Time for a mid-winter-get-away! Our plan was to drive out of Ohio and into Kentucky to view two bigger-than-life venues: The Ark Encounter, and The Creation Museum. A good excuse is that it was DIL Halie’s birthday, and that is all it took to motivate . . . Caleb and Halie would be joining us.
Thursday, Feb 14th, (Happy Valentine’s Day!) Tom and I left home at 10:00 a.m. and poked our way south in no particular hurry. This trip wasn’t really about the camping – but, we brought the Silvermine as a comfy headquarters for the pups and us. Caleb and Halie left separately after work on Thursday, and drove as far as Cincinnati where brother Micah put them up overnight. We all planned to meet up in the morning!
Another added bonus was that Airbud Alan was just as anxious as we were for a winter respite, and he eagerly jumped on the plan. We met Alan at Three Springs Campground in Corinth, KY, just a few miles from the Ark – and 45 miles from the Creation Museum. It is a secluded little campground, accessed by a narrow road out of a “Wrong Turn” movie, and is nestled down in a hollow complete with a stream. In the summer, I suppose it is pretty.
For supper we drove 5 miles up the road to El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant – absolutely wonderful! In the evening Alan and Tom settled into Alan’s Airstream for an evening of movies . . . and peanuts.
At 10:00 Friday morning we pulled into the Creation Museum just a few minutes after Caleb and Halie arrived. A lot of the beautifully landscaped outside walkways were closed, and it was too cold to enjoy them anyway. Inside was the “Walk Through History” featuring scientific and Biblical answers for the world we live in. It all began with the 4D Special Effects Theater feature presentation of “In Six Days.” It recounted the Biblical creation story, with a 4D movie presentation, and many other special effects that made the whole telling surprisingly explicit.
Then, the journey through the museum outlined the creation story and beyond – all the way to Jesus’ resurrection. We had lunch in Noah’s Café, and wound up our trip about 1:00.
For supper, wanting to share the goodness with Caleb and Halie, we returned to El Jalisco for another fiesta!
Saturday morning we headed for the Ark Encounter, which opened at 9:00 and was just 10 miles away. The mantra for the Ark Encounter is THINK BIGGER. It is an authentic replica of the Biblical Ark – the God-prescribed 300 by 50 by 30 cubits – at seven stories tall and a football-field-and-a-half long. It is the largest timber-framed structure in the world! Do I have your attention?
We loaded a bus for a quick trip from the ticket booth to the Ark. As we entered the Ark, it took a few minutes to become accustomed to the size and scope of the thing. We spent the next 5 hours absorbing the titanic dimensions of the craft, and reading our way through the many descriptions, details, and displays.
After our tour we returned to the campground and Caleb and Halie returned to their hotel – and all met up again at LaRosa’s pizza for dinner. At that point we each made our own declarations for departure in the morning: we planned to leave by 7:00 to hopefully beat the snow that was predicted, Caleb and Halie planned a trip to the Newport Aquarium on the way through Cincinnati, and Alan didn’t think he would be lingering too long at the campground in the morning.
We were home by noon – and the snow started within 10 minutes of when we were home. No Joke! Looking to the future, our next planned trip is to a little Indy Car racing venue in Austin, Texas – leaving March 12th! We are expecting the race to keep us away from Van Wert for 2 weeks!
In the middle of the Polar Vortex, when temperatures were below 10 degrees for several days straight, we got a little stir-crazy being confined in the house! A deep-freeze is not the time to plan a campout get-away, but we began seeing tantalizing tidbits that Niagara Falls was freezing to create a spectacular winter wonderland. We made that trip four years ago and were in total awe of the ice-spectacle. We decided to give it another go and invited Caleb and Halie to go along with us.
The plan was simple: a 7-hour/400 mile dash to the Falls on February 2, leaving Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. Caleb and Halie came to our house on Friday after work for the early take-off on Saturday morning. The roads were clear and there was some very light fog – eventually a blue-grey sky, and temperatures above freezing!
We arrived and checked into our Wyndham Hotel on the American side and quickly settled into our rooms. By 3:00 we were back in the truck and on our way through customs to stroll the beautiful promenade on the Canadian side.
It took awhile in the parking lot to get layered up for the 33 degree cold and dampish stroll on the walkway. Our parking lot was at the extreme end of the promenade -- at the horseshoe end of the falls.
The temperatures here at the falls had been below 10 degrees for the past 5 days, and the heat-wave of above freezing temperatures brought out a lot of people to view the falls.
We finally reached the stretch across from the American Falls – the stopping point. We crossed the street and headed back, passing through several of the gift shops! During our stroll we had seen a giant Ferris wheel up on the hillside among the main drag of restaurants and tourist traps, so we headed up to check it out. As it got dark, we climbed on that Ferris wheel . . .just as the lights came on the falls. Three of us found the height of the Ferris wheel a bit intimidating – but Halie took it (her first-ever Ferris wheel ride) in stride.
Here is a video of our Ferris wheel ride.
After the Ferris wheel ride we warmed up in a Sports Bar while eating supper, and then made our way back to the truck and the hotel room. Basically, the trip was over -- all except for the trip home in the morning!
Day 9 Jan 14
Today was a trip into Savannah – the weather had soured a bit and we only made a half-hearted attempt to walk the river-front, old-town, shopping district -- and no attempt at all to walk the famous 10,000-step Factor’s Walk. We did that all last year on New Year’s Eve and you can look back in my blog for December, 2017, to view pictures! We ate lunch at a crab shack that we had enjoyed on New Year's Eve, and then headed back to our campsite, arriving by 2:30.
Day 10 Jan 15
We headed out today to view the Georgia Sea Turtle Center rescue facility – it was closed! Nothing to do with partial government shut-down -- they are doing some special remodeling and closed for 2 weeks!
We had not yet walked the Great Dunes Beach, so we headed that way. As I’ve said before, we are not big beach lovers, but we do like a chance to walk along a beach when the conditions are right. It was a little chilly at 50 degrees, but it was quiet, not too windy, and not crowded. There is no doubting that the salt air is invigorating!
We also stopped by Poteets Fish Market again to pick up several pounds of shrimp for the freezer, and two (Caribbean) lobster tails. We’ll take them home to enjoy with family!
Mid-afternoon we got a message from Caleb saying that another large snow storm was to sweep through Van Wert on Saturday and Sunday. When we looked on the computer for a bit more detail, it appeared that it could begin as early as Friday afternoon with some icy/mix precipitation.
Things on Jekyll Island have crawled into slow gear as far as sight-seeing opportunities go, and the weather is not warm enough to just sit idly outside the camper for long periods. With all that in mind, we decided to prepare to leave for home tomorrow and Tom is out winterizing the camper – a job he can do in one hour flat.
So, this effectively brings our winter retreat to an end, and I am going to give myself the additional treat of not adding any more to the blog! Sometimes, it gets to be a burden! This last post should see us arrive at home on Wednesday afternoon!
Day 8 Jan 13
Late morning we decided we better get out and do something – thus a drive to the mainland for grocery shopping and lunch. Today was supposed to see the temperature go back up in the 70’s although there was a 10% chance of rain in the morning and there were some slight sprinkles. It wasn’t a very exciting trip, but it accomplished the goals, and we were back in the early afternoon.
It was beautiful sitting out in the 70-degree-sunshine: we sorted pine needles, read, and enjoyed the outdoors, until we couldn’t stand the little biting gnats .
Looking for a good walk in the afternoon we headed back to the historic district to stroll the paths in front of the mansions of “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world” – the Jekyll Island Club. Club members included men such as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshal Field! The homes are now owned by the state of Georgia and a large restoration of “Millionaires’ Village” is in progress.
Dinner was shrimp and lamb chops on the grill. Tomorrow we are making plans to spend the day in Savannah.
Day 7, Jan 12
We started our morning a short distance down the road at Horton Pond. A beautiful little inland pond, it is outfitted with an observation deck and a floating platform that attracts basking turtles and alligators. From the viewing platform we saw a few birds and a turtle head poking out of the water. In the distance we could also see a floating alligator, appearing to be maybe 5’ long.
There was a .7 mile trail around the pond, and we headed off on that with the dogs. The trail was beautiful and wide and the temperature was already in the 60’s.
When we got off the trail, Tom looked down and saw Jasper’s head covered with tiny, red ticks! We headed into the town of Brunswick where I knew that they had a PetSmart. Originally planning to buy treatment shampoo and do our own baths, PetSmart offered to do the bathing for us. Not only that – but they moved the pups to the front of the line. This worked out well for Charlie, and he was washed and dried and rid of the ticks. But Jasper was another story: He had so many ticks that they were starting to attach. The laws require the pet store to STOP at any time that it is evident veterinary treatment is needed – and it prevents groomers from removing ticks! So bathed, but still wet, we headed off to the Doggie ER with Jasper! Because both dogs had tick treatment/medicine last week, the vet said the attached ones would die and fall off. SO – home we rushed to finish drying Jasper! They were already falling off by the time we got back to the camper!
Here are pictures of two clean doggies -- and a slightly embarrassed Jasper!
Dinner tonight . . . from Poteets Fish Market! We had never eaten and had no idea what to do with Soft-Shell Blue Georgia Crabs. But, when we were at Poteets, a customer told us they were her favorite, just sautéed in butter – eaten soft-shell and al!
They were frozen and tonight I got them out of the freezer after reading a bit about how to cook. One recipe I saw said to dredge them in seasoned flour and sauté in a skillet. I had no flour, so I crushed up some crackers and made a seasoned cracker breading to coat them in. Tom heated the cast-iron skillet on the propane burner and threw on some butter and added the heavily-cracker-coated-crabs. They browned quickly on one side in 2 minutes, and were flipped and the temperature turned down. Tom put a lid on and let them simmer/cooked for a few more minutes.
How to describe? They were “soft” shell, and the shell was more like a chicken skin than a shell. The flavor was delicious and the cracker crumbs suited them, and we liked them a lot. Our biggest thought was that they were NOT the Alaska Crab that we had two summers ago!
Day 6 Jan 11
Jekyll island is not the only island near us – there is a pocket of paradise that includes several other islands that is inclusively called the Golden Isles. Today we ventured off Jekyll island and over to St. Simons Island.
First, though, we delayed breakfast and had a late-morning brunch: hamburger gravy on toast with a fried egg on top! Then we were up and over the bridge to leave Jekyll . . . and up and over another bridge to arrive on St. Simons.
Jekyll Island has limited its development to preserve the wildlife and natural habitats. St. Simons Island is a true town, with all the shopping and amenities that go along with that. In fact, it was rated by USA Today as “Best Coastal Small Town”.
We walked and gawked for three hours, in bright sunshine and 55 degree temps. Our ramble included the shopping district, several beaches, the lighthouse, resort hotels, and the National Fort Frederica National Monument – closed due to the government shut-down!
Arriving back at our campsite by 4:00, we enjoyed sitting outside to the music of our neighbor’s jam session. I loved his slowed-down arrangement of “Watermelon Crawl” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off.” We also noted that a large motor-home with 6 guys moved in next door; shortly they had two new golf carts delivered to their site.
Dinner tonight (I forgot to say we went out to eat Mexican last night!) is shrimp on the grill. We're going to have to make another run to Poteets Fish Market . . . soon!
Day 5 Jan 10
We’re learning a new daily routine – no need to rush the morning! That is a result of us staying put for 10 days! Sleep late, indulge in two cups of coffee, slow down before heading out in the morning . . . and wait for the temperature to warm up and the stores to open! That is my schedule. Tom is still up at 6:30 walking the dogs for an hour!
When we finally did get going this morning, we headed for the Driftwood Beach that is on the northern-most tip of Jekyll Island 1 mile from our campsite! More seasonable temperatures of 43 degrees greeted us this morning and we packed along hats, gloves and several top layers for our morning beach walk. Even with that, the walk on the sand along the shore was down-right frigid! Leaving the immediate shore, we headed back to the bike path which was sheltered from the ocean-front winds, and found it warm, sunny, and pleasing for a long walk.
Our afternoon delight was a drive across the island to St. Andrews Beach Park to walk the Wanderer Memory Trail. The ship Wanderer, In November 1858, arrived at Jekyll Island with a cargo of over 400 slaves brought directly from Africa. The African slave trade had been illegal for over 50 years! The Memory Trail is a nicely interpretive exhibit following the ocean shore where the Wanderer was anchored to off-load it’s cargo. The Wanderer itself sank in 1871 after a short life of 14 years. I have just begun reading the book for more details.
As for our two beach experiences today -- we loved it. Not true beach lovers, we found these beaches to be just our type: the sand was beautiful, white, and fine, and easy walking. There were no sun-bathers -- just other beach-combing, dog-walking oldsters like us.
Day 4 Jan 9
We woke up in the Jekyll Island Campground, ready to explore in more detail our immediate surroundings – on foot with the dogs. By the time I joined him at 8:00, Tom had already covered most of the area all the way through the picnic area and to the beach. He had to retrace a little!
The campground, 158 sites with two large bath-houses, is a spread of loop-roads with level sites that are a bit close together. The sites are soft, spongy, sandy soil with a scant covering of long pine needles. Large oak trees are generously hung with draping moss, and although the campground is full – it is very quiet. So we are situated for the next 10 days!
Our morning mission was to twofold: get oriented as to the lay-out of the roads and the activities & attractions on the island . . . and find a seafood market. Map in hand, we discovered that there were not too many roads on the island – if you get lost you just keep going around and around. As for the seafood, we had to leave the Island and venture 14 miles into the little burg of Brunswick for the seafood!
Poteet Seafood Market seemed to be the only one in the area that anyone knew about. It was a perfect little stop for all things seafood-related . . . and we purchased large shrimp, scallops and soft-shell crabs. We also made a trip to the local Winn-Dixie Supermarket to stock up on groceries to go with the seafood. We arrived back at the campground in time for a lunch of shrimp and other munchies.
In the early afternoon while the temperatures rose into the 60’s we sat outside – me working on my pine needle basket. As I worked, I eyed the nice, long, pine needles on the ground and decided I needed to put some effort into harvesting some FREE needles while we are here.
In the afternoon we headed for the Jekyll Island Club Resort and the Historic District – one of the largest historic districts in the country – 33 structures that were the grounds for the word’s most exclusive club from 1886-1942! The Club Resort (hotel) is an amazing structure, still renting out rooms . . . and with people playing croquet in tidy-white attire on the front lawn! There is a wharf with beach access and various tourist-traps (horseback riding on the beach and dolphin viewing boat tours) – all of which were open for business . . . with no business visible. We discovered that January/February is the slow time for tourist trade!
Back at the campsite, at 5:30, Tom announced that the sun would be setting soon; if we wanted to cook outside we had best get ready. Tom had steak and shrimp on the grill, and I had sautéed scallops.
Day 3 Jan 8
With 517 miles to drive today, we were up before dark and on the road by 7:00. We didn’t bother to make coffee, and stopped down the road for coffee and sandwich carry-out . . . still dark!
Our GPS indicated we could arrive at Jekyll Island as early as 3:30 – but we always factor in bathroom stops and dog walks! Our first stop was at the Georgia Visitor Center on Interstate 75 where I loaded up on pamphlets, maps, coupon books, sight-seeing planners and other Georgia coastal must-see information.
Knoxville, west to Chattanooga, we busted right through the 285 loop around Atlanta and blew straight through downtown on Interstate 75. At a roadside rest Tom walked the dogs and I threw together a plate of smoked Gouda cheese, bison and venison sausage, crackers and veggies for a driving munchy. Below Atlanta we veered onto Interstate 95 to Savannah, and then a short jaunt down to Jekyll Island, arriving at a descent 5:00!
The drive in to Jekyll Island was a total transformation of our all-day scenery of pine-tree-lined interstate. We drove up and over a bridge and down into a beautiful area of historical locations, beaches, bicycle and carriage paths, sand dunes, and even a Sea Turtle Center -- all bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Jekyll River.
We’re here for the next 10 days; we have NEVER stayed 10 days in one place! Tonight, walking the immediate campground loop, we discovered 8 other Airstreams, and we’re looking forward to meeting each and every one. Tomorrow I’ll concentrate on getting some pictures of our campsite. I’ll leave you with this one of Tom sitting under the awning, enjoying the last of the bottle of wine we had with dinner!
Day 2 – Jan 7
On November 10, 2018, the National Park Service opened the long-awaited 16-miles section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley, 12 miles from where I grew up. Since 1966 (when I was 14 years old) it has been continuously stalled by funding difficulties and for the last few decades I gave up thinking I would ever see it! With our unexpected trip through the area on our way to Jekyll Island, we headed out this morning to follow the 60-day-old parkway drive.
We followed TN Route 321 from our campground, 25 miles to the jumping on place, just down the road from my hometown of Maryville. I can’t even begin to count the times that we have driven past the access road with sarcastic remarks about “the parkway.” Would it live up to 52 years of hype?
ABSOLUTLEY! It was beautiful. The 16-mile road was so fresh and new, and somehow, even on this early date in January, the grass on either side of the road was a thick, bright, green! The pull-offs were well situated to show Wear’s Valley from grand over-looks, and the many bridges were literally hanging on the side of the mountain.
We ended up in Wears Valley and drove the rest of the way into Pigeon Forge. It was such a beautiful sunny and warm day (67 degrees) that we decided to walk the dogs on the lovely little outdoor strolling walkway of Margaritaville on “The Island.”
Our evening dinner plans were with my siblings, Richard, Johanna and Beccie, who all lived in the near-by area. Our favorite get-together place is Calhouns Restaurant on the Loudon Lake, just a few miles down the road from our campsite. We spent an enjoyable two hours chitchatting in the outdoor glassed-in dining room -- right on the water. Then back to the campsite for an early bedtime in preparation for a long drive the next day.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown