This was our last day in Newport, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region. We took the day off and visited Big Creek. No, wait, it was a work day too. We first stopped in Hartford, Tennessee to pick up our mail and to ship two copies of Big Creek, one to Ranger Tim and one to friend Stacey Kelly. I think I forgot to sign them before I sealed the envelopes. Next, we drove to the Big Creek Country Store, just outside the Big Creek entrance to the park.
Kelly was not in the store so the woman at the register called her to ask if she wanted more copies of Big Creek. Yes, she only had two left and wanted ten more. She also had an envelope with money for the first ten copies in the office. Big Creek is displayed prominently at the cash register.
I told Andy I was going back out to the car to get my camera to take a picture of the store for the blog. The woman said I needed a picture of myself with the book too. I chose to have that taken inside; it is such a cute little store.
We drove up the Big Creek road without encountering any oncoming cars. The potholes had grown a bit since June. The maintenance department was holding their safety meeting in the group campsite. When Spence saw me with my camera, he struck a pose.
The place was full of park maintenance vehicles and then we saw a Ranger truck pull in. It was Heath. Spence said Heath smelled the pizza the maintenance people were eating all the way from Gatlinburg.
We visiting the campground hosts Clyde and Deborah. They were gracious to finish out our month of June in Big Creek while we went to visit grandchildren. The four of us had a great several hours of swapping campground stories. Spence stopped in at the end of the day and followed us home. He helped us load the car onto the tow dolly. I took this picture of him just as the sun was setting behind the trees. He was laughing and joking with Andy.
This was a decidedly good book sales day. Not many sales but a great time.
A long-time friend of Sue Meyer read Big Creek and then invited me to go visit her in Hot Springs. She also wrote a very nice review on Amazon.com. She wanted me to get the book on the shelf in the local outfitter store, Bluff Mountain. We met at the Smoky Mountain Diner for lunch first.
Andy and I got there a bit early so we ordered some sweet tea and sat on the diner’s front porch. What a pleasant spot! There was a row of ceiling fans keeping us cool. The very friendly town residents all said hello as they entered the diner. One couple asked why we were visiting the town and I told them I was there to sell my book. Then I described it. The man was Ike Lassiter and he is the president of the Friends of the Hot Springs Library. He asked if I would like to present the book to the friends. Well, of course, I would. He gave me his contact information and I gave him a copy of Big Creek. He will put me on the schedule for next May or June when we return to Big Creek.
Pretty soon thereafter, Gweneeth arrived with two friends. She offered to take our picture. I guess we looked rather content on that porch.
Lunch was great fun and the food was delicious. Now is the time I must admit that I forgot her friend’s names, as delightful as they were. That is Gweneeth in the blue shirt. She said she worked with my friend Sue at the University of Michigan for many years. As we talked, I could hear “Michigan” in her voice. She reminded me of Sue.
After a long laughter-filled lunch, Gweneeth met us at Bluff Mountain Outfitters where she knew the proprietors. Wayne and Dave bought three books outright for their small book corner. I sure hope they sell well for them.
A trip to Hot Springs would not be complete without a stop in Gentry Hardware. In addition to hardware, they have an awesome collection of stuff every mountain kitchen needs. I needed most of it too, but there is no place to stow it in the motorhome.
The office manager kept a wary eye on us as we went to the desk to pay for our small purchase of GooGone coffee maker cleaner. I had never heard of it, but our coffee maker could probably stand for two bottles of the stuff. I hope it works.
One of the most popular exhibits at the Milwaukee Art Museum is the janitor. Just about everyone loves to pose for a picture with him. He is life size and very realistic. Here is a picture I took of him in August.
George and Jennifer bought a large coffee mug with a photo of the janitor on it at the museum gift shop. As we were sitting at the table while someone was drinking out of the mug, Andy got the idea to make a mug with Spence on it. I immediately knew which photo of him I would use. One of my favorite pictures of him. He was blowing leaves off the handicap sidewalk when we were walking up to the campground. He paused to say good morning to us and rested the leaf-blower backpack on the water fountain .
Unfortunately, there are not that many choices at Walmart on how many or how they are arranged. So, this is what we ended up with:
Uh oh! I just noticed that the word “a” got cut off of the book cover picture! Well darn.
I did get the picture and also one of him mowing the grass in the day-use parking lot.
Also, a picture of him whacking weeds (the park calls it “string trimming”). My favorite picture of Spence is the lower one. I think it shows his smart-aleck personality. He was probably saying, “HEY!! I TOLD you not to take a picture of me when I’m not working!”
Of course, Andy didn’t want to stop there. We also made mugs for Linda, Boss Larry, and Ranger Heath. That is with their own pictures on them, not Spence. We drove over to the Cosby campground this afternoon to deliver them. Everyone was there except Heath, who is working mostly in the Little River section of the park now.
I will also give them each a copy of the book, whenever I finally get it. They are the main characters in it, after all. They all seemed to get a big kick out of their official Big Creek mugs.
We puttered around the motorhome in the morning, getting some chores done. After lunch, we drove up to Big Creek to return a notebook of Big Creek history to Bob Taylor, the current campground host. He has done a bit of research and has old photographs of the town and logging mill. There were many more houses there than I had thought.
We chatted briefly with Bob and Shirley before taking an overdue walk along Big Creek. We stopped on the bridge to look at the creek. The water level is low.
Then we headed down the path.
This is the “secret” swimming hole that is not really a secret but is seldom visited. Today, the water level was so low there was a bit of a shoreline below the steep bank.
A fisherman was in the creek when I went down to take some pictures.
I walked upstream to take a picture as the fisherman walked upstream to catch a fish.
Our RV campsite is not level so the bottom step to get in the motorhome is high off the ground. Andy found two pieces of wood on our site and laid a board across them to make a step. Then, for several days in a row, he would add another board or two. I told him he had made me consider spending the big bucks for one of those steps made for that purpose in the camping store. I had to admit that it is functional.
We stopped by the Walmart on our way back from Big Creek and found a cheap plastic step. Andy set it in front of his work of art and tried it. He decided the plastic step so much better than his that he dismantled his wooden one. I took a picture first.
I have been neglecting my photography and log writing for weeks now. You know I’m sick when I don’t take many pictures. I did take my camera with me on a run into town for groceries. Andy took me to Carver’s Apple House for lunch to cheer me up. I love eating lunch overlooking the orchard.
Last Thursday, we drove to Gatlinburg and ate Mellow Mushroom pizza with Ranger Heath, his wife Dana, and their youngest son Garret. Garret made a cherry pie for dessert with cherries from the tree in their yard. Heath’s mother helped him with her pie crust recipe. It was fabulous. The rest of the family is just as delightful as Heath and we enjoyed our visit with them.
On Monday, we left Big Creek and headed east on I-40. I took Imodium before we got on the road so I wouldn’t have to pull over on the shoulder of the interstate for an emergency bathroom break. We stopped for the night behind a Cracker Barrel restaurant along the interstate near Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a quiet a peaceful night.
We left the Cracker Barrel Tuesday morning and headed to Wilson, North Carolina for my annual pilgrimage to Bill Ellis Barbecue. I ate way too much. Then we continued on to Suffolk, Virginia to the Davis Lakes RV park where we stay when we visit son Mike. We didn’t plan the visit very well. We usually try to stop there on a weekend so we can spend more time with Mike, but this time we only got to see him in the evenings.
Here is Sao in our campsite.
We sat outside on our little wooden deck and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We noted that we have not seen a robin in a year. This one was not too shy and sat still enough for me to take a few portraits.
This squirrel is also accustomed to campers and watched us watching it.
Andy got me out for two walks around the lake. I could really feel that I have done nothing but lie around for several weeks now. I was tired after one lap. This is the swimming area on the lake closest to us.
We had been planning to stop in for a visit with Fred and Cas, as is our custom every year.
I finished my prescription for the C-diff a couple days ago and thought I was over it. The last two days, without Imodium, have reminded me that I’m not over it but, am getting worse again. Dr. O’Connor, in Marathon, suggested another round of Metronidazole. If I am not cured after that, he said I should go see a gastroenterologist.
Tonight, we are parked in my Sister Barbara’s driveway in Prince Frederick, Maryland. We’ll hunker down here until I am cured. Some Google searching revealed that I can consider myself non-contagious when I have not had diarrhea for 48 hours. I’ll use the time to work on Big Creek. I do not want to visit the grand kids or Andy’s brother Paul until I’m sure I won’t pass this nasty bug on.
Andy and Spence spent time up on the road directing people to park in horse-camp day-use lot today. I was still not confident to leave the motorhome (but I am slowly getting better). I did get dressed today, though. Day visitors were arriving in droves to have a picnic or to hike up to the Midnight Hole. Many of them walk up the trail by our host site. Today, two families stopped to look at the butterfly on the huge log that serves as our fence. I decided to go have a look.
She is a Promethea Moth on a mossy rock under the edge of the log. The National Park Service web site says the females are active at night and the males are active in the afternoon. I am thrilled to add her to my photo collection.
We have talked it over with each other and Boss Larry, and have decided to leave Big Creek early this year. Larry said Clyde and Debbie, the hosts at Cosby, are happy to move here for June. That was fast. I hope to be cured of this nasty bug in a few more days and be able to drive without making emergency roadside stops. We plan to leave on June 6. We are returning next year. I am disappointed, but think it is for the best. We need to spend a little more time with family. Of course, I had planned for THE BOOK to be published in March and to promote it to regional bookstores while we were in the mountains. That hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen. I’ll just have to set my sights on next year.
Stay tuned. We do have some more national park visits planned for later in the summer.