Lovely to be back to making coffee outside in the morning. The weather has warmed and Ocala is forecast to be 81 today. The thing about Florida is that, unlike North and South Carolinas and even Georgia, it doesn’t take until 2pm to gather some fleeting warmth for a few hours, which, the minute the sun starts setting, you say adios to. So, cooking and eating dinner outside (until the mosquitos beset) and morning coffee are winter treats of the highest order.
I remember singing that in a musical production in college ( yes, with a whole lot of other people so no one could hear me – trust me, that’s a good thing.) And, speaking of food, I was recently asked, “What do you eat while on the road?” With one vegetarian, smaller storage, fridge and cooking space, fewer utensils, pans and conveniences, we try to eat a lot like we eat at home, on a simpler scale.
Facilities include a two burner gas stove, a portable gas one burner for making morning coffee outside, a small dorm room size refrigerator with a freezer and a small microwave. We store a medium size frying pan, saucepan, small egg poaching pan, a stainless 4-cup french coffee press, toaster and a waffle iron (worth another post to share our experiences with waffle iron recipes.) A few dishes, utensils, sharp knife, can opener, spatula, grater and that’s about it.
The pantry consists of pepper, sea salt, olive oil, spray oil for the grille, seafood rub, teriaki sauce, a mexican spice blend, italian blend, oatmeal, rice, pasta, honey, peanut butter, coffee, balsamic vinegar, beans, sweet potatoes, granola, trail mix, bagels, bread and a few convenience packaged foods such as Indian lentils, precooked rice, mashed potatoes and canned tuna. The fridge is always stocked with eggs, greens, Greek yogurt, butter, cheese, tortilla, jam and some sort fresh veggies that keep well (like onion, carrot, broccoli, musrooms, peppers) and fruit, like apples, oranges or berries.
We generally omit the Costco trips due to storage space, but we like Ingle’s when in the south, switching to Publix when more toward Florida and lean toward the sales to keep costs down. And although I managed at one point to go for a whole year without setting foot in a Walmart, in rural areas that is sometimes our best bet for stocking up on a few pantry items. We also like to check out the local health food stores and markets.
We also love the farmer’s markets and generally try them out in each area, if the season is right. And yay, the season is always right in Florida. On Saturday, at the lovely Farmer’s Market in Ocala, we picked up fresh swordfish, apples, a mango, red pepper, summer squash and broccoli. There was some amazing looking bread and bakery, but we were already stocked at the trailer and that’s the sort of thing you can’t buy too much of.
As in all aspects of life, some days are better than others. We have gone several days with peanut butter on bagels for lunch! Here is our menu from the last two days, and yes, we were on a pretty good roll, having just been to the market.
Day 1, Breakfast: coffee, scrambled eggs, a tangerine, yogurt.
Lunch: (we usually get our own based on what we have) I had a salad, crackers and garden cream cheese.
Dinner: grilled swordfish, grilled veggies (red paper and summer squash) and whole grain bread on the grill.
Dessert: We almost always have some cookies and Ghirardelli chocolate squares on had.
Day 2, Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples, dates and cinnamon.
Lunch: Yogurt with granola. Bob probably had a peanut butter and jam bagel.
Dinner: Stir fry with tempeh, broccoli, red pepper, carrots and spinach with whole grain rice.
Dessert: the usual 😉
We don’t spend much time or money in restaurants, but we will often go out once every couple of weeks for a break from cooking and a change of pace (we rely on word of mouth from the locals), or have a beer at a brew pub after riding our bikes.
The thing about blogs is trying to keep up with one. We don’t have the internet for a few days here and there, the days get busy dawn to dark or a sudden health situation arises that essentially erases a week of your life. Ahh, but those conditions don’t apply today, so there is no excuse. Truthfully, there is often no excuse. I get lazy. I get complacent. I get behind.
Over the past several weeks, we have towed little Gerry another four trips of 18 miles to Hendersonville, 144 miles from Hendersonville to Hamilton Lake State Park in South Carolina, 321 miles from SC to Anastasia State Park in Florida, and then from there to the Santos Campground in Ocala for a trip of another 90 miles. Our total Winter 2017 trip is now to 1,779 towing miles and we are still averaging about 22 mpg when we tow.
Well, that updates our current location. Dry facts is all you get today, and again, with best intentions, I hope to carry on soon with some posts of more substance.
We moved the Alto today to a new campsite. We are now at Bent Creek Experimental Forest right outside of Asheville. House hunting finished, we have a week and a day until closing, so we decided to take a vacation of sorts. Camped right by the Bent Creek tails, the closest biking and hiking trails to Asheville, we can bike from our campsite. It is so quiet here, and we can take a shower at the campground – a bonus.
The mountain bike trails at Bent Creek are popular and well used. The parking lots are fairly limited, so they fill up quickly especially on weekends. However, once you are out on the trails, the trails never seem crowded. The exception would be the trails right off the Hardtimes Parking area. Many hikers and runners start out from there, as well as mtb’ers, so it is a bit congested. Once you spread out from there, you are good.
The trails are fun and the scenery is terrific!
We have been shower-in-the-Alto avoiders. We usually stay in campgrounds with showers, and we use those for the most part. Our stay in Hendersonville to date has been on a private landowner’s trailer site that he generally rents by the month to tenants who live here in their rigs. We snagged a stay here, as he was in between renters and is a really nice guy! We have had the luxury of full hook ups – electric, warer and sewer. But no campground showers.
So…..we had to break in our own shower. Bob previously replaced the stock nozzle with a nicer shower head type sprayer. The one that comes with the camper is wimpy. The shower curtain pulls out for a storage unit behind the toilet and a cover fits over the toilet. When the curtain is pulled around, it protects the wall, medicine cabinet and door. A major concern was that it would take forever to dry the curtain and the bathroom – not so, we are happy to report.
While the shower runs, we flip the switch of our instant-on hot water heater which was custom designed our friend Doug, and installed into the front storage closet by Bob and Doug. The water is toasty! We run the fan on high speed and crack side window to keep steam and condensation from forming in the cabin. Works! Slick.
Then we dry the floor with a towel, and keep the bathroom door open for a while. The shower curtain dries out quickly – I am not even sure how it manages. Some type of wonder material. It would be nice if the shower curtain were removable, but it essentially would require a lot of time and effort to do so. A flaw in the design, I think. Although taking a shower a confined space is never that easy, it works and it’s pretty nice.
And we do need to take showers, in large part due to the rides we have been getting in here! We are talking real mountain, rugged stuff. Stream crossings. Dusty or muddy gravel roads. Leaf covered trails. No custom grooming or leaf blowing happening in this area. What is out there is what you get. And one thing you do get is dirty!
Prius and Gerry the trailer have been parked in Hendersonville, NC, about 18 miles south of Asheville. Our tasks have been to visit with family, house hunt, mountain bike and explore the area. We’ve been doing pretty well with all!
There are so many gorgeous rivers gorges and waterfalls. We have been to several so far. Some are in the Dupont State Forest area, and we have visited another a little further south on the Green River near Saluda.
The newest trail at Brown County State Park is a series of two thrilling, rollercoaster downhills, full of twists and turns, jumps and berms alternated with two sustained climbs. The trail is superbly built – if you stay focused and on track, your bike will know what to do. But don’t let your mind wander or you may be off the course, and control your spoed or you may be more airborne than you want. The sign at the trailhead includes three skulls and atronly recommends that riders roll features the first time through. Good advice, I think, as some of the tabletop jumps include two tables and if your skill level is lacking, again, you could be in so e serious trouble. But, for riders like me who don’t jump, riding with controlled speed let’s you have a ton of fun, rolling and swooping the berms and rolls.
Lots of room to camp here, as well. The spacing is pretty close, and the park does get busy. It was autumn leaf season and they also have a big Halloween campsite decorating contest and a party for the kids, so Halloween weekend is full. A reservation on the weekends through October is mandatory, and during the week you would more than likely be ok calling from the road. The bathhouses are clean; hot water lukewarm at best for the showers, toilets were well-stocked with tp and clean.
Our trip-ometer turned over 1000 and stopped at 1049 miles today, shortly before we pulled in for an overnight stay at the friendly WalMart in Clinton, TN. The miles went by at 21.9 miles per gallon, including a couple of mountains in Kentucky where we were faster than the semis.
It is convenient that many Walmarts allow overnight parking. It’s for when you just want a place to eat, sleep and get up and go again the next day. Oh yeah, and do a little shopping. Walmart, as we know, is no dummy. Actually, I went for over a year without setting foot in WalMart. How far I have fallen! We usually call ahead and ask if they permit overnight parking, and ask where to park. You can usually see a few semis and other trailers there, too, so just go where they are. Hopefully, the overnight guests leave promptly in the morning before the store’s busy hours and leave no trace. We know of at least a few WalMarts who have stopped this perk because of abuse of the privilege.
Our first WalMart of the trip was in Bloomington, Il, and we also spend two fanastic nights at Brown County State Parkin Nashville, Indiana, where the mojntain biking was superb, and certainly deserves it’s own post. Soon.
All packed and and ready to go! Leaving tomorrow for another season with our Alto and our Prius. See you from the road.
Or, alternative title, Go Where Large Rigs Can Not Go! Paris Mountain State Park worked out to be a convenient place for us to spend a two day gap between our last stretch at Hamilton State Park and our next two-week stretch Asheville. Actually there are a few spots for the big ones, but make sure when you reserve that you will fit at your site.
The sites are quite close together, but our neighbors and those we have met here are very respectful. There are very few level sites, so have your blocks and ramps ready.
The trails are busy – hikers and bikers – steep, and challenging, but tons of fun. There is no mountain biking allowed in the park on Saturday, and Sunday was a little too busy. Try for a week day, if at all possible.