nights at each place.

DINNER: Sort of weird. I tried a new recipe – eggs poached in green sauce. I made a green sauce by blending boiled fresh spinach and Mexican green chili salsa. I nestled two eggs in the boiling sauce to poach them. Served with Lima beans (more green!) and ciabatta rolls that I baked in the microwave/convention oven.

And weeeee’re off!

LOCATION: Rockport, Texas

WEATHER: Sunny and hot – 102

CAMPGROUND: Goose Island State Park. 3 out of 5 stars. Electricity (30 amp) and water at almost all sites. Dump station. Two sections – one on the beach and one inland. We stayed in the wooded inland area. Some trees with shade. Long enough site to back into without unhooking. Nice picnic table. Good cooking grill, but burn ban in effect. Bathrooms ok, not great, with showers. $18/night plus daily $6 fee. Sites are tight, and some impossible, for big rigs to fit in.

Our goal for leaving home was 10:00 AM, and we left at 10:30, so not bad. It really wasn’t hard to pack up, as pretty much everything we have was simply moved from cupboards in our tiny house to either the trailer or truck. I have really tried not to accumulate more “stuff” than we need while RVing.

The 150-mile drive was uneventful, which was good. We stopped along the way for lunch. I had made some refreshing gazpacho. We couldn’t find a roadside stand, so just sat in the truck with the A/C on to eat it.

The Rockport area was hit really hard by Hurricane Harvey last August. It is sad to see that several buildings are sitting abandoned, totally destroyed. We saw several hotels that are empty with gaping holes in their roofs. We learned that hotel capacity is still only 50% of what it had been, in this tourist beach town. On the other hand, there is a lot of new construction, with a lot of beautiful new homes built amazingly right on the hurricane’s path.

The campground itself was hit and was just recently re-opened. Only a few sites on the beach section have been restored. We took a walk through the campground, and saw a few trees down…

We got settled in, with George’s expert backing-up skills.

DINNER: Chicken parmeggiano that I had made at home. Just warmed up in the microwave, along with some peas.

NOTE – On this road trip, I will rate and describe our campgrounds as I did with Goose Island for others to use as reference. Hope it is helpful!