Day: August 23, 2021

Cataloochee Campground and The Possessed Truck

I got up wondering about the possessed truck. Martha and I read the owner’s manual about the alarm system. The only thing it said was to unlock the door and start the engine, but we did that last night. We did find out where the horn fuse was, so I pulled the fuse and reconnected the batteries. Nothing happened. Perhaps that solved the problem. 

I put the horn fuse back in and we drove to the viewing area. We stopped at lovely Palmer Chapel Methodist Church. With the windows rolled down and the doors unlocked, the truck madness hasn’t happened. We drove up to the end of the field, but at 10:00 the elk were likely in the forest. 

We drove past the Beech Grove School and the Palmer house. I couldn’t help but think about these poor people living in such a paradise being driven from their land and homes. We are certainly happy to have such a wonderful National Park, but was a thriving community in the late 1800’s, shipping apples and other crops all over. Some stocked the streams with rainbow trout and rented cabins to fishermen. One of the concerns was timbering. There might not be any forest left if something wasn’t done.

We drove the other direction from the campground to find another house and beautiful barn along Cataloochee Creek. We continued across a bridge and up a gravel road toward Big Creek and Waterville. I wanted to see how tough this road was. All of these mountain, gravel roads are somewhat tough, but certainly drivable. I have seen many cars on these roads. A jeep would be nice, however.

Back at camp, we fixed lunch and sat for a bit, and then the truck went crazy again, horn honking, lights flashing and door locks going up and down – it’s possessed! Ginger came out with a sympathetic face, telling me there is a Chevrolet place in Waynesville. I had best go get this problem fixed, so I drove over the mountain and called Autostar Chevrolet in Waynesville, North Carolina to see if they could help. They had an opening at 2:00. It was 12:30, so I just drove to the dealership. I told serviceman, Greg, the problem, and he looked at me funny. He asked if I had put any aftermarket things on the truck like running board led lights, inside lights or other electronic devices. No, I hadn’t. I did tell him about the ditch we drove into while looking for bears, and God knows we have hit plenty of big bumps.

I went into the lounge to wait and go through 274 emails, which were almost all junk. I got a message from Sandra that her roof had blown off her trailer on Smith Mountain Lake by a tornado that only hit her trailer. Luckily, no one was there. Danis also left me a message that Dick’s surgery went well and he would be home by now.

After a couple of hours, I walked out front, where there is a beautiful view of the mountains. A young salesman came up to ask if he could help, and we chatted for a while. He apologized for not having much inventory of trucks, but there are just no chips. I walked around looking at used trucks similar to mine. They all looked the same, even the newer ones. I walked around the service bays and saw my truck on the lift, but I couldn’t see what they were doing.

By 4:30, I asked if they knew anything. The technician was in touch with GMC, the question being whether to replace the computer for $1,000. Geez! Greg said to take it home and he would text me tomorrow when they knew something. 

Going over the mountain is becoming familiar, yet still a bit dangerous if someone comes around these blind turns too fast. I honked at all of them. We had an early dinner, then went out for wildlife viewing. We watched the elk, some right beside the car. Two babies laying in the middle of the field were so cute, their heads sticking above the grass.

I got out to take a picture of the barn with the “smoke” on the mountain behind. I noticed something flying close to the grass, but didn’t pay much attention walking around them until they started stinging me. Small yellow jackets were all over me as I made my attempt at running up the road. Every time I thought I was free, another would sting. I kept moving up the road and they kept following. I started fighting back, swatting them, killing my share. One stung me on the lip, and one in the armpit under my shirt. Swat, swat, run. I called to Martha to bring the truck up. A couple got in the truck with me, so I jumped back out swatting away. Finally free, we drove to the end of the road and turned around.

I entertained the idea of taking a Benadryl, but thought I would be OK with a couple of Advil. We went into the trailer and started getting ready for bed when the truck’s alarms went off – horn honking, lights flashing and door locks going crazy. Ginger came over as Martha held the flashlight while I disconnected the batteries again. I apologized for the noise, but she dismissed it. I took the horn fuse out of the fuse box, but we could still hear the door locks. It’s so creepy, especially in the dark. Ginger said there are weird electronic things that happen here. Clocks change time, GPS doesn’t work right and there was something else I missed as I tried not to get shocked.

With the job done, I crawled into bed trying to think of some logical explanation. It doesn’t go off while we are driving, fortunately, and it doesn’t go off if the doors are unlocked. When started it this morning, there was a message to open the driver window and then close it!? What?, but I did it. I have done that twice now… no avail. I have looked for a emergency flasher fuse to pull, but can’t find one. It has been quiet for hours and not gone off, only to start it all over again. Two ways stop it – driving it or unhooking the batteries.

Then I considered that it really was possessed, and I got a chill. I could picture a figure inside the truck, messing with me. Were they trying to make me leave? Did they put the yellow jackets on me? Did I have some ancestor who was in charge of making these 1,200 people leave their homes, their schools, land and way of life? Or did they want everyone to leave?

Cades Cove to Cataloochee

Sunday, August 15, 2021

I had read about the 11-mile road into Cataloochee Campground on the east side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a one-lane gravel road with tight turns down the mountain. Pulling a trailer wouldn’t be easy. As I hooked up, I saw our neighbor, who had been here for three days with no solar or generator. I asked how he managed, and he showed me his special batteries, and said it is just him and his wife, and they are frugal with their use. He was a Norwegian named Yens, and his wife is named Liv, “Like live and let live”, she said. He said he likes to fly fish, and now I was very interested. “Do you have any Yellow Sallies?”, he asked. “What’s a Yellow Sally?” I replied. He invited me over to sit under his awning, and pulled out his backpack filled with fly boxes. He gave me three Yellow Sally dry flies. When I declined, he said he has plenty and that he ties his own. Then he showed me his nymph version. Funny how you meet a guy like this on the last day when we have a long drive, but that’s the way it works sometimes. They were a very nice couple who would have been fun to spend some time with. Live said she sometimes goes with him. Other times she reads a book, but lately in these crazy times, she writes her grandchildren, discussing the importance of Christian values. With regret, I said I had best get going, thanked them and wished them well.

Yellow Sallies

I wondered if Martha would just say she wanted to go home. As we headed toward Townsend, I gave her the chance, asking if she was OK. “I’m OK. Are you OK?” So off we went, passing the turn to Townsend and onto the winding, narrow road to Sugarland. Fortunately, the traffic wasn’t as bad as yesterday. There is no cell phone service in the park, so no GPS. We were doing it the old fashioned way – using a paper map. 

At Sugarlands, we took 441 through Gatlinburg. It was busy, but I’m sure it can get a lot worse. The streets were crowded with tourists. There was a line around the block at a pancake house. We turned onto 321/73, The Great Smoky Byway. 45 minutes or so later, we came to a T in the road. We took a right to Waterville. Big mistake.

We were looking for a turn on Hollow Trail to get to I40. The road turned to gravel and wound through the mountains. It was not a good place to pull an Airstream with its tight turns and steep drop-offs. When we got to the turn, a big sign said, “Trucks and RV’s not allowed on this road. Your GPS is wrong!” 

A few miles up the road, there was another way, but it had the same sign. We slowly pressed on. On the truck’s GPS I could see I40 just a few miles away. I stopped to see if I could get the GPS to get us there. A car came behind us with two ladies in it. The driver asked, “Are you as lost as we are?” As Martha talked to the ladies, I was working on the GPS, noticing a motorcycle rider in a black suit turn onto a dirt road ahead of us. Not having much luck, I got out to see if the ladies had any ideas. They were from South Carolina, trying to get to 40 to get home.

The motorcycle rider in a black suit, riding a black bike came out of the woods, skidding to a halt next to me. I asked how we get to I40. He quickly lifted his helmet shield and said, “4 miles. When it turns to pavement, turn left”, and he sped off. OK, there is hope. 4 miles ahead we came to a crossroad. A sign pointed left to I40. Another pointed straight ahead to Cataloochee 16 miles. A voice inside said it couldn’t be worse than the road we had just driven. 

Some ladies were tending their horses and trailers in a field next to the road. I walked over, opening a gate and walking through the tall, wet grass. They glanced at each other nervously as I approached. One said, “Turn left and go to 40.” “Not straight?”, I asked. She almost smiled and said, “Go to 40.” 

We felt relieved as we got on I40 and into an incredibly different world of speeding traffic winding through the Smoky Mountains. We turned onto Cove Creek Road and finally saw a sign for Cataloochee Campground. It said, You need to have reservations. There is no cell service in the park.” The road in is rather famous for its hairpin turns on a one-lane gravel road. It couldn’t be worse than the roads we had spent the morning driving, and it was only 10 miles.

It is a tough road to drive with or without an Airstream, with blind hairpin turns. One car pulled way over so we could pass. He said, “Take care of that Airstream.” We went very slowly, passing maybe 10 cars, several going too fast. At a T in the road a sign pointed left to Cataloochee Campground. Straight ahead was Cosby 32 miles. We had been close to Cosby an hour ago.

Soon the road became paved. It even had a double yellow line in the middle! Finally, at 3:30 we turned into the campground. A sign said to stop and register. A lady sat at a table under a tarp smiling. I got out more to stretch my legs than anything. Ginger told us all about the campground with a smile on her face, happily saying there is a hand drier in the bathroom, telling Martha she could wash and dry her hair there.

“Are you going to fish?”, she asked me. “Yes”, I replied. She gave me a map with all the streams in the area, along with a brochure with fishing regulations. She showed us all the hiking trails, marking them on the map. She gave us a brochure with the local history. I asked if one could catch fish in these streams, and she replied, “If you’re good.”

We took her advice and went the wrong way around the pretty campground loop to get to site #1 (of 26 sites on Cataloochee Creek). It would have been impossible to get in from the other direction. We got settled and I walked across the dirt loop road to look at the stream. I don’t know how many beautiful trout streams are in this park, but this was another. The sun was shining and we were happy to finally be here. 

One of the big attractions here are the elk. 20 years ago 50 elk were brought from the west and released. We drove up the road to see what was here. Crossing a couple of narrow bridges, we came to a huge field on the right, maybe a mile long and 250 yards across. 30 elk were grazing their way down the valley – big, fat, happy elk. Maybe 10-12 cars were enjoying the view. On the left side of the road was a small, mountain stream, about the size of Rip Rap.

We parked at the end and walked up a trail past a very nice horse camp. I was sizing up the trout stream when it started to rain. As it came down harder, we turned around, heading for the truck. Martha asked for the keys and jogged down the trail. I can’t do that, but we hadn’t gone that far. 

Back at camp, the trouble began. I was sitting in the trailer, sipping a glass of wine, when I noticed the truck’s emergency flashers blinking. I went out, unlocked the truck, started it, pushed the emergency button on and off, got out and locked the truck. Soon it did it again, but this time with the horn honking. I did my thing again, wondering if there was something I had tripped to start this.

It wasn’t long before it started again. This time with the doors rapidly locking and unlocking. The damned thing was possessed! Not knowing what else to do, I disconnected the two batteries, which is not a simple task on this truck.

I kept wondering what on earth would cause such a thing.

Work Day

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Karen went for a 6 mile run up Anthony Creek Trail while the kids had fun cooking pancakes, pouring batter in letters for their names, then adding caramel M&M’s on top. Of course they couldn’t turn them over very well, but they had fun with the project and readily ate them. Karen needed to get back at a decent time, so they packed up for their 4.5 hour trip home. I have been trying to kiss Melissa on the forehead for a week while she squeals, kicks, pushes and calls me “Crazy Dude”. I was taken by surprise when she jumped up in my arms with a big hug I will forever remember. It was a great week with the kids, one that will be hard to top.

We took the trailer to the Loop parking lot, which was busy on a Saturday. I blocked one lane of traffic while I parked it and unhooked. The batteries are at 35%, and we needed a good day’s charge so we can stay 5 days in Cataloochee.

Then we went to town to do laundry, fill up gas, get a fuse for the jack, grocery shop and fill a propane tank. We were too efficient. Everything was right there in one lot – the laundry, Ace Hardware, a propane refill, and even an excellent car wash that could fit any size RV. 

We started four washers. Then I went to Ace for the fuse, but they still didn’t have it. Fortunately, the 25 amp I bought a few days ago was working fine. I got some more firewood and filled the propane tank. The people in this Ace Hardware are really nice and helpful. They also own the propane station. 

A lady named Melissa, at the laundry told us places to go, showed us pictures of wildlife in her yard, and videos taken by a doorbell camera, of bears, turkeys, wild boar and a bobcat. She was a cool, big lady and very nice. She told us to go to Tennessee Sally’s Craft Store, where we would find local arts and crafts. Angels come in all shapes and forms.

We went to Tennessee Sally’s, and it must have been Sally who greeted us. It’s nice, little store with lots of interesting things. Martha bought a solar Mason Jar painted with a bear and trees to remind us of the Smokies. I bought a photography book with pictures of Cades Cove to send to the kids.

It was a good, productive, efficient day. where we got a lot of stuff done with good teamwork. We loaded groceries in the hot trailer parked in the parking lot. Checking the solar, we had gotten to 56%, not enough to make it five days in Cataloochee, so I suggested we go for a hike. We might not be at 100%, but maybe 75. Martha wanted to get out of the heat and go back to the campground. We hooked up, blocking traffic in one lane as people poured in for the Loop Drive on a Saturday afternoon.

People run their phones and iPads down to 0% all the time, but then they buy a new $1,000 phone before the battery wears out. As Lou told us after he installed the solar system, “The batteries are happiest between 20 and 80%.” These are lithium batteries, not lead acid. It’s pretty amazing we have been able to stay in Cades Cove with five people in the trailer for a week in a shaded site that got little sun.

At the campground, we packed up for the move to Cataloochee Campground tomorrow, and we had a full load with all the cooking stuff, bikes, firewood, cameras, tents and sleeping bags. Then Martha went to the Institute to hike to a waterfall someone had told her about. I was ready for a glass of wine.

I sat and listened to some music, first Elke Brook, then Andrew Lloyd Webber. I couldn’t connect Bluetooth from outside the trailer, so I put some earphones on and turned it up.

Abrams Falls and Tubing Little River

Friday, August 13, 2021

We took the morning Loop Drive, which is always fun. After breakfast the plan was to hike to Abrams Falls, about a 5-mile hike, then tube Little River in the afternoon. The Airstream’s vitals were getting low, so I opted out to go dump the tanks, fill up with fresh water and see if I could find a sunny spot to get some solar power. We have been here for six days with no hookups with two kids and now three adults, all charging iPads, phones, watches and a computer. We are getting solar each day, but it is minimal, since we are in the shade.

I hooked up, went to the dump station, which is a good one, then went over to the Loop parking lot, the only open, sunny area I have seen, except for in town. I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough room to turn around, but pulling over onto the grass, I was able to easily make the turn. I parked at the end of the lot, which wasn’t terribly busy in the middle of the day. Ahhh, 304 Watts of solar. It was hot in the sun, so I opened a window and turned the fans on.

I shook out the rugs and vacuumed the floors. I recently bought a Tineco battery-operated stick vacuum. I have been thinking about it for a long time, but finally did it after reading Consumer Reports, and I am quite happy with it. Sweeping isn’t difficult in an Airstream, but you can’t get into all the nooks and crannies. 

I straightened up a bit, then downloaded pictures from the cameras. Josh has been using the camera with the telephoto lens and has really had fun with it. It’s a big, heavy lens and tough to handle, but once he learned to rest it on a window or door, he got better with it. He got some very good pictures along with a number of unfocused ones, but that’s part of the learning curve. He has a good eye for it.

At 12:30, I thought I should bet back. Another four hours and I would have been fully charged, but I thought I should go. I parked the trailer and put everything back – bikes, drying racks, the stove and all the hanging, wet clothes. 

The group got back at 2:30. They had a good hike and a swim at the base of the falls. After a bit of a rest, we drove into town to tube Little River again. The water had dropped a couple of inches since Monday, making it more difficult to negotiate the rocks and rapids. There are three or four fun rapids on this section. The tubes are very sturdy, bouncing off rocks with ease. We had to lift our buts many times to avoid getting banged by slightly submerged rocks. It’s a fun, little trip that took us 2 hours. The kids went for ice cream at Burger Master.

Abrams Falls

It rained like crazy coming up the mountain. Of course I had decided to air out my tent, pulling out the sheet, sleeping bag and air mattress. Now they would all be wet and a mess. As we crossed the mountain and descended into Cades cove, the rains stopped. Martha had not gone for the tube ride, but wanted to chill after the hike. She had put my things back into the tent😊

We cooked potatoes and onions in the cast iron skillet and chicken strips on the griddle, along with cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers. Karen had brought bunt cake for an early celebration of Martha’s birthday.

We have had a great trip with the kids. With rain predicted every day, it hasn’t bothered us. We have had great weather. It’s always good to be in the mountains in August. We’ve had some great hikes, tubing and wildlife drives through Cades Cove Loop Trail. These mountains are gorgeous. I love the “smoke” in the Smoky Mountains, and we have seen some picture-perfect trout streams. On the hike yesterday we saw two fishermen coming back down the mountain. They said they caught one fish, but knew they were fishing behind someone else. Brook trout are like that. Once someone has been through, they become very wary. You could spend all summer fishing in here. The park is huge, and there is a lot of back country to hike in, complete with shelters and campsites. What a treasure!

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