We had sort of a hair-raising ride up here since I wasn’t used to driving a big rig in the mountains, but once we arrived at Bald Mountain RV Resort we chilled right down and enjoyed our time here. For one thing, we did not have to use the air conditioner 24/7 to keep us cool, like we did in Florida and Southern Georgia – being up in the mountains is its own air conditioner. We opened all the windows and enjoyed the breeze at a 3000 ft. altitude.
This was another of Pat’s shot-in-the-dark planning moves and, as usual, she hit it out of the park almost without realizing it. Hiawassee, the town that encompasses our resort, is a resort area in itself that sprang up from humble beginnings as a logging town when the Tennessee Valley Authority built a hydro dam in 1942 to create Chatuge Lake. Its population is only about 900 people, but the spring and summer vacation crowds triple that number due to the lake’s attractions. The dam is in North Carolina, which shares the Chatuge shoreline with Georgia, and the area has become one of the most popular vacation destinations in Georgia. We didn’t know any of this before we arrived, but we’re always happy to see the infrastructure that tourism brings in because it gives us lots of choices for places to eat and things to do. For our Good Sam discounted price of $31 a night, we got a pull-thru site with full hookups, good internet and cable TV.
On Sunday, we drove up to Brasstown Bald, the tallest mountain in Georgia (4784 ft.) and took a shuttle up to the peak to check out the view. One can see three states from up top, and the visitor center has a lot of info about how the U.S. Forestry Service (yeah, the ones that the GOP wants do away with and sell all their land) did a lot to reforest and restock the area after hunting and logging decimated it in the early 1900’s.
The drive up there was impressive enough, and since it’s a U.S. national park, Pat flashed her Seniors’ card and we both got in for free, redeeming in one instance the $10 cost of the card.
After that we were hungry so we went into Helen, Georgia to find a place that would feed us. Helen is another logging-town-in-decline that reinvented itself as a tourist town, simply by replicating a Bavarian theme, even mandating it in their zoning laws.
On Wednesday we decided to spend the day looking at the sights around Helen. For people like Pat and me, who spent a lot of time in the Austrian and Bavarian Tyrol in our military past, Helen (pop. 510) looked sort of artificial, kind of Disney-German, but they certainly pull in the crowds, as evidenced by the conga line of tourist cars slowly snaking down the main drag. We found a restaurant that some of our fellow campers recommended and had a great lunch, including typical Bavarian fare like kaseschnitzel, wienerschnitzel, spatzle (noodles), sauerkraut, and a pint of Paulaner draft beer.
As we walked around town we noticed that the American mixed with the German pretty well. Next to a restaurant touting Bavarian cooking, there was one offering BBQ and burgers. My Michigan peeps will recognize a lot of similarities here with Frankenmuth, a town that also exploited the Bavarian theme for tourism, but they have it dialed up to a much greater degree here. The Chattahootchee River flows through town, and one of the big tourist draws is tubing on the river.
Since we (especially Pat, who has been walking weird for a couple weeks now) were still recovering from the epic sunburns we got during our Florida kayaking trip, we decided not to add to the sunburn and stayed away from the tubing, but it was fun to watch the tubers float past us. So we walked around town until we got rained out by a thunderstorm and drove home to take a nap during the rain, which has a unique, strangely soporific, sound as it hits the roof of the RV.
Thursday was our last day here, so we spent it wrapping up the sights we hadn’t yet seen. We drove up to Anna Ruby Falls, another National Forestry Service park. Once again our Seniors’ pass let us in for free, and a quarter-mile walk up to the falls produced some very nice pictures.
Today (Friday) we pulled out about 10AM and left Hiawassee for Crossville, Tennessee, where we are going to meet up with my cousin Jim Dickerson and his family this week. They have a condo where they spend time when they’re not renting it out. Jim is a retired teacher and builder, and spends most of his time being Dad-on-call whenever his kids need work done on their houses. When he’s not doing that, he’s golfing at various places in the eastern U.S. We had another nail-biter of a drive up to Tennessee from Georgia, and actually bumped a low-hanging branch in the middle of TN 68, a road I don’t advise anybody to travel in an RV – but that’s where our GPS sent us. It punched a hole in the bubble skylight over our shower, so on the way to Crossville I set up an appointment with a local RV doctor to have it fixed. Hopefully he’ll be able to get it done next week when the part (he had to order it from Fleetwood) comes in.
Another major thing we need to get done is to get our permanent South Dakota license plates. The RV dealership issued us a 30-day temp tag when we bought the coach, which ran out today, so we’re stuck here until our South Dakota mail forwarding service runs our application down to the Pennington County Courthouse and overnights us the plates. So, even though we only booked a week here, if the repairs and the plates take longer than that we’ll have to revise our travel schedule and pay for some extra days here.
We rolled into the new campground around 3:30 this afternoon, which actually is not representative of the drive time up from Georgia since Tennessee is on Central Time and we dialed the clocks back when we crossed over from North Carolina. We’re still up in the mountains, and the coach is running well despite the up/down/up/down of the roads hereabouts. One moment we’re slowing down 10 MPH while pulling up a hill, the next we’re going down the other side and trying to keep the coach from running away from us. I’m beginning to wish for the flatlands out west. After a mighty fine Tex Mex dinner at a local cafe, we decided to call it a night. At least it will be when I post this. No alarm clock tomorrow. Bye!