Wednesday, October 17, 2007



In future I’ve decided not to delay putting up a blog until I can get the photos done. Instead, I will put up the episodes as soon as I have completed them, and then go back and put the photos in when I have the several hours that it takes to do so.

OCTOBER 13, 2007

I left off at the West Service Center in my last blog. The actual work involved was replacing a front disc brake and the rotor as well (which has a crack in it). I am hoping that this will be the last expense for awhile.

I enjoyed listening to a classical music station on Virginia public radio, as a nice change from the predominantly country and rock stations here.

After the expense of the brakes, I decided not to go to the Outer Banks after all. Instead, I am heading towards southwest North Carolina to get to my next destination.

Maude took me through southwest Virginia and we passed many cotton and tobacco fields. At first, I thought there were bits of paper strewn along the highway, but then I realized that these were cotton balls that had blown off the fields. It brought to mind a picture of the negro slaves in a bygone era, going up and down the rows picking the cotton balls. I don’t know whether this has been mechanized now, but I did pass many cabins that may have held migrant workers.

I was quite surprised to see bilingual signs as I approached Durham, North Carolina – English and Spanish, and then it occurred to me that this would be for the benefit of the many Mexicans who come here to work and send money home. I almost felt like I was back in Costa Rica!

The weather is still in the mid-70’s during the day and mid-40’s at nights. Very pleasant.

Another night spent in a Wal Mart parking lot in Durham, North Carolina. It’s Saturday night and it seems that many people liked to drive by the Wal Mart parking lot. In any event, I did not have a restful night.

OCTOBER 14, 2007

Despite the fact that Ripley gets Revolution once a month applied to her skin, she is infested with fleas and some other nasty little creature (about 1/8”, black with scales), so I bought a flea spray containing Pyrethrin, as well as a carpet spray. Ripley didn’t like being sprayed and seemed to be sluggish most of the day.

At a rest stop near Statesville, N. Carolina, Ripley did her business, then ate some grass and lay down. This was most unusual for her, and I am concerned that she is not feeling well. In addition, she slept most of the way instead of looking out the window.

There were some birds singing a very sweet song in the trees at the rest stop, but I couldn’t see them in the dense foliage. There was also a lot of evidence of chewed pine cones (probably squirrels). Beyond the rest stop, there was a farm field with one sleepy white donkey off in the distance under the trees.

We are now entering the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the road is getting steeper. I am deliberately staying off the side roads that lead to scenic spots, etc. because after my experience in the Gaspe, I hesitate to take Philippa up and down steep grades. We are staying on a four-lane highway for the most part, but did get off to stop for the night at Cove Creek Campground, at the foot of Glenville Mountain.

I am noticing a lot of real estate signs advertising mountain properties. It seems to be a popular thing to have a second home there, much like many Canadians have a cottage in the Haliburtons and Muskokas. In any event, I wonder what is becoming of the wild creatures that are being dispossessed of their homes.

Cove Creek Campground is basically an old farm field that has been converted into camp sites. There is a Quonset hut with modern showers and toilets, with a sign saying “no dogs allowed”. Normally I would not violate this ruling, but I was concerned that Ripley had been poisoned by the chemical in the flea spray and I took her in with me to shower her off. Unfortunately, the owner saw me and complained when I came out. I did apologize and explain why I did it.

Fred and Jean Davis own the campground and moved here from Georgia when Fred’s father passed away. This was the family farm and he converted it into a campground. I’m enjoying the southern accents here and for the most part, I can understand what the residents are saying!

Fred directed me to Old Fort to pick up some groceries, and while there I rented a movie.

I am probably spoiling Rip, but I offered her some of my steak for supper, as she hadn’t eaten all day.

The movie was terrible – awful script and awful acting, but what should I have expected when the lead actress was named Tiffany Dupont. Do you think this is her real name???
“One Night With the King” – the description on the box made it sound interesting. It is the story of King Xerxes, who ruled Persia and how he came to marry Esther, who was a Jew. Too bad it didn’t live up to its promise.

OCTOBER 15, 2007

I’ve been noticing a bumping in the tires of poor tired Philippa, and decided that she needed some more attention. Also, my rear antilocking brake warning light is still on. In Old Fort, I had noticed Big Rig Tire and Brake last night, so I headed there after breakfast. The owner was a very pleasant, courteous middle-aged man, lean like many here with the thick southern accent, who explained that he didn’t have the equipment to test an electronic problem in the brakes, suggesting that I go to the Ford dealer in Black Mountain down the road. BUT, he looked at my front tires, both of which have flat spots in them and were in danger of a blow-out – not a pretty thought on mountainous roads. So, one more expense. What I don’t understand is why these two tires only cost $90 each, as opposed to the one tire that cost $180 back in Pennsylvania.

While he worked on my tires, I took a walk around Old Fort, a very quiet village with little in the way of commerce, apart from a craft store featuring local artisans, the movie rental place, a couple of small grocery stores, two gas stations, a pharmacy, the local police and fire departments, and a pizza place, with a number of mobile homes one behind another on the main street – and one very large mansion. And a train station, plus one very large statue of a flame depicting Christian faith in the village square.

After the mechanic changed my tires, I took his advice and got back on the main highway towards Black Mountain and the Ford dealer. I stopped for gas first, and the woman behind the counter asked me about my bike, so I took her out to show it to her. She admired it, saying it was just the kind she wanted, and asked me where I was from. Invariably, people seem to feel that I am doing something amazing when I tell them I am traveling on my own around the country. Either that, or they tell me that is exactly what they would like to do. Because I meet so many people in campgrounds traveling around (albeit not usually on their own), I don’t consider my circumstances to be unusual. And I do know from being a member of Loners on Wheels that there are many women just like me traveling around the country.

In any event, I went on to the service man at the Ford dealer, who told me that he no longer had the diagnostic equipment for a rig as old as mine (1990) and didn’t know of anyone else who did. But he did assure me that the brakes will work just fine if I pump them. The Antilocking brake system just does the work automatically. So, with this reassurance I continued on my way west, passing Ashville, and then crossing the Continental Divide and further on, the Blue Ridge Parkway. So far, the four-lane highway meanders through the lowest parts of the adjacent mountains, making it not so difficult to maneuver. I would like to have digressed on to more scenic areas, such as Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but as I mentioned earlier, it is very hard on Philippa to go up and down steep grades.

The highway then changed to a two-lane road, winding through a valley, with
the Nantahala River on one side. Apparently, this is well-known for rafting as there were many signs inviting tourists to enjoy this experience, along with many more real estate signs offering acreage or cabins there. As it was getting late, I started looking for a campground, trying one that turned out to be for tents only and was deserted. I finally stopped to ask at one of the outrigger stores.

A young man directed me to Nantahala Campground further down the road, where I was met by the owner, who said I would be alone tonight. When I tried to dicker on the price by asking for a senior’s discount, he told me that he couldn’t do that and besides he was going to be rich as soon as he sold the place. I don’t know why this was relevant, but he seemed to think it was. As I was getting settled in, he noticed my licence plate and asked me if we were having the same problems with immigrants as the US was. He volunteered that the only solution was to prevent them from breeding. He then went on, with great disgust, to tell me that Americans were about to vote in a female president, demanding to know how many successful corporations had women as their top management. When I suggested that quite a few did, he pointed out the woman who was fired from Hewlett Packard. I started to argue that many women were quite successful and that many a man had also been fired from the top post, but decided that it might be more prudent just to keep my mouth shut. He seemed to be poorly educated, with poor teeth and a bad shave. It has been a long time since I have encountered this kind of bigotries, but it was a wake-up call for me that it still exists.

Great Smokey Mountain Railroad
OCTOBER 16, 2007

It was a peaceful night listening to the babbling river just behind my RV, and I enjoyed watching two ducks and two drakes gliding down the river on the current, stopping from time to time to tilt upside down to feed on the bottom. Ripley enjoyed wandering along the river’s edge finding the odd frog that leaped into the water as she approached.

I passed through Nantahala National Park running on each side of Highway 74 as I continued west, ending in Murphy (back on a four-lane highway again) and Peace Valley Campground. This is one of the nicest places I’ve been in, with plenty of facilities (Wi Fi access – YES!-- tennis court, basketball and volleyball courts, horseshoes, swimming pool, a fenced-in dog play area, games room (there’s even a hockey game), book exchange library, meeting room and well-maintained sites). Dee is the owner and has two golden retrievers in the office with her. Deborah is a seasonal employee, along with her husband Mike and they showed me to my site (they have a rat terrier).

Since there are many dogs here, I decided to seek their advice about Ripley’s flea problem which is getting unbearable, as they are attacking me as well and seem to have infested the RV. Dee and Deborah were very helpful and suggested that I buy a fogger to fumigate the RV and Dee offered to bring in tomorrow morning, Happy Jack Dip which worked very well on her dogs. It seems that the fleas this year are much worse than usual because of the drought, and are just not responding to the usual remedies. I’m desperate and will try anything. Deborah very kindly offered to drive me to the nearby Wal Mart store to buy the fogger, rather than my having to unhook to drive there myself. After she finished work at 7:00 p.m., she came in her Jeep to get me.

Deborah was an electrical engineer for the power company originally from Pennsylvania, who married Mike late in life. He was a pipe fitter for the power company, originally from Alabama. Both are now retired in their 50’s and are working here for the season. They then plan to move to Alabama, where they have just bought a house, although they had already booked a campsite in Florida for the winter prior to buying the house. She is a devout Christian and we had an interesting discussion about faith.

So tomorrow I have some serious business to do.

OCTOBER 17, 2007

Since there is cable TV here, I watched late into the night until 1:00 a.m. I seem to be hooked on HGTV and enjoy watching shows where houses are renovated and people build things.

As a result, it was a little difficult to get up this morning. First things first. Pancakes for breakfast/strip the bedding and take it to the laundry/turn off the fridge and propane/close all the windows/cover up foodstuffs/remove Ripley from the RV and release the fogger. The directions said to stay out for two hours. In the meantime, I obtained Happy Jack Dip from Dee, prepared the mixture and doused Ripley liberally with it. It is not meant to be washed off, but allowed to dry on the dog.

It was a little cool, and Rip was shivering, so I took her over to the office where she was greeted by Sunny and Suzie, the golden retrievers. We sat in there to wait and I went online to catch up on emails. I truly appreciate hearing from all of you back home – keep up the emails!

After awhile, we returned to the campsite and sat outside where a lot of birds were moving through the trees by the edge of the river behind the RV. It was so peaceful just sitting and watching them. I could only identify cardinals and couldn’t go inside to get either my binoculars or my bird book, so I just contented myself with watching them fly around feeding on the berries in the trees. I noticed from a sign on the nearby tree that this river is stocked with trout. It is possible to rent a canoe or a tube, but the river appears to be too shallow right now, no doubt from the drought.

Ripley has been enjoying the freedom of the dog exercise area and has enjoyed playing ball.

After the designated time, I opened and aired the RV and I am crossing my fingers that this will do the trick.

Here are some excerpts from the Cherokee Scout newspaper, to give you an idea of what is of interest to the local people here:

Moog Components Group’s facility on N.C. 141 is polluting the groundwater
The local gym is contaminated with bat droppings
2.75 creek front acres 3/2 doublewide on permanent foundation with added covered porch to enjoy watching the deer as they drink from the creek -- $129,000
There is opposition to a referendum allowing the sale of liquor, beer and wine in the city of Murphy
Concealed handgun training class is being offered on Saturday (this is scary)
Doyle’s is featuring Jeremy Sims and the Corn Licker Baptist Band on Friday night
The Cherokee County rescue squad will hold a boot drive on Saturday to aid one of their members who can no longer work due to back problems
A burning ban has been reinstated due to the continuing drought

I am now a day late in getting to my next destination, but I have contacted Jane Dewar who has responded that it is fine for me to arrive tomorrow instead of today. I estimate it is about an hour or so away from here.

I am looking forward to seeing Jane again. She used to visit me at the Toronto Zoo when I cared for the gorillas there and I also ran into her at gorilla workshops. She developed a keen interest in gorillas in the 1980’s and has now fulfilled her dream in creating a state of the art facility for surplus male gorillas. The Species Survival Plan group of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums determine which individuals may breed, because of a bloodline being over-represented or being too close genetically, or for another reason, and consequently there are male gorillas that need to be placed elsewhere. Jane and her husband Steuart have purchased a mountain in northern Georgia and built Gorilla Haven, hiring one of the best gorilla keepers in the world -Pete Halliday, from England. I have met Pete on a few occasions and his knowledge of gorilla behaviour is truly prodigious.

I originally met Jane at gorilla conferences. She was so keen to learn all she could about gorillas, but I had no idea that she and her husband were rich. She never acted superior, and was always truly interested in hearing about “my” gorillas. It will be a pleasure to see her again.

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