2011-10-01 to 2011-10-04 Trip from Atlanta, GA to Copperhill,TN

2011-10-01 (Thu) to 2011-10-04 (Tue) Trip from Atlanta, GA to Copperhill,TN <Camping with the Vandweller Group>

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On the Yahoo group-list for Vandwellers, Dick posted a location at Copperhill that he said he would be in for a few days. He invited anyone who was interested to join him. After I returned from Minneapolis, I washed clothes and began thinking of going to the area where Dick was staying.

2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_creek
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_creek
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForestLake
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForestLake

I had to catch up with a few things at the house and tried to read some back-level email as I prepared for the trip. I didn’t know if and when others in the group planned to visit, so I picked a day for leaving and sent a message to Dick that I planned to join him. I received the driving directions and started packing the van for a ‘camping experience’. That means, you need food and water and clean clothes. I now use 2-liter bottles for water and it took a while to fill them up. I had 13 bottles to fill with water, plus, I carry my own ice tea in a gallon jar that helps me to not drink so much carbonated soda (which I love). As I had been to Ellijay previously and I knew that there was a Wal-Mart on the route, I planned to stop there on-the-way for several days of non-refrigerated food. Oh yes, I DO like cheese, so I planned to get a little food that will keep a couple of days without ice. I had almost everything that I needed in the van – so, I charged some batteries for flashlights, etc. I planned to leave about 9am (after the rush hour traffic slows a little). I started on I-575, north of Atlanta and thought of stopping at Camping World to see if they had a foldable, aluminum camping table. I hadn’t been to the store before but, I had seen it from the interstate as I passed it. As you would guess, I passed the store as I considered stopping – so, I took the next exit and pulled into a nearby restaurant to enter the information into the Garmin and go shopping at Camping World. I entered the business name, Camping World into Garmin and started to follow the turns. I went down several roads, and then into a two-lane residental section for a few miles. I thought of turning around and that this had to be wrong – but, I was totally lost and couldn’t find my way even if I got out the Rand McNally map. Eventually, totally lost – I came to I-75. WOW – I had really gone out of my way. The Garmin told me that the nearest Camping World was past Ringgold – about 40 miles away. Something had gone WAY WRONG! There was no need to continue to Camping World – I decided to give-it-up and try again later. I turned north on I-75 and decided to try and find a Wal-Mart since I would miss the Ellijay store. I was able to find one using Garmin and it was nearby. So, I stopped, got a sandwich for lunch, bought some groceries that I would need for the camping trip and left the parking lot about 1pm.

2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_4VansParked
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_4VansParked

I re-programmed Garmin to go to Coppehill and the route was to take a road by Old Car City. I had heard of it, but never stopped. It would be an interesting place – a car junkyard that has a sign claiming to have one of Elvis’ cars and known to have a large variety of ole cars. In Atlanta, it is known that they may have parts for unusual cars. I continued driving and followed Garmin to a small town and drove several miles down several two-lane roads. Uh Oh! Again, I’m on two-lane roads through residential areas – only this time, I’m on a gravel road and lost outside of Ellijay and north of the Wal-Mart that I know. I end up a couple of miles south of the town of Blue Ridge on Hwy 515. I knew the 4-lane divided road, so: Garmin is right, it put me back on the road to Blue Ridge and Copperhill. It was an easy drive once I got out of the residential areas.
I didn’t know until I got there that others were coming for the week-end. I was the first to arrive, and I got there about 3pm. Dick and I had sent messages that I would probably get there about 1pm – but, I took more time to drive there when I got lost. Dick said that Karen was expected today also – and, for some reason, he thought that we were coming together. I had her cell number and I called her. She had just left the Ellijay Wal-Mart with provisions for the week-end. I gave her address location that I entered into the GPS to find the campground, she wrote it down and said that she was ‘on-her-way’. She arrived about dusk. Dick and I had planned where the arriving vans should park. I was on the right of Dick and Karen would be on my right. The creek was in front of all of us.
Dick had a fire going and the weather was great. Unbelievably warm for this time of year. After Karen arrived, she had to level her van by parking on plastic feet. Karen and I hadn’t seen each other for about six weeks and we had some ‘catching-up’ to do.
The next morning, Kenny arrived and we put his van behind Dick, Karen, and me. Also, Wolf was driving a Corolla and he was able to travel over a hump on the left of the firepit. We expected Les and he was able to get over a hill on Karen’s right side. Cheryl came and it was near dusk, parking was beginning to be an issue, but – Karen and I took a survey and suggested to Dick that Cheryl park behind Kenny. It was easy and she accomplished it in a few seconds. The next day, David came and he found a spot near Les. Everyone settled in to the area and we were close, but that made it easier for getting items from the van when we needed them.

2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(Bed)
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(Bed)
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(BedFoldedUp)
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(BedFoldedUp)
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(InstallingRoofRack)
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Les(InstallingRoofRack)

Over the week-end, we had van “tours” and talked about problems that needed fixing. Karen asked Les and David for suggestions with her electrical issues. Also, she wanted a propane line extension for a heater and David looked inside her kitchen and at her stove connection. He found an acceptable area to add a line. David helped me with refilling propane bottles. We also discussed a 12-volt water pump and how it may be used. Les installed a roof rack to the top of his van and climing ladder on the back. He had brought his charged drill and made all the work to get it done look easy.
On several days, we walked about one-half mile to the lake. The sun was bright there and the weather was perfect for ‘sunnin’ and taking pictures. (Near the creek, we were under a canopy of trees with hills on all sides; hence, little sun.) We sat around the fire at night and roasted marshmellows and talked. The time seemed to pass quickly. I can honestly say that I got nothing done. I walked to the bear-proof garbage a couple of times in order to minimize the trash in the camp. Sunday afternoon, David and I walked to the campground (one-tenth of a mile) to look at an old, manual waterpump. While we were there we saw a lone house chimney above the campground and explored it for a few minutes.
On Sunday, Kenny was the first to leave. Shortly after, Les had to return home and prepare for work on Monday. David stayed until after dark, and left after supper. We had another beautiful fire and wonderful day of talking to one another.

2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_HouseStoneChimney
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_HouseStoneChimney

Monday was Columbus Holiday, and it impacts both the banks and government offices. We knew that vacation traffic would be heavier, so we talked to Cheryl and got her to think about staying longer. She had driven the Blue Ridge Parkway from Ohio before the GTG and she decided that she would begin her journey back to her husband -and their farm, on Tuesday. Wolf had friends to visit in Atlanta before returning to his family in Florida. Karen wanted also wo see family and Dick planned to make some further preparations for winter. I decided that I should also return to Atlanta and left on Tuesday morning. It had begun to sprinkle rain on Monday night – and camping wasn’t as much fun without tarps for cover or a place to hide. After arriving back in Atlanta, I wished that I had shopped some in McCaysville on the way home. It is a very unique small town near the border and they cater to tourists because the Blue Ridge train visits there.

2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Wolf
2011-10-08_GACopperhillNationalForest_Wolf

 

 

 

I really enjoyed my trip and my time being a “leaf-peeper”. I wanted to watch the leaves turn colors and I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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((My Dad has a nickname for me and it is “Puddin”. He started calling me that when I was very young. I named my van, “Vanna White”. When I decided to start a blog, I wanted a unique name for my travels and the names “Puddin” and “Vanna White” came to mind.))((My Dad has a nickname for me and it is “Puddin”. He started calling me that when I was very young. I named my van, “Vanna White”. When I decided to start a blog, I wanted a unique name for my travels and the names “Puddin” and “Vanna White” came to mind.))

2011-09-21 to 2011-10-01 Trip from Atlanta,GA to Minneapolis,MN and return

2011-09-21 (Wed) to 2011-10-01 (Sun) Trip from Atlanta to Minneapolis, MN and back

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I have a friend who had surgery and I volunteered to help her during recovery afterward. We worked together in Charleston, SC in the mid-1970’s. We’ve kept in touch and she’s been able to visit me on a couple of occasions since then. Since retirement, I’ve wanted to travel, and her surgery gave me a ‘reason’ to drive to Minneapolis from Atlanta. I packed as much as I could the day before leaving, and on the morning of the trip, I packed the last-minute things. I wanted to leave about 7am, but I didn’t get away until 9am. I programmed the Garmin GPS with her address and started driving with the directions of the machine. I confess that I have a large book of maps by state, but – I trust the Garmin so much, I didn’t even look at it.

Entrance to Ameristar Casino and Hotel in St. Charles, MO (outside of St. Louis)
Entrance to Ameristar Casino and Hotel in St. Charles, MO (outside of St. Louis)

I stopped several times for gas, food, and a break. I would hit the radio ‘scan’ butten when a station began to drift and I was able to find something interesting on the radio during the whold trip. (I confess that I’m not very picky about stations – mostly, I’ll listen to anything. Note: When I first moved to Atlanta, I would drive to SC to visit my parents and my car only had an AM radio. In the middle of the drive to SC, there were NO radio stations available to listen to. So, the ability to have a radio station for the whole trip is noteworthy.) About dusk, I was tired of driving and the GPS had directed me along the interstates to St. Louis. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River over the Martin Luther King bridge and had a couple of very tricky turns along the crossing highways. I didn’t know anything about St. Louis, but I drove using the GPS directions.  I knew that the approximate distance of the total trip was 1,100 miles and that St. Louis was about half way. As I crossed the St. Charles river, I saw the Ameristar casino on my right. As I like to explore casinos, I stopped and toured the facility. Previously, I’ve been to Las Vegas and read about the sign-up for rewards programs that the casinos there offer. As I entered the casino, I saw a rewards sign-up desk and stopped for a plastic card and to be entered into their computer system. I spent about $5 on several machines and decided that paying for flashing lights and catchy tunes was only good for a little while. I found a parking spot and spent the night.

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Dennys
2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Dennys

The next morning, I started driving about 8am and again stopped several times for breaks. I started driving on an interstate toward Kansas City for about 20 miles out of the city, and then drove north on state roads until I reached Minneapolis. As I drove, I began on the west of the river and parallel to it for many miles. I thought that I saw some fields that had previously been flooded by the river a few months ago because it looked like the crops had been damaged. During the time period of the flood, the news media showed many pictures. I hadn’t seen any reports of how bad the actual flooding was because I think that many towns on the river were warned of the river’s rise and deployed many sandbags. In addition, I think that opening the river floodgates to the crop fields alongside of the river helped prevent additional damage. The GPS showed that the Mississippi River was many miles to my right. On the road, the only indication of a nearby river was that occasionally, I would see a sign pointing to the right indicating that there was a landing in that direction.

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Windgenerator
2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Windgenerator

I saw many corn fields in Iowa. They stretched for miles and seemed endless. I was amazed at how many trees and vegetation had to be removed in order to have the large corn fields. I now understood why the midwest is described as being the ‘breadbasket of America’. I saw some farmers harvesting the corn and various machines were in the fields. The road through Iowa wasn’t an interstate, but it was a four-land divided highway that was very flat (and somewhat worn by trucks and many years of travellers). For lunch, I stopped at a Denny’s. I just wanted a place to sit-down and rest a few minutes.
In north Iowa, I saw my first ‘wind farm’. The huge wind turbines seemed to turn slowly in the breeze.  They were only clusted in one area and I wondered if they were placed there as a pilot – to see if they would actually generate enough electricity to warrant installation in this area. (Note: on my return trip, the windmills were not turning.)
I arrived in Minneapolis and got into the afternoon rush-hour traffic, but the GPS kept me on the road to my friends house. She told me that she would probably get out of the hospital on Friday, and that the hospital was near her house. When the GPS indicated that I was to exit the main road, I noticed a sign for a hospital and drove to it. I checked the information that my friend had told me and this hospital was where she had her surgery. It was near dusk and I parked the van nearby. (Note: there was a hospital parking deck with a bar indicating that it was just under 6 feet in height. I drove Vanna White up to the bar, and decided that she probably would be damaged by some interior structure if I entered – so-o-o-o  I had to back out and park down a street.)  When I opened the door, I was surprised to learn that the outside air there was quite cool. I found my jacket and called her in the hospital. She told me what room she was in and I found it without much problem. She seemed to be doing well and we talked for a while. She had a friend from her work come visit and about 8:30, I left to go to her house. She had left a key outside for me. The only navigational problem of the trip began at this time. It was dark and the GPS told me the turns, but the house number wasn’t visible and Garmin didn’t tell me exactly ‘which’ house was my friends. I hated to do it, but I called her again in the hospital and she told me that her house was in the middle of the block and what I should look for. I found it and got in, unpacked, and had a great night’s sleep.
The next morning, my friend was released from the hospital about 11:00am and her sister was scheduled fly come to Minneapolis and drive her home. I had watched some tv and heard them drive up. I helped her as much as I could, but she was doing well and just needed to rest and recover. Her sister flew out on Sunday, and I was to help her in whatever way was needed – and so I did. She was up and about and several days after arriving, I drove her to see her doctor and the doctor removed the surgery drainage tubes. The weather was great for the time that I visited. After my friend felt better, we walked around a neighborhood park one afternoon (Pamela Park), and the next day went to a nearby mall (Southgate) and window-shopped.

By the end of the week, we ventured to Minnenonka Park. We had a picnic lunch, and took a short walk around the area to look at the waterfall and beautiful flowers. After that, we drove to Woods Park and took a longer walk around the lake. It was beautiful and I was thankful that my friend was feeling well enough to venture out.

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,LightRailApproachingMallOfAmerica
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,LightRailApproachingMallOfAmerica

The following day, we rode the light rail from the Mall of America to downtown. Minneapolis has a very wide sidewalk area they called Nickolette Mall where vendors sell their wares. It was cool outside and the wind really picked up between the tall downtown buildings. We bought some tomatoes, bread and jelly, and we had scones for a snack. I took a lot of pictures from the train and admired all of the pretty plants in parks along the way.

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall(Vendors)
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall(Vendors)
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-LightRail
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-LightRail
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Macys
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Macys
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Vendors1
2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Vendors1

My final full-day in Minneapolis was Friday. My friends sister was scheduled to return and all of us planned to spend time at the Mall of America (one of the items on my ‘bucket’ list). I had heard about the large mall, and it was only about 6 miles from my friends house. I wanted to see it before returning to Atlanta – just to see what was there. We spent the day looking in the mall in various stores. I bought my friend a shot-glass, so that she would have a special glass that would make it easier for her to take her pills. I bought her sister a Mall-of- America ballpoint pen. Everyone should have both a shot-glass and a ballpoint pen with Mall-of-America written on them, right? After shopping in the mall, we went across the street to Ikea and shopped there. I had never visited that store before and was amazed at all of the items sold – they were just ‘different’ than the ones found in regular American stores. After all, the company is from Sweden and the European style-of-living is very spartan compared to American opulence. By the end of both of the stops, I was tired of walking. We had walked for hours. We returned to my friends house and went out to eat at a very nice, nearby restaurant that night. (Salut) It was a very appropriate end to my stay in Minneapolis by having such a wonderful dining experience.

(Note: I think that I picked the one, good-weather week in the fall that Minneapolis has. The weather was excellent the whole time. I had discussed with my friend about the possibility of snow this time of year. She told me that it was ‘possible’, but – not ‘probable’.  I told her that if it snowed after I arrived, that meant that she would have to put-up-with-me the while winter — because, I don’t know how to drive in snow.)

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-ParkingAreaPayStation
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-ParkingAreaPayStation
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-StairwayToBottomOfWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-StairwayToBottomOfWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-Stonewall-and-WalkwayAtTopOfWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-Stonewall-and-WalkwayAtTopOfWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaParkWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaParkWaterfall
2011-09-28_MNEdina,WoodsPark-Walkway(BridgeOverPond)
2011-09-28_MNEdina,WoodsPark-Walkway(BridgeOverPond)

The most unusual thing happened. At my friends house, there was a picture on the wall and I noticed that it was painted by Elsie Lewis Fogle. Well, I graduated high school with Elsie Lewis and she later married and started painting. Our high school class had a reunion a couple of years ago and I got to talk with her for a few minutes. This is another of my ‘small world’ experiences. I presume that my friend had purchased the picture when we worked in Charleston many years ago. (Both my friend and I had houses on the Isle of Palms at the time we worked in Charleston. The sand dunes in the picture reminds me a lot of the South Carolina coast and the Isle of Palms.)

2011-09-28_MNEdina,_ElsieLewisFogle-Picture
2011-09-28_MNEdina,_ElsieLewisFogle-Picture

The next morning, Saturday, I packed the van and left mid-morning. My friend was doing well and her sister would be there for a few days. My return drive to Atlanta was on the same route as the drive there. The Garmin GPS was essential to help with all the road changes in St. Louis. I stopped at the casino again because I knew that it was an easy access area. I was able to take a picture of the river as I crossed it early the next morning. I held the camera in the direction of the left side and took the picture by pushing the camera button while driving. I felt comfortable doing the picture that way because there was very little traffic. The sun was rising in the east as I drove and it hurt my eyes for a while. I put on sunglasses to help reduce the direct light but, it was still rough driving. My saving grace for this part of the drive was that it was early Sunday morning and there wasn’t much traffic.

2011-10-02_MOStLouis,MississippiRiver(MartinLutherKingBridge)2
2011-10-02_MOStLouis,MississippiRiver(MartinLutherKingBridge)2

Later during the drive and near Nashville, the North/South traffic increased substantially over the previous East/West route that I had been on. There was a little construction to slow down the pace, but the remainder of the trip wasn’t bad. The interstate to Chattanooga had been widened and improved many years ago. I remember that it was only 2 lanes for many years – and very hilly and winding. I arrived back in Atlanta about 4pm. I was tired, but happy to be home. It had been a really good trip.