Chapter 3: Exploring the Carolinas

From Taos to Tomorrow

By Charlene R. Johnson and Bernard Linnartz
For The Taos News
Posted 8/29/18

For a couple of weeks after landing in central Florida, we unpacked, visited family and friends and let my broken foot heal. But Bernie was restless to find a home, so I suggested (with ulterior motive) that we run up to the Tallahassee area for a weekend to see what was there.

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Chapter 3: Exploring the Carolinas

From Taos to Tomorrow


For a couple of weeks after landing in central Florida, we unpacked, visited family and friends and let my broken foot heal. But Bernie was restless to find a home, so I suggested (with ulterior motive) that we run up to the Tallahassee area for a weekend to see what was there.

It was short notice so we weren't able to meet with any Realtors, but were pointed in a couple of directions. Unfortunately for my ulterior motive of hoping to stay in Florida, it didn't go well. We found our way to exactly one house on our list of six, and it was a Bavarian castle monstrosity. After wending our way to several closed gates without the codes and a washed-out back road, we gave up and went back home.

But Bernie couldn't stand to sit still. Central Florida simply wasn't his home, no matter how much it felt like home to me. So, on June 18, we hitched up the Red Chile Pepper - sans Bitty Bob who had let us know in the trek from Taos what she thought of traveling - and took off for a weeklong tour of the Southeastern United States.

We headed first toward Aiken, South Carolina where Bernie had been talking with a Realtor about possible houses. Unfortunately, the one we were most interested in sold days before we left.

Our first night we landed in Swansea, South Carolina at a Good Sam's Club campground, Jellystone Park, a lovely, "civilized" kind of park. The Realtor had nothing to show us, so we spent a relaxing first night simply enjoying being there. The next morning we took off again and landed at King's Mountain State Park on the border of the Carolinas.

What I, the navigator, was aiming for, was anything called a mountain for Bernie's sake. And, because we had friends in Charlotte, we wanted to be near Charlotte, North Carolina but not in it.

However, since the land is covered with a mix of hardwood and pine forests, we couldn't tell if we were on, near or supposed to view a mountain. As it turned out, it was more of a ridge, invisible to us on the ground, that made it all the way to 700 feet high. I pulled out a hankie in case of nosebleeds.

This park had a great deal of Civil War history. The state park backs up to the King's Mountain National Military Park, with thousands of acres of green space dedicated to the commemoration of the Battle of King's Mountain. We only found out about being on a ridge due to the topographical map in the excellent museum in the military park, well worth the trip even if you don't camp in the park.

We found an agent in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which was a neat, clean inviting town. We actually saw a great house with all of the requirements on the wish list except for water or mountains. A delightful couple showed us around and we considered buying just because we liked them so much. Deciding that really wasn't a good enough reason to buy, however, we moved on.

After two lovely nights at King's Mountain, we headed north and landed at a popular place, Mama Gertie's Hideaway Campground in Swannanoa, North Carolina, near Black Mountain and Asheville. This park is a great place to stay while touring all of the superb Asheville areas.

Now we were finally in the mountains. The temperature had changed by a good 15 degrees and Bernie was a happy camper!

The campground itself is on a steep mountainside. We, however, had slot No. 1 so didn't have far to drive. Later I walked - huffed - all the way to the top of the mountain and not only was it a rigorous hike straight up, but it was a breathtaking view from the top. Sorry, didn't think to take my phone or camera.

We liked it so well we wanted to stay an extra night but no go; they are really popular and with good reason. We saw a couple of nice homes in the area, none of which were quite right for us, but another highlight of this stay was the Bistro in Black Mountain where we ate a lunch and a dinner and loved it. The busy traffic in this area is what one might expect from the outskirts of Ashville, especially in the summertime tourist season.

One of the reasons for coming to this particular area was to tour an intentional, sustainable community named Earthaven Ecovillage outside of Black Mountain. Luckily, we'd driven to it the day before so that we'd know how to get there. After winding up steep and narrow roads for many miles, we knew we didn't want to lug the Red Chile Pepper up that mountain. So, we called the Black Mountain Ingles grocery store and were given permission to park the Pepper in their parking lot while we scooted up the mountain for our tour. Thank goodness!

Though we thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the lunch, we decided we didn't wish to live that much of rustic a life. We hitched up the Red Chile Pepper and took off south toward Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. Driving in the mountains pulling a trailer is much different from driving in flatland. The knuckles tend to get a bit pale.

We were told on the phone by the camp host at River Bend RV Park to be sure not to miss the turnoff because trying to find a place to turn around and come back wasn't easy. She wasn't kidding.

Yup, missed it, and drove right off the vehicle's GPS. The roads kept getting narrower and windier with switchbacks, and since the GPS thought we were lost and it was driving through green space, it was showing no roads.

I, the navigator, frantically pulled the phone GPS into the mix. Before long, it too, showed nothing but green space ahead.

Oh, did I mention that it was also pouring rain now? We finally came to where a side road intersected with our road. Since every ending seemed to be going deeper into woods with no way out, I screeched something about stopping. We backed down the road a bit, took a running start, then ploughed through green grass that I prayed didn't hide any ditches and barely, just barely, managed to turn the rig around.

On the way back, we didn't miss the turn. Never had we been so happy to get to a campground. We enjoyed the tiny house village that was being birthed at this campground as well as the amiable people. They were mostly Floridians spending their summers in a cool mountain retreat.

By now it was again time for me to get back to work. So, the next morning we took off for home and arrived that evening to greet a happy cat in Summerfield, Florida.

Charlene Johnson is a former columnist for The Taos News.


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