Southeast US tour

Pictures can be found here

We left Nappanee, IN on August 24th and headed to Kokomo, IN.  We are meeting old cruising friends Mike & Lynn from Seabbatical at the Kokomo Speedway for four nights of USAC non-winged sprint car racing.  Kokomo Speedway offers free camping during race weekend.  The races are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and camping opened on Tuesday.  There are no assigned spaces for the camping, but getting here early Tuesday allowed us to get a good spot.  Mike & Lynn got to town Wednesday.  They follow the dirt track scene more than I ever did, and they know all the drivers.  We enjoyed spending time with Mike & Lynn and had a lot of fun at the races too.  Dirt track racing is a lot different than NASCAR.  For one thing, it is a much more local, small-scale event.  Instead of grandstands that hold 100,000, they might hold several thousand (I've seen high-school football stadiums in TX with larger grandstands).  The track is only a quarter mile, and the surface is a clay dirt that they wet down before the events.  This means if you are low in the grandstands, you can count on getting mud on you.  As the track dries out through the evening, more and more dust gets generated.  Fans who know bring safety goggles to keep the dirt out of their eyes.  We were high enough to just be out of the mud zone, and until the last night, the wind was blowing the dust away from the grandstands.  The last night, the wind had shifted and we got a lot of dust on us. 

After the races, we went to Cincinnati, OH.  We stayed at Winton Woods Campground, a nice county run park that is also a nice RV park.  Our reason to stop in Cincinnati was to visit a friend that we worked with last summer in WI.  We met up with Mike for dinner and caught up on what he's been doing for the past year.  Another day, we took a ride and explored downtown.  We parked and went to a local brewpub for a beer.  On our way back to the car, we were yelled to by a guy in a passing car.  He saw my Trop Rock t-shirt and wondered where we were from.  He was the president of the local Parrothead club.  He turned around and stopped to chat with us for several minutes.  Unfortunately, while chatting with him, our parking meter expired, and there was a meter-cop there just waiting to write us a parking ticket.  I disputed the ticket and have never heard from them, so I may be a wanted man by now.  We also made a point of stopping and having some Skyline Chili.  Skyline Chili is a well know regional brand and has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  It was ok, but I guess I've been too influenced by Texas chili.

After three days in Cincinnati, we headed to Holly River State Park near Cleveland, WV.  The reason to stop here is to visit an old high school friend.  Renee and her husband Dusty live in rural West Virginia, between Cleveland and Hacker Valley.  Never heard of Cleveland or Hacker Valley, WV?  This is a rural part of the country, and a quite beautiful one.  I had never been in WV before, and probably had a stereotypical impression of coal mining and hillbillies.  Holly River State Park is about 40 miles off I-79.  Renee had warned me to not turn onto any roads without a center stripe, and that was good advice, because the "highway" with a center stripe was probably the narrowest, twistiest, road I have driven in the bus.  We made it though and found the entrance to the campground at Holly River State Park.  The campground is in a deep river valley.  It is a couple miles long following the Holly River.  Thanks to Renee, we had a reserved space which would accommodate the bus.  It was almost all the way at the end of the campground, which meant I slowly wove my way through the campground's narrow drive.  We made it fine and set up camp.  Renee and Dusty are both retired from their careers now, but they are both still very busy.  Their primary "hobby" these days is the Jerry Run Summer Theater.  Whether you normally follow my links or not, I encourage you to read this story about their Field of Dreams story with the theater.  We spent five days here, and during that time we attended two shows at the theater, went to the annual fall festival at the park, had dinner with Renee & Dusty, took  hike to a small waterfall, took a trip to the West Virginia Wildlife Center, got interviewed for a county travel promotional video, and really enjoyed being deep in the woods.

We left Holly River on Sept 7th, headed south toward the Carolinas.  We have a number of cruising friends who have left cruising and settled in the southeast.  Our first stop, just to break up the drive was at Ft. Chiswell RV Park in Wytheville, VA.  We spent two nights here just chilling.  We then moved on to Bear Creek RV Resort in Ashville, NC.  Asheville is in the mountains of western NC, so the RV park was not your typical flat field.  It was on a hill, but each spot was a nice level concrete pad.  The spot they gave us was quite large near the top of the hill.  We booked a week at the RV park, as we have a number of things to do here.  Our first thing to do was a trip to Camping World, south of town near Hendersonville.  When we left Camping World heading back north to Asheville, we noticed signs for the Sierra Nevada Brewery.  Well, who knew Sierra Nevada had a brewery in North Carolina?  And, who can pass up a brewery tour?  It turns out the guided tours of the brewery are scheduled in advance online, and they book up two months in advance.  But, there is a self-guided tour available all the time.  This brewery was just built in the last few years, and the whole property and building is beautiful.  The self guided tour takes you upstairs and down a long hallway that has displays of old brewing equipment.  At the end of the hallway, the glass enclosed walkway goes over the whole packaging area.  You can watch as empty bottles and cans are loaded into the machinery to start their march to a truck.  The bottling line is much longer than the cans, and more visible.  The bottles go through a wash process, make their way to filling, capping, labeling, and packaging into six packs with a case.  The cases then pass under the walkway to the warehouse side where they are sealed stacked on pallets and loaded onto trucks.  We were lucky enough to visit while the bottling line was running, and we got to watch the end of the run where they do extra stuff to finish that run and start another flavor.  What was really amazing was that there were only a few employees running this whole thing.  It is all automated and computer controlled.  I could watch this kind of stuff forever, and we spent almost an hour watching the process.  The self guided tour does not include a visit to the free tasting room, but there is a full service restaurant at the end of the building that has all their beers on tap.  We went in there and had a couple of pints before heading back to Asheville.

Our first cruiser friend visit was with Roxanne, who cruised on Raven and Bamboo.  Roxanne and a friend drove up to Asheville to the RV park to meet us and see the bus.  We went to lunch with them, and then went on a ride towards Hendersonville, where we stopped by to see where Roxanne lives.  From there we went to Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, NC.  In addition to the good beer, there was a live band playing, which made sitting on their patio in the perfect weather very nice.  After a few pints here, Roxanne took us back to the bus.

One day we just drove around and toured Asheville.  The main downtown square area was cordoned off as they were setting up for a festival that started that evening.  We found the French Broad Chocolate factory, where we enjoyed some ice cream from their gift shop.  We also stopped for lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe where we were lucky enough to get a seat on the curbside patio.

A visit to Asheville is not complete without a visit to The Biltmore.  Biltmore is a great example of the opulent homes built in the Gilded Era of the late 1800's buy a member of the Vanderbilt family.  We have toured the Vanderbilt mansion on the Hudson, and the homes of Newport, but we really enjoyed Biltmore because unlike the others, it is still owned by the family, and the tours teach you as much about the family history and their impact on the region as it does about the house itself.  Admission to Biltmore isn't cheap, but it is a two-day pass that allows you plenty of time to tour the house, the grounds, the gardens, and the winery.  We spent our first day at the house, doing the self-guided audio tour, followed by a guided "behind the scenes" tour that explained the life of the staff at Biltmore.  The second day, we toured the gardens and the winery.  The whole place is beautiful and worth the price.  Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed inside the house, so all our pictures are outside.

Another highlight of Ashville is that the Blue Ridge Parkway passes through.  Ashville is near the southern end of the 469 mile long scenic parkway.  The RV park was just a few miles from one of the parkway exits, so it was easy to find and drive.  As it's name implies, the parkway runs along the top ridge of the mountains.  It has pullouts every mile or two to stop and enjoy the beautiful views.  We did notice a large number of dead trees in the forest which we learned was the result of the balsam woolly adelgid which attack Frasier Firs starting back in the 70's.  The drive from our exit to the end at the Great Smokey Mountain National Park entrance was about 75 miles.  Along the way, we saw signs for the Cradle of Forestry.  Having no plan, we followed the signs.  What we found was a cool museum and educational center.  In the late 1800's George Vanderbilt made a land deal with the federal government that established the Pisgah National Forest.  The area was being over-logged without any regard for conservation, and Vanderbilt wanted to stop this.  A "forest manager" was hired, and he established a school of forestry.  This effort was the beginning of what we now know as the USDA Forest Service.  There is a large indoor museum and several trails to hike.  One of the trails is a mile long loop that includes several restored or recreated buildings that illustrate the era of the school's beginning.  After our tour of the forestry center, we continued west on the parkway.  I noticed that a noise the car has been making was getting worse.  Ever since having the brakes worked on in Houston last year, there has been an off-and-on noise from the front brakes.  I brought it to the attention of Brake Check then, and they said nothing was wrong.  Well, the noise now was consistent.  I looked at the left front rotor and it looked ok.  We continued the drive to the end of the parkway, which is the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  Even though there is no admission fee to the park, and we are turning around and returning to Asheville, I took the opportunity to purchase my old-guys national parks pass.  We looked around the visitors center, and walked around the historic farm display, and then headed back towards Asheville.  I looked at the front brake rotor again, and now there was noticeable grooves getting worn into the rotor, and the noise was embarrassingly worse, even when the brakes were not applied.  In the interest of time, and hopefully less brake usage, we took the highway and interstate back to Asheville.  Unfortunately, there was a bad wreck on the interstate leaving us in stop-and-go traffic for ten miles.  I used the hand brake as much as possible (which only uses the rear brakes) but it was embarrassing.  We made it home and parked. 

When we got to Bear Creek, there was another Alfa there, but we never saw the people.  While we were there, the original Alfa left, but another showed up.  We went down and met them and learned they were new owners.  This was their first trip in it.  We chatted for quite awhile and I showed them a few things about an Alfa that they didn't know yet.  They also came down and saw what we had done to ours.  We met another guy in a SOB (Some Other Bus) who had TX plates and a Clear Lake Honda license plate holder on his car.  Turns out he was from Alvin, not far from our home base of Kemah.  Our plans from here are to go to Murphy, NC, about two hours away, but we need to get the car fixed.  When you need something like a car repair on the road, thank goodness these days we have Google and reviews.  I did some research and couldn't get an appointment for several days.  So, we decided to go to Murphy (we tow the car with the front wheels off the ground) and come back here to get it fixed.  So, I went to the office and made a reservation to come back in a few days, and we headed to Murphy. 

The trip to Murphy is to visit cruising friends Britt & Teri from Sea Otter.  They still have Sea Otter in Fl, but also have bought a house in NC.  We found an RV park south of Murphy called River's Edge.  Murphy is a small town, and Britt & Teri actually live between Murphy and Brasstown, an even smaller town.  River's Edge was a very nice park, that is pretty new and still getting known.  There were not lots of campers here because it is new, but the spaces were large and it was laid out well for a big rig.  The trip between Asheville and Murphy includes a section along the Hiwassee River which is a popular kayaking river.  It's also another one of those narrow, twisty mountain roads I keep finding.  After we got settled at the RV park, we went to Brasstown.  Teri is an artist and has a gallery called River Rim Studio in Brasstown.  We found her and checked out the studio.  When closing time came, we followed Teri to their house just down the road.  Britt cooked us a nice dinner and we reminisced about our sailing days and mutual friends.  We spent a second day in Murphy doing fun things like laundry and headed back to Asheville on Sunday.

Back in Asheville, I took the car first thing Monday morning to the shop.  We found that the caliper had hung up, basically applying a little brake all the time, wearing the pads out and then destroying the rotor.  $600 later I was back on the road.  We have one other cruising couple to see in the area.  Devi & Hunter, formerly on Arctic Tern, now live in Mars Hill, NC, a little north of Asheville.  They joined us for breakfast at the Moose Cafe on Sunday.  We visited over breakfast, and then they came back to the RV park to see the bus.  Devi & Hunter have a small RV on order, so they were interested in hearing about how we were liking the lifestyle.  When they left, they were headed south to the Hiwassee River, where we drove through between Asheville and Murphy, to kayak. 

The next stop on our old cruiser friends reunion tour is all the way across NC on the coast.  But, I decided to combine our old cruiser friends reunion tour with a NASCAR tour.  So we broke the cross-state trip up with a stop in Asheboro, NC at Zooland RV Park.  Asheboro is very close to Level Cross, NC, and if you know anything about NASCAR, you may know that Level Cross is the home of the king, Richard Petty.  On the way to the RV park, we went to the Richard Petty Museum and the home of Petty's Garage.  We found the parking lot just large enough to get in and turn around, but there was another big RV there with a large enclosed trailer that might impede out departure.  We went into the museum and they explained the self-guided tour.  The main building had a few cars and lots of memorabilia that Richard collected over the years.  Along with lots of trophies, belt buckles, guns, and pictures.  There was an item that really got our attention.  Barb an I both have necklaces made with coins from the Atocha, the sunken ship that made Mel Fisher famous.  In the bounty recovered from the Atocha were silver coins and silver ingots.  Original coins from the Atocha sell for thousands.  What we have are replica coins made from some of the silver ingots which sell for hundreds instead of thousands.  What we saw in the museum was a whole silver ingot from the Atocha.  We were impressed.  The next stop on the tour is across a driveway into another building where there are a bunch more famous cars.  As we crossed the driveway, we saw Richard himself delivering one of the customized Mustangs that Petty garage builds.  These are the people with the RV and trailer out front.  I was tempted to go get a picture with Richard, but that would have interrupted the moment that the other folks had paid $90K for.  We enjoyed the rest of the tour, which included wandering around the working garage of Petty's Garage where they modify the Mustangs and restore any classic car you want.  There was a 68 Charger there being restored, which brought back memories of when I restored a 68 Charger.  Unfortunately we did not see Richard again.  As we went to the parking lot to leave, the new Mustang owners were loading it into their trailer.  We had to do a little backing up (which isn't good towing the car) but we got out ok, and went on to the RV park.

The next day, we left Zooland and headed on to Wilmington, NC.  Here we are staying for a couple of days at the KOA.  Our reason for making Wilmington a stop was to visit old cruising friends Harriet & Richard formerly of Perseverance.  We were here for several days.  Our first afternoon in town, we went to the Front Street Brewery to enjoy some craft beer and food.  I guess we need to call this a "visit-cruising-friends-NASCAR-craft-beer-tour".  Richard and Harriet came to the KOA one afternoon to see the bus, and then we followed them back to their house for a nice dinner and visit.  Another day we drove north to Wrightsville Beach for lunch.  Wrightsville Beach is right on the Intercoastal Waterway. We came through and spent the night there four times in the boat.  It was cool to drive around and see the same stuff from the land point of view.  It's too early for the annual southbound migration of boats to be coming through, so it was fairly quiet.  We had lunch at a waterside restaurant right by the draw bridge that we had passed under years ago.  It was fun using my phone to read our website updates from that era and recall  the previous trips.  Another day we drove south along the coast, through Carolina Beach to literally the end of the road.  On the way, we came across the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  We stopped there and found a nice facility.  At the end of the road is a ferry to Southport, NC.  We just happened to time our arrival perfectly and only waited a few minutes for the ferry to load.  The ferry is about a 35 minute ride across the Cape Fear River.  It's not free, like TX ferries, but it was only $5 for a car.  In Southport we decided to stop and have a beer on the water.  What we found was a little more water that we expected.  We went to the Fishy Fishy Cafe, which is right on the water, in Southport's harbor at Southport Marina.  We found that there was an usually high tide as the result of a storm offshore coinciding with the peak of the lunar cycle that controls the tides.  This made the main entrance unreachable, but they had made a bridge of sorts out of pallets and some gangways normally used on the docks.  We made it into the bar without getting our feet wet and enjoyed a beer on the deck looking out towards the Cape Fear River's exit to the sea.  From Southport, we drove back up the inland side of the Cape Fear River back to Wilmington.

From Wilmington we traveled south to Myrtle Beach, SC.  We stayed at the Cypress Camping Resort, right on the Intercoastal Waterway.  This is very nice park, but it is especially cool to us, because it is right by the Socastee Swing Bridge.  Of course we had to go through this bridge on both of our round-trips on the east coast.  What made it stand out in our memories is that the bridge tender here wouldn't respond to a radio call if you pronounced the name wrong.  Well, if you're not from the area, you may not know how to pronounce Socastee.  The correct pronunciation is "SOCK-a-stee".  Not "so-CAS-tee".  On our first trip through, after being ignored for several calls, the bridge tender finally answered and schooled me on this before opening the bridge.  He made enough of an impression on me that I made a note in our cruising guide of the phonetic spelling so I would get it right on the return trip.  Sitting here watching the bridge, I wished I had a handheld VHF radio so I could see if the same guy is still there ten years later.  The day we got to Myrtle Beach, we took a ride over to the beach side of town looking for a beachfront restaurant.  We found the Landshark Bar & Grill, which is Margaritaville related property.  It is like a stripped down Margaritaville, with a very similar menu.  At the host's suggestion we sat at the bar, 'because the deck was very busy and we would get faster service".  Usually in a place like this we wouldn't care about speed of service because we are rarely in a hurry.  But, today we had scored an hour of free parking (worth $10) from some people leaving the parking lot sooner than they thought they would.  So, we had an hour.  Well, if the bar service was faster, the patio people must still be waiting for their food.  When we finally got our food, it was stone cold, but by then we didn't have time to complain.  We may have just hit them on a bad day or time, but I suspect since they are in a vacation destination, they just don't worry about repeat business.  It was too bad to see the Margaritaville quality going down.  Our second day in town was spent at the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival at Huntington Beach State Park.  Why would we go to a local art & crafts festival?  Because friends Tom & Michelle Becker, a.k.a. Latitude are playing there all weekend.  We got there a little before Tom & Michelle's set was supposed to start, and we found them near the stage and chatted a bit before  they played.  After their show, they packed up and followed us back to see the bus.  Back when we passed through here on the boat they had visited us also, so it was only right that they see the new mode of cruising.  The next day, we drove down to Georgetown, SC.  Georgetown is another place we had stayed in the boat, and since we were there last, they had a major fire that took out several of the historic waterfront buildings.  It was raining when we got there, but we found a nice waterfront restaurant with window seating and had a nice lunch.  Again, it was cool to be on the land side of where we had been before on the water.

Our next stop was Brunswick, GA.  We are staying at Coastal Georgia RV Park, which is pretty new and very nice.  The only problem is it is very tight for a big rig.  It's almost impossible to make any turns without putting the rear wheels into their nice grass.  We are only spending one night here, the purpose being to visit Craig & Liz from Salida.  We saw them in CA last spring, but their boat is here in Brunswick.  They are amongst the few people we got to know well during our cruising years who are still cruising.  They plan to head back to the western Caribbean this winter.  It turned out Craig was not feeling well, but Liz and a friend of hers came by the RV park and picked us up.  We went to a restaurant near the RV and had an early dinner. 

The next day we are only going about an hour away to Country Oaks RV Park in Kingsland, GA.  Our stop in Kingsland is to visit more old cruising friends.  We had a lot of adventures with Pat & Dori from Sol Y Mar, and we traveled with them all the way from the Bahamas to Grenada when we first went south.  Pat & Dori both work, so we had to coordinate visiting around their days off.  The first day, Pat was off, but Dori wasn't, so Pat picked us up at the RV park, and we went south to Amelia Island, just across the FL border.  We first went to Sliders for lunch and a couple beers, and then moved down the beach to another place for a few more drinks.  We went back to the RV park and got our car and followed Pat to their house.  Pat & Dori live on a golf course, and have their own cart, and their Yorkshire Terrier, Buddy, gets a ride every evening to do his business around the golf course.  So off we went enjoying the tour and learning Buddy's routine at different places on the course.  Dori got home from work and we visited well into the evening.  The next day, we drove over to Pat & Dori's and we went to Jekyll Island.  We were having lunch on a street-side patio when we were surprised to see Fred & Kathy from Makai walking towards us.  It turned out Fred & Kathy had just turned the keys to Makai over to her new owner who was with them.  We chatted with them for a few minutes before our food came.  After lunch we made a couple other stops on Jekyll Island, and then went to St. Simon's Island for a couple more stops.  We went back to Pat & Dori's for dinner and more visiting before heading home.

Next stop is to go to the NASCAR race in Charlotte, NC.  We can start camping there on Tuesday before the race, but there is also a large storm coming ashore soon, so we want to make most of the trip a few days early.  We drove from Kingsland to Ft. Mills, SC, just outside Charlotte, NC on Friday and stayed at a KOA.  The day we drove, we only had misty rain for part of the trip.  The next day though it rained all day.  Where we were wasn't too bad, but Columbia, SC had terrible flooding.  We had driven through there just before all the problems.  Tuesday, we headed NE of Charlotte to Concord, NC where the Charlotte Motor Speedway is.  We found the camping area we have reserved and got set up.  Thus continues the NASCAR portion of our SE tour.  In the course of four days, we visited four team facilities.  Just outside the track we found Hendrick Motorsports, which fields four Sprint Cup teams, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kasey Kahne.  We found an nice big museum, and gift shop, and you could also visit all four teams garages and watch the crews at work building the cars.  About twenty miles away in Kannapolis we found Stewart Hass Racing, also home of four Sprint Cup teams, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Danica Patrick.  Up the road a few more mile in Mooresville, we found Penske Racing, home of the teams of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  The final shop was Joe Gibbs Racing, home of the teams of Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth.  At JGR, I got Carl Edwards autograph on my new t-shirt.  I'm not normally an autograph seeker, but it was pretty cool meeting him.

Other activities we did were a track tour of the CMS facility.  This included riding around the track on the tram and stopping in turn three where we were able to walk up the 24° banking.  24° may not sound like a lot, but it is a very steep hill.  Thursday, we took a trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame with a side-trip to the Sam Bass Gallery.  Sam Bass is an artist who has devoted much of his career to NASCAR, both in art and posters as well as in car designs.  Sam was at the gallery and was very cool interacting with our group.  From there we went on to the Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.  We had toured most of the Hall of Fame when we got a call from our friend Sheila that she was on her way to meet us there.  Sheila, who we know through the Parrothead world, is also a huge NASCAR fan.  She has lots of connections in the NASCAR world and is a charter member of the Hall of Fame.  That meant when we took a trip through the gift shop, we got a 20% discount being with her.  We had lunch with Sheila at the Buffalo Wild Wings which is attached to the Hall, then told our tour bus driver that we had a ride and rode back to the track with Sheila.  There were two on-track events tonight.  One was the Better Half Dash, as the ladies of NASCAR duel in a 25-lap charity race in Bandolero cars while their husbands and boyfriends coach/spot from the sidelines.  The other event was the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.  These are stock cars racing on the tight quarter-mile track, and they are known for bumping and banging.  This year however, was the first time they ever went almost flag-to-flag without a caution.  There was one caution near the end, but even that was for something minor.  Friday night was the Xfinity race.  We had very good seat for it and enjoyed a good race.  Sheila had a pit pass and she spent the race in the pits, but then met us at the bus afterwards for a couple of drinks so she didn't have to go out in the heavy after-race traffic.  Saturday came, and the "little rain in the morning" turned into "rain all day".  Sheila joined us in the warm, dry bus for the afternoon as we waited for the skies to clear, watching the TV coverage and also watching the people from the general parking lot walk past us in the rain.  With Sheila's Twitter connections, we knew before the TV announced it, that the race was being postponed until Sunday.  We watched the wet people walking back to their cars, and then after the traffic seemed to have died down, we went out in search of dinner.  We went away from the track because we guessed that the numerous restaurants right around the track would probably be packed.  About ten miles away we found a small-town with a Mexican restaurant still open.  They were half an hour from closing, and we were the only customers, but we had a nice dinner.  Sunday came as a bright sunny day and the race went off a little after noon.  Our seats for this race are very low, only three rows from the track, right at the "restart zone" between turn four and the start/finish line.  I thought this was going to suck and we planned to try and sneak higher once the race started, but other than not being able to see the back stretch, it turned out pretty cool.  Since we rent Fanvision headsets, we were able to keep track of the race even though we couldn't see the entire track, and being that close was exciting.  Sheila had been in the pits before the race, but joined us at our seats though the race.  She then went back to the pits to go to the victory lane celebration, and then  met us at the bus while the traffic died down. 

Monday morning, we packed up and left Charlotte Motor Speedway.  It had been quite a week.  Our next stop is Leisure Acres Campground in Cleveland, GA.  (Yes, another Cleveland.)  The reason for stopping here is that it is near Helen, GA.  Helen is a small town that has been entirely made to look like a Bavarian village, and it's Oktoberfest time.  Friends Pat & Dori had highly recommended stopping here, so we had to.  We also made this our last stop of the NASCAR tour.  Not far from the RV park is Dawsonville, GA., made famous by Bill Elliott, a championship NASCAR driver from the late 80's.  When Bill would win a race, the Dawsonville Pool Room would sound a siren atop the building to let the town know he had won.  We had lunch at the pool room, where the Bully-burger is the meal of choice.  We then found the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame shares a nice modern building with a moonshine distillery, and City Hall.  Gotta love a town like that. 

Our stop in NE Georgia was specifically to go to Helen, GA.  We went to Helen around lunchtime and found a cute Bavarian town.  Pretty much every building has been designed with a Bavarian look.  We had done some research online before going and had a restaurant in mind.  We went to Hofbrauhaus Restaurant and G.I. Germany Pub for lunch.  The food was good, and since it was mid-week and past noon, there were only a few customers, allowing our waitress time to interact with us quite a bit.  After lunch, we walked through the whole town, checking out shops and enjoying some street performances.  At the other end of town, we stopped at the Troll Tavern for a beer before heading back to the bus.  The Troll Tavern is right on the edge of the Chattahoochee River, which during the summer is a popular tubing river.  The tubing season is over, and the water level is low, so this time of year there are guys in wet suits with metal detectors searching for any booty left behind by tubers, especially near rapids where they may have dumped over.  Another day in the area, we took a ride around the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Loop in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Along this pretty ride, we found the Brasstown Bald Visitors Center.  This is the first place we have visited where I could use my new National Park Senior Pass.  Of course, since we didn't plan to make this stop, the Senior Pass is safely back in the bus.  At Brasstown Bald, you park and then take a shuttle the last mile to the top where the visitor's center is.  Brasstown Bald is the highest mountain in Georgia.  The views from the top we pretty spectacular.  From the top we looked down upon the parking lot and saw our car.  We joked about how we used to hike to the high spot on an island and look down into the anchorage where the boat was. 

From NE GA, we moved on to McDonough, south of Atlanta.  We are staying at Atlanta South RV Resort.  What drew us to this RV park was the fact that in addition to being a nice park, they have storage available.  We need storage because in a week we are going to St. Maarten for two weeks.  So, we spent the next week try to eat everything in our fridge and freezer so we can turn them off for two weeks.  During this week, we didn't really do any touristy stuff other than a couple little exploration rides around the area.  We are flying to St. Maarten from ATL on a Saturday morning, so on Friday afternoon, we moved the bus to the storage lot and shut it down.  We drove to the airport, where we have a reservation at a hotel for the night.  The hotel does a park-and-fly deal, where you leave your car there while you're on your trip.  The hotel park-and-fly deal was cheaper than "economy" parking at the airport for two weeks would be, and it allows us to be right there for our morning flight. 

Since this really was the end of our SE US tour, I'll leave it at that for now.