October 2004


A recent travel update mentioned that we were planning on visiting Charleston, SC before going on to our 2nd Habitat build in Guyton, GA.  Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne changed our plans.  Being retired and nomads gives us the flexibility to change course as needed, so we’ve postponed Charleston for another time.  We left the Escapees RV Park outside of Knoxville and drove to Lucille’s sister’s home in Rincon, GA, to park our home on wheels.   We packed our bags and drove to Florida, the Hurricane State.

The house we own in Palm Bay, about an hour’s south of Cape Canaveral, where Lucille’s parents live year-round and we stay whenever we are in the area, sustained some damages mainly from Frances.  Jeanne finished what Frances had started. 

Driving down from GA, we were amazed at the number of utility trucks we saw heading north, either singly or in caravans of six or seven.  We found out later that they were heading back home and were replaced by other crews.  Traffic lights are still being repaired and some homes still don’t have their power back.  The hurricanes have done a lot of damage to the homes and businesses in this area.  Palm Bay should be known as Tarp City – at least 25% of the homes are covered in tarps to keep the interior dry until roofs are repaired.  Businesses that install fences, put shingles on roofs, rescreen or replace pool screen enclosures, install signs, or clean up yard debris will be kept busy for months on end.  The answering machine message on one pool screen enclosure company noted there was a three to four month backlog on jobs.  Red Cross Disaster Teams are parked at major intersections.  Businesses have hand-written “Open” signs so that the public knows they are back in operation. 

We’ll be in the Palm Bay area for one to two weeks, until we do the minor repairs ourselves and arrange for the big jobs for sometime in the future.  Even the insurance adjuster is backed up with so many calls that he won’t be by for another ten days.  At this time, we will most likely miss Week One of our 2nd Habitat build in Guyton, GA.  We’ve emailed the team leaders and they understand. 

Our stay in Palm Bay kept us busy arranging for repairs, estimates and doing some of the repairs ourselves.  As mentioned in our last travel update, work is backlogged for up to several months so even getting a few of the jobs taken care of while we were there helped.

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Four homes were to be built on this lot.  One was completed, one almost done, one barely started and one still a dream.

The RV Care-A-Vanners’ Habitat for Humanity build in Guyton, GA was underway three days by the time we joined in.  Someone in the community purchased a couple of acres of land at an auction sale and donated it to the local Habitat affiliate.  Four Habitat homes are planned for this property.  Home #1, built by the local high school’s vocational tech students and moved to the site upon completion, is now occupied; Home #2, a two-story home for a single parent with seven children, had all exterior work completed but was at the drywall stage; Home #3 was our primary house – more on that later; Home #4 is also being built by the high school, to be moved to the site when done.

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The Care-A-Vanner Crew worked to complete the 2-story house and take up where the last crew left off on the smaller home.

Home #3 was started this past May by the first group of RV Care-A-Vanners to the Guyton area.  The group was small, so they did what they could during their two weeks here.  Due to the extreme heat and humidity in this area and a local affiliate just gaining momentum, volunteers are scarce, so very little additional work was done from May till our arrival in October.  We understand from our team that the first couple of days were spent cleaning out leaves and debris that had gathered inside since May.  Our group then completed installing the rafters, roof, windows and doors.  The house was at the shingling stage when we arrived.  Work progressed slower than normal because we were dealing with weather-damaged wood, correcting uneven spots in the walls as we went on.  The front porch was an afterthought, being designed on the fly by our team leader trying to provide the proper pitch for draining from the strangely designed roof.  This house was a challenge from top to bottom.   We walked away Friday with the vinyl siding on as well as most of the soffit and fascia.  The porch cement was poured late Thursday and was not hard enough to install porch columns without damaging the concrete, so other volunteers will finish the trim around the porch. 

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Mudding and sanding drywall was a tedious but necessary task.  Local churches provided the lunches to keep us working and a local funeral home provided a shelter from the sun and rain under which we ate.

In the meantime, some of our volunteers spent most of their time in Home #2, taping, mudding, sanding the sheetrock and on the last day – a first coat of paint at last!  The family hopes to be in their new home by Thanksgiving.

The Guyton area may have a shortage of volunteers but they certainly don’t have a shortage of good cooks – we were fed full-course meals every lunch.  It was as if each group (usually one of the many local churches) providing lunch would check to see what the group the day before had done, then outdo them! 

The highlight of our stay here was our accommodations at Mossy Oak Music Park.  The director of the local affiliate arranged to schedule the builds around the semi-annual bluegrass festivals held in Guyton.  Mossy Oak’s campground is open only during festival weeks and for special groups, such as the RV Care-A-Vanners.  We benefited from the terrific bluegrass and gospel groups that played from noon till 10 pm, for almost five full days.  What a treat to be in the middle of all this talent!

Next stop is Moccasin Creek State Park, in the mountains of northeast Georgia, for several days of relaxing and leaf peeping.  Joining us with their camper will be Lucille’s sister Yvette and her husband Pat. 

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The sun tries to shine through on the dock at Moccasin Creek State Park where we relaxed and enjoyed Pat & Yvette's company.

Moccasin Creek State Park, in the mountainous northeast corner of Georgia, is located on Lake Burton.  We had a fabulous view of the lake and surrounding forest from our campsite.  The leaves were near the end of their color changing but were still beautiful.  Next door is the Lake Burton Trout Hatchery – feeding time was fun to watch.  Thousands of fins churned the water at mealtime.

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Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest peak.

Lucille’s sister Yvette and husband Pat joined us for six beautiful autumn days there.  We took several tours of the area – Brasstown     Bald, Georgia’s highest peak at 4,784 feet, has the same climate as Massachusetts.  Certainly not what you expect in the south.  The payoff for hiking a moderately steep path is a spectacular view from the top of the interpretive center.  On a really clear day, it is possible to see Atlanta.  

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Anna Ruby Falls is famous for its twin waterfalls.

From there, we drove to Anna Ruby Falls, near Helen, GA.  Curtis Creek drops 153 feet and York Creek 50 feet to form the twin waterfalls known as Anna Ruby Falls and accessed by a scenic path through the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. 

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Tallulah Gorge provided breath taking scenery and breath taking hiking trails.

Tallulah Gorge, designated a GA state park in 1992, is located in the town of Tallulah Falls.  Five major waterfalls are found on the 3,000-acre state park, as well as an interpretive center, campground, day use area, and multiple hiking and biking trails.   We walked both the North and South Rim Trails, as well as Hurricane Falls Trail, crossing the Hurricane Falls Suspension Bridge (approx two miles of trails and over 2,500 steps.) Between our earlier hikes at Brasstown Bald and Anna Ruby Falls, our leg muscles got quite a workout.  In 1970 tightrope walker Karl Wallenda crossed from a tower on the north rim to a tower on the south rim on a cable suspended across the gorge.  Remains of the towers are still visible.  We met a ranger during our climb up on the north rim and marveled at the engineering feats to build the stairways on either side.  The south rim was a little easier because material was lowered down from the top.  All materials had to be hand carried down the north rim trail because of the forest.  The views from all the overlooks were awesome with some leaves still sporting their fall colors.

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A restored log home at the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City, Georgia.

The Foxfire Museum, in Mountain City, consists of several restored and relocated structures–a blacksmith shop, wagon shed, chapel, grist mill, smokehouse, root cellar, and several cabins that were home to multi-generations of families.  One cabin, the Savannah House, was home to four generations of the Wilson family, three of which each had 10 children.  This cabin was 21’ by 21’, with the older children sleeping in the loft.  It is hard to picture a large family cooking, eating, working and sleeping in an area not much larger than the inside of our RV.  Children were incorporated into working life as soon as they were old enough to carry things.  They knew their work was a critical part of the family’s survival and they did their chores eagerly and willingly.  Foxfire’s caretaker gave us rapid-fire lessons on bloodroot (it really does bleed and was used for medicinal purposes), rope making, snapping a bullwhip to make it pop, experiencing the smell of wild birch (wintergreen).  Yards were not meant to be aesthetic but practical. Old cars up on blocks served as:  a hardware store – if you needed a nut or bolt, just go out and strip one off the car; a place (the dashboard) to store and dry seeds.  His ‘lessons’ gave us a whole new perspective on seemingly abandoned cars and the Appalachian culture.

Not to be missed is lunch at the legendary Dillard House in Dillard.  Famous for their all-you-can-eat meals, everything on the menu is brought to your table family-style and seconds are possible if you are still hungry.  We waddled out of there after feasting on chicken, pork roast, meatloaf, country ham, acorn squash casserole, corn casserole, cabbage au gratin, fried okra, dressing, rice, pinto beans, green beans, and more, and apple brown betty for dessert, of course!



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