Part of the fun, I suppose, of traveling in an RV is the thrill of testing your driving skills by going mano-a-mano with tropical storm Alberto as you head into the twisting highways of the North Carolina mountains while towing a small house.
The downpour has lesser mortals sitting on the side of the road waiting for a respite from the deluge. Madmen and Floridians like me, however, continue through the wall of water completely nonplussed, paradoxically assuming that the fates will smile on us once again, even though, in my time, I’ve deployed the airbags on 3 different cars, backed a Corvette sideways down an icy road and into a ditch, and been robbed on the street by dirty cops in two different third-world dumpsters. Oh, and I once clipped a 55MPH speed limit sign in half with a T-Bird.So I have no reason to assume I’ll be lucky this time, either (except in so much as I’m still insured), but, in the event, we make it all the way to Boone safely, and I have to say the vehicle/RV combo is remarkably stable even on slick roads. My only complaint is that when I stopped on a couple of dry sections my trailer brakes locked up, which means I need to adjust them later. No big deal.
I check into the local KOA which has marginal reviews according to rvparkreviews.com, but that doesn’t keep me away because I’m a glutton for punishment. The clerk asks me if my trailer is really only 25 feet, which should make me a bit wary, because what I think she really means is the slot they’re giving me is too short.
It is, as I find out soon enough, but, as an additional “no extra charge” bonus, I soon find out it’s also too narrow. The upshot of all this is that I have to park my truck in a different space illegally, and the sewer pipe for the 5’er has to run uphill to get to the septic tank, which doesn’t quite seem right even to a dunce like me. We also can’t extend the awning completely because a tree is in the way, and every time we exit the front door we step down into a mass of twisted roots instead of the cement slab, which of course is conveniently positioned 20 feet away (along with the picnic table), and both are safely out of the range of the protective cover of the awning, so that, in case of inclement weather, which is a near certainty, we will be soaked. Oh, and the hot water still doesn’t work.
Which means that I have to walk to the public facilities and shower like I did at summer camp when I was ten. I am surprised, though, that the place is really clean, and so I’m in a better mood when I return.
Later I run into a guy and I tell him that my water heater doesn’t work. He suggests that I try the most obvious possible fix, which is to make sure the water is turned on in the tank because some people drain the tank and shut off the valve to winterize the vehicle. Winterizing anything is a concept that is foreign to most Southerners, so I doubt this will work, but I promise him a beer if he’s right. A bit later, I give him two with a sheepish grin on my face. He’s laughing. His friend is laughing. His wife is laughing. Yes, they’re all laughing at me, because most people know by the time they’re 6 or so that if you want something to work step one is to turn it on, but then, I know myself well enough to have no shame. No shame ‘tall. But I do have hot water now. :))
That helpful dude ties in to the general atmosphere of the camp. There’s a genuine feel of community to the place. Our “next door neighbor”, a nice lady and traveling missionary of sorts, asks if we’re from Florida. She’s from New Smyrna Beach, it turns out, and has been on the road for months now. Another neighbor is a single guy who sticks to his phone and computer but says hello when we walk by. An entire Indian family reunion is going on down by the primitive cabins, and there are kids running around everywhere. Retired people are walking their dogs, families are down by the petting zoo (yes!) feeding the goats and chickens, and a group of bikers is enjoying a beer or two in front of their tents, which have Skull-and-Crossbones pirate flags out front. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wide demographic in any community, let alone one this small.
The camping styles are all across the board as well: tents, trailers, 5’ers, motorhomes, small cabins, and what looks to be year-round permanent homes are all here. There’s even a motorcycle towing a tiny camper! There are certainly some rigs here that cost a quarter million or more, and I’m pretty sure some people didn’t spend more that a few hundred bucks for their annual weekend splurge.
It’s a nice atmosphere, and it’s enhanced by the park itself. The tree canopy provides enough shade to keep things cool, and I’m sitting outside right now typing this in the dark without any fear that I will be carried off by a squadron of blood-sucking mosquitoes unless I deploy chemical weapons. The park is surrounded by small farms, so that at the perimeter, you get a view of silos and barns atop gently rolling hills. In the near distance is a green mountain top. It’s bucolic and peaceful.
And quiet. All I hear now are the crickets, which means it’s getting late. So before I go to bed here’s the run down on RV expenses:
- Fuel $194
- 3 nights camping $129
- Dining out $17
- Entry fees $46
- Exhaust fluid $17 (No, I’m not making this up! Exhaust fluid is a thing…)
…and here’s my estimate for the same trip by car:
- Fuel $78
- Hotel $270
- Dining out $210
- Entry fees $46
- Exhaust fluid $0 (It’s a thing, but it’s not a gas engine thing)
So, we’re still costing more by car, and at this point I’m pretty sure it’s safe to just say car travel with hotels is more expensive than RV’ing…if you don’t count the cost of the vehicles. But I’m still going to keep a tally on the expenses because I want to see long term if RV’ing is cost effective when I finally trade the rig in.
Oh, and a word about the hotel expenses. I’m taking the top 10 hotels as ranked by Trip Advisor for each area and dividing by 10 to get an answer.
Now a word about Boone!
Boone isn’t a pretty town. It looks like every franchise in these United States decided to drop a store in here and not a single local politician had the sense or backbone to say no. Walmart appears to be the downtown core and a two-story Wendy’s marks the town center. If you like waiting at red lights while your lungs process unburned hydrocarbons, Boone may be for you.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get away from the madding crowds because there are lots of great parks and natural attractions in the area, and some of the most beautiful roadways you’re ever likely to drive, including the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, which should be on any serious driver’s bucket list.
Here’s what I’d do with two full days here:
- Grandfather Mountain-a bit expensive but worth it. Views, hanging bridges, trails, small zoo.
- E.B. Jeffress Park-Free, short easy hike to waterfall. Views.
- Blowing Rock-OK, I’ll skip the double entendre. This is touristy but fun and the view is great!
- Blue Ridge Parkway-just DRIVE!!! This road makes me want to peel the top off my truck.
- Have lunch at the Old Hampton Store in Linville, NC-Good eats and good live music
Tomorrow I head to horse country in Kentucky. See you!
You look very satisfied atop Blowing Rock.