(C)  2002-2014 J. Watson       All rights reserved  
Travel Letters
RV Travel notes from
 the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
   Vol 19  No 1                                                                                                                                                                May/June, 2009
Dear Gals … Your guys…
Our grandkids…   and our sisters

CHEROKEE, NC; 5/23/2009

It’s been a while since the last letter – so here
goes.  About six weeks ago we took a couple of
weeks to visit family in Florida.  

The return trip was casual, sorta rambling along.  
First stop was Plains, Georgia, home of President
Carter.  Not much of a town, even though tourists
are always passing thru there are only a couple of
souvenir shops and a small restaurant.  Peanuts
and cotton are the major crops.  The Jimmy Carter
National Historic Site (below) houses a collection of
Carter memorabilia in the school building he

Carter’s home is on the main street and the only
way to identify it is the fence with a secret service
guard booth at the driveway.  He goes about town
and greets the folks outside church or wherever he
meets them; still teaches Sunday school.  He
seems very much like Truman in his down to earth
lifestyle.  This is in spite of his many activities e.g.
Habitat for Humanity, etc.  

Then an hour down the road is Andersonville
National Historic Site, the site of the infamous
Confederate prison.  A high stockade surrounded
the prisoners who were not provided shelter or
clothing.  Those who had a blanket, and many did
not, might string it between a couple of sticks to
form a tent to protect themselves from the
elements.  Food was scarce and 13,000 died.  The
Confederate troops hardly had enough food for
themselves and many suffered the same fate.  In
the past few years they’ve added the National
Prisoner of War Museum to honor the POWs of all

Then it was on to the coast for a couple of days at
Hunting Island State Park, just outside of
picturesque Beaufort, SC.  It is a beautiful park with
heavy subtropical growth and a snow white beach.  
Also there’s a land-mark lighthouse.

From here we headed home for a short time to get
our seasonal checkups.  We changed our mind
and decided to not drive cross country.  It’s the
only route that’s been discarded.  We’re on the
road to points unknown – that’s right we really do
not have a destination in mind, or a planned time to
return home.  The goal is to enjoy the varied areas
we visit.  That means we’ll probably meander along
around the mountains for a while.
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is the school that Carter attended
Andersonville National Historic Site
Path through the woods from the campground to the lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park
Palms line the beach of Hunting Island State Park
Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park
Okay, it’s final.  

The school books were stashed about a week ago.  
We took a couple of programs at UNC-Wilmington
that were interesting, essentially political science or
maybe more accurately world problems/politics.  
One program is elders teaching elders and you can’
t imagine the talent of our classmates – many are
experts in their respective fields.  Of course, no
homework or grades.

We left home a week ago.  First stop was Congaree
Swamp National Park.  Did you know, before now,
that there is a National Park in South Carolina?  As
the name says, it’s a swamp – but what are
extraordinary are the champion trees.  The largest
recorded of several species of deciduous trees are
here.  Some are so tall they give the feeling of a
junior redwood forest.  Decay of vegetative matter
makes rich soil and with a moderate climate
everything comes together to get superb growth.  
Hunting Island was
a private hunting
area before the
state acquired it.  It
has been ravished
several times by
hurricanes but is
now dense forest.  
We spent hours
walking the beach
and trails through
the trees.

On the spur of the moment we decided to revisit the
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  What a place.  It
covered over 200 square miles back in the early
1900s.  With 240 rooms it is the largest residence
in the US.  The architecture is far different from the
Hearst castle in California.  Before construction the
land was ravaged by over logging so hundreds of
thousands of trees were planted to convert it to a
private park.  In fact, the plan was done by
Olmstead, the famous nineteenth century
landscape architect who did Central Park, in New
York City.
Congaree Swamp National Park
Biltmore Estate was the Vanderbilt home and is still in private ownership
Biltmore Estate mansion faces a magnificent green
CHEROKEE, NC; 6/17/2009

Cherokee is a pleasant area – smack next to the
Great Smoky National Park.  We’re parked just
across the road from the park and about a mile
north of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.  So, of
course, we have been going about the business of
touring.  There’s a good deal to see in the area.  

Before taking in the park a day was spent going to
the Carl Sandberg National Historic Site.  
Sandberg, we understand, is a virtual unknown to
the younger generation, but in our day his poems
were taught in school.  He was also an outstanding
authority on the Civil War.  

Sandberg was given the Pulitzer Prize for poetry
and another for his work on the Civil War.  His
success enabled him to live where he wished and
as he wished.  His wife was devoted to the raising
of goats, yes goats, so they moved to a farm area
in North Carolina.  The story goes that he started to
write a children’s book about the Civil War.  
Apparently he didn’t know when to stop his
research as he ended up with four volumes.  

We’ve been enjoying the mountain streams, here in
the Appalachians.  The campground has water on
both sides so of course a lot of dads are taking the
kids along with them, fishing poles in hand.  As it’s
on the reservation a tribal license is required.  
We were cautioned to stay away from the major
shopping area on June 1st.  Why?  That’s when
half of the casino’s profits were distributed to tribal
members and they were out celebrating.  Each
tribal family member received ~$4,000!  This twice
a year event causes lineups at banks and Wal-
Mart, so everyone else just gets out of the way.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest
wilderness area in the east – really rugged with
only one thru road and just a few spurs off it.  The
mountain peak tops 6,000 feet, which is about as
high as you’ll see east of the Mississippi.  With this
unique condition there is almost a micro climate
with a good deal more rain than the surrounding
area – therefore an almost continual haze, leading
to the name “Smoky”.  

The Smoky Mountains offer fantastic forest views,
ridge upon ridge, and there are many turnoffs from
which they can be enjoyed.  We hiked up to the top
of Clingman’s Dome twice when it was modestly
clear.  It’s a 6,000+ foot high peak, so it is generally
quite cool and often foggy, meaning there are low
clouds and it’s socked in.  

What a place.  Yesterday while driving along in the
park an elk with a large rack was blocking the road
and then moved aside to enjoy some tasty greens.  
Just an hour or so later a bear scampered across
the road ahead of us and ran to the bushes.  
Library of Carl Sandberg National Historic Site
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Old mill at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
FANCY GAP, VA; 6/26/2009

Last Sunday we entered Virginia.  As mentioned
earlier, we have no schedule.  BUT, we did have a
“general idea” – go into the mountains of
Tennessee and Kentucky, and then maybe head
north into the Adirondacks and possibly get to PEI.  
As we started to leave Cherokee several weeks ago
I noticed a crack in the windshield.  That held us up
a couple of weeks waiting for a replacement.  Now
the “general idea” has changed to a “firm idea” –
return to Wilmington.  We figured it was a bit too
much to head to PEI for only a few weeks so we now
plan to stay in Wilmington for the summer.  It will be
a new experience as we've always spent the
summers on the road.
Endless views from the Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway
Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway in Virginia
Elk at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
had log houses that were still in use in the 1930s
by the families that built them in the 1800s.  Some
of these have been maintained as exhibits and are
quite interesting.  Docents demonstrate crafts of
the period; musicians play country music.  

Some of my 30 or so college roommates (we were
in baracks) lived in the area and talked about the
hijacking of trucks as they labored up steep
mountain roads.  (This was in the mid ‘40s – how
things have changed with the Interstates and
powerful modern trucks.)  

Have a good summer, yall!
We’ve spent the last couple of days driving along
Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway -- certainly one
of America’s most scenic drives.  It connects the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  As the
name says – it does indeed go along the mountain
ridge with grand mountain scenes often visible on
both sides of the road.  The road was started as a
CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) depression era
project.  It was interrupted by WW2 and finally
completed a couple of decades ago.  Along the
way are several points of interest.  This rural area
Mabry Mill on Blue Ridge Parkway
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