Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thick Fog, Red Hot Brakes and Bear Bait

I have not done justice to the northeastern United States, only moaned about their traffic. Looking back over previous blog posts, I’ve not even written a travelogue just a catalogue of disasters, idle musings and rants. Oh well.

We left northern Tennessee, having timed a four week visit to the UK perfectly to miss the whole of autumn; all the glorious fall color of the Cumberland Mountains, the Smokies, the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains came and went. It was a good one by all accounts.

The Smoky Mountains doing their thing. Looking smoky!
The Smoky Mountains doing their thing. Looking smoky!

Our trek towards Chattanooga would have been a pretty drive with a few spots of color clinging tenaciously to the trees but for rain completely obscuring the views. Clouds hung in wisps on the forested hillsides so it did have some appeal in a gray and dreary sort of way.

There was no entertainment value in the thick fog we encountered. Visibility was zero so road signs and cars would pop up out of nowhere making me jump and grab the armrests, like a baby grabs a teddy or pops his thumb in his mouth when startled. I would like to have done all three with the aid of a teddy and a third arm.

An car from time to time gave us tail lights to follow at an almost safe distance and we relaxed until it turned off. When we were leader of the pack we were driving into a white wall leaning as far forward as our seatbelts would allow as if that extra foot would make a difference.

English: Clouds blanket the Forney Ridge Parki...
Boo! I’m a tree! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At junctions the road lines would disappear and I was convinced we were going to fall off the edge of the earth. Each time it happened, I took a deep, last breath only letting it out in tiny increments, making myself dizzy. The whole experience was made more exciting by towing our heavy trailer and knowing that we couldn’t stop as quickly as I would have liked despite the extra pressure I constantly applied to the floor mats on my side.

The descent into Chattanooga was a roller coaster of steep twists and bends in the road but as we dropped out of the cloud cover and the road ahead appeared clearly, Jimmy relaxed and took the car out of low gear. We could see Chattanooga.

Low on fuel Jimmy pulled into the first gas station we came to, both of us fortunately too wound up by our narrow escape from imagined disaster to notice the bold OPENING SOON sign. Jimmy was puzzled as to why his credit card wouldn’t work in the gas pump and I complained to him about the lack of toilet paper and paper towels in the restrooms until it was pointed out to us that the garage was still under construction.

It was a lucky oversight as we then noticed that our brakes were smoking furiously so we took the opportunity to have our lunch in the charming surroundings of the garage forecourt while they cooled down.

Our first night of this leg was spent at Fort Mountain State Park, Georgia, a seven mile zig zag course up a mountainside and another slow crawl ensued, but worth it as the picturesque state park was thickly wooded and carpeted with newly fallen leaves. The trailer was parked on level ground but our car, still hitched up to the trailer, sat nose up at a jaunty angle.

091203TennKeys 003
There we are! All alone in the woods.

The woodland setting called to us and we had arrived in time to walk around the nearby lake just before dark.

As we relaxed afterward with a glass of wine in our cozy trailer, Jimmy read out the campground information, “Campers are advised to put all trash in the designated containers before 3 p.m. each day due to increased black bear activity in the area.”

This suggests to me that bears get the munchies after 3 p.m.

Our trailer is just across the lake. Can bears swim? Yes they can!
Our trailer is just across the lake. Can bears swim? Yes they can!

There we were tramping hand in hand, kicking crispy leaves and filling our lungs with pine forest scent, carefree and oblivious, and what were we?



“You probably won’t remember this . . . we stopped in a café in a tiny town and there were some . . ”

“Motorcycles outside. Aladdin. Population 15.”

“How did you know what I was going to say?”

“I just did.”

“How do you remember this stuff?”

“I just do.”

“That’s really spooky. It’s like you’re . . ”

“Inside your head.”

True conversation.

Alladin WY

I didn’t tell himself I’d just been looking at this photograph. It seemed a shame to spoil the illusion.

The next day, “I’ll bet you don’t know what state Aladdin is in.”


“I’ll bet you don’t know where we were going.”

“We were on our way to the Devils Tower and then Mount Rushmore.”

All in the info was in picture files I’d been looking at but why ruin the magic? Click on the pictures to read the captions and see the real magic.

Beaten by a Parking Meter

Sometimes I feel we just don’t get out much. But when we do . . . .

This time, we stood scratching our heads in front of a pay-for-your-parking machine in the street at Rehoboth Beach.

The uninviting seaside at Rehoboth Beach. A coffee in a café was called for.
The uninviting seaside at Rehoboth Beach. A coffee in a café was called for.

Jimmy had parked opposite a likely looking bar called the Purple Parrot. “It says $1.50 an hour. If I put four quarters in that should give us time to get a cup of coffee across the street.” He put the four coins in and a digital screen asked us for our parking space number. Conveniently, the number was under the car.

A view of the beach in Rehoboth Beach, Delawar...

Not sure who was at fault there – Jimmy for parking on it, or the man with his paint pot for putting the number in a dumb place.  Jimmy entered the number of the space in front of us – which was empty – 43. A young man stood behind us, waiting his turn to pay.

“What do I do now?” Jimmy asked me.

“I don’t know. I haven’t got my glasses on.” Helpful as ever I bent over, squinted at the screen and shook my head to confirm my uselessness, too idle to root around in my handbag for my glasses. A young woman drifted up and stood behind the man. This put pressure on us to look like we knew what we were doing.

“I’m sorry to hold you up.”

“That’s OK.” The young man smiled at us, not a pitying smile, but a patient one.

We hunched together and muttered to each other in a vain attempt not to look stupid. “Where’s the ticket?” We were looking for the ticket for the windshield.

“I don’t know. Did you press enter?”

“Of course I did!”

“I can’t see where it comes out.”

At this point, both of us flummoxed, Jimmy had to abandon his man behavior and ask for help. He turned to the chap waiting behind us, “I’m sorry. Do you know how these things work?”

parking meter
parking meter (Photo credit: Slideshow Bruce)

He grinned. “We have tech support right here.” He stepped aside and the young woman, apparently his girlfriend, came up to the screen and peered.

That was gratifying. He didn’t know how it worked either.

“Let’s see,” and she pressed the screen, “You’ve put in one dollar and you’ve got 38 minutes in space 43. She looked up to see the empty space 43 in front of us all. Again we got the patience-with-old-people smile.

“I’ll move the car,” Jimmy blurted, only too happy to exit the embarrassing situation. It seemed pointless trying to explain why we’d paid for an empty parking space. To their credit, neither of them seemed exasperated with us, especially when I said, just to confirm . . . confirm what . . . my cluelessness? “So there’s no ticket then.”

“No. It’s all computerized.”

A view of the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Del...

I shrugged, grimaced and raised my eyebrows in a golly gee sort of way and said apologetically, “We don’t keep up,” while Jimmy moved the car from what I could now see was space 42. That would make sense as it was next to the two empty spaces 43 and 44 but we’d been too rattled to work that out.

Only 10 minutes of the already paid for 40 had been wasted.

The Secret Diary of a Smug Married.

I would like to share with you today a post by my favourite/favorite British/French blogger. It isn’t about travel, RVing, silly signs or poems. It’s just very funny. I’d like to visit with her one day when we are in France again but she lives at the back of Beyond and I can’t find Beyond on the map.

Multifarious meanderings

Bridget Jones is back. She has apparently gone full-circle, and is now Mark Darcy-less once again. The question is, am I going to read a third serving of Bridget?

I really don’t know. I remember loving the first two books. Then a few years and three births later, I picked up the first book again, and realised that my initial sympathy for the misunderstood, nicotine-addicted bachelorette had not only waned, but had been replaced by a sneaking desire to slip into the pages and stick her oversized knickers over her head. After a day knee-deep in toys, trying to deal with the laundry equivalent of Vesuvius whilst a newborn baby mistook my nipples for chewing gum, a wailing, incontinent two-year-old clung to my shins and my five-year-old cut up the magazine I had bought in a feverish moment of optimism two months before, the last thing I needed to read…

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Curses! I Can’t See!

This is me.

Good eyesight is a blessing. Losing it is a curse. To live in a country where corrective eyewear is readily available is a blessing. Having to wear glasses is a curse. I try to count my blessings and see wearing glasses as a blessing not a curse though I curse a lot about them and my eyesight.

Half a dozen pairs of glasses are stashed – in the stationary pot, behind the TV, in my handbag, beside the bed, in the kitchen, on the table – different glasses for reading, for cooking, for watching TV, for looking at road signs and map reading.

Sometimes I double up the glasses on my nose to peer at the small print on the road atlas. Wouldn’t want to make a mistake with my navigation would I?

Considering that all of these convenient places are no more than 30 feet apart in our trailer life it always astonishes me when I can’t find my glasses.

It’s a curse.

After a pleasant swim in a campground pool, I didn’t have a pair of glasses with me in the shower house. Why should I? It wouldn’t matter as I had showered more or less successfully the day before and had puzzled out the plumbing.

The cheap shower head in cubicle number one had misted my hair into a froth rather than rinsing it so I chose shower number two on day two.

This is so not me. I wish.

For those of you who only shower at home – step in, turn on, soap up, rinse off, dry – considered yourselves pampered. Every campsite shower is different. They range from clean to marginal to disgusting, from scorching to cold only, hot knob on the left to hot knob on the right to one central knob with no possible way of ever achieving the right temperature, overhead blasts that you can’t escape to drizzles that barely make you wet, from dry floors with nice mats to swamped slithery tiles and why is it always my knickers that I drop in the puddle?

Some shower stalls are spacious; some take the skin off your elbows. Many shower fixtures are mangled, rendering them almost useless where the heavy-handed, impatient, lefty-righty-on-off challenged or half blind have damaged them.

The showers that day were clean. There was nothing else good to say about them. As an added nuisance they were coin operated. The day before I had popped a quarter in the slot of the coin meter, turned the dial clockwise then anti-clockwise several times, fiddled with the hot and cold knobs which gave no indication whether they were on or off, twiddled a lever on the shower head and stood under a fine spray five minutes longer than I needed to just to see if my quarter would run out.

Today, after setting myself up in cubicle number two (with a desirable-looking showerhead), towel on first hook, shower bag on second hook, clean clothes on third hook, shampoo and shower gel on shelf in shower, flip flops on feet, a quarter in hand and swimsuit still on I continued the complex process.

This shower came with instructions stapled to the wall in a font just small enough for me to have to squint and guess at what it said. I turned the dial on the coin meter to start, popped in the quarter, turned the dial fully clockwise, then back as instructed. Nothing happened. I twisted the hot/cold knobs violently, unable to make any on/off sense of them. I flipped the lever on the shower head back and forth and back and forth with increasing vehemence. Nothing happened.

I swore loudly. Nothing happened.

I snatched up my towel, shower bag, clean clothes, shampoo and shower gel, burst out of the cubicle and stomped – as well as anyone can stomp in flip flops – into cubicle number three. Everything was neatly redistributed on hooks and shelves. My last quarter held up sacrificially to the coin meter, and me stinking of chlorine thus badly in need of a shower, I squinted and peered again.

Aha! That’s where on is on the dial. My other quarter should still be ticking. Hesitating just long enough to grab a nearly empty shampoo bottle, I flip-flopped back to no. 2, clicked the dial to on, stood in the shower, turned the knobs and whoosh, I was nicely drenched.

Now all my kit is in no. 3 and I’m dripping in no. 2. Shall I dry off and collect it back to no. 2 while my time runs out?

Nah, I washed my hair three times with dribs and drabs of shampoo, then watered down

shampoo, then the bubbles that were left in the bottle, all the while encouraging the shampoo to run down inside my swimsuit in lieu of the shower gel I’d left behind.

That accomplished I remembered I had some crème rinse and with water still running I flip-flopped back to cubicle no. 3, brought it back, ran it through my hair and rinsed it out just as the water stopped.

Thankfully, in all this time, no one entered the shower house to witness my shenanigans and hear my hisses of s**t, s**t!, S**T!!, unable as I was to restrain myself to the oh gee, golly, gosh and shucks type of swearing heard on American prime time TV.

With a triumphant grin and a wonderful all over scent of shampoo and crème rinse, as well as a clean swimsuit ready to wring out and hang up, I toweled off and dressed.

No problem! Who needs glasses?

Where are they anyway?

Note to WordPress: I have messed with the captions on the above photos from Zemanta and lost the photo credits. SORREEE! They are Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Flickr and Flickr. I won’t do that again!





An Employee’s Sense of Humor

Dirty Dave's Pizza Parlor, Lacey WA

Wait a minute. What did that say?

Dirty Dave's Pizza Parlor, Lacey WA

That’s what I thought!

Dave had a sense of humor too as he left the sign for a couple of weeks to give passing motorists a chuckle before changing it to advertise his next pizza special.

He had to have a sense of humor to call his restaurant Dirty Dave’s. Would you eat there?

It’s Magic!

Sunset on Pamlico Sound, Outer Banks, NC
Sunset on Pamlico Sound, Outer Banks, NC

With one last stab at having a warm, beach break on the east coast after a cool, wet summer we slipped down the narrow peninsula in Virginia that is isolated from the rest of the state by Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. We leapt across the mouth of the bay on the 23 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel – one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World – and on to the barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks of North Carolina (this is back in 2009 in our time machine).

In Cape Hatteras we received free full body exfoliation courtesy of sand blasting at the beach. Wrapping ourselves in our beach towel to stand with wind and sand stinging our legs, we admired the spectacular surf. A high tide with huge rollers was being pushed back by an offshore wind.

Brave souls testing the surf
Brave souls testing the surf

Breaking, crashing and frothing, the surf created spray rainbows. After watching several brollies turn themselves inside out and cartwheel down the beach, we abandoned the beach and sank into the dunes for protection from the wind. With no view of the ocean we persevered long enough to eat our gritty sandwiches.

We should have stayed in Puget Sound in Washington State on the west coast with their good view of Mt. Rainier. They had a wonderful summer.

This was prefaced by an evening of country music and line dancing in Rockyhock, North Carolina, after which we set off on an obscure route of roads so feint looking on the map that I knew an appointment with the optician was needed. I had pegged with my finger the junction where I should start looking – after a millimeter, maybe a mile – for a bridge. Jimmy drove and drove and drove. The bridge looked to be about three miles long on the map. Even I couldn’t miss that. But it didn’t materialize.

I was presented with a dilemma. Do I say something and set the scene for a possible “lost again!” scenario or just keep quiet and hope things will right themselves by magic. They sometimes do. I decided to voice my concerns without making it look like my fault.

“This doesn’t seem right. We should have come to a bridge by now.”

“You should have studied the map before we set off, shouldn’t you?”

Well that didn’t work did it?

“We can’t turn around here” he said, voicing his annoyance. We were on a narrow country road with deep ditches, possibly full of alligators, on either side.

Helloooo, my preciousssss
Helloooo, my preciousssss

I started to squirm and my sweaty palm wrinkled up the road atlas. As is usual in these circumstances we passed the next five minutes in silence.

“Oh, look. Route 94.”


“Nothing,” I replied hastily. I could see my mistake. How stupid. I held my breath and willed the bridge to appear. By magic. And it did.

About halfway along the lengthy stretch of bridge over the Albemarle Sound, a poor pancaked rabbit appeared on the roadway. “How did he get out here?” himself asked.

“He probably had someone like me navigating for him,” I retorted without contrition.

No thanks to me, but we hadn’t taken any wrong turns after all.

Sunset on Pamlico Sound, Outer Banks, NC - my reward for navigating badly.
Sunset on Pamlico Sound, Outer Banks, NC – my reward for navigating badly.

Quick Trip to England via Turkey

A nice cup of tea (and a sit down). A Denby te...
A nice cup of tea (and a sit down). A Denby teapot and cup with milk jug. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fellow blogger Uncle Spike has been rash enough to invite me to write a guest post on his blog.  An Englishman, he leads an interesting life as a farmer (amongst other things) in Turkey with his Turkish wife, five-year-old son (who I’m firmly convinced is 15, not five), dog, chickens and olives.

Hop on over to Turkey to accompany me to Cornwall in England for a Nice Cup of Tea.

Flag of Turkey.
Flag of Turkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)