Change of Plans - Heading for Charlotte
We left Red Bay on a Wednesday and drove an hour and a half east to the Corinth Recreation Area located in the Bankhead National Forest. As we said in our last post, there wasn't much to do in Red Bay so we had plenty of time to drive out to Corinth one day to pick our site in advance. We probably wouldn't have needed reservations; but there were so few sites where we could get satellite, we went ahead and made them just to be sure.
Corinth Recreation Area is located about 4 miles east of the small town of Double Springs and then about 3 miles south of U. S. Highway 278, so it is kind of in the middle of nowhere. (Zeller translation - the closest Wal-Mart is at least 25 miles away.) Consequently, the campground doesn't seem to be used much. That's unfortunate, because the campground is beautiful and is very well maintained. The couple that manages the campground is very conscientious. The grass was well manicured, the fire rings were all cleaned out, and the gravel at all the sites had been raked.
Corinth has full hookups with 50 amp electric. Most of the campsites are well shaded, except for about a half a dozen sites on Firefly Loop, where we were located, that are a little more open with a clear view of the southern sky for satellite. Roads and pads in the campground are paved and the patios are gravel. The America the Beautiful Pass is honored at Corinth for half-price camping. The photo below shows our site at Corinth Recreation Area.
The seclusion was refreshing after the close quarters and bustle of Red Bay. The recreation area is at the end of a county road, so there is no other traffic. We could hear birds during the day and crickets at night. There were no trains, no highways, and few other campers - except for the weekend when they were about 50% full. Even with all that seclusion, we still got 3 bars on our cell phone. Corinth will definitely be on our list of places we want to return to soon!
We got the opportunity during our five-day stay at Corinth to sit outside to read and relax (there were very few bugs), to walk, and to ride our bikes. Right outside the entrance to the recreation area is the Corinth Baptist Church, which was built in 1884. Late one afternoon, we rode our bikes to the church.
We just looked around the church and the adjacent cemetery and enjoyed the quiet.
The photo below shows the ladies' rest room. It was curious that there were only "facilities" for the women, but it WAS decorated with silk flowers in the corner. :)
Last year, our travel route took us through Charlotte, NC, in October. We were there the week before the fall NASCAR race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and we toured the track as well as the shops of several race teams.
Our daughter, Lora, and our son-in-law, J. Michael, have gone to the fall race in Charlotte with friends the last several years. This year, we got a call from Lora saying one of the couples who usually goes with them wouldn't be able to attend this year. Since Charlotte wouldn't be very far out of our way from our route to Myrtle Beach, they wanted to know if we were interested in the tickets. We had planned to meander over to the Escapees' Raccoon Valley Campground outside Knoxville, TN, until it was time to go to Myrtle Beach for our November 1 reservations. However, we jumped at the chance to go to the race instead, and immediately began researching places to stay.
We found a county park with full hookups about an hour from the track just over the border in South Carolina, and we also found a reasonably-priced spot without electricity within sight of the speedway. The plan would be to go to the county park a week or so before the race, then move to the spot near the speedway for the night before and the night after the race. Since we usually don't like to drive more than four hours a day, we planned on stopping a couple of times between Corinth and the county park outside Charlotte.
The first stop was Wills Creek RV Park in Fort Payne, AL. Wills Creek is an 18-month old campground that honors Passport America for a maximum of two nights during the week. They have full hookups with 50 amp electric, excellent satellite reception, gravel roads and pads, cable, and relatively widely-spaced sites with grass between. The owners are working hard to make sure the campground is in top shape. There are newly-planted trees, decorative lamp posts along the roads, and they are in the process of installing patios made from pre-cast concrete pavers. The campground is relatively quiet, but there is some distant noise from I-59. There are also some construction workers from a nearby highway project staying there who leave for work in their diesel pickups about 6:30 AM. The photo below shows our site at Wills Creek RV Park.
One problem with our plan to go to the NASCAR race in Charlotte was with the availability of gas. Even though many of the refineries were back on line following Hurricane Ike, there were lingering distribution problems in the Southeast. A few weeks ago, we heard about gas lines in Nashville. Then it was Atlanta. Then, the spot shortages spread even farther, and many areas of the Southeast (particularly Georgia and western North Carolina - especially around Asheville and Charlotte) were reporting gas lines. Even though the pipeline that distributes gasoline to the Southeast had been repaired, shortages were expected to continue a little while longer.
All the stations except Wal-Mart near the interstate exit in Fort Payne were out of gas. The Wal-Mart gas station was much too small and much too crowded for the motor home, so we had to pull into the campground with less gas than we would have liked, especially since we would be crossing the border the next day into Georgia where supplies were reportedly very low.
After leaving Fort Payne, we passed many stations that had bags over the nozzles indicating they were out of gas, but there were also some stations with gas and without long lines. We were able to buy gas, albeit premium grade, in Summerville. The station we stopped at was out of regular unleaded; and all the other stations in the area, while they didn't exactly have lines, were too small and too crowded to get into with the motor home. The RV pumps at some of the Flying J stations were limiting purchases to 25 gallons, but gas was available. We are hoping things get back to normal in Charlotte before race weekend.
Our next stop was Hartwell Lake Corps of Engineers Campground near Springfield, SC. Hartwell Lake is a typical, heavily-wooded, COE campground. But, since they have photos of each campsite online, we were able to pick an available site where we might get satellite.
When we arrived it was early in the week, and we found the campground was almost empty. They told us in the office we could have any vacant site since we were only going to be there one night; however, we were pleased to find the site we had already picked was fine for satellite. Because it was also a pull-through, we didn't have to unhook the toad for a one-night stop. The photo below shows our site at Hartwell Lake COE.
The water level in the lake was way down due to the ongoing drought in the Southeast. The online photo showed the site we picked was a waterfront site; but when we got there, the inlet behind the site was totally dry. Judging from the size of some of the saplings where there used to be water, the water level has been down for some time. The photo below shows what's left of the inlet behind our site.
At Hartwell Lake, we got to enjoy another afternoon and evening of seclusion. We walked almost the entire campground, which felt good after sitting and riding in the motor home for several hours on each of the past two days.
The next morning, we left for Ebenezer Park, which is where we planned to stay for a little over week until we are ready to head to Charlotte for the race. Ebenezer Park is owned and operated by York County near Rock Hill, SC, and is about an hour from Lowe's Motor Speedway just north of Charlotte.
Ebenezer is first-come, first-served so there are no reservations and no saving of sites. The locals have figured out a way around the no reservation policy by using tents to hold their favorite sites, so the best lake-view sites seem to be hard to get. There is a sign that says "NO SAVING SITES"; but, the ranger turns a "blind eye" while the locals use tents to hold sites for themselves or for their friends who might be arriving later.
Even though we arrived in the middle of the week and fairly early in the day, there weren't many sites left. Most of the available sites were in the one section of the campground that was heavily wooded. There was one available site, however, with a partial lake view. It looked like the tree on the back of the site might block our satellite dish, but we backed in anyway before someone else came along and snatched up the site. We sent the dish up to search for the satellite; and to our surprise, the dish found a signal!
One of the reasons the campground at Ebenezer Park is so popular is the price. Their regular rate is $15 a night, but they only charge $10 for anyone over 60 years old.
Ebenezer Park campground has gravel roads and pads. Most of the sites are fairly widely-spaced with grass between, except for the sites in the heavily-wooded section which have little or no grass. The sites all have full hookups, there is free Wi-Fi, and many of the sites have 50 amp electric. We don't know about the other 50 amp sites, but ours had 50 and 20 amp only. There was no 30 amp plug, which might be an inconvenience for some people with a smaller rig. The lack of a 30 amp plug, plus the fact the site is very close to the one to our right, may be the reason the site was still open and hadn't been saved by one of the locals. The photo below shows our site at Ebenezer Park.
The park is located on Lake Wylie which has a surface area of 21 square miles and a 325-mile shore line. The lake extends well up into North Carolina. The Catawba River was dammed in 1904 in order to build a hydro-electric power plant. Today, Wylie Steam Power Station is located on the northern part of the lake and Catawba Nuclear Power Station is located on the southern part of the lake a short distance from Ebenezer Park. Because of the power plants, the water in the lake must be maintained at a relatively high level in spite of the drought.
In addition to the campground, Ebenezer Park has a day use area, which is shown in the photo below. There are also boat-launch ramps out of the photo to the left.
From the dock by the boat launch, you can get a beautiful view of the sunset over the lake.
One day we headed to Matthews, NC, to visit with friends whom we had met in Davenport, IA, while we were waiting for the flood waters to subside this past June. Although they travel extensively throughout the year, they fly home every 3-4 months to see family. Our timing was just right to re-connect. We enjoyed a barbecue lunch at Mac's Speed Shop and especially appreciated eating in the outdoor dining area on a mid-70's afternoon. The pulled pork sandwiches were delish and their onion rings outstanding.
On our way back to the house, our friends wanted to show us Calvary Church, an evangelical, non-denominational church that is stunning in its architecture, envisioned as a modern day cathedral. This photo was shooting into the sun, but it gives you an idea.
It is home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. The blue shadows between the windows and the large panel in the back of the platform are some of the 11,499 pipes. Notice the cross on the ceiling. The sanctuary seats over 5,000 and has two balconies.
We have yet to visit the Crystal Cathedral. Until then, this is the most beautiful modern cathedral we've seen. The photo below shows the entrance to the lobby.
It was great re-connecting with friends, and we look forward to seeing them "down the road."
We will stay at Ebenezer until heading into Charlotte for the race. There is plenty of time for us to chill out. During our stay at Ebenezer Park, we will catch up on some shopping now that we're in a metro area with our favorite chain stores. Margery will be trying to pick a beauty shop for a haircut (always a challenge), we'll have our mail forwarded, and we'll need to restock our pantry. We will be tailgating in the parking lot on race day; and since the other couples with whom we will be attending the race will be staying in a motel, we're going cook ribs for the tailgate party.