North Atlanta

We drove from Spartanburg to the north side of Atlanta, just south of Lake Lanier. Fires continued to rage all through the area and smoke was heavy in the air. Before we left Spartanburg the TV news was showing over 35 different fires in north Georgia and eastern Tennessee.  Nobody knew the fires around Gatlinburg TN would turn deadly in just a week’s time.

Fire everywhere

Fortunately for us the area around our campground was not impacted.  This campground is close enough to Atlanta for us to drive down if we wanted, but also close to Lake Lannier and and ultimately closer to Tennessee where we head next.  The overall location was important because we will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday here.

twin-lakes-campgroundRemember when I said that it is important to make advance reservations for holidays?  Well that goes for Thanksgiving too. When we called the campground some 3 weeks before our planned arrival they said they were completely full!

Rut Roh.

After some negotiating and an agreement that we would move sites the day before Thanksgiving day, we got our reservations.

Twin Lakes campground is one of those interesting “old-fashioned” places that doesn’t accept credit cards.  Cash or check only.  As a result, people face no monetary consequences if they don’t arrive for their reserved slot.

We hoped this meant people had reserved spots but wouldn’t actually show up. Meaning we then wouldn’t have to move. But every site was theoretically spoken for.

In fact, while we were in Greenville the campground office called us to confirm our plans and to tell us they were looking for spots to give up.  Well, we were keeping ours.

We arrived and checked in.  The place is $35/night for premium spots and $30 for regular spots. That is a fantastic rate.  Especially after our Northeast adventures.

Our first 4 nights were in scheduled in a premium spot (space 11), then our next 4 nights in a regular spot (space 64), then our last 2 nights in a premium spot (space 11 again).

And that’s how you do the MoHo hokey pokey.

Why would we move spots a second time, you ask?

The premium spots have sewer hookup and the non-premium spots don’t.  We figured after 4 days we would need to dump our tanks and do laundry, and if we were going to have to pull in slides, unhook, and drive over to the dump station, we might as well just drive to the premium spot and hookup sewer again.  Seemed like a good plan.

We drove toward our first space, the premium spot.  Boy was that eye opening!

Sites were carved out like stair steps on the steepest hill I have ever seen at an RV campground. I looked up at that hill and wondered how I would get our 39′ beast in the site!

Backing in was tricky, because the road up the hill was sloped but the parking sites were terraced so the entry to many of the sites was narrow with had steep slopes on either side. Our space also had some inconveniently placed trees.

I had to drive up the hill past our spot and then backup down the hill into our spot. My margin of error was really small.  Off on one side and I would drop a wheel into a ditch and high-center.  Off on the other and I would hit the tree.  Heather directed and I drove.  I used a bit of the campsite across from us for maneuvering space.

After just a few turns we got into the spot without any mishap!  We almost looked like pros!

And what a spot!!  Wow!  These spots are huge!  Most of these spaces were 75′ or 80′ long and wide enough for two MoHos side-by-side.  Actual space between neighbors was equally wide.  The trees were full of fall colors and gave a real woodsy feel.  Beautiful!

Of course, the trees meant our dish didn’t work.  🙂

Actually, neither did the electric.  Our power supply system said “open ground” and refused to switch to shore power.  I called the office and they said the guy who could fix it would be back in 3 hours.  Temps were dropping and we needed heat so we fired up the generator and waited.

Turns out, the campground was old enough that the wiring was not up to modern code which requires each leg of the 50amp service to have its own ground. Even though the older style with a single ground would work, modern systems like ours would detect the missing ground and not use the circuit.

The campground guy finally arrived and was able to fix the issue in 5 minutes.  He said they didn’t know which boxes had been upgraded and had to wait until someone like us plugged in and got the error.

Easy fix, fortunately!

The next day we started to explore the area.  Web search suggested that the Greenway trailhead was a good one. We drove a little over a mile to the trailhead and sure enough, it was fantastic!  Wide, well maintained, and very scenic.


Like I said before, our time here is going to be pretty casual. We were really just looking to shelter in place over the travel holiday and get ourselves off the road. The downtime is very welcome after the somewhat hectic pace we’ve maintained since leaving Massachusetts.

After 4 nights in our premium spot, moving day had arrived!  We had done as much laundry as we could and made sure our black tank was flushed and our grey tank was empty.

But we had a bit of a problem. We realized getting out of our spot would actually be more difficult than getting in! Turning right out of our spot to head back downhill would be impossible. Even if that large tree wasn’t planted where we would need to drive, the uneven surface between the road and the parking sites made a right turn impossible.  We could turn left and head up the hill – basically reversing the maneuver we used backing into the spot.

That would be easier, but then we would have to find a place to turn around at the top of the hill.  We walked up there, huffing and puffing.  I told you it was steep.  And long!  Not many good places to turn around there either. The road dead-ended at the top of the hill.

I had the bright idea to turn left and head up the hill, then backup past our campsite and then backup into space #10 below us. It was empty, it had a wider entry, and no tree.  We could then pull forward out of #10 and turn right and head down the hill.

I pulled out of our spot, listening to the creaking and groaning of the cabinets as the wheels negotiated the uneven surface.  Once I was onto the main road, pointed uphill of course, I put the coach into neutral and started backing up.  If I put the coach into reverse the combination of the engine pull (even at idle) and gravity was putting a lot of load on the brakes.  Putting the tranny in neutral removed the engine pull and the process was a lot simpler.

I backed up further than I’d like, but got right into space #10, then put the transmission into drive and pulled back out onto the road.  This time pointed downhill.  Again I heard the creaking and groaning as the wheels struggled to deal with the unlevel ground.

Once on the downhill, I put the transmission into neutral again to reduce the need to mash down on the brakes.

We reached the bottom of the hill and turned toward the lake and our new non-premium site. It too was a back in, but had all the space in the world to maneuver and no strange levels to deal with.  We were backed in and setup in a flash.  Only then did I appreciate the beauty of this spot.

I took a panoramic so you could see what the view looked like.  Not a bad place to spend Thanksgiving!  And at $30/night, an absolute bargain!  Sure, we had neighbors within 10 feet on either side, but who cares?  And as an added bonus, the lack of trees meant our DirecTV dish worked!

Panoramic of our lakeside view

Thanksgiving day arrived and Heather had a great meal planned.  We decided to do ham this year and shake things up a bit.

I sat reflecting on my TV news interview last week and decided that maybe, for the first time, I would go get in line for black Friday. Only this was Thursday. Target was supposed to open at 6pm, and a Target store was about 10 minutes away. Heather had dinner on standby while I drove over by myself.  Heather having the good sense to avoid that madness.

I arrived in the parking lot at 6:01pm.  I parked and walked toward the door.  I saw 4 police cars and uniformed police officers standing out front.  Then I noticed the line coming out the door and heading off to the left to the corner of the building.

“That’s not so bad” I said to myself.  At this point, people had been entering the store for at least 5 minutes.

The font of Target

I got to the corner and couldn’t believe my eyes.  People were lined up all the way to the rear of the massive store, then all the way back to the front, and then partway to the back again!  And this after now 7 minutes of the front door being open!  Yowch!

Oh HELL no

There was no way I was going to wait in that line.  I figured that they would already be sold out of what I wanted to get  anyway.  I turned around in defeat and went back to the MoHo.  I have much to learn about Black Friday.

The next day we went on a 4 mile hike around Lake Lanier. I was amazed to see the level of the lake so low.

Lake Lanier water level

Floating buoys restricted access to the inlets where boaters normally enter/exit the lake.  Boat ramps were left completely high and dry.

Somebody left the drain open

Coming from a horrible drought in California, seeing the horrible drought in New England, and now in the South it seems like pretty much everywhere we’ve been in the last few years is in drought. I can see why so many fires are burning.

The trail was pretty cool and with almost 800 vertical feet it was a decent workout too!

Lake Lanier hike

After our hiking adventure, it was time for some indoor sports. At least, for Heather.

She was going to take a croissant baking class from a Sur la Table at their Alpharetta location!

Heather at Sur la Table

The class looked like a lot of fun and she sure made some tasty croissants.  Normal, sweet (with chocolate), savory (ham and cheese).

Bring on that flaky goodness

Since we had some time, we checked out some of the nearby towns.  We drove over to Gainesville and walked around the downtown.  It is trying to revitalize itself with a new redevelopment project.  A very unique pedestrian bridge has been built to cross the freeway into downtown. We walked it and the bridge deposited us on the opposite side of the road where we found….nothing.  A dirt lot next to a trucking company yard.  I guess that part of the trail comes later.

Bridge to nowhere

A large mural of FDR was painted on the side of one of the buildings with the quote “Good people of Gainesville.”  A plaque nearby explained that Gainesville was struck by TWO tornadoes which met right at the downtown area.

Good people of Gainesville

203 people were killed, 1600 more were injured, and over 750 homes were destroyed.  Downtown Gainesville was left in ruin.

President Roosevelt came to tour the area and was shocked at the devastation.

Two years later, Roosevelt returned to Gainesville and was so moved by the rebuilding he saw that he addressed the “good people of Gainesville” in his famous “my brother’s keeper” speech.

That night, a pretty intense storm moved through the area.  Not what we wanted to hear after that Gainesville tornado story.

We listened to the wind howl and the rain pour down. Both of us were glad we weren’t under the trees back on the premium spot and were instead by the lake. High winds and old trees make for a dangerous combination.

Stormy weather

We decided to stay in our lakeside spot. Yes, we would have to move to dump our tanks but we wagered we could push that out to the day we leave (6 days total) with some Navy showers and water rationing. We would do laundry when we arrive in Nashville.

Meanwhile, we avoid having to drive up that crazy hill again.  Ironically, we were told we had to move out of spot 11 because someone else had reserved it.  They never came and the spot stayed empty the entire time. Still, it was nice to have our dish working and I though the lakeside spot was just fine.

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday and driving day was over, we ventured out to Stone Mountain to see the sculpture.

Stone Mountain is a massive domed granite monolith to the north east of Atlanta.  It was formed millions of years ago when hot granite pooled in a pocket and then cooled like a giant crystal. Weathering wore away the softer rock around the granite leaving it exposed some 825 feet above the surrounding landscape.  It is known for the site of the largest bas-relief carving in the world.

We arrived and were rewarded with the joys of touring in the off-season.  Instead of long lines, long waits, and large crowds, it was virtually empty.

We took the Swiss-made tram up to the top of the mountain.  The trip provides a fabulous view of the carving as it climbs up toward the summit.

Stone Mountain Skyway

As our tram ascended the stone face of the mountain, the carving came into view. Three Confederate heroes, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee are depicted on horseback.

Stone mountain carving

The view from the top is stunning.  Walking to any of the edges provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the area around Atlanta.  It was considerably colder and much windier at the top of the mountain than it was at the base!

Stone mountain panorama

The size of the carving is hard to convey in photos.  The figures are actually larger than the carvings at Mount Rushmore.

Heather is standing next to a replica of the bridle of one of the horses.

Seeing the carving from the base is impressive and it gives an idea of the height of the mountain itself.  That’s the 100′ tall tramway tower you can see on the top along with a much taller television broadcast antenna.

There is a railroad that runs around the base of Stone Mountain.  I’m pretty sure it was closed for the season though. I thought its tracks running through the forest with the fallen leaves made for a very peaceful scene.

Stone Mountain is a very active tourist spot.  In addition to the mountain itself a modest museum is on site, along with a Disney-esque fake town with gift shops and food.  The town was closed for the season.

However, Stone Mountain builds a winter park of sorts with sledding, tubing, and other winter sports complete with real snow!  They were just setting up while we were there and we could see snowmakers blowing “snow” which I think was finely crushed ice onto their makeshift slopes.

Back at the campground, the Thanksgiving crowds had left and we had the lakeshore basically to ourselves.  Which was just fine with us!

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