Savannah – The Hostess City

Everyone said Savannah was great, but we needed to see it for ourselves. Now we can say from first-hand experience that Savannah is indeed one of America’s great cities, welcoming visitors like the hostess she is.  Our week in the area was filled with history, architecture, and natural beauty that surprised us at every turn.

We based ourselves at the relatively new CreekFire Motor Ranch, which put us about 20 minutes from historic downtown Savannah. Creekfire is truly a resort with a heated pool, kids pool, lazy river, gym, lake, on-site bar and restaurant and more.

We even enjoyed a live band one night while sitting out by the lake. It was so nice that we’ve already booked a return visit next year!

In Savannah, we decided to get oriented with a tour. This time we chose a bike tour, which took us from one side of the city to the other in about two hours. Our guide was well versed in the history of the city, its 22 squares, historic homes, and churches. Many of the places we visited were featured in the popular book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Berendt, and my book club friends will likely recognize a few of these pictures.

The bike tour gave us a good foundation for exploring the city on other days too. The American Prohibition Museum opened our eyes to the social, economic, and political impacts of restricting people’s choice to imbibe. Of course, Savannah was a mecca for moonshine and bootleggers. 

A stunning place to stroll is the Savannah Riverfront. Originally a bustling port for the cotton industry, now the old port buildings, roads, and ramps are now a focal point for shops, restaurants, and hotels. Even Bob and Mia enjoyed our riverfront walk.

Another must-see stop in Savannah is the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, where Savannah’s history is buried. We joined noted guide and historian Shannon Scott on a two hour exploration of the cemetery which was first established in 1846.

Originally designed as a Victorian cemetery with winding pathways, lots of trees and grass areas, Bonaventure has been a gathering place for family picnics as well as a place of comfort for the bereaved. Probably the most famous residents are songwriter Johnny Mercer and writer Conrad Aiken.

A trip to Savannah is not complete without a visit to Wormsloe Historic Site, the colonial-era estate of Noble Jones, one of the area’s first settlers. The former plantation is the site of the oldest standing structure in Savannah. The ruins of Jones’ 1745 tabby house still overlook the Savannah River and the property was held by his descendants until the state acquired the land in 1973. Most striking is the mile-long archway of live oaks that usher you into the plantation. It’s what you picture a southern plantation should be. 

One reason we put Savannah on our itinerary was so that Steve could run his first live marathon since the start of the pandemic. On Saturday morning he rose early, drove out to nearby Skidaway Island and ran 26.2 miles in about four hours. He was rewarded with a medal, new sunglasses, a t-shirt, and claim to running a marathon in Georgia. He’s now marathoned in 19 states and counting…

Our time in the Savannah area coincided with the annual St. Patricks Day festivities. While the annual parade was cancelled due to COVID-19, there was still plenty of Irish spirit, especially out on Tybee Island.

On Tybee we learned about the island’s early military history, including the American Revolution, War of 1812, Spanish American War, WWI, and WWII. The Tybee Island Light Station, originally built in 1773, provided guidance to mariners in the past and now gives tourists sweeping views of the Atlantic and Savannah River. We enjoyed the 178 step climb to the top, as well as our tour of the Keeper’s Cottage. 

On our way out of Tybee we also stopped in to take a peak at Fort Pulaski. One of a series of forts along the Georgia coastline, the fort was built after the War of 1812 and was, for a time, under Confederate control. Once taken by the Union army, the fort eventually became a prison for Confederate officers. So much history…

Full exploration of Savannah and the surrounding area takes much more time than we allotted. Next time, we’ll spend more time sitting in the peaceful squares, enjoying the world-famous restaurants, and learning more about this fascinating part of America.

Music City and Beyond

Nashville, known as Music City, is filled with incredible opportunities to listen to live music and learn about the history of one of our favorite genres of music. But it’s so much more!! We just spent the last week exploring this historic city while navigating the increasingly severe pandemic. 

On our first day here we headed towards nearby Franklin, south of Nashville. Our first destination was the legendary Loveless Cafe. Known for melt-in-your mouth biscuits, we started our day with chicken and waffles and a yummy BBQ omelet, along with incredible biscuits and preserves. Where this was once a restaurant and motel for travelers along Highway 100, it’s now a favorite stop for Nashville locals. Yum!

Just past the Loveless Cafe begins the Natchez Trace, the 444 mile-long parkway that links Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. Originally an Indian footpath, the route has served settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and now modern day travelers. We didn’t get very far along the parkway, but we did capture some cool photos of the double-arched bridge at the beginning of the Trace. 

Steve was planning to run the Nashville Rock and Roll Marathon this week but like many other things this year, it wasn’t meant to be.  Less than a week ago, it was postponed due to the pandemic. Steve had the option to defer his registration or to do the race virtually. He chose the virtual option and ran 26.2 miles through the streets and and parks of Nashville on his own, fully self-supported. He finished this race in just over four hours and placed second in his age group. Here he is as he was heading out the door to run with his water on his back. 

Almost every day we were in Nashville we selected one major activity. Here’s a run-down of our fun:

The Grand Ole Opry– The Opry, the longest running radio broadcast in U.S. history, is recently back open after being closed to live audiences since March. We snagged two of the limited-availability tickets for Saturday night’s performance. The two hour show featured country stars Russell Dickerson and Lady A. 

Cheekwood Holiday Lights and Chihuly Nights – The Cheekwood Estate and Gardens preserves a 1930s mansion and grounds. With incredible views and a deep history, the annual holiday light display coincided with a show of the work of one of our favorite artists, Dale Chihuly. His large-scale glass art installations dotted the gardens of the historic estate and were accented by the twinkling of the holiday lights.

It was a festive, beautiful evening that got us in the holiday spirit. 

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – A visit to Nashville isn’t complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. On a rainy afternoon we explored country music from its early days to the modern era. Highlights for us were references to television shows from our childhood. Minnie Pearl’s dress and hat (complete with price tag) reminded us of all those Hee Haw episodes we watched with our parents. The Bandit’s TransAm was a cool reminder of the classic movie, Smokey and the Bandit. 

Belle Meade – On a nice afternoon we toured the Belle Meade Plantation. Belle Meade began in 1807 with a log cabin and 250 acres.  Over time, and with the dedication of the Harding and Jackson families and the workers who lived there before and after Emancipation, this site became one of the largest thoroughbred horse farms in the South. In fact, all Triple Crown winners can trace their pedigrees back to Belle Meade. 

Between our tours and events we also visited the Nashville Farmers Market, the State Capital area, and Broadway, the downtown street lined with bars featuring live music at all hours of the day. Masks are required and there’s lots of social distancing in light of the pandemic. We are following all of the rules and guidelines and being careful to wash our hands and use our hand sanitizer as much as possible.

We’re now headed south with a few interesting stops planned. Whiskey anyone?

The Mundane of RV Living

Our COVID-19 RV travels are continuing, carefully, in Central Oregon. We had a great two day stay at La Pine State Park and wish we could have stayed longer. The park is just south of Bend, situated right on the banks of the Deschutes River, and has a ton of easy mountain bike trails.  IMG_8566This gave me an opportunity to get back on the bike for more than a few minutes and Steve a chance to try out trail running with his injured collarbone. 

We both loved it!  Flat single track along the river and nice weather made this stop one that illustrates why we love RV travel. 

But let’s be real…it’s not always champagne and roses when you tow your home with you wherever you go. This blog post will focus a bit more on the day-to-day realities of RV travel, rather than the places and adventures we’ve experienced. In fact, here are nine realities of living in an RV, especially during a pandemic.

  1. Many of the highlights and “must see” attractions are closed.  Along the way we’ve seen tours (yes, brewery tours!) and parks that we’d love to explore. However, due to the pandemic, they are not operating.  Most of the pools and recreational features at the RV parks are also off-limits.  We expected this but still it’s kind of a bummer to see something cool and be unable to check it out.IMG_8551
  2. You still have to do laundry! And it’s not always pleasant when you don’t have your own fancy front loaders and laundry room. Here at the Thousand Trails Bend/Sunriver RV Park the laundry room was pretty scuzzy and the machines weren’t very fast.IMG_8540
  3. You don’t get your daily mail. I love getting the mail and take for granted the ability to walk outside and open my mailbox each day.  Last week we had our wonderful neighbors, Nancy and Tom, send us our mail from the last month. It was quite an ordeal. Long story short, we sat at these mailboxes in the middle of nowhere for over two hours before we finally received our package, which was already a day later than guaranteed. IMG_8531
  4. Some really fancy RVs have dishwashers. We, on the other hand, have a dish drainer and some cute kitchen towels!
  5. Electric power is variable. At each stop we either have 20, 30, or 50 amps of power or nothing. This number determines if we can run the A/C at the same time as the microwave and if I can blow dry my hair while the electric water heater is on. At the Bend/Sunriver Park, an older park, the power was on and then off and then…
  6. Steve has to “dump” regularly. Yes, it’s a reality and practicality of RV living…the water and sewer tanks must be emptied on a regular basis. Sometimes we have a sewer connection a the site but often in the Thousand Trails parks you have to visit the dump station to empty the waste. IMG_0136
  7. Speaking of sewer, did you know you have to treat the sewer tank after it’s emptied? Yep, every time Steve dumps, I have to pour a little bit of this stuff into the toilet to help “break down the solids.” Yes, we’ve learned some pretty gross things on this journey.IMG_8549
  8. We are big Costco customers, but can’t buy in bulk while traveling in less 300 square feet. Our 8 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer barely gives us the room to keep a little frozen food and the necessities for a few days. More frequent trips to the grocery store seem to be a reality of living like this. IMG_8547
  9. We interact with very few people along the way and that leaves us missing our family and friends. Because of the pandemic, we stay to ourselves the majority of times. Luckily we like each other, but we do miss hanging out with our neighbors in the Mahogany Lane parking lot!IMG_8539All of this said, we are very grateful to have this opportunity and know how lucky we are to be able to travel this way and see our country. Regardless of the mundane tasks and inconveniences of RV travel, it is really the best way to see the United States up close. While the pandemic continues to rage on, we feel safe motoring along in our self-contained, moving home. IMG_8560

One highlight of our stop in Bend was a visit with my cousin Tom Zimmerman and his family. Wife Kelly prepared a tasty BBQ meal and we got to spend time with their three girls, Zoe, Laney, and Kira. Connecting with family, far and near, is certainly one of the benefits of RV travel. IMG_8558We’re in Bend for a few more days, taking care of business…oil change, haircuts, groceries, etc. and enjoying the beautiful scenery, world-renowned breweries, and endless bike trails. Even though this blog post focuses mostly on day-to-day RV living, we have really fallen in love with Bend and the surrounding area. It will be hard to leave but next we are heading north into Washington State. Until then… IMG_8538.JPG