Quick Trip to Lake Seminole – Eastbank, GA

23 Oct

Quick Trip to Lake Seminole – Eastbank, GA

Thirty years ago, when we moved to Tallahassee, I distinctly recall writing home about living in a pine forest. The autumn winds rustled high in the tree tops and forced the scent of pines through the woods. This week, I was reminded of those sounds and smells, when we took the TAJ MyHaul to Lake Seminole near Eastbank, Georgia.  The weather was chilly after a cool front.  Pine needles covered the ground and the scent of new growth lingered in the crisp air.  

TAJ MyHaul Rig!

The campground, developed by the Corps of Engineers, is laid out with spacious camp sites. The grounds are clean, neat and tidy. Much of the area in the campground is well-maintained grassy lawns, so the overall appearance is like a park rather than a “camp.”  And, of course the most important detail, the showers and restrooms are very clean.  

Grassy lawns, tidy grounds

There are two camping areas, one along the lake and another further up the hill, nestled in the woods. The scenic lake and shoreline beckoned and Bella was always ready for us to walk her along the lake’s edge.  

Bella and I pause on our stroll through the campground

So, we walked the area several times and decided that the lakefront sites are the best, although the woodsy sites are closer to the showers/restrooms.   All sites have nice flat gravel or concrete pads for camping, large picnic tables, a grill, a table for food prep, a post to hang your lantern and a fire pit. Our assessment is that the very best site is #35. In addition to the other amenities, it has a deck-like area that really expands the camping space and gives plenty of room for cooking out, fireside chats, partying, etc. We’ll book that site when we come again. If is not available, then sites #36, 26, 24, 9 and 10 are very nice as well.  We were in site #47 in the woods.

Lakeshore has nice sites - camper in one on left is "camping" - the one on the right "isn't camping"

Oh, yes – the park ranger recommended we use something around the tires, hitch and anything that touched the ground and the trailer to keep ants from getting in. We dusted with Sevin and noticed that many other campers did as well. Pesky little pests! (the ants that is)

Trying to keep nature at bay - protection from ants crawling up and into camper

There is a pavillon area for campers to use as well,  a very nice area if you have a group of campers wanting to picnic together. Also a nice small boat ramp is avail for launch!

Pavillion for picnics

Boat Launch

The park is only 45 miles from Tallahassee, but truly feels like a mini-vacation. A great place to walk (with one small hiking trail and the lake shoreline), or nap or read a good book!.  A very nice getaway and a beautiful  place to be.  We came early Thursday afternoon, stayed two nights and left mid-day Saturday.  The sunsets were beautiful.

Sunset, peaceful

Quite dusk

Oh, and a good value! I must digress to last December. Glen and I traveled to Utah and Colorado (sans TAJ).  Along the way, we stopped in Arches National Park. We bought an $80, 12-month pass that was supposed to offer many discounts or free admission to all National Parks and, we were told, other affiliated agencies, such as Bureau of Land Management and Corps of Engineers recreational areas.  But, much to our repeated disappointment, the darn card hasn’t gotten us into much except a state of aggravation. In the meantime, several of our friends have bought the lifetime $10 Senior Pass – America the Beautiful.  It is a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands lifetime pass for citizens 62+ years old. So you might ask, “why  is she telling us this?”

Well , this summer at Zion National Park, we tried once again to use our $80 buck pass which was of no use.  Our friends whipped out their $10 America the Beautiful card and saved us 72 bucks on entry fees for our group. We were frosted! So, right then and there we purchased the $10 senior card and I am happy to report that it worked at this Corps of Engineers recreational site.  What would have been $22 a night,  was only $11. So, finally we have a card that is working!

We heartily recommend Lake Seminole, Eastbank, Georgia and so does Bella!

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CHINA TRIP – Ming Tombs/Beijing

19 Oct
 

CHINA TRIP – Ming Tombs/Beijing

 The Ming Tombs are spread over a small valley. As we drove through the area we saw lots of farming including many apple trees and small but highly productive gardens, most loaded with different types of greens. It was interesting that during our entire trip, we saw many cases of old spreading trees supported with posts decorated to look like trees as well. These were on the grounds of the Chang Ling tomb.

Trees with supports

 

Trees with supports

Trees with supports

Apparently, in addition to nice weather, the first week in October is a good time to visit. The cities are decorated for the national holiday week. We came just at the end of the holiday, so the Chinese people had returned to work, but the flowers were still in place. Lucky us! Throughout the trip, we saw many flowers and special decorations.

Lots of flowers Entrance to Ming Tombs

The primary structure, Hall of Eminent Favor, is most impressive. The structure is wooden, built with colossal 43-ft. cedar columns throughout the interior.

Hall of Eminent Favor

It houses artifacts from one of the tombs and the displays are well done.

Beautiful gallery of presentations

Historical Mural

 

The statue of the Yongle Emperor is massive – reflects his enormous power. He moved the capital to Beijing where he oversaw the construction of the Forbidden City. Note: someone left an orange tarp at the base of the Emperor’s statute –about the only thing that was out of place, in this otherwise beautiful historical monument! 

Yongle Emperor Statue

The threaded gold crown is decorated with two dragons. Also on display is a headpiece worn for many ceremonial occasions and an excellent display on the shipbuilding of the time.

Golden Crown

 
 

Cermonial headpeice - looks like mortarboard to me

Excuse poor photo, replica of really big ship for the 1300s

We did not go into the tomb itself, which is part of an earthen mound behind the ceremonial buildings. There were several displays showing the layout of the grounds. This one shows the layout of the buildings and the mound.

Model of the Ming Tomb Chang Ling

CHINA TRIP – Temple of Heaven/Beijing

18 Oct

CHINA TRIP – Temple of Heaven/Beijing

Note: Unless otherwise indicated the complete photo credit goes to Robert Kurzweil, a fun traveling companion and really good photographer!

The Temple of Heaven was one of our first stops – that is after the delightful two-day trip to China. Day one, Tallahassee to Charlotte and Charlotte to LA (5 hours). The next day LA to Shanghai (15 hours) and then two more hours to Beijing. Up bright and early and off to the Temple of Heaven. Here it is! WOW!

Temple

Temple of Heaven

Another view - photo bnd

 

Our friend Gary at the Temple photo bnd

 

Close up of exterior - photo bnd

 

Interior - photo bnd

 
Temple of Heaven is one of the largest temple complexes in China. Emperors came to the temple to make sacrifices, to pray to heaven and their ancestors. It was completed in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and was off-limits to common people. The scale of the buildings and the size of the courtyards are immense. Clearly, you feel you are in a special place.

Temple of Heaven Complex

 

Another building in the complex

Much of the temple and surrounding buildings were restored prior to the 2008 Olympic Games – providing a great peek into its original painted glory.

 

Detail Painting

 

Detail of ceiling painting

Today, the Temple grounds are open for visitors. There are exhibits relating to the temple and Chinese history in several of the buildings.

Historic Photo - photo/bnd

Beautiful architecture

 

The surrounding park is used every morning by practitioners of Tai Chi.

Garden area - morning Tai Chi - photo bnd

We also saw people playing games – badminton, a toss and catch ping-pong game, and some folks were line dancing while others were doing the jitterbug.

The grounds were beautiful.

Grounds Temple of Heaven/Beijing

Although not in the TAJ – A Trip to China

17 Oct
 

Although not in the TAJ – A trip toChina

We received an invitation from our friends, Suzanne and Gary Adair, to go on an Austin Chamber of Commerce Tour of China. Glen couldn’t go because of school. I debated, debated, debated and finally decided to go on my own. A friend, Aletta, from Tallahassee joined me as a roommate. The trip was exceptional. Let me count the ways:

1) It was $2,000 for the nine-day trip from LA to Shanghai and Beijing. Included airfare, all meals, transportation, 5-Star hotels, tour guide, and admission to all sites (except for 2-3 additional events). It was too cheap to pass up the opportunity.

2) Been hearing rave reviews of Chamber of Commerce Trips.

 3) My ability to climb the Great Wall is probably better now than four years from now when Glen will be fully retired and could go.

 4) What an adventure – opportunity.

 Will share photos and observations of the trip, but first just want to say that for me, the real, “pinch me I am here,” moment was the Great Wall.

First look at the Wall
First peak at the Wall

 Everyone on the bus seemed excited as we neared the parking lot. As soon as we had a glimpse of it, there were audible oohs and aahs, and folks scrambled from the bus to start the climb.

The entrance

The Wall snakes along the steep terrain.

Ah, yes - more stairs

We all had different levels of ability. Three or four people stayed behind and viewed it from a restaurant.

Aletta at the beginning of the climb

A few, including me, could make it up several sets of steep stairs and sloping grades, but not very far.

And, many made it to the top of the nearest peak. It was one of the best moments of the trip.

Something you have seen pictures of, read about and know – but when you actually see it and you are there – it is breathtaking.  

Stunning

 

The locks on the rail are from couples who have married and then taken a lock to the Wall, locked it and tossed the key over the wall — symbolic of their commitment.

 
 

Symbolic Locks - no keys

Our tour guide joked that sometimes you can see men on the hillside below, looking for their key… adding that sometimes it is the women.

Elderly Chinese couple who made it much farther than me

Everyone needs a proof reader/editor

 
 
 
 
 
 

And the trip ends ….

28 Jun
Day-before-yesterday was worth noting. Some good, some not so good

A breakfast of spotted dick with cream.  Spotted what?  A “gag” birthday gift for Glen.  Didn’t have high expectations, but it was tasty – cinnamon, raisins and cake!  Not too healthy, but a real treat. (actually a traditional English desert)

Waited for the rain to stop. Downpour too significant to break camp. Finally did so, despite the rain.  Should have known right then to go back to bed.

The sand at the KOA seemed to crawl up the stairs into the TAJ in measurable amounts. We swept and mopped the floor. The TAJ was tidy for our arrival at the next campground. Everything was set to go. Last run on the final check list: OOPs, door handle out – secured – let’s go!

Like so many days, the drive was stunningly beautiful. We left Wilmington, NY to drive on one of several Adirondack scenic byways (Lakes and Locks) through the Hudson Valley.  One picturesque moment after another.  Note: we have driven very few miles on interstate – and it has been worth it! 

Miles of deep dark forests. Tree trunks blackened by the dampness of the morning rain. Fur, pine , birch trees with an understory of ferns. Mist on the mountains. Creeks, streams, flumes – rivers large and small.

Wonderful waterfalls throughout NY

Then, farmlands.  Rolling hills and valleys. Row-after-row of corn, grain, hay, and freshly plowed or mowed fields. Each farmhouse with a small garden nearby, bursting with promise.  And then, flowers. Day lilies in the ditches, peonies, geraniums, giant  hostas. Color everywhere.  

Typical farms throughout our trip

With each turn in the road, our travel transformed. From farmlands to a small town with streets of historic, two-story homes weathered by harsh cold winters. Each needing a little paint or wood replaced. And, many other beautifully maintained homes each with rich  histories and obvious prosperity.

It was in Crowne Point, NY, that we decided to stop at a local restaurant – Frenchman’s.

As the TAJ pulled into the parking lot there was a noise, like a car screeching to a halt. But then, it really sounded like it was the TAJ. We stopped. We had clipped the restaurant’s sign. It cracked and popped off the door light, ruined an external speaker box, and cracked and scared the external fiberglass skin of the TAJ. We inspected the damage to the sign, which appeared minimal. We went inside for our second breakfast and well, there was just a pall over the moment. The restaurant owner said the sign could be easily fixed, not to worry. We put yellow duct tape over the scars and exposed areas, the rain was still falling.

The damaged speaker and cracked fiberglass

Glen said, “Well, it was a goal of mine to never put a scratch on it.” We were comforted with the notion that once you have the first scratch, then you can relax and not worry so much about it being perfect. Still, there was sadness in the air.

The scar - fiberglass to be repaired

We forged on to the Lake George area. Passed a shop with what looked like great bird houses. Took a nine- mile detour back to the shop. (It is very hard to turn around in the TAJ – but we’ve learned that church parking lots are a great place to do it) Bought two large bird houses. Off again. Spirits lifting.

We arrived at our campground near Albany.  One of our traveling companions was flying home the next morning.  Ready to settle in and relax for the evening.

Opened the door to the TAJ and found all the dishes from the upper cabinet on the floor. (Yes, Virginia, Corelle dishes break.) Second time today, cleaned the floor of the TAJ, this time for glass fragments. Whew! Now time to finish setting up camp and relax.

One empty cabinet

Yes, Virginia, Corelle dished break

Extended the living area “slider” out to the side of the TAJ. POP!  Stunned silence. Then the sickening realization that the slider cable had popped and broken. This is serious. Manuals out.  Flashlights out.  Survey the damage.  Bottom line: TAJ can’t move with the slider out.  Truly a “wide load.”

Hmmmm..... that's a cable.

 

 

Nothing to be done until morning – Sunday. Up at 4 a.m. To airport at 5 a.m. With much sadness, said goodbye to  our friend. (who was glad to bail on us now that the TAJ was disabled) Back to the campground – waited till 8 to see if  the manager had any ideas on who to call for help. Fortunately, Brian, from a local RV repair shop came. After two hours of working on the broken cable, he was able to put a temporary fix on the problem. We would be able to move the slider in for the trip home, but not out for full use.  It was good to have a fix, particularly on a Sunday (we were in a lot that had been rented, so we had to move). 

Looked at a map and decided to make a run to Lexington, KY – where we bought the TAJ — for the warranty work. It isn’t too far out of our way, and we felt like it was the best solution.

Needless to say, the previous blog entry, “no problems so far with TAJ” – well, those days are gone. Tomorrow, we take it to the shop to see what can be done and how long it will take. There may be a trip back to Lexington in our near future. The TAJ may have to stay here for repairs.

There are many wonderful stories to be told about our good times on this trip  – and I will post some of them soon.

Actually we have decided to get rid of the TAJ and live in a windmill – here is a pix of us going down the road

Traded in TAJ - Living in a windmill now - see how we tow it?

RAIN: PIP. POP. PLIP-PLOP.

24 Jun

RAIN: PIP. POP.  PLIP-PLOP

This afternoon, the rain is plopping on the roof – PIP.  POP.  PLIP-PLOP, as I decide what to share of our latest adventure in the TAJ MyHaul.  The rest of the crew is napping.

We are in the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain KOA Campground in the Adirondack Mountains, New York.  It is an 56 acre park, built 35 years ago and can accomodate 250 campers of all stripes. It won KOA and Woodall’s Awards last year as being an excellent campground. It is. We are struck by how well maintained and well thought-out it is for every camper’s needs.

The park is nearly empty. Everywhere we go we are warned that, starting next week, it will change. Seems like, early June is a good time to travel. We’ve had the road and campgrounds to ourselves.

TAJMyHaul all alone

Crystal clear pool

It is about 60 degrees this afternoon. Frankly, it is hard to remember the unrelenting heat back home, although the occasional email from friends reminds me. And, I know it will only be a matter of days before we leave and re-enter the hot and sultry south.

Fortunately, so far, the TAJ MyHaul and big truck have performed well.  At least until yesterday afternoon when I really wanted to ask, “Where is the camera?” The truck and TAJ were crossways to the entrance of the park and nearly wrapped around a light post, small planter and a boulder-size rock threatening to rip the jack from the underside of the trailer if the TAJ moved one inch forward or backward. Needless to say, I didn’t ask for the camera and assisted as best I could under a difficult situation.   Thankfully, a few minutes later we laughed, sipped a beer by the campfire and recounted the close call.

I will be posting more on our trip soon – until then, hang on, because we are trying to hitch this nice rain and 60 degree weather to the tail of the TAJ and bring it home.

The Ausable River runs through the camp

The Kentucky Woman

18 Apr
TAJ  12-10

TAJ at end of long row of rigs

 

Our first, short trip was to a small trailer park on the Gulf coast. Big rigs crowded into tiny spaces — seemed like a little gypsy camp invaded by 21st Century motor homes.

I walked through the park and met a soft spoken couple loading their car for a day trip to see manatees. They were enjoying their motor home, but were disappointed by more repairs than anticipated. In fact, something was broken at every stop along their way from Wisconsin to Florida.

Suddenly, a woman barreled around the rear of their RV shouting, “How much did they soak you for? They took me for more than $400!” According to her, the RV repairman’s steep charges were outrageous! Reluctantly, the Wisconsin couple confessed – this time the service call was about $200, a little less than some of the other repairs. Hardly hearing the answer, the woman went on to tell of the horrors of being a repair service victim and asked, “What can you do?”

Then, without taking a breath, she turned and introduced herself to me, “I’m from Kentucky, how long are you here for?” I said, “Just a few days.” This prompted more on the repairs and then how some years they go to Texas and sometimes to Florida. This time, they’d be here for three months. Silently, in the background, the Wisconsin couple finished loading the cooler and chairs and slipped away.

The Kentucky woman continued telling me about her “camping” experiences including their “septic incident.” Currently, they have a 5th Wheeler, but were considering a motor home. Apparently, it’s common for campers to own a series of rigs, each one bigger than the last. Just then, my husband joined us. I explained that I had recently retired and our travel trailer was new. She asked if he was retired and I said, “No, he is still working. He’s is five years younger than me and still has to work.”

“Well,” she asked him loudly, “would you rather be an old woman’s darlin’? Or a young woman’s slave?!”

Before he could begin to answer, she darted off as quickly as she came, saying, “Got a pot roast in the slow cooker, see you around.”

I knew then that me and my darlin’ would have to blog.

Glen holding up plates of salmon

Salmon - cooked to perfection - by darlin!

 

My darlin’ also cooks.

Finally, here are a few photos of the view from the “little gypsy camp”

Stillness

 

mirror image

reflections

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
chairs on the dock

Waiting . . .

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Day's end

Days end.