2019 – Williamsburg, VA Thousand Trails

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Williamsburg, VA Thousand Trails because of the mixed reviews on the campground. Our stay, though, was pretty good.

Let me tell you the bad first: narrow roads just wide enough for the motorhome with tight and often un-level campsites. Because of the considerable differences in site sizes the campground has started saving big rig sized sites for people coming in with bigger rigs. I can understand people with smaller campers being frustrated by this. On the other hand if a person with a small popup picks one of the “big rig” sites the person who arrives in a larger RV might just be out of luck, reservation or not. Also, I’ve been at this long enough to have seen that a bigger campsite isn’t necessarily a better campsite.

Still, having done my share of camping in a very small travel trailer I know that it can feel like you are being treated as a second class citizen when the campground personnel directs you to some postage-stamp, sloping campsite. Frankly, many sites have been taken up with permanent cabins and others are rented out for the season. If not for that, there would be plenty of campsites from which to pick.

Now, let me tell you the good: there are two nice pools, a nifty mini-golf course, and other decent amenities. Probably the best thing about Williamsburg Thousand Trails is Williamsburg. This area is a popular tourism destination and everything from Jamestown Settlement to a huge outlet mall is just minutes away.

If you have a larger RV and are coming to this Thousand Trails be sure to call a day or two ahead and let them know. It might help you get a spot you can fit into. Of course, the key to any Thousand Trails is arriving during the week when there are more spots available.

Our Verizon signal was good and I was able to get satellite TV with no problem.

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2019 – Sightseeing Berkeley Plantation, VA

I enjoyed touring the Berkeley Plantation on the North Bank of the James River, not far from Richmond, VA. In 1619 a group of settlers came here. The first thing they did was kneel and give thanks for a safe journey, declaring that a day of Thanksgiving would be observed here annually. There is a shrine down by the river as a memorial to this act of thanksgiving.

After an Indian uprising the plantation was abandoned for a time and through the years different people owned the land. In 1726 a two story mansion overlooking the James River was built by Benjamin Harrison IV. His son Benjamin Harrison V, who would be one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia, was born here. His son, William Henry Harrison, was also born here. He became the 9th President of the United States (his grandson was the 23rd President). The farm changed hands several times through the years and suffered bankruptcy twice.

During the Civil War Union troops occupied Berkeley and President Lincoln came twice to meet with General McClellan. It was here that “taps” was composed and first played. The bugle first used to pay taps is on display.

In 1905 Malcolm Jamieson inherited the property. He and his wife restored the main house for his family to live in. In the 1960s the ground floor of the mansion was restored to its 1700’s splendor and opened for public tours. It is furnished with period pieces of furniture, replicas of paintings, and in the basement there are artifacts from the era. The two side houses are partially open to the public. One is the gift shop and the other is a kitchen.

There are gardens to walk through, a “taps” memorial, a Thanksgiving memorial, and a road that goes past the cemetery and down to the river. Benjamin Harrison V is buried in the Jamieson family cemetery.

I enjoyed our tour of Berkeley and the narrative of our tour guide.

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2019 – Sightseeing Jamestown Settlement – Williamsburg, VA

This is our second trip to this area of the country and we decided to visit Jamestowne Settlement and galleries. Our visit began with a short movie telling how the colonists came to this spot and also some of the history of the early days of the colony. From there we headed out to the villages. First we came to the Indian village where there were docents dressed as Indians explaining their way of life. We walked through the lodges seeing how they lived.

From there we walked a short distance to visit James Fort with it’s cannon emplacements, replica buildings, and “residents” who were happy to chat with us about life there. The guard house was where soldiers reported on arrival and got their armor, sword, musket and bandolier of gunpowder. The docent demonstrated how a musket was loaded and fired. Other buildings in the Fort included one for gunpowder, a storehouse with tobacco hanging in the rafters along with rope and barrels of provisions. The largest building was a church with bells, benches, a confessional, and altar in the front.

We continued on to the ships at dock that are replicas of the original ones that carried the people to Jamestowne. They were small considering how far they came and the number of people and supplies they brought. The docents talked about the ship and answered questions.

We also spent time looking through the very nice museum, learning more about the people who came to the New World. I enjoyed our visit to Jamestown Settlement and recommend it to all.

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2019 – Shortstop: Holly Point Campground – Wake Forest, NC

Our one night stop at Holly Point Campground in Wake Forest, NC was an unplanned one and it came just in front of one of the hardest weekends of the year to find a campsite: Memorial Day weekend.

Our motorhome was scheduled for a front windshield replacement in Winston-Salem (following my run-in with a tree in South Carolina). The replacement took longer than I had anticipated and by the time we were ready to travel it was too late to make the longer drive we had planned.

While we were waiting on the windshield repair I was searching the internet for a suitable spot for one night. This campground gets good reviews and, even though it is booked up starting Friday, we were able to pick from several vacant spots for a Thursday one night stay.

Honestly, I wanted to find an “interstate campground” that caters to people just wanting to stop for a night, but came up empty on my search. Holly Point is farther from I85 than I wanted for just a one nighter, but (1) not finding a RV Park along the interstate and (2) it being the lead in to a holiday weekend I decided to go for it.

My biggest mistake, though, was the route I took from Durham. I left I85 onto Highway 70 and then traveled Highway 98 out to the Falls Lake Recreation area which is where Holly Point is located. Bad choice. There was construction and congestion the whole way, making for a tiring and slow conclusion to a long day. I’m not sure what route would be better, but this isn’t a good one.

Now, the campground is quite good. The sites are generally long with good spacing and reasonably level. They are 30 amp/water sites. The roads are paved and the sites are gravel. There’s a big lake. One of the highest compliments I can pay a campground is this: it reminds me of a Corps of Engineers campground.

My Verizon signal was good. Didn’t try to put the satellite up but I’m pretty sure I would have struck out at least from the site we picked.

Tell you what, it would, indeed, be a nice place to spend Memorial Day weekend.

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2019 – Forest Lake Thousand Trails, Lexington, NC

It has been a few years since we visited Forest Lake Thousand Trails, near Lexington, NC. I think we appreciated the campground more this time than we did before. That’s mainly because we are more seasoned Thousand Trails users and better know what to expect at these properties.

Here’s a previous review of this campground – honestly, there are few, if any difference for better or worse. The pictures I took then are still representative of the campground. With that in mind I’m only adding a few with this review.

Forest Lake has a wide variety of campsites. Some will only accommodate a smaller rig while others are big enough for even the largest ones. Recently, the campground has started making an effort to assign sites based on the size of the rig. This is counter to long standing Thousand Trails policy, but in a campground with such a variety of campsites it makes a lot of sense. In the past a person with a smaller camper could pick one of the most spacious sites. When the bigger rig arrived there was simply no place they could fit.

Now, having said that, let me add that if Thousand Trails would stop selling so many annual sites much of this problem would go away. Still, I noticed that there were vacant sites throughout our stay, although many spots that might be considered prime are permanently taken.

Although the temperatures were over 90 at times, the pools (there are two big ones) won’t be open for a few more days yet, over the Memorial Day weekend. Also, for some reason, the community buildings were left locked up until later in the morning – I’m not sure why.

All in all, we like this campground and will be happy to return when we travel this area again.

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2019 – Sightseeing – Billy Graham Library – Charlotte, NC

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. The Library takes visitors on an audio-visual journey of Billy Graham’s life from the time of his conversion until his death in 2018. He attended Wheaton College where he met and married a missionary’s daughter, Ruth Bell Graham. One room is dedicated to his wife Ruth and her many accomplishments as wife, mother and writer. There are movie clips from various crusades and many personal items from his years of ministry including what looks like the sound room where he recorded his radio broadcast, The Hour of Decision, produced from 1950 to 2016! Near the end of the tour we saw a wall mural by Thomas Kinkade named “The Cross”. In the final presentation of the tour we heard a short video of Billy Graham preaching the gospel message. At the end of the sermon, as “Just as I Am” is being sung, his son Franklin appears on video, encouraging those of us in the room to respond to that invitation. The overwhelming theme of the library continues Graham’s lifetime calling of leading people to Jesus.

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2019 – Sightseeing the North Carolina Piedmont area

2019 – Murray’s Mill Historic Site – Catawba, NC

As a lover of American history I was pleased to find Fort Dobbs since it actually predates the American Revolution. By the date of the Revolution the Fort had been disbanded and was in ruins. Construction of Fort Dobbs was begun in 1755 and completed one year later. It was designed like a British Fort by order of Royal Governor Dobbs in response to the French and Indian war that was threatening the Colonies. It was to be the area military headquarters and a safe place for settlers.

All buildings are reproductions based on historical information. As was the original the Fort is built of local white oak. The rebuilt Fort will be complete and opened to the public in September. There’s a garden, brush arbor, and an outdoor bread oven. In the gift store/museum there are many artifacts that were found on site, along with other items representative of those used at the Fort.

I also enjoyed visiting Murray’s Mill Historic District near Catawba NC. The centerpiece of the area is the Mill and Murray & Minges General Store. The Mill was built in 1913 and operated until 1967. The store was built in 1890s and relocated to the area.

The mill has the original one ton millstones that ground corn and the roller mills used for grinding wheat. On the main floor we saw carts, scales and other equipment used in the daily operations. Down a flight of stairs the big gears are being turned by the water wheel just on the other side of the wall. Outside, I was impressed with the beauty of the water flowing over the dam and turning that big mill wheel.

Visiting the Murray & Minges General Store is a step back in history with dry goods, stick candy and other candy in jars along with local honey for sale. On display are examples of handmade lace and quilts made from original flour sacks. We enjoyed sitting on the porch swing while sipping bottled soft drinks from the antique Coca-Cola machine.

With my love of Chocolate I enjoyed the tour and tasting at the Black Mountain Chocolate Factory in Winston-Salem, NC. On the forty minute tour we learned how they make their chocolate from “bean to bar.” This is a small factory and much of what is done is hands on. Our guide showed us a cacao pod and explained the process needed before the beans could be shipped for making chocolate. We saw the bean roaster, the machine used to process the ground beans, with other items that combine to make the chocolate. The bar molds are filled by holding the mold under a metered stream of chocolate, settled on a shaking table, and moved to a cooling rack. I enjoyed a peanut butter cookie from the shop where various chocolate items, pastries and coffees as well as other gift items can be purchased. This is a fun and tasty place to visit in downtown Winston-Salem.

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2019 – Pine Ridge Campground, Roebuck, SC

Pine Ridge Campground is near I26, just south of Spartanburg, SC in the town of Roebuck.  The route in includes a few zig zags on decent roads.  The campground road itself is rather narrow and has a steeper, but very short hill.  It is another of those campground entry roads that leave you hoping you don’t meet a RV coming in the opposite direction.  Be careful, slow down, and look ahead to avoid a problem.

Once in, the campground is nice with pretty good spacing for a private campground.  There are some nice amenities: a good fishing lake, pool, playground, communal fire pit, and a jump pad for the kids.  There is also a laundry and public area with comfortable chairs at the office.

Most of the campsites have trees that provide some nice shade.  I managed to bump into one and do some glass damage to the motorhome.  It was driver error and not a fault to the campground.  We will get the damage fixed on down the road in a week or so.

Spartanburg has most any shopping you might want – and it is only a few minutes away.   I got satellite TV easily and our Verizon signal was good.  The campground WiFi was okay, but it got pretty slow during the busy weekend.

Aside from the too narrow road in and the trees that reach out and grab you (!) this is a nice spot for those traveling through the Spartanburg area.

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2019 – Little Tallapoosa Park – Carrollton, GA

Little Tallapoosa Park is located on the outskirts of Carrollton, GA and a short distance from I20. We enjoyed our week at this pretty park. There are two campground loops. One is more suited for tents and smaller rigs. The “RV Campground” has sites that will handle larger rigs. Several of those sites are pull through. Those around the parameter, and a few others are nice back-ins. In the pull-throughs pay attention to your campsite entry and exit points as some are ramped. We could see some drag marks to the front of our site so we opted to back out upon leaving rather than chance just driving out. I’m not sure all the sites are level but many are. Ours was quite good. The RV sites are all 50 amp/FHU. It may be difficult to get satellite TV from the parameter sites on the south side but it was an easy shot from our spot. Our Verizon signal was solid.

The roads are all good and the park boasts some very nice paved trails, a small playground, a nice bathhouse with laundry, and a splash pad that I’m sure gets lots of use in the summertime. The town of Carrollton has all the stores you will need and downtown Atlanta is less than an hour away.

This county park is a winner and we will happily return to it on future visits to the Atlanta area.

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2019 – Sightseeing: Word of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, GA

It was fun visiting the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta GA. The tour is interactive with lots of lights, sounds, movies, hands on and photo ops. After entering we were given a free Coke while we waited our turn to start the adventure. There are many screens and videos. We learned about John Pemberton the man who invented Coca-Cola. There are guides in each area to answer questions and provide information. A guide talked about various Coke signs and other memorabilia used to advertise Coke in the past. We then entered a 3D movie and saw clips from a wide variety of commercials used by Coke from around the world. There are photo opportunities with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear and a large safe door similar to the one where the secret recipe is kept. We took a break in the Commercial Room where they show a wide variety of commercials about Coke from across the years and around the world. My favorite was “I like to buy the World a Coke “ song with the young people on the hill and Scott’s was Mean Joe Green and the little boy. One of the areas has the safe holding the Coca-Cola recipe. I enjoyed looking at all the memorabilia including Santa pictures across the years. Probably the biggest attraction is the tasting room where there are drinks made by Coca-Cola around the world. You can drink all you want. Some are good and others just tasted bad to me. There are also fountains with all the Coke products we see all the time. Scott liked his soft drink of choice, Coke Zero better than any of the other offerings. I think I liked one from South America the best. The gift shop has every Coca-Cola product I’ve ever seen and many I haven’t. All in all, it was a fun time and I recommend it.

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