Fun times with wonderful friends Memorial Day weekend at James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park in Summerville, Georgia.
What a great weekend! We had site #4, which had plenty of shade and was near the bathhouse. The park was well-maintained and the bathhouse kept very clean. The hosts for the park have been there for eleven years and seem to work very hard to keep it clean and attractive. They have many repeat guests.
Rain was expected off and on for most of our time at the campground, so we utilized only our privacy tent for changing clothes. We were set-up and ready to go quite quickly, which was nice.
The first night, we grilled steaks with our friends and turned in rather early. The temperature was cool in the evening and we slept very well with only our fan and the windows open.
On Saturday, we took a ranger-led tour to the Marble Mine, one of the park’s main attractions. It had gotten warm by that time and the heat plus the steep incline to get to the mine made it quite challenging. We saw a very large rat snake along the way that remained very still for about ten minutes. We estimate that he would be about six feet long if stretched out. Needless to say, we were very careful where we stepped after seeing him! He is not venomous, but still scary to me.
The hike was steep at the end, but we made it to the top. The waterfall with its crystal-clear water was worth the effort. It was quite beautiful and the water ice-cold. We were so hot by then, we would have liked to wade in it.
The afternoon was spent playing Mexican Train Dominos and then dinner at The Crushed Tomato in Summerville, which features pizza, calzones, and several flavors of ice cream for dessert. We highly recommend this place! Our pizzas were excellent with perhaps the best crust I have had in the U.S. Also, it was quite inexpensive.
Saturday night brought torrential rains in the middle of the night. We had our fan vent opened widely and it rained in some on the middle of our bed. We have left it partially open before in the rain without it coming in, but it did not work in this case. We woke to a slightly damp middle of the bed and a very wet campsite, so the Rainy Day Plan was evoked for breakfast. When we returned, the sun was shining and our campsite was beginning to dry out.
In the afternoon, we visited a local attraction, Paradise Gardens. It is a collection of folk art by Howard Finster, who has been called the Andy Warhol of the South. Mr. Finster passed away in 2001, but he has achieved quite a bit of acclaim for his work and his art is displayed at the Smithsonian. He also designed album covers for groups such as R.E.M. We were very surprised by the number of people visiting the gardens. As you can see below, his art is very eclectic.
We rounded out the day with games of Rook and Mexican Train Dominoes. Dinner was grilled hamburgers at the campground. This was our last night and we took down most of our gear before going to bed because my Big Guy likes to leave early going home. This is a long-standing habit of his. Not my favorite, but he does a lot to make me happy.
A few lessons learned:
Rain will come in the fan vent if open and it rains hard enough. We should just leave a small opening if rain is expected.
Peggy should always come because a I get to play lots of games when she is around. 😃
Put chairs in the car if it might rain. I knew this, but did not take the time.
A minimal campsite can be great if you are in the shade. We don’t really need a tent if it is just the two of us.
Looking forward to our next trip to Arkansas and Lake Catherine in Hot Springs!
This trip had several “firsts”–first porta potty usage for camping, first successful execution of rainy day plan, and first time our food was stolen by animals.
We reserved a site on Holt Lake at Deerlick Creek Park near Tuscaloosa, Alabama weeks in advance. When it was time to go, it was evident that rain would be very likely for at least one day. However, we decided to go anyway as we felt we could easily handle one day.
Our site was right on the lake with lots of shade. There was a concrete slab for the trailer with a wooden deck and bannister. It had a circular pull through. A picnic table on a wooden deck and a graveled area with a grill were at a lower elevation. As we could not attach our 10×10 tent and rain was expected late the next evening, we decided to forgo the tent.
This was the maiden voyage, however, for our privacy tent and porta potty. The restrooms were quite far away and up a steep hill, so we really needed them. I have to say that I loved having this equipment so close.
Our Leapair privacy tent went up and down very easily and the tissue inside remained dry in the heavy rain that followed. The porta potty worked well and was really no big deal. I don’t know why I resisted it so long. I am now “porta potty trained”.
It was good to just have the camper and the privacy tent. Set-up was minimal and quick and the site was very comfortable.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
On our first night, I was startled by a scraping sound near our teardrop. It sounded like something was moving around at our campsite. My husband was asleep and I did not awaken him. I opened the door and shined a light outside. I could see that one of our large Hefty plastic food bins was away from our table by about a foot. However, I did not want to get out and move it by myself. (I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to unknown things in the dark.) The scraping continued a couple more times and each time, I opened the door and shined the light. The last time, I caught a glimpse of the culprit. Its eyes were shining in my light and I could make out the form of a quite large raccoon.
Later, my husband woke up and we went out to survey the scene. The box had been moved about eight feet. That raccoon was planning to take our entire box away! We moved it to the top of the table with the other two boxes and we were glad to see that it was there the next morning.
The first full day we were there was glorious! A beautiful, sunny day with lots of cooling shade. The temperature was perfect. We had a leusurely breakfast and just sat in our chairs and enjoyed each other’s company and nature. We used our phones as hotspots and kept up with email, Facebook, etc. In the afternoon, we went biking through paved trails. It was a truly uplifting and peaceful day, the kind of day that just happens occasionally that you can’t order up or force. It felt a lot like some of those past perfect days I have experienced at the beach.
That night, rain moved in and there were heavy winds. We had to close our star gazer window because it was difficult to sleep with the trees bending so much in the wind. It was also very noisy with heavy rain. We were a little concerned about limbs falling on us. Later in the night, my husband got up and discovered that two of our food bins were open in the middle of our outside rug and everything was strewn about. The next morning, we discovered that our chips, English muffins, and cashew nuts were missing. The bags were down the back of the ravine where we think the raccoon has his nest. We put what was left of our food in our car. Not as convenient, but much safer. We did not see any more evidence or their visits after that.
Rainy Day Plan
The rainy day plan was in place when we went to bed the night before. We had researched the area for where to eat and how to spend our time. Our clothes were in the camper and everything was ready for us to just head for the car with an umbrella. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Waysider, a Tuscaloosa landmark. The restaurant was established in 1906 in on old house. It is famous for the biscuits and coffee and both were excellent, as were the complementary beignets.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art. It is a very interesting museum with gorgeous Japanese architecture on the outside and Early American Art on display inside. The art is a collection by Alabama businessman, Jack Warner.
George Washington portraits were abundant at the museum, more than I have ever seen in one place. There were also many paintings and sculpture depicting early American life, a couple of which are included here. The museum staff were great and there was no charge for viewing the art. They also allowed photography as long as there was no flash. The art was beautiful and abundant, a perfect way to spend a rainy morning.
Our next activity was a tour of the Jemison Van De Graff Mansion at 1:30. It is owned by the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society and free tours are offered at 1:30 daily. We had a little time to kill before the tour, so we did a little shopping at the local mall and had lunch at the food court.
Our tour of the Italianate mansion was given by a very knowledgeable docent. She gave us a lot of personal history of the mansion. Interestingly, a woman named Priscilla Cherokee Taylor ran several of the plantations from this home, which was the townhouse for the family. The family name, Cherokee, was explained by the docent. The lady of the house at the time helped heal the daughter of the Cherokee chief. He was grateful and later saved the family from a Choctaw uprising. They asked how they could thank him and he said by naming their first daughter Cherokee. They have given the Cherokee name to a member of the family in each generation, a habit that has continued to this day. A portrait of Priscilla Cherokee Taylor is below and it was her mother who healed the Cherokee chief’s daughter.
The 26-room mansion was opened in 1862. It was very technologically advanced for its time with running water and a coal heating system. The mansion is currently well-maintained and proported to be haunted. Our docent told us it has been examined by paranormal experts on several occasions. We did not see or hear any ghosts, but she had some stories to tell. Today, the house is a frequent venue for weddings and special events. It is truly beautiful! Below is the mansion and a couple of my favorite rooms.
We really enjoyed our rainy day plan and were able to see some Tuscaloosa points of interest that would have otherwise been missed. I highly recommend our stops in Tuscaloosa and you don’t have to go in the rain!
Our visit to Deerlick Creek ended the next morning. It was our second Corps of Engineers campground. We were very impressed with how it is managed and maintained by volunteers. They did a great job.
Lock food in the car, even if not in bear country! Our habit in the past has been to put our table and food bins in our tent. If we had set up our new 10×10, it would likely have been shredded as this was one very persistent raccoon.
Rainy days can be great if there is something nearby to do and you have a plan.
Corps of Engineer parks are great and very inexpensive. They also appear to have a similar look and feel. The Senior Pass consistently provides a 50% discount.
This trip with friends was our first camping with our new PahaQue 10×10 screen room and with our bikes on a new bike rack enabled by a dual hitch. We really enjoyed our first Corps of Engineers campground and visited LaGrange’s Wild Animal Safari.
We had a camping trip to Tampa planned in March, but I contracted the flu and we had to cancel. No adventure nor blog for March! After a month at home, we were really ready to get on the road for our next scheduled trip.
That trip was in April with several other couples to Whitetail Ridge in LaGrange, Georgia. It is a U.S. Corp of Engineers campsite and with our Senior Pass, only $12 per night. You can’t beat that for economical travel!
The trip was with three other couples who had larger RVs with bathrooms. The other couples were in a very nice area with lots of shade and a nice breeze from the lake.
When we booked our site many weeks prior, I wanted to be near the restroom, so I booked us in a different area. We have since bought a porta potty, but did not have one when the site was booked. Our site was on a slew with much less shade and breeze, and more bugs. It was nice, but a little hot and buggy. We spent a good bit of time in our friend’s area and I decided that I would not want restroom proximity to drive future site selections.
We had a great time with our friends! One friend, Peggy, is a great planner. We had a potluck one night and hot dogs and hamburgers on another. We also had wine and cheese one afternoon and an ice cream party with every topping imaginable another afternoon. I highly recommend camping with friends–they keep you entertained and well-fed.
We had a couple of nice meals in the local area with dinner at Country’s Barbeque and lunch at Fried Tomato Buffet.
Most of our group took in a local attraction, Wild Animal Safari. It was exhilarating–cool and a little scary. You can take your own car (I would not recommend) or rent one of theirs. The animals come right up to your car and eat out of your hands. They have giraffes, zebras, raindeer, pigs, and water buffalo. It was cool to see the animals so close, but a little disconcerting to have their heads partially in your vehicle and we were told that some of them bite! We were exhausted after the hour or so that the tour lasted, likely because of the adrenaline the tour awakened.
The Safari ticket also includes a small zoo with a lion, bear, monkeys, and many small animals and birds, including some beautiful peacocks. It was fun as well.
This was our first trip with our new PahaQue 10x 10 side tent. It is essentially a room that is attached to our Little Guy. It can be a screen room or a fully-private tent. It was a nice addition to our campsite and relatively easy to set-up. We liked it, but would only want to use it for two or more days at a site. When we do some serious travel versus camping, we would not want to set up the tent.
Since our last trip, we have identified a solution for carrying our bikes. We obtained a dual hitch that enables us to add a Thule bike rack. It worked great, but was a bit of a pain to get the bikes on and off with the camper attached. Fortunately, I have my “big guy” to make that happen. We enjoyed being able to ride our bikes in the park.
Overall, we had a great time and look forward to more trips with our friends. There were a couple of lessons learned:
Don’t let restroom location determine where you camp. Go for the best site and be close to friends, if possible.
Ask for help from experienced campers. A friend put together the pieces of our water connection and there were no leaks for the first time ever. Thanks Patrick!