Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Uncertain, TX: Hauntingly Beautiful Caddo Lake

Elsie's time in the cool mountains of North Georgia came to an abrupt but expected end. We're taking a slow roll home, but there's one more destination that's been on our travel bucket list for years:  Caddo Lake, Texas.


This is a gorgeous lake/bayou straddling the Texas/Louisiana border, a swoon-worthy place for a photography expedition.  Because it's big, we took a powerboat ride instead of the kayaks.


This is one of the largest bald cypress forests in the world, with the wide bases of these striking trees growing right up out of the water, seemingly anchored to nothing.  Many of the trees are over 400 years old.



We had hoped to see alligators, which exist in droves here, but we only saw the telltale bubbles from the bottom of the shallow waters, letting us know they were down there, holding their breath and waiting for us to move on.  Fishing is excellent here.


Moss draped trees capturing the light and shadows make for a spooky view, and the eerie quiet of this deserted lake made us wonder if we were starring in one of the many horror movies which have been filmed on Caddo Lake, including "Gator Bait" (and the inevitable "Gator Bait II"), Soggy Bottom USA, Do or Die, The Man From Dead Man's Pond, and The Ghost of Cypress Swamp.


In areas of the lake, lily pads cover huge areas of water.  The flowers bloom in the morning but close completely and disappear by early afternoon.



Reflections on the water were mesmerizing!



Though there are private properties lining the outside of Caddo Lake, there is only one built on the soggy bottom of the interior lake itself.  It was grandfathered in over time:  welcome to Dick and Charlie's Tea Room!


Not really a tea room, but a place that people are welcome to visit, it has the kind of rules that the 70's rebel in Philip can really appreciate:  "there ain't none, there never was none, there ain't gonna be none."


Passageways and canals on Caddo Lake were hand-cleared to make the way for huge riverboats running from New Orleans to nearby Jefferson, Texas, making it one of the top 5 ports at the time, even though it was an inland city.


Jefferson is one of the oldest cities in Texas, and though sleepy, still sports the architectural remnants of being a vibrant city back in the day, when well-dressed visitors came up from New Orleans to party.  Much of the town still resembles New Orleans, including the recognizable wrought iron balconies.



Jefferson is also a good place to get a healthy dose of nostalgia!




It would appear that Jefferson has no rules, regulations, or HOA's.  This is somebody's front yard.



You have to admire the humility and honesty of the folks who named the town nearest to Caddo Lake.  Welcome, everyone, to Uncertain, Texas!


The Rusty Mule Pizza Parlor was Covid-closed, but cool paint job created one of those "STOP THE CAR!" moments.





It would seem that the fine folks of Uncertain have (1) a lot of artistic ability, (2) a lot of free time on their hands, or (3) both.




Crusing to Texas, we had stopped in tiny Lake Village, Arkansas, at Lake Chicot State Park, another place with the bald cypress trees growing from the water.


Lake Chicot is interesting because it used to be part of the mighty Mississsippi River.  300 years ago, the water radically changed course (sounds like RV travel planning during a pandemic, just sayin') and created the largest "oxbow lake" in North America.  Google maps shows it below, making it more obvious how it came into existence.


Not every day is filled with sunshine and unicorns ... into each trip, a few stormy clouds must enter!


The Chicot Lake area had an important visitor long ago.  When aviator Charles Lindbergh was 21 and unknown, he made an emergency landing on the country club golf course.  Somebody in town put him up the for the night, and in appreciation Charles took him for Charles' first night flight ever, over the lake.  Why somebody would want a night flight with somebody who had just crash landed, I am not sure.  But that is the story.


In today's version of Deju Vu meets Groundhogs Day, we drove by a more modern version of the 1936 "Two Ton Flowerpot" I highlighted in the last blog about Old Car City.


We have only 7 states of the lower 48 left to fill in on our RV travel map!  Of course, just because we've visited a state once doesn't mean we won't be going back again ... and again ... and again ....!


As we high-tailed it across the Southwest, our two worlds fittingly collided in tiny Hico, TX, when Elsie sidled up next to a huge spur.  That's right ... back we go to our Arizona home on Spur Circle!





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Northern Georgia: Hoochie Coochie in the Chattahoochie

We left toasty-warm Greenville, SC and headed for the cool mountains of Northern Georgia.  So cool, in fact, that we had to pull the down jackets out of the closets at night, even in late June.


Vogel is a gem of a state park, set on a small lake.  Set in the Blood Mountains of Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest, it sports hiking trails with names like the ominous sounding "Bear Hair Gap" Trail.  


Brasstown Bald is Georgia's highest point at 4,784 feet elevation.  You can take a steep hike to the top for 360 degree views.  For the less intrepid, there is a shuttle, but it wasn't running during our visit. 


This area has several extremely curvy, extremely beautiful scenic byways through the mountains, meaning extremely daring members of extremely large car clubs drive their Porsches or Mustangs or motorcycles or whatever at extremely high rates of speed to get to various viewpoints.


Grandaddy Mimm's is a fun destination in the area, near Blairsville.  "I spy, with my little eye(s) ..."


It's a combo moonshine distillery, shopping arcade, concert venue, and quirky roadside attraction. 


Mimm's was just weird enough to be interesting but not weird enough to make us uncomfortable, with strange/interesting/"what the heck is that" type stuff around every corner.


The tiny, touristy town of Helen is the third most-visited in all of Georgia, so, you know, traffic.  But also a lot of fun.


Formerly a logging town in decline, the town reinvented itself as a Bavarian Alps style town.


Še das d' kemma bisd (Welcome) to Helen!

I also learned how to say "My hovercraft is full of eels" (Mei lufdkissnbood is foia åle) but I am thinking it's going to be harder to work that into everyday conversation.


One of the most popular things to do in Helen is rafting the Chattahoochee.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people rent these brightly-colored tubes (and pay for the shuttle bus to pick you up at the end) every day.


If the bracingly-cold water is not your thing, the next-best activity is people watching from the restaurants and bars that line the banks.


Amicalola State Park is named for a Cherokee word meaning "tumbling waters." This is understandable since it is home to Georgia's tallest waterfall at 729 feet tall.


The small campground is set near the top of the falls, requiring a long drive up a 25% (!!!) grade.  Easy in a vehicle, not so easy in a 20,000 pound RV.  But we made it to the top!



The view from the top is beautiful, but the waterfall doesn't look like much from this view.  


To get the money shot(s), you've got to clamber down 429 steps ...


 and face her head-on!  So beautiful!


If camping isn't your thing, we can't be friends.  Just kidding -- let me start over.  If camping isn't your thing, you can still stay in Amicalola State Park at their Lodge, with stunning views from their windows and balconies.


"Signs" of bears are everywhere .... from actual signs ....


... to clawed trees where bears have scratched their itchy backs ...


... to an overturned grill at our campsite!  In fact, we know for a FACT this was a bear, because we saw him with our own eyes!  We heard crashing around outside at 1:00 in the morning, shone a flashlight out the RV bedroom window, and there was a 500+-pound-Smokey licking the grill in our site.  Who can blame him ...??? ... Philip has been seasoning that grill with all kinds of scrumptious flavors for the last three months!


We stumbled upon a time capsule while at Vogel, and wondered what was included inside.  And, if a time capsule were buried on July 4, 2020, what would it contain?  What would you include?  (Besides PPE's, I mean.)


But the REAL time capsule in Vogel is this ... a pay phone!  With ... wait for it ... wait for it .... a phone book.  Young people, let me explain that this is a book that included everyone's phone numbers, before Google.  They are very rare indeed!


Speaking of time capsules, how about a 32-acre time capsule!  I'm speaking of Old Car City USA in White, Georgia, a huge automobile junkyard ... the world's largest, in fact.


Over 4,000 old cars are scattered in a loosely-organized fashion throughout the forest, which seems to be slowly eating them alive.


Nuggets of wisdom, all hand-lettered by the owner, are liberally sprinkled throughout. 


Some are thought-provoking, some educational, most just plain funny.


Old Car City has special Halloween events along its 7 miles of trails.  It was a spooky place even in broad daylight, so I cannot imagine it at night or with ghosts lurking about, searching for their lost car keys .... They were just right here ??!!



There are even some non-junkers, or lesser-junkers, including vehicles previously owned or driven by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.


The more special cars get their own lean-to's to lean-upon, but the vast majority have been left to the elements to slowly decompose.  


Old Car City is the site of multiple photo shoots, though the rules include admonitions against posing nude with the cars.  (As if!  Have you seen the mosquitoes in Georgia?)  It has also been the subject of multiple news stories including the New York Times and BBC.


The supermodel of this place is the "Two Ton Flowerpot," a 1939 Chevy.


Multiple trees have grown right up through the windshield, er, where the windshield used to be anyway.


It was both breathtakingly beautiful and heartrendingly sad at the same time, to see these vehicles that were once somebody's pride and joy, now left to the elements.  Oh, if only they could talk ... what stories they would tell!


We continue to be enchanted, but confused, by this part of the world.  Case in point, ciders.  "Scuppernong"?  "Muscadine"?  In Arizona, our choice is "Apple."  That's it.  Just apple.


Alas, we're headed on down the road in the direction of home (sniff!).  It'll be a slow roll, but we're headed back to Arizona where (1) we now lead the nation in Covid cases, (2) wildfires are raging, (3) everything is closed or closing, cancelled or soon-to-be-cancelled, and (4) it's regularly 112 degrees.  


But, there are adult children there who purport to miss us, and perhaps more importantly, we really really need haircuts.  So, we are leaving the gorgeous North Georgia mountains behind, and hittin' the highway once again.