Thursday, 26 November 2015

Giving Thanks Twice a Year

I remember in my youth helping Mom set up the Thanksgiving dining table display, fall leaves, fruit and vegetables, “Indian corn” and carefully chosen gourds tumbled out of the cornucopia basket.  A three inch high Pilgrim couple were placed beside it.  They were actually candles but reverently packed away each year and never burned.  Family, feasting and consciously giving thanks for all we had in our lives.  Our family often spent Thanksgiving weekend at a cottage, hiking, canoeing and telling stories around the wood stove, something to be extra thankful for; and it all took place in my favourite season, Autumn. 

In our fifth year of travelling to the US in November, we are lucky to participate in the American Thanksgiving.  Here, the day is a gigantic holiday focusing on family and food followed by Black Friday shopping and the hype of Christmas commercialism.  We will be joining a room filled with other campers here at the park.  Turkey and gravy are prepared in the community kitchen and the ten guests at each table bring the many accompaniments to make the tables groan.  We are contributing mashed potatoes and spiced pumpkin cake.  It should be fun and as it takes place at 2:00 pm, we will have daylight left for a bike ride afterwards.  We will watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which will have extra interest after visiting New York recently in August.

Here are a few sights we are thankful to see every day when we walk Dixie around the park.  We have had a mixed bag of weather with lots of rain and a good quantity of sun and fresh breeze.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Journey South

With the exception of a few high wind pockets, our day on the road to South Carolina was a good one.  The mountain silhouettes, rocky cliff faces and deep canyons of South Virginia and Virginia satisfy the traveler’s soul.  The isolated weather-worn homes and abandoned businesses, fuel the imagination.  As we drive through the mountain tunnels, we always contemplate their conception and construction, a marvel.  Now and then we passed a blaze of colour, either fungus on the rocks or lingering fall leaves.






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We arrived in Gaffney, South Carolina at the Freightliner Service Centre late afternoon.  Customers park and hook up to power in their parking lot.  After Dixie had a long walk and we settled in, we drove to a nearby restaurant that we knew in the area and enjoyed a good dinner with no prep and no cleanup.  An early turn in followed as we knew the alarm would be buzzing soon for CC to go in for her oil change and engine checkup.  For anyone who may be new to the blog, CC Rider is what we called out Motor home when we first bought her four years ago and yes the CC represents Chris and Caron.  We just call her CC now.  We spent the day hiking in the Cowpens National Park, (site of a famous battle during the American Revolution), checking out a few local shops and reading in the Freightliner waiting room.  The coach was problem free and road ready by the end of the day.  We stayed overnight in order to push off fresh in the morning.


Rain poured down all night and fog hid the town of Gaffney as we headed out in the morning.  Gradually the sun burned through and our day was a mixture of sun and cloud and a few sprinkles of rain.  The landscape was mainly scruffy pine, quiet marshes and stark waterways.  The heavy rains had swollen the rivers and they were brick red with mud.   Lack of stimulating scenery had us focusing on the interesting cargo that passed us along the highway and the always strong patriotism shown by Americans in many different ways.  The day grew dark and rainy as we pulled in for the night at Country Oaks Campground at the foot of Georgia.  The heat and humidity were a surprise and we turned on the air conditioning to survive it.





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Greeted by a fresh, sunny morning, we were on the road and heading into Florida only ten minutes from the camp.  Palm trees and Spanish Moss confirmed our location.  Small towns held relics of orange juice huts, pecan and tourist shops, formerly thriving businesses over forty years ago.  Clock towers, noble town halls and church steeples of old, mark streets whose prosperity was shaken by the super highways.  Out on those highways are the quintessential rows of billboards promising fun, food and shopping galore.  Some things about Florida never change!  Near Ocala, many gigantic horse farms conjured images of Australia’s beautiful stud farms.  

We arrived at Sumpter Oaks RV Park near Bushnell early afternoon and set up at a site where we will stay for a month.  In a late season hot spell, the temperatures here are in the eighties but hopefully will cool down next week.



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                                                                   Remember the original McDonalds?



Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Forests of West Virginia

Gone is the sweet smell of September’s fallen leaves, replaced with the astringent odour of decay.  The loud crunching beneath hiking boots has changed to a soft, squishy noise as we sink into thick layers of leaves melted by the rains and cooler temperatures.  Acorn, walnut and beechnut shells have cracked open and many have produced fresh pale roots that dig down deep, already preparing for spring.

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A few oak trees cling on to their dry red leaves where all other trees are bare.  Although the leaves underfoot were brown, as the sun shone across them, the diversity of colour was beautiful.




My friend Wendy captured a similar mood in her painting of maple leaves.  Wendy’s works depict fleeting moments and masterfully capture light and colour.  Check out her work at Witzend Studio,

website:   (painting title “November Tears”)


Hikers stifle Tarzan yells passing the many hallmark vines so common in these woods.  Even the berries and grapes are gone with the exception of a few that the mice and chipmunks have not yet collected for their winter larders.


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Within Stonewall State Park, the boats are dry docked for winter but a few kayaker and fisher folk cross the lake each day.  We wake each morning to the sound of rifle shots.  Hunting is a popular hobby in the area and the park has its own shooting range.  Looking through local papers, I see a fall fair advertised featuring the typical corn maize, largest pumpkins competition and medal winning pies and preserves.  However, tha most fall events feature hunting and fishing and guns.  All types of jerky are a best seller next to camo and outdoor gear.  Some of the workshops enlighten folks about the latest fish bait, how to build your own hunting blind and the best way to skin a squirrel.


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There are two small cemeteries in the park that we explored.   Many small American flags were placed among the graves on Veterans Day.  We also checked out a log cabin that is under renovation.   Most interesting, were the scraps of old newspapers tacked to the walls, likely used as insulation in the past.  I can visualize, enlarged versions of these framed as artwork.

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Just down the hill from our motorhome was a wooden platform that campers use to pitch tents on in the summer.  It became our private deck where we had tea or drinks in the late afternoon.  From there we read our books, watched the sun on the water, squirrels and deer in the woods.  A few holly trees provided greenery as well as a subtle reminder of the upcoming Christmas season.  With very few other campers in the park, we enjoyed a quiet and relaxing week.  Dixie is back to herself, enjoying long walks and swimming again. 

We will hit the road tomorrow, heading to Gaffney, South Carolina for our annual oil change and engine checkup.