The Big Adventure – The Rest of the Story

On May 13, 2015, I left the family farm to embark on what I was hoping would be a grand adventure, learning something new at something I had never done before; towing a camper with all the trimmings and experiences.

Honestly, I was scared. No matter how ‘bad’ I thought things were, I knew going away for a while would clear the mind and thinking could become more clear. I just couldn’t seem to take that first step, though. It seemed like this was all I knew and I could settle if need be but deep down, I knew that wasn’t quite what was in the cards for me, or at least right then. Maybe one day but not then. I was going to miss my kiddos, no matter than we didn’t see each other or worse, couldn’t carry on a civil conversation. So I took a deep breath, pep-talked ‘you can do this’ and took that first step. After that? It was on!

First thing I noticed that took a while to get used to was bumping up and down, and doing it again when Gypsy hit the same bump. Every noise made me wonder if the camper was becoming unhitched. Really bad on the interstate 40 because they don’t have the best of roads. Worse, I was disappointed because I couldn’t go my normal interstate speed limit — fast, very fast, and very, very fast! Set the cruise for a measly 55 or 60 mph and watched the road, the mirrors, the big trucks, etc., etc., etc. I was here to learn and that’s what I was doing as I bumped along.

Found out very quick that gas stations are not usually camper friendly; as in they don’t have enough room for Miss Ellie, the Tundra and Gypsy – The 32’ Cherokee. First big lesson was learned. Look for truck stops and fill up when gas tank is half full. Miss Ellie was really thirsty when she was towing!

Hit interstate 85 and stayed there until we hit the campground for our first stay – Charlotte/Ft Mill SC. It was dark – my fault because I didn’t take into consideration at the beginning I would need to drive slower on the interstates. A duh huh moment but another lesson learned. Pulled in my spot, hooked up the water, sewer and power, left the trailer and truck attached then Hershey and I called it a night. Maybe that day was not so much a job well done but a job well learned.

The next day, I reloaded everything and off we went. Basically, it was a repeat of the previous day – more learning experiences, of which I enjoyed immensely. I mean really, who would actually be happy to get a camper stuck in a spot that you knew you had to use your own wits to get it out of? Well……me! Yea, I stuck her a few times in some precarious positions but I always got her out and she remained unscathed from the incidents.

We went from interstate 85 to interstate 75 and headed up to Forsyth, GA. Again, arrived after dark and left Gypsy hooked to the truck, plugged in the power, and Hershey and I again called it a night. A terrible lot. I couldn’t do anything to get the camper level and requested a difference lot. That one worked. So we decided to hang around a couple of days to see more of the beautiful scenery we’d seen while getting there. Actually, some of the most beautiful I have every seen. Plus, I was in ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ territory and who doesn’t like a fried green tomato?

On Sunday, I packed us up to leave when I noticed the unraveled cable holding one of the sway bars. Still, I hooked up, wondering what to do. In my mind, the cable did nothing as far as towing; it was more a safety mechanism to protect the person’s legs while unhooking the sway bars. Otherwise, you might end up with two broken legs if the cables weren’t there. That’s when I noticed the big metal bracket right above it had broken clean off. That was NOT good and WAS directly related to towing. I was loaded and set up to leave but my gut instinct was screaming ‘don’t do it!’ I listened to my gut. Couldn’t talk to anybody since it was Sunday so I went to the office, told them the problem and the lady reserved the lot a few more nights until I could figure out the logistics of what to do and how to get it done. Kind of put a little damper on the fun and also got me to thinking about this long-distance haul across the country. Maybe I should stay on this side of the Mississippi since this is the maiden voyage and I’m still figuring it all out. Good idea, good plan and I was happy with it. Problem solved.

Spent a lot of time on the phone Monday but all for the good. The company was overnighting the new part to an RV store 40 miles south of where I was and the parts guy was going to come by after work with his tools and change out the broken part and cable. Yep, there are some good people in this world. He did exactly as he said and did it exactly as the company said. Then we hitched me up. Come tomorrow morning, we were flying the coup! Been parked way too long.

Next morning, we hit interstate 75 and pretty soon we were smack dab in the middle of Atlanta proper. I’ve always loved Atlanta but my gosh the traffic! So I stayed in one laed, popped in a Big Band CD to listen to and drove forever and a day until finally, we were out of that madhouse. I’ve thought it many times before and I thought it again – Atlanta has a beautiful skyline if you can see it through noodle junction… oh wait, that should be spaghetti junction!

Jumped on interstate 24 for a while then onto interstate 59 to the Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga West GA (a little town called Trenton) campground. Oh my goodness, I’d found a home! THE premiere of all KOA campgrounds I had stayed at. And stay we did, long enough that I was given a free night….. a simple gift this KOA does for campers that stay a certain amount of time. Besides, I found there was so much to do here and around the area; plus, there was Chattanooga, just a stone’s throw away….. well, really about 20 miles but it’s interstate driving – you know, go fast, very fast, very, very fast. Have explored plenty of big cities but Chatt has always been my favorite because it ‘fits.’ Manhattan is a favorite but it’s all excitement with nothing mellow about it.

Downtown Chattanooga – I loved it. So much to see, so many different types of ethnic foods to try. A weakness of mine. Fresh, plain homemade yogurt – no way Chobani can make it like that. Walking the streets in the pouring rain, glad to be alive and dancing in the rain.

It rained a lot here and Hershey and I would hike the campground trails in the rain. We didn’t get too wet because of the treetop canopy but the ground was wet enough it silenced our footsteps.

We were into exploring and one day I saw a sign that said ‘Cloudview Canyon.’ Well, that intrigued me so off we went. OH MY WOW! Was I ever glad I did! It’s actually a state park and yes, I intend to visit there again in the not to distant future. It has everything we would need to camp in relative comfort but, more importantly, there are 21 miles worth of hiking trails, backwoods country, complete with all the wildlife that lives in the woods. I know all I’ll need to take with me on a backcountry hiking trip and will be prepared before Gypsy rolls off this lot. When all the trash cans in the park are bear-proof, you can’t help but wonder if you should hang your own food on a limb at least 15 feet off the ground and 40 feet from your campsite! Can you imagine a bear knocking on the door asking for a cheeseburger, please?

We spent a lot of time in this park just playing around and enjoying it immensely but also in the area was Ruby Falls and the Extreme Obstacle Course. Ruby Falls didn’t interest me since I’d rather tour the place by myself than being on a tour. What DID interest me was the ropes. I knew that day, all through my life, I would never in a million years get up and play with ropes and metal clips high above the ground. Until that day. I woke up feeling it, knowing it and wondered what in the world happened the previous 52 years for me to suddenly change my mind. I quickly dressed appropriately, left Hershey at home in the A/C (yea, he hates it when I do that), and was there in a very short while. I paid for the fun, grabbed the gear and chatted with the girls at the counter. Ever sociable. I watched people on the courses, saw them flying through the treetops, having a blast and I could hardly wait for my group to get trained and go!

Never once did I feel fear; never once did I doubt my decision; never once did I think I couldn’t do anything right. I just did it. Actually, I was chomping at the bit because I wanted to be up there so much. And to think I did all that, all that adrenaline for 2 hours straight, all the success because I never once fell and hung by the hook. That day was a turning point in life. Life is not all about fun and game but fun and games need to be a part of life. Otherwise……… you fill in the blank.

Oh, how I hated to leave this place. My favorite campground, my favorite town, my favorite city, a most beautiful and awe-inspiring state park. But alas, I knew I had obligations looming in the near future and I needed to be in a place where I could make it back in two days.

So we’re back on interstate 59 to 24 to 75 and head to Sweetwater, TN. Oh yes, another fine place! I loved the little town and, in short order, found out I was very close to Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway. A big plus (I cheated) is they had this diner close by that had the most wonderful country cooking! Kind of set up like the Cracker Barrel but much better food. After all, we are in the country and it is a local restaurant. Oh, it’s pretty well known with the truckers, too. There were always big rigs there and I surely couldn’t blame them. They were good with working with me because of the stomach surgeries and that’s always a plus to me since I can’t eat that much at one time.

Stayed here a few days and one day we rode the Cherohala Skyway. I mean seriously, I rode the Dragon in 1998 and never did the Skyway? How dare me! It was beautiful! God sure did make our creation pretty. The ride to Robbinsville was long because I’m forever the traveler and will turn off on any road that I think I can get Miss Ellie in. Because of that, I see things that aren’t on any map, things only locals knows about, or someone just happens across it. I have a plan but it’s not a rigid plan because I know me. I would have missed a lot of things in life if I hadn’t veered off the path for a while.

Finally made it to Robbinsville, turned around and did the Skyway back. Fiddle, it went by way too quick and the next thing I know, we’re in Tellico Plains again, almost home. But what a day! I’m SO thankful Hershey is not a carsick doggie because I pushed him to the limit that day. This was also the first time I had been in North Carolina since the day we left. Kind of weird because I’ve wondered a few times which state I’m actually in.

Jumped on interstate 75 to interstate 40 in Knoxville. Time to hit the next campground before returning. Statesville to the north, Charlotte to the south. Didn’t feel like exploring either place since we were both pooped and it was suddenly so very hot! We took some zero days and stayed around the campground. Hershey has turned out to be a quite awesome camping partner, for which I’m eternally grateful. Well actually, I’ve become pretty adept with the simple things because I’ve wondered if my brain could or would form new pathways when it came to learning something new. Yes! I can take that class I’ve been wanting to take and yes, I can read all 14 books I checked out from the library yesterday!! Yes!! Would the physical health hold out or change? No, afraid not. Too many years of damage; all I can do is from this day forward, which is exactly what I do. Losing focus at a mere 98 lbs. Is not good. Things are much, much better if I weight 101 lbs. I don’t have to weigh myself to know if I can read, understand, comprehend and focus. Anyway, I didn’t leave myself any extra time by staying in Statesville. It was make it back to the Eastern Shore in one day.

On the road again mid-morning Monday via interstate 40 until the turn to 70E. Estimated our ETA to be about 6 hrs. Missed it by half a hour because I didn’t take into account the few stops I make for Hershey and me. I stop and walk him frequently because, even though he is an excellent passenger, he needs to get out and stretch his legs a little, too.

Nice place, this campground. Super kid-friendly and kind of hoping my granddaughters could come stay with me a few days so we could play. It’s a great idea but I had been back approximately 1 hr when all hell breaks lose. Why I expect anything any different I don’t know.

By the way…. there is one more campground we stayed at but I can’t think of which one it was. I remember it had the white peacock but I have no clue what state I was in. Sorry!

I didn’t do a complete total of what was spent on this trip but I can say that gas, by far, was the most used. When towing, I made sure I filled up at half a tank because Miss Ellie was thirsty. Since the camper was parked a good bit of those days and no towing was involved, Miss Ellie was the delicate drinking lady she always had been.

Campgrounds are next but I have a discount card and get a discount every night, plus bonus points. The weird thing is I’ve stayed in some relatively cheaper campgrounds but this one I’m in right now is substantially higher than any of the others, almost $10 to $15 dollars higher per night. So I opted for the month stay, which dropped the bill right down, almost by half. Like I said, this one is super kid-friendly plus a pier over the river, boats, fishing and more than enough things to do.

I don’t eat out much because it doesn’t benefit me to pay for a meal I can’t or won’t eat later. I shopped for groceries at the chains and got discount cards for all of them. I bought needed items on sale with the discount card. I have a microwave and I crave veggies so I nuke like crazy when I’m wanting some. I also kept the freezer packed with ice cream sandwiches, nutty buddies and slushy popsicles to hopefully add the fat calories and keep the weight elevated. Hershey has dry and wet dog food and I buy those in bulk anyway. Doggie didn’t cost me a dime except maybe for a bit of beef jerky now and then. Yea, I’m a sucker and he’s been SO great!

I started the trip on May 13, 2015 and ended it on June 15, 2015. I have traveled approximately 2,032 miles. I have been in 5 different states; North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Go ahead and ask me – Do you regret it? Nope! I most certainly do not. Best thing I could have done, and did, and will do it again in a few weeks. Have to keep the new knowledge fresh and continue to learn.

Go ahead and ask me – Did it change me? You bet your bottom dollar it did! I appreciated my friends more. Many times I’d be somewhere and think to myself ‘so and so would love this’ or ‘I wonder if so and so has ridden this road.’ I also found I appreciate strangers more. They become friends for a little while. They have stories to tell and it’s not about me. I also learned the screwdriver I keep in my purse it a good idea. Not everybody asking for something really needs it. Gut instinct, hence the screwdriver.

Go ahead and ask me – Are you appreciate of your friends and family? Yeppers! I’m so appreciative of the negative people that told me in so many ways what a stupid idea this was, how unsafe it could be, especially a woman traveling alone, how I didn’t know what in the world I was doing or just blatantly laughed at the idea. In short order, I beat them. I overrode their words and proved to myself they were wrong. I’m appreciative of the indifferent people, the one’s who could care less either way, the one’s who plain out didn’t care one way or the other. I’m sure they’re still indifferent and that’s okay. Maybe one day some of them will get a chance at a big adventure and I’ll be right in their corner, cheering them on. I am MOST appreciative of the ‘support’ group that has rallied around this idea and gave any and all means of encouragement to me doing this. That I did it with no additional help makes their support even more special.

What changed me the most? I believe in me again. I’m a flawed, imperfect human being like everyone else but I realize I can trust my judgment. Things will always happen that are beyond our control but those things we can control and set right makes everything okay. I haven’t felt this way in over 15 years. Who would have thought a camper and a big adventure would change the (my) world so? I had hopes but nothing like the abundance of what I received. Yes, I know I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to do this long haul but I’m far more in tune with the folks that believed in me, that I could do it, even if I was doubting myself.

I’m not doubting myself anymore.

Thanks to all of you for sharing The Big Adventure with me. I’ve truly enjoyed sharing with you.




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