The combination of a love of travel and sharing the adventures on Easin’ Along has taken Helen (adorable wife) and me on four extended road trips since we retired in August 2015. Most recently we took readers along with us in our rented RV trip to the California coast. That trip and the resulting enthusiasm we felt for the RV lifestyle prompted us to invest in a travel trailer we named Bertha. Easin’ Along readers met Bertha a few weeks ago and last week I took everyone along on my first camping trip after Bertha and I spent a few days in the Cherokee National Forest.
The second trip with Bertha was even more enjoyable. Since I had been the most eager proponent of acquiring an RV, I really wanted Helen to have a great experience on her first camping trip. When asked where she would like to go, I could have predicted the answer before she told me. We both love the area around Bryson City and Cherokee, NC which is about two hours away from Knoxville, and sits on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (See earlier post)
Because we wanted full water and electrical hookups to test out Bertha’s systems, we made a reservation at an RV campground instead of in the National Park. We couldn’t have made a better choice by reserving a creekside spot at Cherokee Campground (link here). This tranquil setting is within walking distance of downtown as well as the Cherokee Casino and my adorable wife LOVES casinos.
We hooked Bertha to Sophie (truck) and took off on a route that would take us through Maggie Valley, NC then up and over the mountains, reaching an altitude of about 4,000 feet before descending down the mountain and into Cherokee, NC and RV site #12 at Cherokee Campground. We were warmly greeted by Lee Ann Craig, one of the owners of the campground who signed us in and gave us an orientation of the facilities.
When we backed Bertha into our assigned campsite, we were delighted to find that we would be situated alongside Soco Creek and that we would have no campers on either side during our stay. As soon as Bertha was connected, we unloaded the lawn chairs, broke out the wine and cheese, and propped our feet on the low stone retaining wall beside the creek to watch some nearby fly fishermen catch a limit of rainbow trout. This was about as much activity as we needed or wanted and both agreed that so far, this RV life was looking pretty good.
The next morning we were up early and showered in the clean campground showers then drove to Bryson City, about 10 miles away, for breakfast at our favorite place, the Everett Street Diner. This cozy little Diner features the best homemade biscuits and gravy anywhere and always has a number of police and fireman seated at the tables filling up before their shift begins. This morning there were several tables of young people chatting excitedly about the hike they were about to take in the National Park. They were all wearing the same color T-shirt representing their church youth group.
After a breakfast of eggs, biscuits, gravy, bacon and some excellent coffee, we knew we had to walk everything off and made our way to the Deep Creek area of the park to hike to Tom’s Branch waterfall and to see if the rhododendron was still in bloom. We were not disappointed. Although it was a bit late for wildflowers, a few were still visible, but the Rhodys were out in full force. We captured a picture of a Japanese lady who was posing on a rock with a beautiful specimen in the background beyond Deep Creek.
It was a great day for hiking and browsing the quaint shops in the small mountain town that is Bryson City. At the end of the day, we found some silverware for Bertha’s kitchen in an antique store which Helen purchased after some give and take with the shopkeeper. We knew that Bertha would approve.
That evening it was time for some fun and games at the Casino. I have shared with Easin’ Along readers that although we enjoy casino fun, we’re not high rollers. We are not even low rollers…we’re slow rollers. We’ll play penny slots for a few hours just for the fun, and, if we win, we’re ecstatic. We never expect to win, but we are always hopeful. On this evening, I was not having a very good run and, in an hour or so, was within $20 of reaching the modest limit I had set for myself on this visit. I was being careful; after all, I had just purchased a travel trailer…
While walking through the casino to see if I could find Helen and peel her away from the activity she loves, I spotted a row “Wheel of Fortune” machines with one seat available. Thinking “what the heck” I sat down hopeful it might be possible to enjoy a turn in my fortune for this evening. This was a 25 cent machine, and the max bet was $1.25 per pull on the handle. I inserted my last $20 dollar bill. The first pull was not successful, nor was the second. I was already getting discouraged, but pulled hard for the third time anyway and watched as the wheels began spinning. They stopped on three Wheel of Fortune symbols. From somewhere inside the machine, voices chanted “Wheel of For-chun”! Those were the same familiar voices from the long-running TV show and indicated that I had earned the opportunity to spin the wheel. I pressed the Wheel button. The Wheel began spinning. Every person at the row of machines paused to see where the Wheel would stop. It stopped on 2000, the largest number on the Wheel, which, in quarters, was $500. Several around me began to clap as I let out a resounding “Yesss”! Immediately I cashed in for the $500, plus the $16.25 left over from my last $20 dollar bill. Oh yes, I did ask someone to take my picture with the cash voucher to prove that it actually happened.
Helen and I left the casino delighted to be able to tell Bertha that, with her bonus check, we had enough to buy gasoline for the trip home.
RV life on the retired road has started on a positive note. We hope to see everyone out there as we continue…Easin’ Along.