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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wintering in Florida, Getting there


Today is Groundhog Day, 2016. Phil and Chuck both saw their shadows. Yesterday was grand. The day was glorious, t-shirt weather. Then to Burley to hear Brian Russo and sit with and chat with Paul. When I got home, I undertook final touches and cleaning and then went to bed. I rose early. I made breakfast, watched LSSC, closed out bathroom, then desk, and finally kitchen as I mopped my way out. Out at 830 AM. Instead of taking the direct route down 113, I went west on 50 to Grander Mountain for a new headlamp and shower. No shower, but I got a nifty headlamp. I continue heading south on 13 to Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I stop at Stingray’s and get a fried oyster sandwich with cole slaw.  I love this route across the Bay to Norfolk and down 58 via a convoluted path of highways that is not intuitive. Google Maps gets me through. I stop on the NC side of the NC-VA border to get a NC map. I’m 18 Miles from my campsite at Kerr Lake SRA. I find a wonderful site by the lake and am the only camper here.  I grab my gloves and head out to scavenge wood from the surrounding fire pits. I’m lucky since a trove is at my site and I’m able to collect enough for a fire all night long. The state has taken down some trees and left wood for us. After collecting the leftovers from the surrounding pits, I go to collect a worthy log. It is at least two feet in diameter and a proper sixteen-inch width. I roll this treasure home.
Since it was only a five hour ride, it is still light out. This is important. I can walk about the grounds, survey all and collect wood. The freezer is stocked with so much fish, steak, chicken, and vegetables; I have to think about what I will eat over the next three days and in which order so I can keep that food out. I select, a salmon steak, chicken thighs, and a buffalo tenderloin to be eaten in this order: dinner, dinner, breakfast. The sun is setting and it is time to start dinner. I start the succotash, prepare the last of the asparagus in an oil and herb marinade, and finally prepare the salmon steak. First I bathe it in lemon juice followed by a special spice concoction I have devised. It knocks my socks off!! After dinner I start the fire.
I start with a ball of newspaper, add a half dozen pine cones, and four sticks of wood in a crisscross fashion and heap the foundation with the scraps of the other fires by using a blowtorch to ignite the paper which ignites the cones and the previously scorched wood to create a glorious bonfire.
I love this camper. I took a quick shower. I couldn’t sleep with my dirty self. I love this camper. All of the wood is in the pit and burning very hotly. I get up from the log I’ve been using as a chair and roll it over to the fire and hoist it up onto the fire and leverage it with unburnt wood and sit back and watch it burn all night long so slowly. I love how this is just a one nightstand.
After a night of stars and a clear sky, the morning brought a cloud cover and foreboding. I was going west and into some horrendous thunderstorms coming east. They had done lots of damage in Alabama and Mississippi and NC was next in the path. As I cruised down 85 towards Asheville I could feel the wind and see the ominous clouds in the distance. The full force of the storm and I met just after Winston-Salem and was over by the time I got to Hickory. At one point I stopped under a bridge and waited it out. Cars were going off the road and I saw more accidents because of hydroplaning. Even on an occasion, my hazard warning went on, so I decided to pull over for a spell. The radio program I was listening to was interrupted twice to provide warnings and updates from the weather service. The drive from Hickory to Black Mountain was delightful and in the sun. My first stop was Lookout Brewery. I spoke to the owner a bit and showed him and his bartender the Scamp. I picked up a lovely stout, IPA, and a Pale Ale. My next stop, just down the road was Pisgah Brewing Co. They were closed because the place was flooded and needed to me mopped up and cleaned up. I was able to grab a six-pack of Greybeard IPA. I returned to 40 and proceeded to my camp in the Pisgah National Forest, about a half hour from downtown Asheville. I set camp, the only one here, and started dinner so I could have a good evening in town visiting some breweries. The drive into town was magnificent. The sky was a pastel red and blue, almost like those seen on Mallory Wharf in Key West. I found a great parking spot near Hi-Wire. My first stop was Burial where I grabbed a four pack of Scythe Rye Ale and tasted a Porter. Next I went around the corner to Green Man and sampled four stouts. I took a six-pack of their Forester Stout. I dropped my beers off at the car and went to Asheville Brewery for a pizza and some more samples of great stouts. I took the Baba with me, a nice winter warmer kind of stout with jalapeno. I closed out with a smoky stout at Hi-Wire. The drive back was smooth and I made a fire and drank a stout by the fire and closed out the evening in style. The rushing water of the river, which was swollen and roaring fast because of the recent rains, provided great background music. The road in was clear now. It had been flooded earlier and was now covered in red mud, which got the Scamp very dirty.
I woke before dawn and started reading Mrs. Dalloway.  The last time I read this book or any of Virginia Woolf’s books was in college. So for this trip I brought along Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, and The Waves for my reading pleasure and to reacquaint myself with this magnificent writer. I fell back to sleep after a while and woke at 8:30 as the sun came up over the mountains to my east and to the melodic and steady pulse of the swollen river still careening down its rocky path. I spent the morning exploring the area on my mountain bike. This is another gorgeous environment known as the Pisgah National Forest on the border with the Smokies. The National government did us proud with all these parks and saved lands. Of course we need regulation otherwise we have seen what corporations, people do to the land. Drive along any country road surrounding a pristine park and you find garbage, old cares, trash, and the waste of man surrounding those little hovels they call homes. The day was colder, considerably colder than yesterday. I got home, took a shower, had lunch and grabbed the book and settled in for a good read. Instead I had a little nap and woke refreshed for my jaunt into Asheville. I started at Wedge and had a lovely Alewife IPA and took an IPA of cans home. I’m such a beer whore, I always seem to take something home. I moved on to find a parking spot and then to visit a few more establishments of the purveyors of malted, hopped, and other beverages of beer. I followed a path that took me to Burial and Green Man again for they do have some great choices. Met fascinating people in both. Watched some soccer in Green Man, which is why I go there, I suspect, they always have soccer on. I went around the corner to Catawba and enjoyed their reds and stouts while writing postcards. I then dropped in at Twin Leaf and then Funkatorium, Wicked Weed’s other face. With my bounty I headed up to Jack of the Woods, a music house sponsored by Green Man. Inside was a chair at the bar facing the band of four lads: a banjo, mandolin, guitar, and big bass. They were four lads from four different bands, The Weary Travelers, who happen to play first Thursday of each month here. Reminded me of New Orleans and how the musicians there, too, are in many bands. They played two sets while I enjoyed their standard made by Green Man and had a wonderful Shepard’s Pie. Once again surrounded by good people and good conversation. They closed up at 9:30 and the drive home was delightful as the shy was clear, as were the roads. Got home, turned on the heater and set a fire. I had collected lots of wood from surrounding sites as they had been abandoned when the rains came. I had my cones and some good dry wood in the car so I had a rip roaring blaze listening to CCR and my Scottish music from the Red Hot Chili Pipers and enjoyed my selections of stouts. I had left the curtains open to watch the waning fire flicker away as I drifted into a sound sleep. The sun woke me at 6:30 and I closed the curtains and went back to sleep. I finally rolled out of bed at 8 and prepared a solid breakfast of steak, mushrooms/red onion/spinach sautéed and two fried eggs with tea and a large water. I will be heading to my daughter’s house in Marietta today via the breweries along 74 and the Smokies. I stopped at Boojum and collected a fun Porter and headed to Innovation. They didn’t have any smoked or rye beers so I took a sour for the beach. Back on the road I wound my way through Nantahalia National Forest along the rafting river on Rt 19. I stopped at a pullover along the river for lunch. I heated a can of pea soup and made a PBJ sandwich and washed it down with a YooHoo.  I connected with 575 and then 75 and went against al of the traffic and arrived at my daughter’s house at 5 without incident, easy peasy. Parked the Scamp and cleaned up stuff when my daughter arrived. She is seven months pregnant and looks beautiful. After her husband arrived home we sat and chatted and then prepared for dinner at Cooks and Soldiers, a second restaurant by Iberian Pig folks. The dinner was fabulous, everything ordered, tapas, was melt in your mouth delicious. I felt the baby boy move while at dinner, very exciting.  Early to bed for all of us. We woke early since they had to get to baby classes and I had some English soccer to watch. I helped the kids put together baby furniture and just enjoyed their joy and dreams and anticipations. Such a glorious and magical time.  We went to a very good Korean BBQ and then came home for a final evening. I left early Sunday morning for The Big Lagoon SP in FL.

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