Fall Frolics began this year in early October. Ndeke Luka had been left at Provan for some upgrades during our trip to the UK (see “The Sonne in Splendour”) so we began our trip by packing a rental car with the usual “stuff” including the cat and cat box and heading south. To our surprise, the cat did not like riding in a car, though he likes his camper! Which is just as well! Upon arrival in Columbia, SC and having reacquired Ndeke Luka, we headed off to Asheville for the first East Coast Overland Expo. http://www.overlandexpo.com/east/
As before, we camped at the Provan site and Fred also gave presentations and led panel discussions. Denise showed Ndeke Luka to interested buyers and those who were just generally interested, which proved to be a steady stream of folks. As part of the ever evolving life in a camper, we had some annoying issues with our composting toilet, which we have since solved. And yes, it is working perfectly again. Its quite amazing what one becomes expert in, from time to time!
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Expo both catching up with old friends and making new ones. We even managed to leave without acquiring a puppy from the Animal Shelter stall across the way. It was a close call at one point, but reality reared its head!
After Expo, we headed north up the Blue Ridge Parkway heading indirectly for the Hudson Valley and our granddaughter’s 4th birthday party. The fall color was just beginning at the middle elevations but was quite noticeable at the higher elevations. I must confess that the best color we saw was in Pennsylvania near Scranton, but our drive up the Parkway was pleasant. We camped at National Park Service Campsites, where it seemed to rain every night and we were so thankful for a warm, dry Malayan and that we were not trying to keep dry in a tent as we saw some bicyclists doing. We took advantage of a couple of the walking trails and decided that we would most certainly be back.
The highlight of this section of the Parkway was a visit to the Blue Ridge Music Center at mile 213. The Center has a most interesting museum explaining the development of music in the Blue Ridge as well as different instruments and local musicians. We were fortunate enough to be there for a live performance by Willard Gapheart and Bobby Patterson, which we enjoyed very much. We even bought a CD! Guitar geeks will love the song about “playing mountain music on my Henderson guitar.” (Hendersons, hand made in the area, are very highly sought after.)
On our way up 1-81 we stopped at a National Park Service Historic Site called Steamtown. We had seen the sign many times on our way up to the Hudson Valley and decided that this time we would finally stop and see what it was. Steamtown has a huge selection of various steam locomotives, both big and small, with outstanding historical and technical displays about how the railroads of the region developed. Quite fascinating; Fred was in seventh heaven.
While in the Hudson Valley, we always walk on the Wallkill Rail Trail when the weather permits. This trip we discovered a 940-foot long truss bridge, built in the mid 1800’s as a railway trestle bridge. It has been renovated and opened to the public in June 2013 to link parts of the Rail Trail. Apparently, there were always concerns of its sturdiness and ability to support trains but we enjoyed our walk and the views from the bridge without mishap!
We now turn to Midwinter Madness. Another trip to the Hudson Valley began in early December when the weather was considerably less pleasant than in October.
Our first overnight was at a lovely Delaware State Park called Lums Pond. Plans to walk around the actual “pond” were thwarted by sheeting rain but, as it is quite close to home, we will be back. The next day we headed to Winterthur, former home of Henry Francis Dupont. We had tickets to visit the mansion decked out in its Christmas finery with many Christmas trees and decorations and also to visit the Downtown Abbey exhibit. The latter was very interesting as it included costumes from the BBC series and the history of the various fabrics. We have visited a lot of stately homes in the UK and particularly enjoyed that the exhibit discussed parallels and contrasts of life and customs between British stately homes and the mansions of the era in the US. It felt like a very British day being very ”misty and moisty”. So cold and soggy that we passed on the garden tour. http://www.winterthur.org
We discovered that it is hard to find much open in December so we camped that night in a private campsite. The next day we visited and took a tour of the Martin Guitar Factory. Another fascinating spot, with an extensive museum that described the history of the Martin company and Martin guitars owned by the famous. The tour likewise showed us how handmade Martin is made, and why some cost as, little or as much, as they do. http://www.martinguitar.com
We have since made two more family trips to the Hudson Valley in Ndeke Luka. Temperatures were down in the lower teens during our last visit. We were parked on a sheet of ice and at least 6 inches of snow fell during our stay. The Malayan remained warm and cozy though we did have to run the heat day and night. The cat does like to be warm! We did have to break down and hook up the electricity towards the end of our stay. In cloudy and cold weather, the solar panels can only achieve so much when it is overcast and we were not driving. But we were pleased with Ndeke Luka’s performance; truly a four season camper!