Thursday, May 12, 2022

Sisters On The Fly Reunion

 If things are not going well, just wait it out, things will change.  

I last wrote to you when I was at Bald Ridge Creek Campground in Cumming, GA Northeast of Atlanta.  It was a very nice campground and it wasn't far to get to an Anytime Fitness to start working on getting my straight posture back.

I had mentioned there were lots of children at the campground.  It was energizing to see them running, playing, riding, and swimming.

A woman walked up to get a closer look at Lilac.  

Gabriella lives nearby in Cumming and when I asked about all the children, she said that she was part of a group of parents with children in a Catholic School.   The group has a camping outing at this campground twice a year.  The children attend school two days a week and are home schooled three days a week.

She said that she has four children.  She told me there were families there with nine children and seven children.  

I told her it was a delight to see active slim children running and playing for hours.  

She told me that they never had an outbreak of COVID in the school.  They had never had to shut down after the initial shutdown period in March of 2020.  That parents kept the children home when they were the least bit sick and because they only meet twice a week it reduced the chances of infection.

She said her husband and she had just bought a Sol trailer.  I told her I had looked at it with interest on my walk around the campground.  She invited me to come take a look.  So I did.  It was very nice, but too big and too much for just me.  I did like the big window around the dinette and the outdoor kitchen stuff.

I asked Gabrielle about hiking in the area and she told me to go to Sawnee Mountain.

I was glad I didn't have to leave on Sunday.  As the campground emptied as check-out time approached, the trailers lined up at the dump station.  

Speaking of ... dump stations...  I did a boo boo.  I pulled in on the first day and there was electric and water and a pipe that had a blue flat lid laying on top of it.  I emptied my toilet into what I thought was the sewer.  But later that first night I walked around the campground and saw that not one trailer was hooked up to their pvc pipe with the blue lid.  Oh oh, what did I do?

I called Debra.  She said to go to the guard station and ask.  I was a chicken, buk buk, and never did ask.  I was afraid I had contaminated the water source.  Maybe they would kick me out for doing something so destructive.  Another person I called said that they wouldn't make it so easy to contaminate the water supply.   

I then thought that maybe it was an old septic system that they don't keep up so don't offer it anymore.  I don't know.  If someone knows, please tell me so the mystery will be solved.  And maybe, just maybe, my boo boo with the poo poo was no big deal.

I tried to start a fire after I wrote you last time.  I used a lot of fire starter and twigs, but the wood I bought didn't stay lit.  I failed my campfire girl test.

I drove to Sawnee Mountain.  After I parked I saw that I really need to get a better handle on where the tires and edges of Big Blue are located.

There were several trails.  I took the long one up to Indian Seat.  Up up up, it felt good to work.  I used my walking sticks and they kept me from falling down a couple times when my toe caught on a rock or root.

At the top I guess we could see several states, but I didn't look at the kiosk.  There were a lot of people standing in front of it studying it and the vista.

On the way down I went into the Fairy Trail that was created by a girl scout troop.  

It kind of was junk and toys placed along side the trail in places.  
As I headed back to the parking lot I passed the nature center and I heard a buzzing.  Lots of buzzing.  I searched for a bee hive.  There was no hive but the tree branches above me were covered in little white blooms and the bees were loving it.  The lovely fragrance followed me to the parking lot.

In my last blog post I had some pictures of the safety chain on my trailer.  My friend Bill emailed me with a warning.  The cable going to the brake activator was too loose and wrapped around things.  I re-wove it through the chain and unwrapped it from around the jack.  This until I can come up with something better.

On May 9th I packed up again for travel.  It was neater.

I had enjoyed this place and I was looking forward to my next place.  Derry and Susanne are two Sisters on the Fly from Virginia.  I had camped out with them last fall in Virginia at a Sister camping event.  We had fun together, so when I made plans to ride the Virginia Creeper I contacted them.  They both said yes to meeting up!

The campground that I chose was in Sugar Hollow Park in Bristol, Virginia.  Bristol sits on the border and the Tennessee/Virginia border goes right down the middle of State Street.  I hope to get over to State Street tomorrow night.  It will be a Friday and there may be music in the downtown area.

It was quite a hill up to the campground.  Big Blue did her job well and without complaint.  I backed the trailer in just fine and didn't even have to prop up a wheel.  It was level right away.

Once camp was set up I called the local Ford Dealer to see if they could look at Big Blue while I was in town.  Remember I was getting an alert that my trailer wasn't hitched when it was.  I was so happy to hear they could get me in first thing the next morning!  Yay!

The campground is lovely.  I really think Regis and Cindy would love it.  It has hiking trails, and each morning I am serenaded by either wood thrush or hermit thrush.  Their song is one of my favorites with the flute-like two note quality.  

And a big plus, lots of space and shade for only $20 a night!  It is right at the edge of town, so it is less than two miles to the Anytime Fitness.

After I was all set up with the trailer, I went to set up my outdoor sink.  There is a label that says the water isn't intended for drinking.  I walked around and I couldn't find the label on any of the other water connections.

The next morning I called before my appointment to make sure I didn't have to bring Lilac along.  That would have taken time to get her travel ready again.  I was relieved that they didn't need my trailer.

It turned out to be a loose connector on the Ford.  They replaced it.  I have not tested out the new connector yet.  I will be hooking up again on Saturday.

Susanne and Dee were staying at a different campground with a higher price ($50?) and no shade.  But it was close to Damascus, Virginia and right by the Virginia Creeper Trail and Appalachian Trail.  Dee said, "It isn't about the campground, it is about the location."

Right after my Ford appointment I headed over to visit with them.

What a wonderful time we had.

Susanne had a new camper, a Cassita.  George and I looked and lusted after Cassitas.  I still would like one... kind of.  But they don't come with a single bed.  She gave me a tour.  It is very nice.  She bought it used for the price that the brand new Cassitas were selling for when George and I were looking in 2010 or so.

We went for a hike on the AT.  Up up up we climbed for 1/2 an hour.  

Then we sat around a bit.  I noticed how we could sit surrounded by trees and bushes and we weren't getting bit by flies or mosquitoes.  This was Devine!

Dee saw a tick and I realized I had not sprayed myself before entering the woods.  I told them about the tick bite on my ribs that still hadn't healed.  Dee told me to get the treatment for Lymes Disease as a preventative measure.  She said the symptoms may not show up for a long time, but it is better to endure the treatment than to get the long-term symptoms of Lyme. 

Dee had trail stories to tell.  She once hiked and camped 10 days on the trail.  She slept in shelters next to other hikers.  One of them turned out to be wanted by the FBI for embezzlement.

Then we walked back down down down.  We stepped aside as a few loaded hikers were on their way up.

We walked into town then to check it out and discovered the town of Damacus was getting ready for their annual trail days festival.  There are several trails that come through Damascus or nearby, not just the Virginia Creeper and the Appalachian Trails.  It was getting warm, we cooled off our feet in the clear rushing water of the river.

We saw men with beards and packs, we saw a man in a kilt, a couple of hikers with a goat.

Back at their campground the only shade was that cast by Dee's tall Nissan van.

They put together a great meal.  I had nothing to contribute.  I had not planned ahead for meals.

After dinner I had to rush back to Sugar Hollow campground because the park closes at 8:00.  I wasn't sure I could get in after 8:00.  I pulled in at 7:55.

The next day we took a shuttle to White Top which is way up a mountain.  Then we pretty much coasted through the most beautiful areas on the Virginia Creeper Trail.  The surface is quite rough on this part of the trail, sometimes ruts and sometimes big rocks dotted the surface of the trail.  I think it was 17 miles.  More miles than Dee and Susanne are used to doing on a bicycle.

There were lots of bridges.  The shuttle owner said their were over 30 just on that part of the trail.

I had packed up food so that I could take a turn feeding us.  I used my instant pot to make a quick pot of chili that we used on tortillas with cheese.

Then we took the dogs for a walk through town.

I had such a wonderful time again with Susanne and Dee!  They are both very kind and giving.  Susanne just retired from the police force.  Dee used to be a veterinarian.  Now she really loves building things.  She built all the cabinetry in her van and put in all the electric/solar.  They are both an inspiration to me.

I thanked them profusely for joining me.  After the stress of buying the new truck, this is just what I needed to put my head back in the right place.  Loving nature and life and people.

After saying goodbyes and talking about where we might meet up again, I left for home.

I got back to Sugar Hollow before seven this time, so I took a walk on some of the trails.  At one point I had to use Googlemaps to find my way back.

By my campsite I saw these interesting plants.  They kind of look like a succulent.  I am sure my friend Ann knows what they are.

I had two more days in the area!  Yay!  I wanted to do the other end of the trail, from Abingdon to Damascus.

This end of the trail was different, the surface smoother, the incline not as steep.  It was pretty in a different way.

The trail goes through private farm land.  I had a couple gates to go through.

My phone rang just as I was passing some cows and calves on the other side of a fence from the trail.

The cows watched me, but some even laid down while I stood there talking.  A couple of calves were playing adult games (humping) while I chatted.

It was Amy Spadafore in Ohio!  She had biked with me in Florida this winter.  She was trying to get some fellow Ohio trike-riders to join us for some rides next week.  We set up a place to meet to ride a trail near Chilicothe, Ohio.

We are also planning a three-day ride where we stay in a motel from Yellow Springs, Ohio through Dayton and beyond.  It should be a great time.

When I arrived in Damascus I called Susanne.  She was going to spend an extra day at the campground.  It turns out she was just a few hundred feet from me, walking her dog!  She joined me as I went to get ice cream.

As we were sitting outside the ice cream place, four people pulled up riding electric assist bicycles like we were talking about wanting to get next.

Two of the people were a young girl and her mother.  Susanne is so good at being friendly with strangers.  She picked up a conversation with them and we chatted for quite a long time.  It was so enjoyable!  Thank you Susanne for another fun time in Damascus!

I have another day here before I head to Ohio!  I have choices.

"Don't miss Grayson Highlands," people tell me.  It is a mountainous area with wild horses.   It is about 1.5 hours from here on very winding roads.

"You shouldn't miss State Street in Bristol," said the woman at the visitors' center.  It should have music on Friday afternoon or evening.

I really should figure out a better way to pack my bicycle in the back of the truck.  It is supposed to rain in the afternoon so I should probably pack up the outside stuff before I go anywhere.

I read this during these days of changing attitude, "Sometimes you have to take a chance on something.  You never know how many doors will open after that."  This quote was in a Coolworks newsletter.  I was reading about working on a National Geographic Ship in Alaska.  Ha ha.  How adventurous am I?

The very good thing is, I have choices.  

That is what I wish for you.  May you find that in your life you too have choices and that you are happy with the ones you choose.  

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Rough Nomad Start

Regret is useless.  So, I push it away when it rears its ugly head.  I keep envisioning a waterfall.  I can't hold out my hand and stop it.  I certainly can't reverse it.  Instead, I push through, I learn, I go forward.


I was nervous going to the DMV.  Though there are thousands of people living as Nomads in this country, and all of those that drive themselves around the country need a Driver's License.  That is what I was telling myself.  Some of them live in tents, right?  So living in a trailer that is registered as a utility trailer shouldn't be a problem.

I called Connie, who has been living in her van until recently.  She is the one who directed me to Green Cover Springs for mail service and to establish my address in Florida.  She reassured me that the folks at the DMV were very knowledgeable.  Thousands of nomads make Green Cove Springs their address.  They know how to do this.  She didn't need an appointment when she did it, pre-covid.  I was comforted by Connie's words, and still nervous.

I had to drive 96 miles back to Green Cove Springs on my second visit because I showed up the first time while camped nearby without an appointment.  

I didn't bring my mask in with me.  

The woman who waited on me was sniffing the whole time and rubbing her nose.  There was a short plastic partition between us, I kept stepping back away from the window.

She asked for the registration on my trailer.  I handed it to her.  She looked at it and stopped.  "Ummm, this isn't an RV," she said.  

"I know, they registered it as a utility trailer because it is so light.  But it has insulation and windows and electric in it," I told her.

She shook her head, "This won't do."

"What do you mean?  I am doing it.  What do people do that live in their tents?  They still need an ID or driver's license."

She went to speak with another clerk that was clearly more knowledgeable than Sniffing Clerk.

The more experienced clerk said that they had to change the registration of Lilac to be an RV.  OK!

"I need to see the vin number," says Miss Sniffy.

"It's there on the registration," I say.

"No, I physically have to go out and see the vin number.  Do you have the trailer here?"  Miss Sniffy asks.

"No, It is 96 miles away!  I had it here the last time I came."  I was really worried now.  Were they going to make me pull camp and bring Lilac over?

The more experienced clerk told Miss Sniffy she didn't need to see and verify the VIN because it was already registered.

I relaxed a bit and stepped away from the window a few feet.

It took about 45 minutes of me pacing back and forth in front of her window.  I finally got my new driver's license.  My DL address is now the license plate on Lilac, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043.  My smile looks a bit tight, don't you think?

I hate shopping!

On my return from the DMV, my van broke down when I pulled into the campground entrance.  So I am at the Suwannee Bicycle Association's annual Pedal and Paddle Event.  My next door neighbors, Mari and Jerry were there and so was fellow Withlacoochee Bicyclists, Judy and Ken.  I met a lot of people with experience pulling trailers.

I reached out by email, text and phone to friends.  I talked with Regis Hampton who has been pulling a trailer with a high-top van for years.  That's what I wanted, he said it was a 250NV Nissan. 

I reached out to Bill Delouche who had a truck and pulls an airstream.  I reached out to Jim Richardson who loves to shop for cars and was willing to help me comparison shop.  It was good to have a team to talk to, but I was still pretty stressed.

I wasn't sleeping well.

I still got to kayak a day with the group.

I lost them and panicked when I went a long time on the river by myself.   The river got swifter.  No one in front, no one behind. I had not paid attention to the instructions for the takeout location.  What if I pass it?  

What happened to all that good Karma I had been enjoying for years?

I ended up pulling off at a spot where there were benches and a firepit.  Something identifiable, I hoped.  I called the guy I rented my kayak from and he contacted the coordinator of the outing.  

That coordinator called me and said they had stopped for lunch in a spring.  How did I miss that?  Anyway he reassured me I hadn't passed the out-take.  Yay!  I waited for them to come down the river.

The next morning they had yoga.  I took Serenity Sam with me.  And it was good.

I really enjoyed the great meals and comradery that the event provided. I had a story to tell and lots of people who could provide advice or sympathy.

 One day I did a wildflower ride by myself.  The wildflowers are the highlight of this event... and the good active people.  Later I went on a very short ride with three other women.

The flowers line the ditches.  Happy yellows, next to groups of pinks.  The bike group asks the farmers and community not to mow the ditches for this event.  

People started to leave after the weekend event.

I wanted to hug Mari and Jerry when they left.  Why did I sell my house next to them?  They are such good neighbors and friends.  There I was, questioning my decision... Regret!  

I gave them a key to hand over to Debra.  I emailed Debra with a request to get the death certificate and the title from my lock box in storage.

And in between the fun, I shopped.

I watched videos on how to figure out the tow capacity of a vehicle and I STILL DON"T KNOW WHAT THE F... they are talking about!   How can I estimate the tow capacity?  I know my empty trailer weighs about 1200 lbs.  But how much my loaded trailer weighs or how much the tongue weighs?  No Clue.  

I was a chicken. I didn't want to show my ignorance on how to weigh these things at a CAT scale.  While watching the videos I learned I could have just gone to the dump!  They weigh vehicles coming and going and are usually happy to weigh your vehicles for you.  Remind me to do that this summer.  But how do you weigh the tongue?

The thing is, it might change, so I need to plan for the change.   I felt whiney.  The little "I don't wanna" girl was raging. 

They have GVWR and GAWR and GCWR and Curb weight and tongue weight.  Two bikes, repair kits, air compressor, battery charger, extra shoes, bags, gas stove, and on and on.  Maybe 300-800 lbs were in my van?  Plus me.  


The prices!  Wow.  They are selling towing vans with 75,000 miles on them for over $40,000!

I wanted a covered van that could tow.  I finally learned which vans have the ability to tow over 6,000 lbs.  So I searched... and searched on line.  Carmax, Truecar, Carvana.  I searched for vehicles close and vehicles far.  In the beginning I rejected possibilities because they didn't have leather seats.  Mari agreed with me I should get a nice one I would be happy with.   Different sites wouldn't give me the info or let me search for vehicles with a tow package (Carmax are you listening?).   As I ran into dead ends I lowered my standards, but then I couldn't remember where I saw a vehicle that would work but it had cloth seats.

Mari told me, when I go to get a car, I am the boss.  "You tell them what you want and what you will pay.  They will come back with a higher price.  Be prepared to walk."

I'd be walking a long way.  I am in a small town and the car dealers are at least 14 miles away.

"Make them bring the car to you to try," she said.  

"Oh Mari, won't you please do this with me," I thought.  

I would call, I would leave messages, I would email the dealers when I saw a vehicle that might work.  Does it have a tow package?  I found one all the way in Cumming, GA.  I called, I hoped.  It turned out not to have the tow package and to be fitted for camping inside.  Nope.  I like my trailer.

I hate shopping.  Did I tell you that?

Finally, I was soooo stressed out I got up one morning (I had rented a car for a couple days and I had to return it) and I decided to go drive a Ford F150.  My advisors were telling me it would be a good tow vehicle for me.  

I went, I drove, I bought, just do it.  

But I forgot to look at the sticker for the GVWR! I checked after I signed the deal.  6500 lbs Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.  

It is a horrible deal, I didn't channel Mari at all!  I didn't even go in with a set price because all the prices were more than I wanted to spend!  I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over.

Regret!  I emailed Margaret Juhl who also hates to spend money.  She virtually hugged me.

So here it is, my new tow vehicle, Big Blue.

I saw in the picture the saleswoman sent me that I am slumping.  All the stress and no weight-lifting has taken a toll.  I am so glad to be done with it!  I have wheels again!

Right away I drove to Jim's Auto repair to get the items out of my van.  I had traded it in on this sale.  Man!  Did the Ford dealer make out on me and my van! 

The back seat of my truck is now stuffed with stuff.  Much of it is boxes I am taking to the kids.

But in order to tow I need a hitch.  I forgot to get the one off the van.  It wouldn't work anyway because the truck is taller.  I learned on the internet how to measure and the words for all the tow thingies.  Measure from the top of the receiver to the ground.  Then measure on Lilac the bottom of the cup to the ground.  Both vehicles should be level.  The difference is the amount of drop (or rise) you need in your... hitch I think it is called.

I needed 10".  I had to go several places and then not wanting to special order, I got an 8".  I thought I will put more weight in the bed of Big Blue if I have to.

Debra sent me a picture of a topper that might accommodate for the height of my bicycle handlebars.

In the meantime, Bill D. suggested I put the bike in Lilac.  I don't want the bike in my bedroom, but for my first tow, that's what I did.  She scratched up the wall a bit even with rags and rugs in places.

My first tow day.  I was so excited to get out and put all this stress behind me.  Let's go!

At 3:30 am I started packing the trailer for travel.  Then the process of hooking up...  My key didn't work on the lock!  What????  I thought I remembered throwing a key away.  Oh no!

But then I saw there are now two keys that look exactly alike on my key chain.  One for the lock for the pin that locks the hitch to the truck.  Another that locks the cup on Lilac.

Whew!  That problem averted!
Then, because I have a longer hitch with the longer reach... the chain wouldn't reach the truck!

I looked on Youtube and found out someone used turnbuckles to extend their chain and get around the bigger slots used on the F150.  Fortunately Lowes opened at 6:00 a.m. in Lake City, about 15 miles away.

First thing in the morning is a good time to shop at Lowes.  Staff aren't as busy and can answer questions and wait on you.  I got chain cut.  But... when I got it back to camp I discovered the turn buckle didn't fit inside the link!.  

Thank goodness the chain fit through the slot and I had enough to loop through and still reach the existing chain.

I discovered that I will need to put a rug over Lilac's post before I open the truck bed.

Then when I hooked up, the weight of the tongue dropped the truck the two inches or more.

So measuring before you are hitched was that good advice?

Finally I get on the road.  Yay!  I am heading to a Corp of Engineers campground just NE of Atlanta.  I decide to not avoid the Interstate.

I am going along, listening to book.  I actually got the phone blue tooth to sync easy enough.  Then ping!

I look in my review mirror.  The trailer is there, there is no weird movement or sound.  Just this annoying message taking up my instrument panel.

I pull off and check the connections.  It all looks good.  I look up on Youtube again.  Yes, someone is a northern state with lots of salt on the roads had the problem.  They cleaned the contacts and it worked to remove the warning.

So I took a toothbrush and brushed the contacts on the truck and the trailer plug.  No success.

I started to call the number off my warrantee card, when I saw in front of me a sign for a FORD dealer!  Cool!
Nope, they can't work on it for three weeks.  They are backed up.


I checked that the lights were working.  Next I will need to go to a big parking lot and check the brakes on the trailer.  If I turn them up high and step on the brake then it will be ok to drive with the dang warning light on my dash until I can get it fixed.  What good is a warrantee when you can't get it in for service???!!!

I stopped at wayside to walk a bit.  There was a semi carrying huge boxes covered in netting.  It was carrying bees!

He was headed to German Town, Wisconsin.  Hey, I am headed there too, I told him.

As I walked away, I thought, "This is why I travel.  These little delights."

I am at Bald Ridge Creek near Cumming, Georgia.  Lots of mocking birds and brown thrashers.  And robins are singing too.  

And children!  Lots of children.

It is around 57 degrees!  I sit here typing with two light jackets on and a pile of wood in the fire pit waiting for me to finish this so it can burn and warm me up.  I like it better than the 90 degrees at Stephen Foster Campground in northern Florida.

So I hope my next day of travel has got more adventures that delight and don't stress.  We all need less stress.

Thanks to friends who called and texted and emailed and offered support and advice and education during this time of transition.  Hopefully I am on my way out the other side.

I am excited about my next stop.  I meet up with a couple of Sisters on the Fly to ride the Virginia Creeper!  It is a popular rail trail in the mountains.  Whoohoo! 

Topping It Off In Wisconsin

 Hello, A special shout out to the three guys that advised me through the purchase of my Ford Truck in May, Jim, Bill and Regis. On July 26t...