Chris' Genty

Chris' Genty

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shenandoah National Park

From Fancy Gap I took the Interstates for a 150 miles to speed up the process. Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway is nice, but kind of remains the same and the lookouts are similar from one to another too. The weather was not so nice, so why not take the easy route. En route I got involved in a major traffic jam, where we stood pat for about 90 minutes. 21 state police cars and three ambulances went by and then it turned out that the accident was not even on the interstate but on the exit road.

After overnighting at Walmart in Waynesboro, I spent Tuesday in the Shenandoah National Park, where I found an overnight spot in the Loft Mountain Campground. The park itself is not much different than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nice road over the mountains with big forests and lookouts left and right, but much of the same again. In the Shenandoah NP there I saw a few animals, including a deer which crossed right in front of me in the campground. In the afternoon I made an excursion with the Jeep and on the way back I collected some wood for a nice campfire in the evening.

On one of the outlooks I met a couple from Michigan who are hiking the Park in its entire length (107 miles) on the Apalachian Trail, which crosses the drive several times. Quite a hike !

Here are a few photos of the park.

38.24586N 78.66894W 3353 ft

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blue Ridge Parkway II

Yesterday (Thursday) I experienced another portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Mt. Pisgah (MM 408) to the exit near Little Switzerland (MM 334) the road was again in good condition and traffic was low with the exception of the area around Asheville. Asheville is a good sized town with Interstates 40 and 26 crossing through town. On the 10 miles around Asheville one had the impression, that many drivers just wanted to "make" part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Traffic increased tremendously around the town. There were less outlooks on this portion, but since the views kind of repeat a lot, I did not stop as many times as before. The most annoying thing was the many low hanging limbs banging on the various covers on the roof. So far I could not discover any major damage though.

The exit before Spruce Pine, where I planned to spend the night at Walmart, was Little Switzerland. I was interested to visiting that little town. The lady at the visitors center at Craggy Gardens said, that there was no problem and the road was good and continuing to Spruce Pine. So, off I went to Little Switzerland. Off the Parkway, there were only two roads, one was 226A heading to Marion, so I took the other one. After a few miles just behind a nice little church there was the sign "Dead end". I stopped and a couple of locals drove by and explained, that there was no such a road and I had to return to the Parkway. The only problem was, I had to turn around and that is not possible with the Jeep hooked up. So, I had to unhook, turn around and hook up again. Back on the parkway I directly went to Walmart in Spruce Pine. I still don't know what's there about Little Switzerland.

During the evening and all night a major thunderstorm was active in the area and the other morning there was a lot of fog on the hills. I therefore decided to use the major roads heading north. The first part of the road was 14% incline and there were a zillion warning signs and a 15mph speed limit for trucks. I usually honor all signs for trucks since they are there for a reason and my 40'000 lb combination is as heavy as a truck. After refueling in Marion, it was a 135 mile trip on I-40 and I-77 to Fancy Gap, where I-77 crosses the Parkway again and leaves the option open to continue there after the weekend.

In Fancy Gap there is an expensive KOA Kampground and the much cheaper Utt's campground, where I settled for a couple of nights. While it was dry most of the day, it was raining while I was setting up and during the entire evening. The campground is on a steep slope, but the sites are moreless level but on grass with very small gravel areas. They are definitely made for smaller rigs than mine. When leveling up, my rear left jack slipped off the wooden block and could not be moved up nor down. I had to use all the tricks in my toolbox to get the jack loose again, including filling the airbags and slowly moving Genty a few inches. Finally the jack retraced and I could start the leveling process again, this time with a solid gravel base under the wood block.

There are few photos here.

36.67576N 80.69017W 3007 ft

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blue Ridge Parkway I

After repairing the Datastorm internet system  for three hours in the parking lot at Walmart, Sylva, NC, I finally left after noon for the  BlueRidge Parkway.

I will travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the next couple of days. Since the mile markers go north to south and I travel south to north, I will drive "backwards". The "last" 20 miles are not passable with a big rig, since some tunnels are only 10-11 ft high. I started the trip at Balsam Gap, where The Great Smoky Expressway crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It was an interesting drive uphill all the way to  6'047 ft, the highest point on the parkway. The pretty windy road is in perfect condition, although it is already over 70 years old (no commercial traffic !). There were many lookouts where I had no problem parking with my 61 ft long vehicle combination. Thanks to the higher altitude, the temperatures were very nice. Today's trip was in Nantahala National Forest and Pisgah National Forest. At Mt Pisgah is a hotel, restaurant and a nearby campground, where I settled for the night. No AT&T (for cell phone), no Verizon (air card), but my satellite dish is working again, so I have Internet and can blog and even watch a little TV. (Thanks to my huge battery bank which is fully charged from my solar panels)

Some of the photos can be seen here.

35.40323N 82.7577W 4944 ft

Monday, May 23, 2011

Great Smoky National Park

The Great Smoky National Park is basically a huge area of hills of all different altitudes with ridges, valleys, some rivers, etc. The area is wooded and covered by a huge variety of flowering plants.

There are several good roads in and through the park. Sunday I travelled from Cherokee to Newfound Gap (5'046 ft) and Clingmans Dome (6'643 ft) the highest point in the park. Due to pollution the view up there was not very impressive though. From the parking lot to the top of the mountain with the tower there is a steep trail of about one mile round trip for some exercise but little view. (The camera was set wrongly, that's why there are no photos from the top).

Some of the photos are available here.

35.44198N 83.33224W 1968 ft

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Across four states - heading east

After a few days in New Orleans, I travelled through Louisiana (LA), Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL) and Georgia (GA) to North Carolina (NC). Mostly on interstates and in large forests travel was pretty easy and uneventful. I stayed at Wal-Marts and Lowe's along the interstates. The traffic was low, only around Atlanta traffic was very heavy.

Between Birmingham (AL) and Atlanta (GA) my odometer reached the first 100'000 miles.

In Georgia, 50 miles north of Atlanta, the ride changed. After a few hundred miles with more less no hills at all, the area started to get a little "hilly" to finally reach the Natahala National Forest. While the road still was mostly 4 lanes into the hills, at Andrews it went two lanes and one of a sudden I was in a small gorge with nothing but whitewater tourism, the Natahala Gorge. The windy road was about 25 miles and eventually turned into a 4 lane road and even an interstate again in the Great Smokey Mountains area, my goal for the moment.

In Whittier I found a Passport America campground (Fort Wilderness Campground and RV Park), which was difficult to find, almost impossible to reach (one 150° turn right outside of the park) and lousy inside. The internal roads are 7-8 ft wide and in bad condition. The utilities work though including my satellite. Since I am installed now, I will not change any more and stay for three nights But this campground cannot be recommended to anyone with a rig larger than 30 feet and if one needs the showers and restrooms - stay away they are dirty.

35.44198N    83.33224W    1968 ft

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodby Abbeville

For a full month I was staying at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville. I enjoyed the Cajun cuisine and the adventures on Lake Martin and fishing and crabbing in the Vermilion Bay with Rocky. People and food in Cajun country are so different to the rest of the USA. I will come back.

Betty's RV Park is something special. The park has no amenities whatsoever, the sites are rather small, but you don't need any of these, since Betty, the owner and host makes up for everything. She is the most charming host you could think of. She is a real Cajun, she knows the area, the restaurants and she is a hell of a cook. Of course the number two attraction, right after Betty, is her Happy Hour every day at 4.30, when most RVers meet for chats and drinks and some crawfish festivals, etc.. Thank you Betty for the great time.

Today I left after 11am and drove via New Iberia and Highway 90 in 3.5 hours to New Orleans, where I made camp at Ponchartrain Landings. This is a nice, new RV park surrounded by yacht wharfs and some old run down harbour facilities.

30.02457N 90.03388W

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crabbing in Vermilion Bay

Today was a busy day. I went to a dentist for a little bite correction on one of my new crowns, then I had a haircut. On the way back to the Genty, Rocky called and asked whether I had fruit salad - I made some yesterday, so I invited him to come and get some. He likes my fruit salad. Then he invited me to go to look after his crab cages at 4pm.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fresh shrimp

We were sitting at Happy Hour when Betty returned from church. She told us, that half a mile up the road, a friend was just setting up for his fresh shrimp sale. Joel, Betty and I went there immediately to purchase some fresh seafood. The fisherman has about 500 pounds of fresh shrimp to sell. According to Betty, the word will go around town pretty quickly and he will sell everything in no time. We bought 10 pounds each. This sounds like a lot, but it is not.

Back at the RV park, we started working on these shrimps right away. While Joel already knew what to do, Betty taught me how to deal with these shrimps. I learned, that they can easily be prepared when that fresh. Just lift up a bunch and squeeze the body away from the heads, then throw away the heads. After this first round, the shrimps need to be peeled. They are quite slimy, so the shell goes away pretty easily.

My ice chest was full with the 30 pounds of shrimp to start the operation. At the end the chest was 2/3 full with heads and peeled shells. I took them back into Genty and washed the peeled shrimps and put them in bags and in the freezer. A part (still in the shell) went right on the barbecue for dinner (with Thai curry, paprika, salt, lime juice and olive oil).

A few photos can be seen here.

29.95295N    92.14324W    45 ft

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Betty's garden

Today at Happy Hour I felt like having crawfish again. Betty was the only one liking this idea. I went to Maxi Mart and got 3 pounds for Betty and 5 pounds for me. Since it is going towards the end of the season, some of these crawdads are getting real big. There is more meat in the big ones, but the shells are hard and the meat is more difficult to remove. But the taste is still great. Those crawfish from Maxi Mart are just the best.

After dinner, Betty asked me to shoot a few pictures from her garden. The cactus which starts blooming was a gift from Mary-Beth and Betty will send the photos to her. Betty would also like to know what the name of the yellow flower is. Readers who know are welcome to comment in the shoutbox at the bottom of this blog or by e-mail. Thank you.

The photos of the day can be found here:

29.95295N 92.14324W 45 ft

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Crawfish Dinner

The Crawfish Dinner we had last Friday was so good, that we had to repeat it tonight. Even more, since Char and John are planning to leave tomorrow morning and they love crawfish as much as I do. We were joined by a new couple who arrived today. Everybody had crawfish. We got them again from Maxi Mart. These guys just know how to boil crawfish. Several of us had 5 pounds, some had 3 pounds. This time I tried 5 pounds for the first time. I eat about 4 of them and left some for breakfast tomorrow.

After Happy Hour we said Good By to Char and John. We have become friends over the last 10 days. They are a really cool retired couple doing "half timing in their Airstream trailer". In the winter they live in Inverness, FL. They have invited me to visit them next winter. Maybe, I might even make it to Florida in the winter.

I have also made plans. I will stay another 10 days in Abbeville, then head to New Orleans for a few days before I head north to the New York City area to pick up Marianne.

You have seen enough crawfish photos, so there are no new ones.

29.95295N 92.14324W 45 ft

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Visiting the Dohertys

A week ago at the Farmers Market in Abbeville I met Betsi Doherty. She is originally from Stetten, Switzerland only 2.4 miles away from my hometown Fislisbach. She invited me for a visit and this visit took place today at their home. Betsi, Paul and her three sons live in a beautiful 4100 ft home on a full acre lot. Paul's parents live next door and they were also there for lunch.

Betsi made a nice "Swiss lunch" and for dessert a typical "Aargauer Rüeblitorte" - wonderful. After lunch we sat in the living room and chatted for a long time until Paul and the boys went out for a ballgame and I went back to the RV Park after Betsi showed me the house, where the three boys have the entire upper floor with bedroom each and a large school-room where they home-school during the week. I enjoyed this afternoon a lot.

Back at Bety's RV Park, Char and John, who are the only visitors still left were still having Happy Hour. We had a couple of drinks together before we went back to our RVs. It was already dark, when three firetrucks came by and stopped right outside of the RV park. It appeared that somebody had passed out at the trailer park on the other side of the road.

Some photos of the lunch are here.

29.95295N 92.14324W 45 ft

Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette, LA

The Festival International de Luisiane in Lafayette celebrates its 25th year and takes place from April 27th to May 1st. Today it was time to check this out. Since nobody else from Betty's RV Park wanted to go, I went all by myself, which was good, so I could do and not do, what I wanted.

There are Music shows on various stages and a huge "Marché des Arts" (Arts market) and "Marché du monde" (World Market). While the pieces of art were nice, some even real nice and classy, looked the "World Market" more like any market. There was stuff offered from all over the country and many merchants tried to sell crap from Africa. The same crab you can see in any market wherever you go worldwide. There must be a big guy be behind all this and finance. They all have the same products (cheap African art for a relative high price - a ripoff for sure). The new gag they offer now is original African "shea butter". Nobody knows what this "butter" is for and it looks disgusting.

About hundred of stands were selling all kinds of food, mostly Louisiane kitchen. I tested "Alligator sausage with fries", crab cake with seafood etouffée and "Funnel cake" . I liked all three. I also bought 20 tickets for beverages. They are the only way to buy beverages at the festival (worth 50cents/piece).

I also listened to various music performances like "Keith Frank & de Soileau Zydeco Band" "The Duhks" and of course "MarchFourth Marching Band" from Portland, OR (for Swiss readers: a Super Guggemusig). Here is a sample video from their website.

All together I spent 6 hours at the festival. For the MarchFourth Marching Bank concert, which I enjoyed in full length, I even got my folding chair from the car (which was parked in a city street just five minutes from the festival area. It was a nice day around 76F until the end. It was cloudy and looked like rain all the time, but there were only a few sprinkles at one time.

Some photos from the festival are here.

29.95295N    92.14324W    45 ft