Home After 14 Days on the Road

We’re back in New Hope, North Carolina after two weeks on the road living in our Winnebago Micro Minnie. The trip began as a three-day outing to Madison, NC to attend an indoor archery tournament. The adventure expanded to six campsites over three states: North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina.

Our first stop. Although a lot of potential with the rustic barns and such if you see this cabin when looking for a campsite – move on

From the various campsites we took day trips. Among those was a drive to Wilmington, NC. Wilmington is a nice little town except for the traffic. I especially wanted to go there to see some of the sites where “The Hart of Dixie” was filmed. I have no idea how popular this show was when it ran. I watched it after it had been canceled. It is one of those rare series that had me laughing so hard at times I could barely catch my breath.

“Mayor Lavon Hayes'” home from the show The Hart of Dixie. This picture by no means does it justice.
“Dr. Brick Breeland’s” office

In Kinston, NC we stopped and for a second time had dinner at the Chef and the Farmer. Kinston has a nice first come first serve campground at a Nature Park on the Neuse River. It is one of the best deals going at $15.00 per night for a full hook up roomy campsite.

From our campsite in Kinston, NC

Our longest stay was near Tignal, Georgia at Hester’s Ferry campground. By far this ranks as the best campground we’ve used since we bought the RV. This was our longest stay on the trip because we were in Tignal for Thanksgiving.

Set-up at Hester’s Ferry

At all the campsites I found great running trails and got in some off road cycling several times. After the tournament in Madison, NC, I was able to continue archery practice in Tignal.

Little Pee Dee Campground near Dillon, SC

What I can say about two-weeks in a Winnebago Micro Minnie (the 2106 Model) – there was plenty room, we never ran out of hot water, and the heat at night (temperatures down to below freezing a time or two) was toasty. Nevertheless, it is good to be home.

River eager to hit the trails

USA Archery North Carolina State 50-Meter Championship

Once before I tried a 50-meter event. It did not go well and for a while I swore I’d never do another. It wasn’t the distance or weak shooting that caused me to curdle. It was the hours and hours and hours of sitting around, shooting a little, and sitting some more. Never in my life had I experienced a sporting event as miserable. In fact, after around 6 hours of the mess I packed my gear and went home. A year later, I decided to give it another try at the North Carolina State 50-meter Championships.

Camping near Burlington at Jones Station in Mebane, NC

The second try compared to the first was about as different as night and day. We shot 12 warm-up arrows, 72 qualifying arrows, took a 40 minute lunch break in the middle and were still finished in about three and a half hours.

Smashed my thumb while setting up the campsite. I promise, thick leather gloves are a real skin saver.

Prior to this episode I practiced a lot at 50-meters. Fifty meters is not an awfully long shot, but long enough that is you don’t practice you’ll be losing arrows or sticking them in the blue rings when it matters.

During practice it was often hot and humid here on the eastern shore of North Carolina where I live and train. I was glad I’d never let the weather conditions keep me off the practice range since there were nearly (or possibly) record-breaking temperatures in Burlington, NC during the two-day tournament. A fellow archer had an electronic thermometer with him and recorded the temperature at 100°F. That evening the local weather woman agreed and then expanded the claim broadcasting an achieved heat index of 111°F.

Folks getting their tents up. When everything is in place it looks like something out of the Renaissance.

The heat didn’t bother me too much; I was acclimated to the temperature. Heat has never really caused me to suffer as much as it seems to impact others.

This fellow was looking for a shady place to nap
Hard to believe this was a decade ago

In 2007 at the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon* qualifier for the World Championship it got asphalt melting hot. I earned a spot on the team because I outlasted faster duathletes in the heat. The World Championships were another matter. It was so cold on race day I was cramping before I’d even started the first run. I don’t think I ever warmed up on that day. Getting warm was not a problem in Burlington.

Two of the biggest problems I had were the slope of the field and the sun. Neither was a major issue, I prepared for each possibility. But, the main problem was four minutes versus five minutes.

Somehow I’d gotten the impression we had five minutes to shoot six arrows. I’d trained with a stopwatch to maximize the 5 minutes. Opps, we only had four causing a few anxious ends – like 12 of them. More than once I’d look at the clock to learn I had 57 seconds or so to shoot two arrows. I rushed a lot of arrows.

The result was that I ended up shooting subpar hitting several eights and one seven for the day. Honestly, I can’t remember hitting a seven prior the one I hit rushing to beat the clock. The seven wasn’t even the final arrow of an end – I had plenty of time.

River, showing off my medal and blowing a kiss

When it was all done I did not shoot as well as usual. I also didn’t hit rock bottom. Best of all, I shot well enough to win.

*A duathlon is a multi-sport event consisting of a run segment, a bicycling segment and lastly another run segment.

North Carolina State Outdoor Archery Championships

I’m headed to Burlington, NC for the USA Archery North Carolina State Outdoor Championships. This will be nearly a first for me, that is a 50-meter tournament.

I’ll be camping at Jones Station near Mebane. The Winnebago is hooked up and ready to hit the road. The campground is about 15 minutes from Burlington.

Once before I tried a 50-meter tournament, but walked off the range before it was completed. That one was in Georgia. It was really a sporting experience that remains hard to believe.

In Georgia, after six hours of judges trying to get archers through 72 arrows we were still shooting. It was truly amazing. Heck, I had to leave – I had to get home. Home was another 3 hours on the road. Later, I learned the event wasn’t completed until 11:00 PM. I’d arrived at 2:00 PM. That soured me on 50-meters.

During that tournament the sky was clear, very little wind, and a tad on the hot side.  To this day, I have no idea why the officials could not keep that tournament rolling. In hindsight, it was a waste of time.

I’ll give it another try this weekend. The posted start times gives me the impression that shooting 72 arrows is not going to take six hours.

July 4th, 2017

We’re one the road and in Georgia. It’s our annual 4th of July celebration. We’ve been doing this for decades. Since I’ve been writing on this site this marks the third year where our 4th coincidenced with archery. We have a big production here at the Lake House.

Sean and River anticipating their next swim

My father-in-law, Ray, is the primary instigator of the celebration. He’s retired Army and retired ROTC teacher. The 4th is particularly meaningful to him.

To get to Georgia we stop along the drive and camp. We used to make the drive in one shot. Since we bought our Winnebago, it’s more fun to take our time and enjoy the view.

View from our campsite at Little Pee Dee

Our first stop was at Little Pee Dee Campground near Dillon, SC. This makes our third stop at that Campground. Because our trip was just before the weekend of the 4th, we had to settle for the last open campsite. It was really tight. That’s not to mean it wasn’t spacious, it was tight with trees requiring extremely careful parking of the RV.

That was tight

I needed to be perfect backing in because two trees bordered the entrance. One of them leaned in allowing just inches of clearance. Once in the space was just excellent.

Tight but no one is on top of us at Little Pee Dee in SC

In Tignal we camped at Hester’s Ferry Campground. Having a Winnebago means no one has to rent a place for the overflow of family that comes to enjoy the lake, food, and fireworks.

Hester’s Ferry campsite in GA

The trip is not a vacation from archery.  We have a field where I practice with my bow and Ray practices with his crossbow. This trip I brought a large block. There are two blocks here, both shot to pieces. The bigger block, carried here in the truck, has two sides that will stop arrows. The larger sides don’t even slow arrows.

The block was hauled to the field, balanced on a smaller block that rested on a chair. Once the paper target was attached to the old block I used a 100-foot tape measure to wheel out 50 meters. Before long the range was open for business.

In the past, I’ve said that I prefer warm weather to cold. Well, I got my wish. I think the coolest day during this trip peaked at 93°F. That’s not to too bad. We get similar temperatures on the coast of North Carolina all the time. Sure, archery practice can be a sweaty business.

Cycling, in the case of this trip, was done pretty early and the heat was not a factor. Even bike rides later in the day didn’t feel as hot as did standing still in the sun shooting. Riding a bike creates a nice breeze.

The final day of 50-meter practice here was the hottest of all – over 100°F. The forecast was for 100°F and we surpassed the prediction. Hiking to pull arrows I made sure to put my bow under the shade of a tree otherwise after an hour or so the bow gets really hot. A black aluminum bow is a great thermopile. Still as hot as it was, I’ll take it over the cold.

Got to keep this bow in the shade

We begin our trip home tomorrow. Another 4th is history. Thousands of dollars for fireworks blasted. A mess of great food was eaten. I’ve finished a short bit of writing to remind me about it in the future and I am sharing with you.

In a final note there is group of archers on western shore of Maryland who banned me from their site when I shared my 2014 4th of July post with them. To them I say, “Happy 4th of July! And may the blue rubber suction tips on your arrows always hold true.”

On the Road – Staunton, Virginia

I doubt I’ll go to the 2017 IBO World Championship in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. Last year’s event was not a highlight of my archery career. In addition, unless you can average 10.4 points per arrow there’s not much point in spending the money to make the trip. Sure, you could argue, “It’s a good experience.” You’d be right. If you’re willing to fund the trip – I’m there.

Still, I’m in Staunton to shoot an IBO World Championship qualifier. Between now and the main IBO event, who knows, my 3D average might spike.

Staunton is not around the corner from New Hope, North Carolina. It’s about 260 miles from my house to the Augusta Archers’ Club, host of the qualifier. I’d considered making the trip and renting a hotel. Instead, this is being typed from my Winnebago at a KOA Campground.

The KOA was booked online. The site clicked for the reservation was really nice. Bordered by trees and backed up to a small ‘lake.’ It’s not really a lake; it’s a medium (at best) pond. But, the site looked good and it was booked.

Upon arrival the registration clerk pointed out the site’s location on the campground map. The campsite’s position had changed from the clicked on photo shown during the online selection. Now, it was a narrow, treeless mat of gravel backed up to a visitors’ parking lot and bordered by other camping rigs.

The debate to improve the parking situation with the registration agent failed, the clerk claiming all spots were rented. Furthermore, she added with emphasis, “The computer assigns sites and there is nothing that can be done about it.” As proof, she rotated a computer screen for me to view to verify exactly what the 0’s and 1’s had assigned. There’s no arguing with a speechless electronic binary brain. The monitor glowed in my face offering no compromise. Essentially, it was keep HAL’s bait and switch site or KOA retains my deposit and I move on.

(HAL is an AI from 2001 A Space Odyssey. The initials HAL each represent one letter from alphabet moved one space each from IBM. This is being typed on an Apple. If you never saw the movie or read the book this all is meaningless to you)

Deciding that any spot might be better than the Wal-Mart parking lot I backed into the small stony space. Once the truck was unhooked then power, water and sewage were connected I rolled out the RV’s canopy to help keep the sun off the camper. It had to be reeled back in. The site is so tight the canopy extended partly over the road. It was foreseeable that another RV could drive past and rip the canvas extension off the rig.

With nothing else to be done, I took a short practice drive over to the Augusta Archers range to ensure there’d be no confusion in the morning. The drive only took about 18 minutes, a bonus for the KOA.

The grounds, from what I could see on the drive in, were very nice. I’ll find out first hand on Sunday. The IBO qualifier here is held over two days. It was finished for Saturday when I arrived.

A number of competitors were hanging out in the Augusta Archers clubhouse, which holds a decent indoor range. The archers were all men except for one woman. The lady was pretty much the only person that appeared willing to talk aside from the most verbally economic answering of questions directed toward any of the men.

That is until we hit upon Seven Springs. Then, the masculine group all wanted to share and one-up each other on their woeful experiences at the Pennsylvania site. It seems my abysmal adventure of 2016 might not have been the worst in this group.

Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll get in zone and shoot over 300. Certainly, I’ll qualify – just in case.

Not All Campsites Are Equal

We were on road for several days last week. We’d planned a trip to Delaware that was changed at the last minute. We still took to the road, only in the opposite direction.

Hiking along Beaver Dam Trail at Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon, SC

When we travel, Brenda and I go by RV so that we can bring our dogs. We were traveling so often with archery and other adventures we bought a small Winnebago – for the dogs. Before the purchase I analyzed the cost of the RV along with gas, food, site fee and compared it to hotels, gas, food, and kennel fees. The spreadsheet numbers showed that the RV cost for travel stays will break even on the investment in 28 months.   A real benefit is that we enjoy the camping. That is most of the time.

Last year, coming back from the IBO World Championship in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania I stayed at a really bad RV camp. It was simply too crowded, too noisy, and too commercial. It was not by any stretch camping.

River taking in the view in from of our camper

But, it was just overnight. I’d not made a prior reservation and pulled over when I became too tired to continue the drive. Beggars can’t be choosers.

More hiking at Little Pee Dee

On this recent amended trip we planned as best as possible. Our first stop was excellent. It was so nice we stopped there on the trip back to North Carolina. We’ll stay there again in September. That was at a State Park. So far, we’ve found that State Parks are the nicest campground in general.

Hiking at Little Pee Dee

Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon, South Carolina was no exception. The campsites are large so we didn’t feel pinned in. It was quiet and very much an outdoor experience.

Our campsite at Little Pee Dee State Park

The second stop, Whispering Pines in Rincon, Georgia was not as nice. It was packed with many long term or permanent residents. It remained me of a drive-in movie theater without the big screen. Our corner lot was located at the intersection of two small and one large road.

This little car just drove through our campsite – that was really weird

I did  meet one fellow there, Jerry, while walking River. That was the highlight of the stay. Jerry and his wife have one of those mega-motorhomes. They’re building a home nearby and were parked at Whispering Pines during the contruction of their new home. Jerry is an engineer and contractor, his motorhome doubles as his office. He takes on major jobs aroud the country, most recently finishing a project here in North Carolina.

Jerry and a companion.

Aside from Jerry, I can’t really offer much else to say positive about our experience. Seriously, at one point two young men were working on a car five feet from my RV. Throughout their mechanical deliberations revving the car’s engine attached to one of those throaty after market mufflers was the whisperings through the pines.

That white truck is passing by our campsite on a major road only separated by that white fence

We do our best to find campgrounds that are as primitive as possible, that is with at least water and electricity. I mean, we aren’t traveling in a covered wagon.  Still, we look forward to having as much of an outdoor adventure where we stay as we can find.  It doesn’t always work out.

Yes, it was a little rough

Camping Rocky Hock and Shooting in Plymouth

Mornings here in the Little River are often spectacular. We’re all awake just before sun up not because we particularly enjoy it, rather because our dogs seem to think we enjoy it. For whatever reason we are usually out of bed before the sun has crested the horizon.

Friday fit that pattern and there was time to feed dogs and take a walk to the end of our dock to catch the sunrise. After that came the hooking up and hauling off of the Winnebago for the trip to Rocky Hock Campground not far from Plymouth NC.

Typically, for an archery tournament as close as Plymouth I wouldn’t take my camper. This weekend was different. Brenda, my wife, had planned a “Girls” weekend that included a ‘Pilgrimage’ to Edenton, NC. The Pilgrimage is a tour of old homes and plantations. Having experience being the only guy among this group of women it seemed a good bet to go camping.

Trying to find a campground nearby Plymouth was more difficult than I’d have thought. The search landed me at Rocky Hock Campground. My expectations were low based on the Google Earth views of the facility. However, once there I was pleasantly surprised.

My site at Rocky Hock Campground

Granted the camping area, aside from that for tents only, was a bit treeless. To counter the lack of trees the grounds were immaculate and the individual campsites spacious. Now, at the time I was there only 10 other campers were overnighting. Even had Rocky Hock been jammed full I would not have had another RV parked right on top of me.

Evening view directly in front of my Winnebago

The view at my site was nice being directly on a good-sized fishing pond. Within a short hike I was on a creek that led to the Chowan River. The grounds were extremely clean, only the rest rooms and showers, I checked and didn’t use them, were lacking. I was happy to have not needed them.

A short hike from camp

Aside from the public shower and toilet there was nothing in which to find complaint. It was also close to the Roanoke Archery Club in Plymouth where the 3D tournament was held on Saturday.

After I’d set up the Winnebago on my site at Rocky Hock I made a ‘test’ drive over the range at Roanoke Archery. The plan for Saturday’s competition was to meet up with friends Mike and Angelo by 0900 so that we might hit the course first.

Definitely coming back with a kayak

Although I have been to Roanoke Archery several times, on Saturday I’d be driving in from an untested pathway. There had been road construction leading into Rocky Hock and if the way was blocked to Plymouth I wanted to know in advance.

River enjoying a hunt

The test drive turned out to have been a good move. Initially, the GPS landed me in the middle of a plowed field in the wrong direction. It wasn’t a nightmarish error and a U-turn led to the solution. In any event, I was glad to have made the discovery the day before the tournament.

On Saturday, with the way planned and practiced, I arrived on time, just after Angelo and minutes before Mike. Angelo was warming up on the marked practice range so I joined him. Mike arrived and skipped warm-up practice whereupon we three registered and headed onto the range.

Angelo aiming for 12

Mike and Angelo are top archers. Angelo, a BowTech Pro-staffer, shoots open class where Mike shoots traditional. The three of us shoot from different stakes so our yardage is unique to the divisions. Despite the yardage differences we managed to smack each others arrows a bit too frequently for comfort.

These couldn’t have been any tighter without busting an arrow

For the second week in a row we were on course first and completed our trip in less than two hours. I didn’t earn a new high score for 2017 on the ASA style 3D range. But, I did slighter better than my average per arrow for the year, by 0.4 points. Even so, I was 0.25 points per arrow below my high water mark of 10.05 points per arrow. And still further away from my 2017 goal of consistently hitting an average of 10.6 points per arrow.

Mike, shooting with a stick at around 25 yards

It was temping to have another go at the course for fun. But, River, my lab, had been waiting patiently for me to finish the first 20 arrows and it seemed unfair to have her wait any longer. There were Canada Geese to chase back at Rocky Hock and for a retriever such concerns are of the upmost importance.

Eight Days in the Winnebago

Despite taking a break after the Nationals, only a few days, I was a bit worn. I exercise and practice archery for hours nearly everyday. A few times a year there are breaks in my schedule for physical and mental recovery. This past week was one of those breaks.

First stop in Virgina

This vacation coincided with my youngest grandson turning four. Brenda and I planned a trip to enjoy the graduation from a mere three years old to that pinnacle of maturity – four years old. My youngest daughter and her family, that holds title to the birthday boy, live in Pittsburgh.

The view in Charlottesville.

The drive from New Hope, NC to Pittsburgh, PA can be done in a day. However, it is literally a pain in the butt to drive straight through. The drive is a much more tolerable, if not pleasurable, when breaking the trek up and going camping along the route. We decided to make the trip last eight days and have a little adventure.

Our first stop was outside of Charlottesville, VA where we camped at super KOA. Typically, we don’t stay at KOA facilities preferring smaller campgrounds that are less commercial. This one, KOA Charlottesville was a gem and one of their highest ranked facilities.

Maryland – aside from Georgia the State where I’ve lived the longest

This time of year the campground was not packed and we had site choices with views from which to select. There was a nice wooded hiking area and key to being outside, it was quiet.   While in Charlottesville we met up with Tomas Rahal at his restaurant, Mas Tapas and ate like royalty.

View near our campsite in Little Orleans

From Virginia we made our way to Little Orleans, MD and stayed at the Little Orleans campground, another outdoor treasure this time of the year. The park has just 16 spaces for transient campers in area separate from the permanent campsites. Each night we stayed, we were the only transient campers.

Camp in Maryland

The Little Orleans campground is a ½ mile from the Potomac River and the C&O Canal Towpath. We didn’t pack our bikes or our kayaks for this trip but we’ll plan to return with those toys.

This screams kayak

Pittsburgh was, well Pittsburgh. It is a beautiful city in a hardy way. Passing though it does it little justice. We once lived there and made lifelong friendships. We found a KOA in Washington, PA. It was too close to a major highway and noisy. Aside from the non-stop road noise the camping was okay. Being 30 minutes from my daughter’s home counted for something.

Washington, PA

The time with my daughter and her family wasn’t marred by any sports and they got our full attention. The birthday party was exactly as requested – pizza and cake. Oh, and an over-abundance of presents.

On the trip home we booked the same campsites as the trip out and were just as pleased.

The first day home, I shot an easy practice in the morning and skipped the afternoon. I was forced to spend the afternoon grooming the lawn and 3D range.

Hitting the Road, Running From Matthew

6a00d8341c90b153ef017eea2b160e970dWhen we purchased our vacation home here on the coast of North Carolina I called my Uncle Dan. I was excited about the property. It is on the Little River where it joins the Albemarle Sound. From there I can look out and see the Outer Banks. The first words from Uncle Dan weren’t congratulatory. He paused then asked, “What were you thinking?”

We’d both grown up on Tybee Island, Georgia. At least I was there until I was eight when we moved to Isle of Hope, Georgia. Dan remained on Tybee. When he inquired as to my considerations for the purchase he was thinking, and I hadn’t been, Hurricanes. As soon as the asked, I remembered and upon recognition all I could think was, “Oh, shit.”

Since I’d left Savannah I’d pretty much put hurricanes out of my mind. Now, I had a vacation home in a place more likely to get those Atlantic Cyclones than where I’d been raised. And today, having sold our home in Easton, Maryland, we live on the Little River full time.

img_5557

As Hurricane Matthew approaches we’re loading the Winnebago and heading west. We’ll make a stop in Williamsburg, Virginia until Friday. On Friday we’ll drive west some more staying well away from the mess coming up the East Coast.

img_5559
Wonder if my cook house will survive another storm this summer?

When we return, should things go badly, perhaps we’ll be getting that new roof I’d been planning.

To Go or Not To Go

The 2016 3D archery season is, for me anyway, finished. Now it’s time to begin planning next year. While planning 2017 I noticed a few other tournaments that aren’t exactly in my backyard, but not that far away. For example the North Carolina State Field Archery Championship has popped up.

Naturally, I am drawn to the competition. The event is 7-days from today. Sure I could adjust my bow to handle the different arrows, thinner in diameter than what I’m currently shooting. Sure I could pack the Winnebago and head to the western part of the State.

But, I just got home after nearly a week on the road shooting. Since June, I’ve spent 34 days on the road for archery tournaments. While I decide whether to make this ‘unplanned’ trip I’ll continue to work on the 2017 schedule.