We’re at another campground, an old favorite, Hester’s Ferry near Lincolnton, Georgia. Here we have all the toys: bikes, running shoes, archery equipment, kayaks and a pontoon boat. Plus, we’ve been spending time with the grandkids. Well, three out of four of them.
Nice thing is there are all sorts of ways to play. No time to write.
Brenda, our two dog and I took a short camping trip to the mountains. Less than 2 hours from our home in Good Hope we ended at Don Carter State Park near Helen, Georgia.
The Don Carter State Park is on Lake Lanier and is the newest of the Georgia State Parks. It is in a great location, on the Lake and close to Helen and Dahlonega. Both towns are about a thirty minutes drive from the campground.
The park has nice boat ramps and 8 miles of paddling trails. We didn’t bring kayaks on this trip but next time the boats are coming along. There are 12.5 miles of trails which River, my lab, and I spent hours investigating. More than once we walked up on deer. I was glad we didn’t cross paths with any bear.
Even though the trip was short we learned that camping nearby could offer a change of scenery and easy access to trails, water, and cool Georgia towns.
Traveling to archery competitions can be rough when staying in a hotel. Making the trip using a camper and staying at a State Park is significantly better. At the moment, I’m camped at the George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia.
The park is about 45 minutes from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. That’s where this weekend’s shoot is taking place. There was a tournament at GSU two weeks ago and I stayed at a hotel for that event. The hotel was nice, one of the Hilton properties, but it was still a box.
The tournament tomorrow and Sunday is an indoor 5-spot State Championship and NFAA Sectional. I know the folks I’ll be shooting against. I expect any score outside of 300 per day will fail to make it to the top. This tournament will likely come down to X count and maybe even inner Xs versus outer Xs.
Whether I finish on the podium or not, what I can say is this Georgia State Park makes the trip worthwhile.
Two scores – vastly different. Each practice was against a Vegas style 3-spot scoring the inner ten. There was a drop of 4.12% between the scores. One day resulted in 42 tens, the next 21 tens. That’s huge drop. What happened?
Day one the good day – zero distractions to take away from archery. Day two – music, a timer, and a break to play with dogs. Although, the dogs aren’t much of a distraction, they’re good dogs and mostly remain quiet during shooting. The music and the timer, well that’s another matter.
During USA Archery tournaments there is music and a timer. Without a doubt both can be distractions. A good song comes over the air and it floats through your head. You glance at the timer to see you first two shots took longer than usual or less time than usual. It distracts.
“Practice the way you compete,” says my coach Big John Chandler. Adhering to that policy during many practices there will be music playing and a timer ticking. Both of these elements of competition are distractions until you learn that they’re not.
We know that there will be a distraction or two during competition. If you don’t “Practice the way you compete” little things like a timer and music may impact competitive performance.
We just returned from a four-day adventure. During that time there was Bluegrass music, eating, camping, ATV riding and hunting. It was a quick trip but with all the activity it seemed longer.
Our youngest daughter has moved back to Georgia. For her it is the beginning of a great adventure. She, her husband, and their three children are planning to take the next five years, travel the country and station themselves periodically near work projects. Jason, my daughter’s husband, has a job where he works with a team to repair historic sights. This will take them to exciting locations across America. For the next six months are so they’ll be in Georgia as they prepare for their journey.
Our four-day mini-adventure began by a visit with them. Before the visit began we stopped at Tabor Baptist Church in Tignall, Georgia. The church was established on 1827 and a friend of ours is the “Preacher”. The Preacher is also the Sheriff. No one acts out in church.
It was homecoming for the local Baptist member and to celebrate Li’Roy and Lizzie’s Bluegrass Band played. This is an award-winning group that recently won the Bluegrass/Country/Roots Song of the Year, “Dinner on the Ground.” Lizzy was also recently inducted into the “America’s Old Time Fiddler’s Country Hall of Fame”. During the service, the band succeeded in playing long enough in the packed church to avoid a sermon.
After church, we drove into Lincolnton for lunch at the Home Café, owned by Richard. I don’t know his last name, but I know most of his staff by their first names. Ray (Papa) eats there several times a week. I eat there when we’re in town. You will not get fancy food. Richard will, however, serve you good Southern food and your plate will be filled.
Because our daughter is, for the moment, staying with her Grandfather, Ray (Papa to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren) Brenda and I camped at Hester’s’ Ferry campground. There is currently no room to lay our heads at “Papa’s.”
Hester’s Ferry is one of our favorite campgrounds and this time of the year we had the place to ourselves.
This is also hunting season. Last year, with our move from North Carolina home to Georgia, I didn’t get to hunt. I did get out into the woods a lot. Just not for hunting. I’ll hunt with either a rifle or bow. Right not I am still using my bow. I may stick with it all year. There are areas where I hunt I know I’ll not see a deer within 50 yards. When I am there I’ll go to a rifle.
I did get to hunt on this trip and I did see one buck. In fact, that deer, a young buck with a medium sized four-point rack, showed up about 40 minutes after I’d settled into the stand. Despite a perfect opening for an arrow this buck stayed behind branches for about 30 minutes avoiding the opening. He meandered around and snacked until he moseyed out of range.
After calling it a day of hunting I headed back to “Papa’s” to ride grandkids though woods on ATVs. Even though these children have lived in Pittsburgh their entire lives, my daughter (a true Georgia Girl) has had them outdoors pretty much non-stop. During the ATV trips my oldest granddaughter, seven years old, was able to pick out animal tracks and name the animal that had left it behind. In this instance she pointed out: deer, turkey, raccoon, rabbit and squirrel without assistance. She, as are all our grandkids, is extremely comfortable outdoors.
It was a nice four days. Camping, hunting, riding ATVs, and good Southern food make for a successful adventure. With hunting, I don’t need to shot something to call the trip a success. It is more about being outdoors, enjoying family and friends. Live Bluegrass Music from one of the top groups in the business is a bonus.
We took a week for vacation. Granted, Brenda and I are officially retired. Still, she teaches yoga and I work hard trying to become a seriously competitive archer and archery coach. While there’s little money in those endeavors, they each represent a form of work. As such, we needed a vacation from our normal routine. Hence, a vacation.
Vacation was a trip down to Panama City, Florida. We loaded the Winnebago and headed south. Along the way we stopped in Cordele, Georgia and camped at the Veterans Memorial Park. On reaching Florida we met up with our life long friend Ken who was camping as well.
Before we hit the road, I’d been looking at a disturbance in the Caribbean. At that point it was only rain and a little wind. But, the pattern suggested that sooner or later it could become a hurricane. I was thinking, maybe we’d make it through vacation before this area had a chance to turn into a storm.
For a few days vacation was wonderful. We visited parks, springs, ate great food and hung out on the beach. On Monday, October 8th, I said to Brenda and Ken, “You know, I think we should get out of here. That storm is going to come this way.”
I could tell Brenda didn’t want to head home. Ken wasn’t too eager to leave early, either. Actually, Ken had plans to depart and head northeast in his motorhome toward Savannah, Georgia in a few days from Monday.
It took only a small amount of effort and showing them the track of Hurricane Michael before we decided to part ways with Panama City. As Ken looked more closely at the potential path of the storm he remapped his planned trip and headed northwest – away from the projected path.
By Monday afternoon Brenda and I were in Cordele, Georgia, again. Hurricane Michael was now a Category 3 storm and aimed directly at the campground we’d left earlier in the day, or so it seemed. By Tuesday, Michael was a Category 4 and passing through Florida aimed at Cordele. On Tuesday we were back in Good Hope, Georgia, just outside of Athens. On Wednesday night Michael was knocking down limbs, flipping over trees and pouring rain on us. Michael’s punch was merely glancing for us but enough to feel we’d be chased.
It was a long week. Starting with an archery tournament and ending with another both in Social Circle. In the middle there was a big family gathering and one huge birthday party.
The start was a competition I nearly didn’t shoot. It wasn’t the difficulty of the shooting that created some pause, it was the hour. It tournament didn’t start until 7:30 PM. But, it was shooting near home, about 25 minutes away in Social Circle. Being so close it is hard to pass up archery contests such a short drive down the road. Heck, if it got too long I could always just go home.
Going home was a drive for others that came to the tournament. Archers from Atlanta, Decatur and Kennesaw were on the line. The line was at 50 meters and the lines were full.
Yes sir, it was a long tournament, but I didn’t leave even though this event went well past my bedtime. The crew from ACE Apache, led by USA Archery Level 4 Coach Big John Chandler, did a great job of organizing and running the show.
I did leave before the awards were presented. I’ll go out on a limb and say I won my age group (over 50). The chance projection is based on the semi-final Olympic Round where when I was finally eliminated – the other few remaining archers seemed no older than 30 years. I made it home at midnight. I was so keyed up that there was no sleeping until after 2:00 AM.
Even though I didn’t fall asleep until around 2:00 AM, our dogs insisted that I was up by 6:00 AM. Dogs have no mercy when it comes to human sleep requirements. It took three days to get over the break in my sleep pattern.
With that to endure there was no time to ease up. There was a birthday bash to follow. By birthday bash, I mean catering, a live blue grass band and a good percentage of the Town of Lincolnton, Georgia attending. This shindig was put together in part by his friends in Lincolnton and his family. It was Ray’s, my father-in-law, 90th birthday.
Aside from lawn maintance my role was to smoke a ham, two large Boston Butts for pulled pork, and grill about 12 pounds of sausage.
At the end of a long week I got to pick up a bow and shoot another tournament, this time a 3D competition. What I can say about the crew at ACE Apache in Social Circle, the put together a 3D range that was perfect. I won that on as well.
Alas, life is full of disappointment. Among them, for me at least, was this past week’s Georgia State ASA Championship. One thing that was not remotely close to disappointing is the Po Boy’s Archery 3D range near Mitchell, Georgia.
The Po Boy’s 3D range is one of the finest I’ve seen in my nearly five years (4 years, 8 months) of archery. It was such a nice range I wanted to ask if I could shoot it again for fun. I didn’t, the range was full of archers, young and mature, giving clinics on how to shoot 3D.
The competition was so strong that if you messed up on a single shot you’d more than likely be out of the run for a first place award. That was me, only I managed it on a few shots. But, there was only one that was strictly unrecoverable – a big hog.
I have a couple pigs on my 3D practice range. The hog on range ‘A’ was honestly one of the easier targets. It was a giant of a pig at least 3 times the size of my largest and my downfall. It was sitting behind two trees which bordered it. It was a great target. It looked so close.
I misjudged that hog by 10 yards. I knew it in the millisecond before my arrow released. And there flew any chance for a descent finish. You know, a giant hog at 38 yards looks a lot like a small pig at 28 yards – at least it did for me. Despite a very solid second round, on range ‘D,’ my tournament was over on range ‘A’ target 10. Unless there would be others that might botch a shot.
On range ‘D’, the second of the two ranges I’d been assigned, I hit seven upper 12s. I knew I’d hit them before I shot. I never called them. The fear was that if I called them I’d shoot an eight and I needed to be conservative and finish with all 10s. The hope being that the other archers in my class (Senior Hunter) would screw up. They did not provide me any help. I finished a sad third place.
My plan going into the tournament was to finish even. Shoot for tens and maybe pull out a 12 here and there. It seemed that 2 to 4 up would win the day in the Senior Hunter class. Shooting even might even bring home a fancy belt buckle.* If I could have stuck with the plan it would have worked. If I’d shot range ‘A’ like range ‘D’ it would have worked. If I’d just shot range ‘A’ a bit tighter. If only, if only….
Believe me, these archers in Georgia aren’t going to cut anyone any slack. The average (eyeball measurement from Facebook posted scores) winning score was 8.7 up with a couple division winners hitting plus 28. If you shoot yourself into a hole there is little opportunity to dig back out.
Once again, there’s next year.
As it turned out shooting even would have won the Senior Hunter division. It is a tough class with a 40 yard maximum yardage, using a hunting rig, and at unknown distances. The winner took the prize at 8 down.
Every year Ray Gastin, my father-in-law, puts on a fireworks show that rivals that of the small towns near his home on the Lake at Clark Hill. These aren’t firecrackers and sparklers. Each is at the maximum class he can purchase having around 500 grams of explosive power. It is a big show that takes days to prepare.
While getting ready for the 4th Brenda and I spend time with Ray. We used to stay at his house on the Lake. Now, we take our camper and use it for home base. That doesn’t mean Ray is home alone. The 4th brings his sons home, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. There is a house full of people getting ready to enjoy the show while swimming, fishing, heading out on a boat, jet ski or kayak.
The fireworks are ignited and launched from the top of Ray’s double decker boathouse. Prior to the show there is dinner of low country boil, smoked ham and desserts for the family and friends that come to watch and eat.
Looking over the crowd this year I noticed that nearly everyone was either a veteran, the child of a veteran that had grown up while dad was in the military, or spouse of a veteran. Ray is a retired master sergeant that after active duty went on to teach ROTC for 20 years.
Just before dark the cove, where Ray’s dock serves as a launching pad for the nighttime spectacle, becomes filled with boats. We don’t know these people that come to watch. But, over the years the number of boats has risen to around 15 to 20. It is hard to get an accurate count. Boats continue to drift in as the show progresses.
During the display you can hear from people yelling with pleasure and boat horns blasting. Along the shoreline more people gather to watch. Other families have also joined the show firing off similar fireworks – not nearly to the same degree as Ray’s. The result is a cove where above there are explosive colors filling the sky while encircling the audience below. It really is awesome.
For some the 4th of July is just another break from work. For Ray, a 40-year Army veteran it means more than another holiday. The same holds true for the other NCO’s, Chief warrant officers, and commissioned officers that share a special bond with Master Sargent Gastin.
(Note: as I write this I am reminded of a group of archers in Maryland. They have a Facebook page. I shared a posting about the 4th of July with them several years ago. That act got me banned from their Facebook page. I honestly have forgotten who they are and have no idea if they remain fanatical about their treasured Facebook page. I’ve imagined them totally committed to the sport of archery by example of the time spent working on and practicing Facebook. As for me I remain unassociated with them. I feel a certain pride in their rejection. Although, I look forward to competing against any of their members.)
The Winnebago is connected to my King Ranch F-150. Reservations are secured at Parkland RV campground in Statesboro, Georgia. In the morning I’ll finish packing my gear and hit the road. I’m packing to head to Georgia State University to compete in the Georgia Cup, an outdoor 50-meter archery tournament.
The campground is only 3 miles away from the Georgia Southern University range where the Georgia Cup is being held. Talk about convenient!
Brenda and the dogs are staying home. Archery is yet to find its place as a spectator sport. However, a friend that lives in Statesboro is going to come and watch for a while.
Saturday, during the qualification round the weather is going to be nice. On Sunday, during the Olympic Round there is a 50% chance of rain and wind at 13 mph. Nothing can be done about that and we all have to compete under the same conditions.