All Around Tennessee (April 19 – May 24, 2022)

When we had arrived at our campground in Fletcher, NC on April 16th, Phil had heard a thud when he extended our bedroom slide.  Further inspection failed to locate the source of the noise.  However, as we prepared to leave NC on Tuesday, April 19th, the bedroom slide initially would only move a few inches.  We checked to make sure there were no obstructions but found none.  After several attempts to move the slide in and out, we were finally able to get the slide to fully retract, albeit with a horrendous banging sound each time the cable rotated.  We had booked reservations for that night at Raccoon Valley RV Park in Heiskel, TN and had a service appointment at our dealer, RVs for Less, in Knoxville scheduled for Wednesday.  Rather than risk not being able to open or close the slide at Raccoon Valley, Phil called our dealer and got the okay to go there directly.  We drove the 133 miles from Fletcher, NC to Knoxville, TN and arrived in the early afternoon.  Although they weren’t able to work on our issues that afternoon, we were able to get hooked up and extended our bedroom slide just far enough to squeeze down the hallway to the bedroom and bathroom.

On Wednesday, the service technicians were able to resolve most of our original issues but the bedroom slide issue proved to be a challenge.  They determined that we needed a new gearbox and it had to be ordered.  Although the part arrived late on Thursday afternoon, it was not installed until Friday morning.  We were very relieved when we heard the sound of the slide moving in and out smoothly. 

Since we had no way to predict how long the repairs would take, we had not booked our next campground.  When our bill was ready by midday on Friday, we were faced with having to find an open spot on short notice.  With campgrounds being extremely crowded these days, especially on the weekends, we struggled to find a vacancy.  Fortunately, Ken Rife, the General Manager, offered us the opportunity to spend another night on their lot.  Although most of the campgrounds we tried had no space available for Saturday night, we were able to book a site at Ballyhoo Family Campground in Crossville, TN.

On Saturday morning, we drove 89 miles to the campground.  With the change to the Central time zone, we arrived at noon and got to relax all afternoon.  The campground is in a nice setting, although the sites are rather tight.  We had barely enough room to park our rig and the car on our site; the truck had to be parked in the overflow parking area.  Being on the end site gave us a slightly larger than average yard, but it also put our picnic table only a few feet from the dump station.  Fortunately, the campground was largely empty and there was no one using the dump station.

On Sunday, we took a drive around Crossville and the surrounding area.  We had last stayed in Crossville in 2018 and things have grown up since then.  We drove through The Gardens, a beautiful housing development where all the houses have garages large enough to hold the owners’ RVs, as well as their cars.  We also drove through Fairfield Glade, a lovely community a few miles north of Crossville.  Our friends, Cathy and Phil Schirtzinger, who we had met at Buckhorn Lake Resort in Kerrville, TX during the winters of 2016 and 2017, live in Fairfield Glade. On Monday afternoon, Phil played pickleball on the three indoor courts at the Central Baptist Church.

On Tuesday, we drove 100 miles to Lebanon, TN where we would spend a week at the Nashville East / Lebanon KOA.  The first 65 miles went smoothly but then we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic.  It took us nearly two hours to cover the next ten miles, all the result of having one lane closed for repaving.  We were very fortunate to have stopped at the rest area just before hitting the congestion. 

When we were setting up at the campground, we had a recurrence of the issue with our bedroom slide.  It extended about one foot before stopping with a thud.  Upon examination, we could see that the cables had gotten twisted tightly around each other.  We retracted the slide a bit and were able to pry the cables apart using a ruler.  After that, we were able to extend the slide with Jan keeping the cables properly aligned.  Hopefully, we can baby this situation until we return to the dealer on May 17th.

On Wednesday, we did some exploring.  After lunch at Bangkok Pad Thai, we drove to historic downtown Lebanon.  We then drove through nearby Cedars of Lebanon State Park.  Although about 20% of the campsites were occupied, the state park was quite dead and most of the facilities were closed.  That evening, we drove to Nashville and took Jason and his housemate, Steve, out for dinner.

On Thursday evening, we toured the model homes at Southern Springs, a 55+ Del Webb community in Spring Hill, TN.  If there is a polar opposite of a hard-sell, this was it.  They only offer self-guided tours, which can only be scheduled in the early morning or after 6 pm, when the sales office is closed.  We arrived shortly before our 7 pm appointment and drove through the development.  We had first visited Southern Springs several years ago and the growth since then is amazing.  They are currently finishing their seventh phase and are about to begin phase eight.  The tour of the model homes was truly self-guided.  We received a code via text message that got us in the houses and we never saw another soul.  There was no information about pricing or availability.  We attempted to visit the community center but entry required a pass card.  After the tour, we received an email with a phone number to call for additional information but, other than that, there was no follow-up.  Very strange!

Jason stayed with us on Friday and Saturday night.  On Sunday afternoon, we drove to Murfreesboro to visit with Jan’s cousin, Lori Davis, and her husband, Bruce.  That evening, we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Nashville with Lizzi and her roommate, Amanda.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, we drove 139 miles to Rossville, GA (a suburb of Chattanooga, TN) where we spent four nights at Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga.  This campground is on the site of a Civil War battlefield.  The North-South streets are named for Civil War officers.  The streets at the North end are named for Union Commanders; the streets at the South end are named for Confederate Generals.  The other streets are named for Civil War battles.  Our site, #145, was a pull-through between Braxton Bragg Rd. and Nathan Bedford Forrest Dr.

We spent the next three days exploring the Jasper Highlands development we’d been following for a couple of years.  It is located 25 miles west of downtown Chattanooga along I-24 and 1.5 hours from Nashville.  The development consists of 9,000 acres of mountain on the Cumberland Plateau, with less than 3,000 acres planned for development.  They have sold almost all the 1,200 lots, although a lot of them have not yet been built upon.  The homes that are currently in place are mostly custom-built on large lots, taking advantage of the views and contours of the lots.  This is definitely not a cookie-cutter type community.  There are many amenities, including two pools, pickleball and tennis courts, many miles of hiking trails, a fishing pond, waterfall, and much more.  They also have a restaurant, pizzeria, bank and wellness center right outside the gates.

We had scheduled an appointment to tour Jasper Highlands on Wednesday afternoon.  However, we arrived early and took time to visit the Lodge Factory Store in nearby South Pittsburg, where we found an almost unlimited number of types of cast iron cookware.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with Patti Boland, one of the VPs of Sales for TN Land.  The drive up the steep mountain road to the Jasper Highland entry gate took five minutes.  Patti drove us around the development and showed us several lots.  Since most of the lots at Jasper Highlands have already been sold over the past seven years, there actually weren’t too many options.  We found two lots that we really liked and were leaning toward buying one of them.  Patti also drove us to their new development project, River Gorge Ranch, on a mountain about ten minutes closer to Chattanooga.  Although the roads of the first phase of this development aren’t likely to be finished for another year and a half, they have already sold 120 lots in the first three weeks.  Since this is the same developer as Jasper Highlands, we can imagine it will also be beautiful but it would require a lot of vision and faith to buy a lot on property only currently accessible by jeep.  We decided we didn’t really have that much vision. 

Patti had given us a $50 gift certificate for dinner at the Top of the Rock so we took advantage of it as we relaxed from our strenuous afternoon.

When we got home that evening, we started looking through a real estate brochure we had picked up the Lodge Factory Store and found that there were a number of lots in Jasper Highlands being listed by realtors for resale.  On Thursday morning, we contacted Melissa Hubbard at RE/MAX Realty South.  She sent us ten MLS listings and we selected six we wanted to see.  We met Melissa at 1:30 and toured the lots, along with a couple more she knew were going to be listed soon.  Although we rejected most of them, we did find two we liked more than the two finalists from Tuesday. 

We also drove by a finished home that Melissa knew was scheduled to come on the market after Memorial Day.  Since the large backlog of homes needing to be built in the development means a wait of possibly up to two years to have a new home built on your lot, we wanted to see if buying one of the rare resale homes would be an option.

After another tiring afternoon of traipsing through large undeveloped lots, we decided to have dinner at Top of the Rock again.  Unfortunately, we had to pay for this meal ourselves.

Melissa contacted us that evening to say that she had arranged for a showing of the completed home, so Friday morning had us returning to Jasper Highlands for the third time.  We did the walk-through and quickly concluded that we would rather have a new house, even if we have to wait.  After the tour, we went back and looked at two of the sites we had visited on Thursday, including our favorite.  After walking our favorite lot for now the third time, we decided to make an offer.  The lot is just shy of an acre and is heavily wooded with hardwood trees.  The view is incredible, with a big vista of the surrounding mountains and valley. 

We drove to Melissa’s office and wrote up the paperwork.  We had hoped to hear within 24 hours and fully expected to receive a counteroffer.  However, we were very pleasantly surprised to hear back from Melissa a couple of hours later that the seller had accepted our offer.  Our closing is scheduled in two weeks, on May 20th

Although selecting the lot was an important first step, there will be many more decisions to be made during the design and construction phases.  When we are ready to move forward with construction, we will work with an architect to design a house that will optimize the available space and give us the best views, while keeping many of the mature trees. We aren’t certain as to the timing of these next steps so, in the meantime, we will continue to enjoy our life on the road. 

On Saturday, May 7th, we drove 79 miles to Manchester, TN where we spent four nights at the Manchester KOA.  Jason joined us that afternoon and spent Mother’s Day weekend with us. 

On Sunday morning, we drove to Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park and hiked the 4.7-mile Old Stone Fort Loop Trail.  This state park is on the site of the former Manchester Powder Mill.  With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Confederacy quickly established gunpowder mills to support the Southern war effort.  The combination of abundant water power from the Duck River and access to the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad made this an ideal powder mill site.  However, the Union army arrived in March 1862 and burnt it to the ground.  The hike took us along the banks of the Duck River and provided views of numerous waterfalls. That afternoon, we went to O’Charley’s for dinner, as part of Jan’s Mother’s Day present from Jason and Jarrod.

On Wednesday, May 11th, we drove 65 miles to Nashville, where we parked for five nights at Nashville RV Resort (formerly Jellystone).  We were unable to reserve a full-hookup site but, given that we would be away for much of the time, we were able to manage without a sewer.  Shortly after we arrived, Jan left to have dinner with two of her childhood friends, Linda and Pam.  Jason came over for dinner and hung out with Phil until Jan returned.

Due to being Texas residents, Jan’s only medical insurance options under Obamacare are HMO’s.  As a result, she needed to return to Kerrville, Texas for a doctor’s appointment on Friday morning.  We flew to Texas, via Austin, on Thursday afternoon and spent the evening at the Inn of the Hills in Kerrville.  Following Jan’s appointment on Friday, we spent some time in Fredericksburg before returning to Austin.  After we dropped off our rental car at 7 pm,  Katie and her boyfriend, Michael, picked us up at the airport and took us to dinner.  We were back at the airport by 9 pm but our 10 pm flight was delayed by 30 minutes.  By the time we got back to our campground and got ready for bed, it was 2:25 am.

On Sunday morning, we got up early, picked up Jason, and drove to Camden, TN where we attended homecoming at Liberty Methodist Church.  Several of Jan’s relatives were in attendance, as well as many people Jan had not seen in many years.  After the service, we stuck around for a potluck meal that got us all plenty full.  We then stopped by for a brief visit with Sheila and David Gaskin, before returning to Nashville.

On Monday, May 16th, we drove 202 miles to Kodak, TN (just past Knoxville) and spent the night at Dumplin’ Valley Farm RV Park.  On Tuesday, we returned to our dealer, RVs for Less, in Knoxville for some service items that were not completed when we had visited three weeks earlier. The service work was completed on Wednesday and, late that afternoon, we drove 28 miles to Clinton, TN where we spent six nights at the Clinton / Knoxville North KOA Journey.

Following our May 6th signing of the agreement to purchase a lot at Jasper Highlands, our lives had become rather stressful.  Phil immediately began moving funds into our US Bank account for the May 20th closing.  Two-thirds of the money was successfully transferred via ACH into the account by May 11th.  However, the final ACH transfer, coming from Synchrony Bank, was rejected by US bank and our US Bank account was suspended.  Phil called US Bank and, although they couldn’t explain their action, the account was re-opened fairly easily.  However, the missing funds floated around in the banking system for six days before finally reappearing in our Synchrony Bank account.  The more challenging issue was that, when US Bank suspended our account, Synchrony Bank restricted our account so we couldn’t transfer any money out of it.  We made numerous calls to Synchrony Bank and, after spending much time on hold, each time we were told it would take days to get the restriction lifted.  Finally, on May 19th, we got the restriction lifted and were able to get the funds wired that afternoon. 

On Friday, May 20th, we drove to the main US Bank office in Knoxville to get a cashier’s check.  Having not been inside a bank in two years, we were surprised to find the huge office occupied by only two bankers.  Our banker was wearing a tie-dyed Pink Floyd t-shirt.  My, how our world has changed due to COVID!  After getting the check, we drove 130 miles to Jasper, TN for the closing.  We were then given the access code to the Jasper Highlands gate and drove out to visit our lot again.  We enjoyed traipsing around our lot and through the woods, although we later discovered several small ticks crawling on us.  Phil had downloaded an app called LandGlide to his phone.  Using the GPS in this app, we discovered that our back property line extends way down the mountainside.  Given the steepness of the drop-off, we may never actually visit the end of our property.  After leaving our lot, we drove around Jasper Highlands and checked out the variety of home styles.  We stopped in at the Top of the Rock restaurant for a celebration before making the long drive back to our campsite in Clinton.          

Spring in the Carolinas (April 9 – 19, 2022)

On Saturday, we drove 311 miles to Pendleton, SC (near Greenville) where we stayed a week at the US Army Corp of Engineers’ Twin Lake Campground on Hartwell Lake.  In addition to the longer-than-usual distance, we were delayed by accidents and road construction along the route.  We were both exhausted when we arrived.  However, our long drive was rewarded with a very nice pull-through site alongside the lake.

The temperature got down to 35 degrees overnight but got up to a sunny 71 degrees on Sunday afternoon.  We went for a long walk around the campground.  As we walked, we could spot Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium across the lake. Jan bought a fishing license online and broke out the poles.  She tried fishing by our site, then moved on to the dock by the boat ramp.  She had no nibbles but was inspired to try again.

Tuesday, April 12th, was our 19th wedding anniversary and we spent the day visiting Greenville, SC.  Our first stop was in the historic West End.  Finding an open parking spot was quite a challenge.  After we managed to get backed into one, we discovered that it was only good for 30 minutes.  That gave us only enough time for a quick stroll through Falls Park on the Reedy, a beautiful city park on the Reedy River. 

Like many towns that developed in the 1800’s, Greenville relied on the river for industry and the river became polluted.  When Greenville’s industry collapsed in the 1950’s, the river was largely abandoned and became overgrown with vegetation and shaded by a four-lane vehicular bridge.  In the 1990s, plans to revitalize the forgotten waterfall began to take place.  The vehicular bridge was torn down in 2003 and replaced with the Liberty Bridge, a 355-foot pedestrian-only suspension bridge that is supported by cables only on one side, giving an unobstructed view of the upper falls.  We strolled across the Liberty Bridge and then walked through the park, enjoying the many gardens with flowers in full bloom.

After spending a couple of hours at the Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance and a quick trip through Sam’s Club, we had an early dinner at The 05 Express Kitchen.  This small restaurant in the Augusta Road neighborhood offers a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes.  Jan had the vegan Brussel sprouts salad and really enjoyed the combination of flavors in the sauce.  Phil passed on the vegan options and, instead, enjoyed the gourmet Keepin It Fresh Smash Burger.

On Wednesday, we drove through the campus of Clemson University.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any open parking spots so we didn’t get to walk around.  We did find a local bait shop and bought some worms.  On Thursday, we headed out to our park’s fishing pier with the worms.  It was a nice day for sitting on the lake but, unfortunately, Jan still had no nibbles.

On Friday, we got on the road early and drove to Devils Ford State Park on Lake Jocassee.  One of Phil’s childhood classmates lives in SC and had recommended we visit this lake.  He claims that National Geographic included this lake in their list of “50 Places You Should Visit Before You Die” (one of only two in this hemisphere).  The lake is known for the clean and cold Appalachian mountain rivers that flow into it, keeping its waters cool and clear year-round.  Several waterfalls flow directly into the lake.  The lake was created in 1973 by the state in partnership with Duke Power.  Although most manmade structures were demolished before the lake was flooded, divers recently discovered the remains of a lodge that was left intact; now below 300 feet of water.  Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery was a setting for a scene in the film Deliverance (1972), starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, produced before the lake was flooded.  That site is now covered by 130 feet of lake water.

Lake Jocassee’s reputation is based on the clear waters and the many waterfalls that line the lake.  The waterfalls are only accessible by boat or by strenuous and/or dangerous hikes.  Unfortunately, the tour boats did not operate on Friday and it was our last full day in SC.  We did hike the 1.5-mile Oconee Bell Loop Trail through a hardwood forest and along a babbling stream.

Another recommendation Phil had received was to visit Duke Energy’s educational facility, World of Energy, at the Oconee Nuclear Station.  Although it is usually open on Fridays, upon our arrival we discovered that it was closed for Good Friday.  However, they did have a long fishing pier and we spent over an hour there.  Once again, Jan was unable to get any nibbles but we enjoyed the sunny day on Lake Keowee.

On Saturday, April 16th, we drove 88 miles to Fletcher, NC where we would spend three nights at Rutledge Lake RV Park.  Fletcher is a short distance from Asheville.

Sunday was Easter and the weather was beautiful.  We had originally planned to take a walking tour of downtown Asheville but, because of tours being unavailable on Easter and with rain forecast for most of Monday, we decided to explore on our own.  With help from the Internet and an app called GPSmycity, we were able to put together a self-guided tour of ten sites in historic Asheville. 

Our first stop was the Asheville city hall, completed in 1928 and designed in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time.  The city hall is located on Pack Square Park, a large green space that is open to the public for relaxing, exercise and events.

We next walked to the Thomas Wolfe House.  Thomas Wolfe was an American novelist of the early 20th century.  He wrote four lengthy novels, as well as many shorter works.  His most famous novel, Look Homeward, Angel, chronicled the childhood of a young boy who comes of age in a small mountain town in the south.  Although hailed as a commercial and literary success, the novel brought anger and resentment by many in Asheville.  Residents recognized not only locations, but friends and sometimes themselves as characters in the novel.  Today, Look Homeward, Angel is regarded as an American classic. 

The Thomas Wolfe House was built in 1883 in the Queen Anne architectural style and was operated as a boarding house, called “Old Kentucky Home.”  Wolfe’s mother bought the house in 1903 and continued to operate it as a boarding house, but eventually moved in with her son.

Our next stop was at the Lexington Glassworks, a glassware and glassblowing studio.  Although the studio was open, there was no glassblowing on Easter.

We then went to Woolworth Walk, a two-floor art gallery and crafts space, with stalls displaying the works of a large number of local artists.  The gallery is in a former Woolworths store.  The soda fountain from the original store still operates so visitors can recreate the experience of dining in a 1950s era Woolworths luncheonette.

We next walked past the Basilica of St. Lawrence, completed in 1905 in a Catalan architectural style.  Our final stop on our tour was the Grove Arcade.  Completed in 1929, it was created with the intent to serve as the base for a skyscraper but it was never completed.  It has served many purposes over the years and, at one time, was one of the world’s first indoor shopping malls.  Today, it has a combination of dining, retail and residential space.

We then returned to Pack Square Park and had lunch at Pack’s Tavern.  It was built in 1907 by a local lumber supply company and remains one of the oldest buildings in Asheville.  During Prohibition (1920-1933), a lucrative moonshine distribution business operated in the basement.  Using the lumber supply company as a front and a tunnel under the street, business boomed.

After lunch, we drove to West Asheville and toured the brewery at the New Belgium Brewing Company.  Husband, Jeff Lebesch (electrical engineer), and wife, Kim Jordan (social worker), were inspired to bring Belgian brewing tradition to their hometown of Fort Collins, CO after a bike trip through Belgium in 1988.  In 1991, they installed brewing equipment in their basement and began the business.  Kim became New Belgium’s jack-of-all-trades as the first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer, financial planner and long-time CEO.  In 1995, they expanded to a new production facility in Fort Collins.  In 2016, the Asheville brewery opened, bringing the New Belgium experience to the East Coast.  Fat Tire, first brewed in 1991 and still the big money-maker, was named for the many comments the founders got when they rode their mountain bikes with fat tires in Europe.  Employees are awarded a bicycle when they reach one year of employment.  Our tour took us through the brewery and we got to watch ale being brewed in the huge vats.  We were offered samples of Fat Tire and, if interested, several other brands.  To get to the lower floor of the brewery, we took a steep slide down through a spiral tube.  Although hesitant at first, we both made it.

After spending most of a rainy and cool Monday indoors, we headed out to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in nearby Mills River for an early dinner.  Although the company has operated in Chico, CA since the 1980s, construction of the brewery in Mills River, NC was completed in 2015.  The beautiful setting for this brewery is definitely not what you would expect for an industrial business.  This campus is down a long driveway and way back into the woods.  They didn’t offer tours on Mondays so we headed straight to the Taproom.  Before having dinner, we explored the backyard, which is set up for concerts and other events.  We then returned inside for dinner.  Jan ordered tempeh bahn mi and Phil ordered crispy oyster and pear salad.  When you have to use your smartphone to look up the ingredients, you know it will be something unusual but both dishes were very flavorful.

April in Savannah (April 2 – 9, 2022)

We got up early on Saturday, April 2nd, and prepared for our 277-mile drive to Savannah, GA, where we would spend a week at CreekFire RV Resort.  Since we had not moved in four months, we were somewhat concerned that we might forget some of our moving-day procedures but we did pretty well.  We did have a bit of an issue when we couldn’t get the hitch’s arm to close completely, although the jaws were properly secured around the kingpin.  To make matters worse, we couldn’t get the jaws to open back up so we could try again.  We tried raising and lowering the legs, as well as moving the truck back and forth slightly, and we eventually got the hitch arm into position so we could lock it in place. 

Once we got on the road, the drive was quite slow.  We faced many miles of stop-and-go traffic on the interstates, due to accidents, road construction, and tons of snowbirds returning north.  In addition, we dealt with rain much of the day, including some periods of torrential downpour.  So, despite preparing to leave Webster, FL at 9:30 am, we didn’t reach our new campground until 4:30 pm.  Fortunately, our new pull-through site was easy to access and the hitch disconnected without any further issue. 

The resort has many amenities, including four pools (swimming pool, kiddie pool, splash pool, and a lazy river), a game room, tennis/pickleball court, a lake with catch-and-release fishing, and a hiking trail around the lake.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the week calls for three days of inclement weather, including some severe storms.

On Sunday, we caught a shuttle bus at 9:30 am and were driven to the garage for the Old Town Trolley Tours in Savannah.  We then transferred to a trolley and took a 90-minute ride around the entire loop.  This took us past most of the 22 squares in the historic district.   The trolley driver provided an overwhelming amount of details about what we were passing.  After completing the full loop, we got off at the City Market stop and headed to Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar for a snack.  We went up to the rooftop bar and shared a dozen raw oysters.  We then strolled through City Market, before hopping back on the trolley.  We got off at Madison Square and strolled through many of the neighborhoods and visited several of the squares.  We spent a lot of time at Chippewa Square looking for the bench from the movie Forest Gump but later learned that it had been moved to a museum.  We then returned to City Market and decided to have lunch at the Café at City Market.  Phil’s pepperoni pizza was barely passable, but Jan’s got the real surprise.  When her summer salad was placed down in front of her, a roach popped up from under the lettuce and landed on its back.  When she sent the plate back, the waiter returned with a different(?) salad but, obviously, Jan refused it, having lost any appetite for another bunch of lettuce from the same kitchen.  After lunch, we hopped back on the trolley and rode to Forsyth Park.  Since we needed to be back at the trolley garage by 4 pm for our shuttle back to the campground, our tour around the park was a quick one. 

On Monday, two of our friends from our 2018 caravan to Alaska, John and Linda Baird, came to visit us.  Since the Alaska trip, they have purchased a condo on Hilton Head Island, SC, about an hour from Savannah.  We had a good time catching up and enjoyed lunch at the nearby Ruby Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we headed to Tybee Island.  Although we discovered that the lighthouse and museum were closed on Tuesday, we did spend over an hour walking along the beach.  We had last visited Tybee Island in November 2016.  At that time, debris from the cleanup following Hurricane Matthew was piled in huge mounds near the beach.  We were glad to see the same area now, without the mess.

Our next stop was at the Fort Pulaski National Monument.  Fort Pulaski was built in the second quarter of the 19th century to guard river approaches to Savannah.  The brick fortress was surrounded by a moat and access required crossing a drawbridge.  Early in 1861, the Georgia militia seized the fort and, when Georgia seceded a few days later, it was transferred to the Confederate army.  On April 10, 1862, the Union army fired on the fort from Tybee Island.  The Confederates’ artillery consisted of smoothbore guns, with a range of only one mile.  The Union had rifled artillery pieces, with a much longer range.  For the next 30 hours, the fort was bombarded and huge breaches were opened up in the 7.5-foot-thick walls.  When the shelling began to threaten the powder magazines in one corner of the fort, the Confederates surrendered, rather than be blown up by their own gunpowder.

Fort Pulaski was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s and contains lots of artifacts and displays.  We enjoyed walking through the many rooms in the fort and learning about the events that occurred there.  

The weather forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday called for severe thunderstorms, large hail and possible tornados, but the timing of the storms kept changing.  At 5:30 pm on Tuesday, we got a tornado warning on our phones and considered taking shelter.  However, since our dinner was on the stove, we decided to take our chances.  We didn’t even get many strong winds, although we did have some periods of heavy rain during the night.  On Wednesday, the storms were supposed to start at 2 pm so we stayed at home.  When the storms hadn’t arrived by 5 pm, we decided to visit The Lake House at Creek Fire for an afternoon snack.  The timing of the supposed extreme weather continued to be pushed back and we ended up not getting anything.  Although we were grateful we had not had to deal with storms, we were frustrated that we had wasted time that we could have spent exploring the area.

On Thursday, Phil decided that if he was going to float on the lazy river, it was now or never.  After playing pickleball for months, he needed to work on evening out his farmer’s tan.

Later that afternoon, we returned to the Savannah historic district.  We had spotted a souvenir we wanted to buy on Sunday but had decided to buy it when we returned.  Unfortunately, when we returned, the store was not where we had remembered it, so we walked around many of the squares looking in vain for the store.  We ended up buying something similar at another store.  Then, it was time for our nighttime Ghosts and Gravestones tour.  Savannah is reputed to have the most paranormal activity of any city in the U. S.  The 80-minute trolley tour combined lots of ghost stories with humorous twists.  We made stops at two of the city’s most haunted venues.  First was a stop at the Andrew Low House.  Andrew Low was the husband of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, but two of his previous wives had died in this mansion.  There have long been reports of spirits that inhabit the mansion, tales of staff seeing apparitions dressed in old-fashioned clothes and furniture moving with no one occupying it. 

Our second stop was at the Perkins and Sons Chandlery.  After we had taken our seats in a warehouse filled with shipping supplies, the lights went out.  When the lights returned, we discovered that we had been joined by a ghost who proceeded to tell us stories from the haunted history of River Street.  The stories were campy, but fun.

On Friday, we drove to Jekyll Island and visited the historic district.  Over the next few hours, we learned a lot about the history of the Jekyll Island Club.  This club was founded in 1886 as a hunting and recreational club.  Its membership included many of the richest and most famous families, including the Morgans, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts.  The club had only 53 members initially and membership never rose much above 100.  The season lasted each year for the months of January through March.  The families gathered for dinner at the clubhouse.  At one point, the collected wealth of all the members at dinner represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth.  It was considered unacceptable for a woman to ever wear the same dress to dinner twice in the same season.  Membership in the club declined during the Great Depression.  World War II was the final blow to the club, as it become difficult to find staff, and 1942 was the final season for the club.  The property was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1947.

When we arrived at the museum in the historic district, we discovered that we had just missed the trolley tour so we signed up for the next one.  While we waited, we decided to do visit the Faith Chapel.  This small wooden church, completed in 1904, was built for interdenominational worship by the members of the Jekyll Island Club.  It contains two fabulous stained windows.  One was created and autographed by Louis C. Tiffany in memory of Frederick Bourne, President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  This window was entitled “David Set Singers Before the Lord,” which the chapel’s docent suggested may have been a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to Mr. Bourne’s company.  The other window, designed by Tiffany apprentices and father-daughter team Maitland and Helen Armstrong, was entitled “Adoration of the Christ Child.” 

We returned for the 1:30 trolley tour.  This hour-long tour took us past many of the cottages of the rich and famous.  The driver provided lots of anecdotes about the owners of the various homes and the activities of the members while on the island.  We passed the wharf where the club members arrived in magnificent yachts. The tour took us through the cottage owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Rockefeller.  Although quite large and elaborately decorated, it was the smallest of the Rockefellers’ many homes.