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2011-05-06 Friday. I left Atlanta about 9am and drove to East Ellijay. I had packed some snack food from the house and an empty ice chest in the van with the idea of shopping at the local Wal-Mart for ice and sandwiches to eat during the GTG. <Note: I put the Wal-Mart references into the blog because it is located close to the campground and it was very convenient.>
So, I bought some sandwiches and ice on the way to the campground. I got there about 1pm. I had to go through a monitored gate and give my name and person visiting. The GTG organizer, Karen, had given us all of the information that we needed. When I arrived, I found the campsite number that Karen had emailed me and I parked the van. It was a beautiful campsite, overlooking the Cartecay river. I looked around, and there was a nearby camper. A lady was sitting in a folding chair with 5 yorkshire terriers inside a circular small fence. I thought that she was probably one of the members in the group and I was right. I walked to her area and introduced myself -so- then, I met Norma. We had a great ‘opening’ conversation and then I wandered to a nearby Roadtrek. I met Karen – we talked about being excited about the gathering and finally meeting many the other people in the yahoo-group.
Karen was concerned about Carolyn getting to Georgia, because Carolyn was driving from Little Rock and the high water-level of Mississippi River may impact her trip. Karen was right, the river did affect Carolyn, but after she arrived, we all realized what a ‘trouper traveller’ she is. The high river made her trip longer, but she had an iPhone with GPS directions and followed her GPS turns and made it without any problems.
Others began arriving and we greeted each other and exchanged names and the afternoon passed quickly. I heard Karen tell someone that Annie and Roxanne drove a Class A and were unable to reach our campground because of the narrow roads and many turns and hills. There was a separate, larger RV area, across the river and we met them around dinner time. There was a nearby, cable, walkover bridge across the river and they drove their car to the opposite side of the bridge, walked across the bridge and met us in our camping area. As the sunset, Karen started a campfire and cooked some meat over it, others ate what they brought and I ate one of my sandwiches. When Annie and Roxanne came, they brought a bag of camp-marshmellows. (They are about double the size of regular ones and are found in many Wal-Marts. ) Those who wanted to roast their own marshmellow were invited to ‘have-at-it’. As the night approached, we had a campfire circle and discussed many things about our campers, trip there, … whatever. The night was cool and we put on jackets and wrapped up in blankets around the fire. Eventually, it was late and everyone retired. The campground overhead security streetlight would flick off for a while, and then come back on. Carolyn was in the campsite under the light and decided that she didn’t really want to be there for the night, so she moved to the right side of my van (about 3 campsites away from the light) – and blocked the light using the shadow of my van.
(Note: My older son, Joe, built my 2×4-and- plywood bed for me on Monday and Tuesday nights after his work.
2011-05-07 Saturday. I had an AWFUL night. My feet were cold most of the night. I couldn’t sleep – so, I tried several things to get warmer. My older son, Joe, had built my ‘2×4 & plywood’ bed for me on Monday and Tuesday nights after work before the trip. I had put a piece of memory foam over the plywood and a set of sheets on top with a blanket. The memory form didn’t provide as much ‘loft’ as I needed in order to be comfortable. When I slept on my side, my hip-bone would sink low and eventually start hurting. Therefore, I began turning over many times in order to try and get a comfortable sleeping position. No luck – I had a couple of Thermarest seat pads that I inserted under the memory foam at the hip-bone area. I was able to get off the plywood using them and was satisfied at my adjustment for the problem.
Well, the mountains are cooler than the city and the temperature went down to the low 40 degrees Farenheit during the night. First, I put my coat over the blanket at the bottom of the bed to cover my feet. About 2am, I still couldn’t sleep, so I pulled out some extra t-shirts and put them on. About 4am, I still couldn’t sleep, so I found some extra wool socks and put them on. About 6am, I finally fell asleep and was the last of the group to get up and eat breakfast in the morning. In fact, by the time I woke up (well after 9am), almost everyone was finished eating breakfast and had moved to other areas. After I started moving, I got my packed bowl of cereal, added the milk that I had packed and sat at the table to eat breakfast. There were still about 5 people around the area still talking about the wonderful spring morning – and the really cool night that we had just had. About mid-morning, someone decided that they wanted to see the inside of Lynn’s new Roadtrek. A group followed and we began touring each others ‘vehicle’ one-by-one. I showed everyone (who wanted to listen) my building efforts for “Vanna White“. Changing her from a plain cargo to a wanna-be-RV. We went inside others vehicles, but – for “Vanna White”, I just opened the back doors and the side doors so that everyone could see in. In particular, I pointed out the two-batteries under the kitchen countertop (on the floor behind the passenger seat) that I wanted to get an audio-installer to ‘hook-up’ for me.
We had lunch about 1 and someone decided to go see the “Good-Luck-Duck” Class-A over the river. Karen called Annie and Roxanne. Annie drove the passenger car to the other side of the bridge and picked up several riders. She had to make two trips to get everyone. Karen wanted to drive, so I rode with her and oops=I can’t remember who went with us. Anyway, we toured the duck and talked about how LARGE it was compared to our vans and vehicles. We enjoyed just hanging out in the great weather under the trees, at the picnic table, talking. I pulled out my camera and took a quick video of Carolyn describing and elaborating on one of her many adventures.
The afternoon next consisted of Nicole and Darlene helping Carolyn secure her bed from moving around by tying some rope to the bar, Nicole also helped Norma change her stove-top metal burner-protector. Discussions of Karen’s electrical issue – I believe that when we left, the issue continued to be unsolved. And whatever else happened to be on someone’s mind. Tammy had a board game and it out and four of us played “Trivia” for a good part of the late afternoon. For supper, I ate another portion of sandwich and Karen started another fire around dusk. We, once again, circled the campfire with chairs and, fortunately, it wasn’t as cold as the previous night. After many discussions of whatever, Karen asked the group to share “something that you don’t normally tell someone about yourself”. I was the first on the left of Karen and she pointed at me to start. I said that I don’t normally tell people that I have a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. I then said that “having the degree has opened a lot of doors for me”. (Meaning, that it has helped me get some good jobs over the years.) Someone on the opposite side of the fire asked me to repeat it because they couldn’t hear. I said it again – and then someone near Karen (it was black dark with just the fire as light) said, what school did you attend? I replied “Winthrop College in Rock Hill,SC. It is now called Winthrop University.” There wasn’t anything else to say and the baton was about to be passed to Roxanne, on my left – when, someone across the fire said “You and I were roommates.” My first response was “no – I know all of my roommates and told about Judy in Roddy Dorm my first year. Yvonne and Sara were suitemates my second and third year, and then I was thinking beyond my senior year and remembered that Lynn was my roommate in graduate school. Then I said, “You’re right. We were roommates!” I got up and walked behind Karen to talk more with Lynn. We had a side-conversation during the time that most of the other people ‘told their stories’. I had missed everything from that point and I think that Lynn was out-of-the-circle when the attention turned to Karen. Well, Lynn and I had talked for quite a while and we knew that we could continue the ‘catch-up’ the next day, so we re-engaged with the group and connected with Karen’s story. After Karen, it was late and we all turned in for the night.
After Lynn and I finished our graduate year of study, she was married and drove from NC to class on Monday and left for NC on Friday as soon as she could. She was a “week-end North Carolina wife”. In the spring of our graduate year, I got a job and I moved to Charlotte. I had met someone before the last year and continued to date him. In October, we got married, and after about two years in Charlotte, my husband and I moved to South Carolina. I had two boys and got divorced and over twenty years ago, moved to Atlanta. She and I had lost touch with each other. After comparing our careers, we realized that we both worked in jobs with corporations and mainframe computers for many years. After her divorce, she changed her name back to her maiden name. It was so many years ago when we knew each other, I had forgotten her maiden name and would have only recognized her by her married name. We both have short grey hair now. She reminded me that, in college, her hair was shoulder-length red hair. My hair was shoulder-length straight brown hair. I didn’t recognize her because of so many years of being apart. I guess that she didn’t recognize me for the same reason. Both of us had been changed so much by the years since our graduate course study in college.
When I married, for a short while, I changed my name to the married one and after my divorce, I returned to my maiden name. My last name was what she probably remembered when she recognized that our pasts were so similar. Funny – how it all turns out.
2011-05-08 Sunday. Well, I had another BAD night. It was in the high 40’s during the night and it was cold again. I bundled up as much as I could, but – once again, my feet were cold all night and I couldn’t sleep. That is – I didn’t get any real sleep until about 5am. Therefore, when I awoke, I was the last to arrive to breakfast (again). It was after 10 this time, I think. The day was warmer this morning than the previous morning and you could tell that it was going to be a beautiful spring day with perfect temperature. Lynn and I did more ‘catching-up’ and exchanged addresses and phone-numbers. We promised to stay-in-touch and I have no-doubt that we will. I’m amazed at us finding each other after all these years – and, the more surprising thing is … that we have such similar interests and retired-to-van-camp.
Since I’m retired, I don’t have to prepare for a job on Monday, but – many others did — so Susanne, Tammy, Lynn, Nicole, Darlene planned to leave. I was there for two nights, but decided to stay as long as I could and remained until about 7pm. For the afternoon, we discussed Carolyn’s and Norma’s best travel routes in the northern part of Georgia. Karen was going to stay another day and she explored boondocking nearby possibilities with Annie and Roxanne. Several of us walked across the bridge, looking for a recycling area near the pool. We talked with some newly arrived campers, and we just ‘hung-out’. When my time came to leave, I really hated to go – but, knew that I really needed a good night’s sleep and that my first van trip had ultimately taught me to:
(1) get a foam thick pillow cushion to put under the memory foam on the plywood bed -and-
(2) be more prepared for cold weather sleeping in the van.
My younger brother had given me a new buddy-heater for Christmas, but I had not packed it. Why? Well, it was warm in Atlanta and the temperature had reached above 70 degrees before I left. I didn’t think it would be as cold as it got at night. I just didn’t pack it because I didn’t think that I would need it.
On the internet, I’ve read that new van campers have to start and find out what they like and need by just going out and camping. Now, I know that I need to watch the north Georgia mountain weather better and possibly pack a heater next time. Also, I know that the experienced van-campers on the internet are right. I need to get more experience to know what else I will like and need.
I had an uneventful trip back to Atlanta. It was about 9pm when I returned to my house. I was tired, but learned a lot about the group and camping and had a WONDERFUL time! Enough said.