Friday, May 31, 2013

Pilot Mountain State Park, NC…

Pilot Mt State Park 011

Pilot Mt State Park 017Well for our last day here in the state of North Carolina we took the short drive south in the CRV over to the 3,703-acre Pilot Mountain State Park. After reading the web site it appeared that the best time to go to this state park was any day but on a weekend or holiday since it is a very popular park. After about a fifteen minute drive we turned off the highway and entered the park. There is a short drive up the mountain to the parking lot for hikers. A steep and winding road in thick lush vegetation finally opens up near the summit.

The park has several good hiking trails and it known as a favorite spot for local rock climbers. Not a giant mountain but it does rise to a summit of 2,421 feet above the rolling plains. Pilot Pilot Mt State Park 008Mountain was known well by the Saura Indians as "Jomeokee" since it served as a landmark for the Native Americans as well as early pioneer travelers. Geologically Pilot Mountain is known as a quartzite monadnock.

Most of the trails are easy to moderate and you can even start at the bottom of the mountain and hike a 3.5 mile trail to the top. However after reading reviews about this trail saying hiking up would feel more like hiking six miles we chose not to do this one. Afterall we would also have to hike back down… We Pilot Mt State Park 002chose instead to do the shorter Jomeokee Trail which was an easy to moderate trail that circles around Pilot Mountain's Big Pinnacle. On the way to this trail there are several overlooks that allowing for spectacular panoramic views over the vast valleys below.

As we approached the Big Pinnacle we noticed several Turkey Vultures riding the drafts upward off the face of the cliffs. Probably a great spot to watch for migrating raptors as well. The 8/10 mile hike the knob of Pilot Mountain was a fun hike as we were treated to many angled views of the cliffs in all type of lighting providing many opportunities to try out some creative photography. I mentioned a while back about a plant I kept running into and couldn’t identify. Well I finally figured it out as it is fairly common, the plant is called Sourwood, now I will never forget it. We also saw flowering Mountain Laurels and the small Catawba trees.

Pilot Mt State Park 028            Pilot Mt State Park 020

After the hike we heading back into the town of Mayberry for one last stroll through town. A nice place to visit after a long day is the Old North State Winery`. The wines here are okay but what I liked was the sampler of beers brewed by Foothills Brewery. A sampler of four beers was only three bucks and I was able to try a Pilsner, a Pale Ale, an India Pale Ale and a Porter. I liked all four of these which is not usually the case. Next time through the Carolinas I will have to try and stop by their brewery.

Our time here has come to a close as we packed up and left Thursday morning and headed to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to visit dear friends for a few days on our way to Niagara Falls...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mt. Airy NC…

Mt Airy NC 006

Mt Airy NC 007The short drive northwestward from Raleigh was uneventful which is great considering we got towed the last time we tried to leave a campground and lost about 300 buckaroos. Fortunately for us our coolant level remained unchanged throughout the trip and shows no signs of leakage anywhere anymore. Thank goodness! We are now camped in Mayberry Campground near the town of Mt. Airy, NC.

Mt Airy NC 001What is the significance of this town? Mt. Airy, NC is the birthplace of former singer/actor Andy Griffith. Mt Airy itself was apparently the model for the fabricated Hollywood town of Mayberry R.F.D. that sheriff Andy Taylor “Griffith” patrolled. Along with characters such as the beloved Aunt Bee, Floyd the barber and his late mechanic sidekick Goober there are a lot of similarities between Mt.Airy and Mayberry. Upon walking down Main Street we made our way to the visitor center to pick up a map outlining points of interest.  We passed a replica of Floyd's Barber Shop, several souvenir shops and quaint Mayberry themed eateries.  We were amazed at the extremely reasonable prices for the food as that in itself began to impart the feeling of stepping back in time.Adding to that feeling was a sighting of a replica of Sherriff Andy's car coming up Main Street along with hearing the theme music from the show wafting out from one of the shops. WeMt Airy NC 003 found ourselves smiling and whistling along with the show tune.

Other points of interest included Andy Griffith's childhood home, the Andy Griffith Museum, a replica of Wally's Service Station complete with vintage trucks, gas pumps and Coca Cola refrigerators we remembered from our own childhoods. The whole town was very friendly and we now understand why it is such a popular stop. It is a really happy place but go early because they roll up the sidewalks by six!

Mt Airy NC 009We also remembered in Mayberry the characters often referred to a place called Mount Pilot of which nearby Pilot Mountain State Park likely was its inspiration. So after a tour of the town of Mt. Airy our plan for the next day was to go off to Pilot Mountain State Park which is about 25 miles northwest of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and just south of here. Pilot Mountain State Park's signature landmark is that it is the westernmost peak in the Sauratown Range. This looked to be a great little afternoon hike with purported awesome views but it was not to happen.

Mt Airy NC 011Some family business took precedence and as a result we spent most of the afternoon chasing around the chores that had to be done that day. Not the way we preferred to spend a day but sometimes even those of us that are retired are called upon to help family members in need. So although we spent most of the afternoon on Tuesday chasing answers, by about 3:30 PM we had solved all the unknowns and our family mini crisis was averted…. yeah for us! And after all there is always our last full day in Mt Airy to take that anticipated scenic hike......

Monday, May 27, 2013

Carolina Brewing Company and the Morgan Horse Show…

GristmillBess Beetle and Sweetgum fruitStaying a little longer in this area gave us the opportunity to see Katie one last time before leaving, She came to the Fairgrounds to spend one night with us. How lucky we were that the Fairgrounds happened to be hosting the Southern States Regional Morgan Horse Show. We had never been to a show of this type. The Morgan is a breed of horse which is said to be “easily recognized by his proud carriage, upright graceful neck, and distinctive head with expressive eyes”.

We walked all around the Hunt Horse Complex at the Fairgrounds and took in the sights. We saw lots of proud owners of these fine horses displaying their colorful Ribbons at Horse Eventstable banners and winner's ribbons.  Nearly all the stalls had these displays as well as several directors chairs encircling each of the stalls apparently for friends and family.  In one arena we saw the lost art of Dressage.  As I can best tell Dressage is a style of horse riding intended to create a better horse and rider through the use of structure. We were also able to watch many adult and elderly carriage riders dressed in time period clothing as they rode their carriages around the complex in their own special competition. We had fun watching and trying to understand these new events (for us) and were sure glad we stumbled upon it.

Carriage RiderThe next morning we headed south as we were planning to spend one last night with Katie and her roommate Heather at their home. But the plan was to leave early enough so we could attend the Saturday only touring of the Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs, North Carolina. They give tours once a week on Saturdays and the tour started at 1:00pm. Katie's roomie was to meet us there so we would all enjoy the tour.

Carolina BreweryNow this Brewery has a really neat story in that there are only 5 employees with four of them being partners of the business. The original partners were apparently friends at college and got the brewery idea while living in Seattle Washington. Joe, one of the partners, led our tour this Saturday and we asked where he had gone to college.  Interestingly he told us he had attended Cornell University in On TapIthaca NY.  Upon entering the brewery we all were given a pint glass and instructed to go in the back of the brewery prior to the tour to receive a sample of beer. Wow! A PINT sample of a beer! My first sample was of their Carolina India Pale Ale which was very good and very hoppy just the way I like the India Pale Ales. Sharon and the girls all tried a Carolina Summer Ale which I of course tasted and I too found this to be a very nice and pleasing seasonal Ale.

Joe then started the tour by telling the rather large touring crowd about how the beer is brewed and how they focus on keeping things simple at this brewery. I would hope so since just the five of them are brewing about a 50/50 mix of bottles and kegs year round and distribute their product is only distributed very locally in Central imageNorth Carolina. During the interesting tour there were lots of great questions that gave us a better insight into their operations. I mean a four batch stainless steel holding vat cost upwards of $50,000 bucks! Yikes this is not a business for the faint of heart…

After the tour we were surprised at the invitation to enjoy more PINT samples… So between the four of us we tried their Carolina Pale Ale, their Carolina Winter Porter, and their Carolina Nut Brown Ale. Not being able to sample any more beers and still leave the place we visited the front store and bought a six of their Carolina Nut Brown Ale which was a favorite of the girls and one I also thought was quite Historic Farm, Horses and Carolina Brewery 066nicely produced. We were amazed at this little operation that is only run by five people and feel this is a tour not to be missed when in this area!

Joe said you may never have heard of the Carolina Brewing Company because they do no advertising and he said they would rather give away pint samples at their tour instead of pay for a large billboard along the interstate… and did I say the tour is FREE… an RV’ers dream event! With a motto like “All it takes is a liver and a dream” how can one go wrong…

And so ends our stay at the Fairgrounds in Raleigh as we will travel to Mount Airy today and see if we can find the home of Mayberry R.F.D.…

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University, NC…

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 222

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 207We feel no trip to this part of the state of North Carolina is complete without a visit to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The gardens are composed of approximately 55 acres of beautifully landscaped and native vegetated woods near Duke University. There are nearly five miles pathways throughout these splendid gardens where every turn is a photogenic opportunity.

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 227The Gardens are a memorial to Sarah P. Duke, wife of Benjamin N. Duke who was one of Duke University's early benefactors. What a grand gift to give to a remarkable University for all to cherish in the years to come. There is pay parking near the main entrance and there is some nearby free roadside parking but it is rather scarce. There is free parking in the paid lot before noon on Sundays and after 5pm which is nice since they charge $1 per half hour to park during the peak times.

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 223With the park divided into at least four sub-gardens it takes spending the best part of an afternoon exploring what each one has to offer. My two favorite gardens are the Oriental Arboretum and the Native Garden. The native garden gave me the opportunity to identify many of the trees and shrubs I have seen in the nearby forests since many of them are labeled. One particular plant I have been wondering about was all over the gardens but I never once was able to see one identified. I guess I will simply have to figure it out on my own before we leave the Carolinas.

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 206The Oriental Arboretum not only has many different tree species but there are some simple art pieces and a very picturesque red bridge that make sitting on benches in this part of the gardens very appealing. Watching the ducks and geese swim around is also very entertaining as there were many baby ducks this time of the year.

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 208      Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 217

Duke Gardens and Chapel Hill 228By extending our stay here at the fairgrounds we were able to have a place to stay during the very busy Memorial Day Weekend. It also meant we will be able to see our daughter one more time before we leave. We have finally made some tentative plans to go to Mount Airy NC next and then to the Shenandoah Valley after that. We will leave the Fairgrounds on Monday and start the trek north .....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

NC State and Pullen Park…

NC State scenery

Pullen Park Raleigh NCWow we find ourselves wondering when the rain will stop in this neck of the woods. I shouldn’t complain considering how hard the Oklahoma area was hit and you can bet our hearts go out to those in distress there. I called my sister who lives in north Texas near Ringgold, Tx where the first tornado touched down albeit for a brief moment before heading into Oklahoma… Everyone there in the small town of Henrietta, Texas are fine but they too are concerned for the families Pullen Park Caraoselimpacted by that very nasty twister.

Well between rain events we try and get out and about to continue our exploration of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. We have now visited all the universities in this triangle and were able to visit a nice park near the North Carolina State University yesterday.

Pullen Park is a family friendly park that has been added to the National Register of Historic Places since it was founded in 1887. It is a small but very nice park to take a stroll in and it has a 1921 Dentzel carousel near its center. This carousel features more than 50 hand carved and hand painted animals and only charges a single buck for the kiddos to ride. That along with a one buck miniature train ride in this park make it a kids dream. We enjoyed our walk around the park and also liked its proximity to the NC State campus.NC State and local park 008NC State 2

After exploring the park it was a short walk to the University where we enjoyed a stroll through the center of yet another major University offering its gems to us in exchange for absolutely nothing… It is the energy emanating from these NC State and local park 009Universities and Colleges that are our fountain of youth! It always makes us feel so energized after spending some time in one of our nations Institutions of Higher Learning… But alas the rain and thunder and lightening came once again so we headed back to the RV park when we suddenly realized it was Tuesday… Why was Tuesday so special? Well our favorite little pub, Buffalo Brothers, has a great happy hour on Tuesday where any draft beer is only $2.75 US! A great opportunity to try some new IPA’s that were normally priced from $4.50 to $5.50 US. I was able to sample a few new IPA’s while we also enjoyed half priced appetizers… Yeah, our life is pretty sad isn’t it???

So hopefully we will get some sunshine and clearing between rain events giving us the opportunity to go out and visit a few more parks we have read about near Raleigh that we haven't been able to explore yet… So from here we will likely head towards Roanoke, Virginia next and then on to the Shenandoah Valley where we had an enjoyable stay a few years ago when we were in this area.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Waiting for the Rain to Stop in Raleigh…

Baby Canada Geese

Raleigh NC 013We have been enjoying the Raleigh area once again as we stayed here a couple of years ago.. We have been revisiting some of our favorite places in town and nearby such as the Duke Gardens and the town of Carrboro. Most of the photos today are from our visits to William B Umstead State Park where there is no admission to enter. We had a lunch and afternoon visit with Sharon's Aunt Frances who lives in Raleigh and were fortunate enough William B Umstead State Parkto see our daughter and her roommate who both came up for a weekend visit. Now we need to start been planning where we may want to go next.

Our initial plans were to go along the outer banks of North Carolina but the early chilly weather compounded with my concern about our disappearing coolant mystery has me wanting to stay closer to the bigger towns and cities in case we need to be towed again. Why you may ask? Well Good Sam’s roadside assistance will only tow you to the nearest facility that will agree to work on your RV and if you want your RV towed anywhere else you have to pay the difference.

Swallowtail ButterflyWe learned this with our experience in Carthage, NC because when arranging the tow I  had asked to be towed to H&H Trucking since Cummins recommended them as the closest authorized dealer. However when calling Good Sam’s they said that many other places closer may be able to read the engine fault code since the software to do so was readily available. Fortunately for us though no other dealer closer than H&H (which is south of Fayetteville) had the software so were towed to H&H after all. We figure we may not be so lucky should it happen again out in the boonies along the coastline.

SkinkAs a result that leaves us looking at the interior of NC and Virginia. We do plan to make a stop at our friend's place in the Shenandoah Valley if that works out before going for our mini vacation in Niagara Falls so at least we have a target to shoot for. We originally planned to leave Raleigh today but the weather calls for rain over the Black Racers matingnext two to four days so we will extend our stay here at the Raleigh Fairgrounds for a bit longer since it looks like it would be raining wherever we went. Besides we have lots of laundry to do anyhow…

So hopefully we will get some sunshine and clearing between rain events giving us the opportunity to go out and visit a few more parks we have read about near Raleigh that we haven't been able to explore yet…

Friday, May 17, 2013

Having the RV towed… Yikes!


imageMonday morning came and it was time to move from our Carthage, NC location north to the Raleigh Fairgrounds for a weeklong stay. SO we went through our normal moving day routine… breakfast and coffee followed by the necessary litany of things to be tied down and secured for the travel day. After all was secured we pulled in the slides and retracted the levelers and were ready to go…. or were we?

I noticed the check engine light seemed to stay on but thought that as the motorhome warmed up a bit it would go out. So I backed out of our site and attached our CRV to our roadmaster hitch. I fired up the motorhome once more and the check engine remained on as did the shut engine off light… SIGHHHHHH! Looks like we are in for a delay. A call to the Help Freightliner 1-800 line confirmed my worries… we were going to have to get Abbey towed into a dealer who could diagnose the failed engine code which only read “01”.

Raleigh NC 001We have always depended on our insurance coverage with roadside assistance to take care of any of our roadside issues… that is until we had the the tire issue when we were in South Carolina. It was then and there that I decided a little additional coverage wouldn’t hurt and we signed up for a year of Roadside Coverage with Good Sam’s. Serendipity at its best… A call to Good Sam’s roadside assistance and we were assured that a tow truck would be at our location in about two hours. Remember we are down a very narrow dirt road in the boonies of NC.

Well the two hour wait turned into a 4.5 hour wait as the tow truck driver became lost and couldn’t find the park. Can you believe that this day and age that a tow truck driver doesn’t have a GPS???? Well this one didn’t but he lifted our front wheels up and detached our drive shaft (required for towing a FRED) and we were off for a 50 mile jaunt to H&H Trucking in Hope Mills, NC just south of Fayetteville, NC.\

Raleigh NC 003It was a little sketchy getting down the dirt road but this driver was a trooper and did an excellent job of avoiding any unnecessary damage to Abbey as she followed in tow. But then what does the driver do? Turn out the wrong direction of course… SO we passed him and had him follow us to the road where we knew a good spot to turn around this 75 foot long unit! Once we were on the black top and pointed the right direction we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Following your motorhome down the road while it is being towed is a bit disconcerting especially when you are watching your driver get the tires over the white line into oncoming traffic or very, very close to the edge of the road and the grass along the side… Sigh… After what seemed to be an eternity we arrived at the freightliner shop around 6:30 some 7 hours after we first made our call to Good Sam’s. Probably longer than it should have taken but not Good Sam’s fault.

Raleigh NC 004H&H is open till midnight but they didn’t think they would be able to check out Abbey’s fault code till the morning so fortunately for us we were only an hour’s drive from our daughter’s apartment. We stayed at her place where we hoped we didn’t impose too much on her roomies and planned to return to H&H that next morning. A call to H&H around 10:30 yielded little info as they hadn’t gotten to Abbey yet. A later call yielded unwanted information as the only thing they knew was that it was a coolant issue and that all five gallons of it were gone! Where could it have gone? We just had it pressure checked and topped off at Gaffney, SC! Hmmmm, it makes one wonder if someone dropped the ball there and didn’t top it off don't you think???

Anyway H&H said they needed more time to check it out. They pressurized the coolant system and found no leaks, they removed the EGR and verified that it functioned properly, check the oil and transmission for any unwanted water in the system. The conclusion after 4.5 hours of shop labor… they have no idea where the coolant went and they felt pretty sure there is no leak in our system.  . So after the drive down to Hope Mills to pay the bill and take Abbey to Raleigh we are certainly hopeful the coolant doesn’t “disappear” again!


H&H did remove the mandatory $90 initial shop fee and took off 1.5 hours of labor since they were unable to solve this dilemma however they did warn us to be vigilant and watch our coolant levels closely. The big lesson learned from this experience for us was, when getting our annual maintenance, even at a highly respected facility, we will ALWAYS check all our fluid levels before leaving. We still don’t know what really happened and can only hope it doesn’t happen again…

So for now we are settled into our site at the Raleigh Fairgrounds and at least we didn’t lose any coolant on the trip up here…

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A day in Fayetteville, NC…


100_2486As our days were rapidly winding down in Carthage NC we had one more day trip to complete before heading to Raleigh to stay. This last day trip took us a little less than an hour away to the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Sharon made us a list of things to see and do in town that were free.

Our first stop was to the Fayetteville Farmers Market where as we had suspected it would still be a little too early in the season with all this cool weather for much availability of fresh produce. It did turn out to be too early in the season but we strolled by the Artisan Booths to 100_2490see the local offerings. And since the farmer’s market was right next to the free Transportation Museum we took advantage of the situation to pay it a visit. As it turned out it was a small but nice museum located on what was once the Southern Railway Company's largest steam locomotive servicing facility and had opened in 1983. It was filled with interesting artifacts and information not only from the transportation industry but of the Civil War, and Fayetteville history.

100_2522Our second stop was as the Airborne and Special Operations Museum where at the entrance was a large impressive statue of Iron Mike honoring Major General Michael D. Healy who served five and a half tours, leading the 5th Special Forces group for almost 20 months, and earning him his first Distinguished Service Medal. The museum itself is well laid out and took us through time with some really cool exhibits and interesting artifacts.  Movie times are posted and there is a section where for a fee one can experience in a simulator what it feels like to 100_2520parachute from a plane. Sharon's fear of heights made her want to pass on that experience.  This is a great stop for those interested in learning more about the fine men and women who risk their lives for all of us in protecting our freedoms…

Next up for us was a long hike along the Cape Fear River Trail a nearly four mile, one- way hike and bike trail along the Cape Fear River. Boasting over 700 species of plants and trees, and 150 species of birds the River Trail offers up a pleasant hike to take in what mother nature's offerings in this neck of the woods. While entering the trail we were greeted with several brown thrashers thrashing around leaves. One was even kind enough to stay still for me as I was able to capture it in a picture. This was a rather hilly but very enjoyable hike.

Brown ThrasherKalmia latifolia - Mt Laurel

Our final tour stop was at Fort Bragg  as civilians are allowed to visit this military base that is home to our nation’s Airborne and Special Operations personnel. Visitors are encouraged to visit and all it took was for us was a quick stop to show the gate guard a valid form of identification and vehicle registration.  It was then necessary to open all the doors and trunk to allow them to inspect the car.  It took no time at all and the gate guard was friendly and professional. We then followed a driving tour we printed off the internet to tour the base. We also stopped at the 82nd Airborne Division Museum to see some more information and exhibits about our military forces stationed at this base.


medal of honorA pleasant end to the day was a surprise call from our daughter who wanted to meet us in Fayetteville and buy dinner to honor Sharon for Mother's Day.  A great meal with fun conversation was a perfect way to round out the day.

We found that a lot can be seen and experienced for free in the city of Fayetteville NC. Returning back to Carthage we had dinner and began the task of packing up for our journey to our next destination of Raleigh NC which as the next blog will tell didn’t start off so well…