Now that I have a jobby job, I have vacation days to contend with. I never really understood the idea of “vacations” since my thought was that you should live where you wanted, not in where you wanted to escape. But it is a way of this life, so I looked at my calendar and realized that the Overland Expo – East in Asheville, NC was a week and a half away and a mere 10 hour drive! I put in for time off and started to make my plans.
Two days after I moved into my house from my adventures this summer, the legs of the platform I’d built in the back of my truck gave way. I hadn’t welded in cross braces, so the wiggling after five months finally broke the original welds of the frame I’d found for the project. Since I don’t have a welder right now, instead of re-welding the legs, I decided to use wood. I got 2×4 pieces cut to my specs, including a cross bar for the back of the platform for some support.
Unfortunately, my lower back, which originally got mad at me in 2011, then decided to re-anger while I was in the middle of nowhere Cathedral Valley, Utah, decided that lifting that bench into my truck was a last straw and boy was it mad at me again. I spent the next two days taking ibuprofen, lying on my back and trying to stretch it out. I couldn’t sit in a chair, because my back would lock up when I tried to stand. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Asheville, NC!
Luckily, after two days of stretching, and rest, and even though now my neck had a crick in it, my back worked itself out enough for me to feel comfortable with the drive.
The dogs were happy with my decision, and ‘helped’ me pack up.
I knew I could drive the 10 hours straight, but why push it? The first night, I camped at my beloved Giant City State Park. However, in the morning, I forgot that I’d used my levelers under the truck tires and simply drove off to meet my mom for breakfast. A few hours later, I realized what I’d forgotten and figured I’d donated them to some lucky camper.
That second day, I made my way to a spot I found online called “the Lily Pad” next to the Obed River. All I knew was that it is a privately owned campground, only cost $5 per night, and people gave great reviews. What I found out later is that this place is a must-go for climbers!
After driving a couple of dirt roads, and I’m pretty sure through someone’s back field, I came to a hand painted sign “The Lily Pad.” I turned down a long driveway and suddenly came upon a small house to my left, and what appeared to be a … bar… to my right. With a few dogs milling about, I parked in front of the house, took a photo of the bar, and wandered over to see if anyone was there.
Del and Marte were there and smiling, told me to continue down the road to camping, and payment was honor system. Just put my money in the box. They invited me to come back that evening and hang out for a beer. I thanked them and went to find camp.
“No chainsaws after midnight”
I drove down the rutted and potholed road to explore where it went and what were my camping options. There was a man camped with his small body Tacoma and a hammock, and I met a couple who live in an off-grid home at the end of the road. It’s one of Del and Marte’s structures they build over the 20+ years they’ve had this 40 some acres.
I took the warning, drove on past, and found a lovely spot to camp.
My new neighbor, Caleb, and the daughter of the off-grid couple meandered over to say hello.
We all hung out for a while, then as evening fell, made our way up to the small bar and brewery. They grow their own hops, and build what they can.
Inside the bar only has room for two barstools, and the brewing area is the rest of the structure. I wasn’t going to include this pic because it’s all blurry, but it gives you more of an idea of the inside. That’s Caleb to the right, and a local man, Pat sitting at the bar.
Since my drive that day to the Expo was only about three hours, I decided to hang out for the morning. Caleb was helping the off-grid couple re-do the roof, but they told me of a path down to the river and a wonderful swimming hole. They warned me that it gets very steep in places, with ropes to help get down.
I wasn’t sure if my still-stiff neck could handle that, but I went to explore. It was an easy walk in, but it was very steep to get down to the river. I slowly made my way down one rope, got a little confident at the end and fell smack on my butt! I don’t think this photo captures how steep of an incline.
As I sat there, I saw the second rope section and decided to save it for my next visit when my body wasn’t all crimped up. I scrambled hands and knees with the rope up the mountain, and made my way back to camp. It was a beautiful morning and a great way to start my day.
After saying my goodbye’s, I made my way to the Overland Expo. I arrived there early afternoon and set up camp at the Four Wheel Camper exhibition booth area.
As I was puttering around camp, a man came up to me and asked if I happen to have camped the previous night at Giant City State Park in southern Illinois. “Why, yes.” I said. Turned out, he’d been camped there too and found my levelers. He took them with him, and wondered if by some chance I was also going to the Expo. What random happenstance! I got my levelers back, thanks for universal synchronicity and the kindness of strangers. YAY!
Volunteering at the Expo is usually a lot of fun. I get to attend all the presentations I want, and during my 4-5 hour work shift, I meet all sorts of interesting people. This year, the doggies were able to hang out with me at the “Visitor Center”.
I didn’t get many photos at the event, but I did a ton of walking. Over 5 miles per day!
It turned out that I’d been following my tampering neighbors online, “@veryactivelife” (veryactivelife.com) and they’d been following me – and we finally got to meet in person! Yay!
The Four Wheel Camper crew loaded up into the night, and the next day we were all gone.
Somehow on my drive back, I missed the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I did drive through the beautiful Smoky Mountains National Park. My photo doesn’t so justice to this captivating part of the U.S. I will go back to explore the Smokies.
Sully made himself comfortable for the drive back.