Thursday, December 16, 2010

Georgia Veterans State Park - Another Tribe Adventure

Entry Date: February, 2010

This adventure turned out to be just that, an adventure. The expected became the unexpected, and the unexpected became the expected... rather unexpectedly.

Ok, so the plan was to head South with some friends last February. South to a warmer climate. What better time to visit hot sweaty South Georgia than in the Winter. As the departure day neared, the forecast became very unusual for the region. Snow! Snow in Cordele, Georgia! This was a rare event indeed. We bought some tubes and took off work early to get ahead of the weather. We were stoked! Snow in South Georgia!

It snowed hard on us most of the way to Cordele, but the roads were pretty warm and stayed clear right up until we arrived at Georgia Veterans State Park. We found our site and began setting-up. Flakes were the size of golf balls, and splatted when they hit the ground. It was a wet snow, and it was stacking-up fast.

By the time I'd finished hooking us up it was snowing very hard, it was really cold, and the sun was gone. I had the unpopular task of sending the kids inside, assuring them that the snow would be piled-up good in the morning ready for play. Tubing, snowmen, and snowball fights would fill our day. They were excited, I was optimistic, I was sadly mistaken.

When we got up Saturday morning, all the snow was gone. The white precipitation had turned to rain sometime during the night and washed the snow away. It was cold outside as well as inside. Daddy was not the most popular resident at the campsite, at least for a while. All was soon forgiven though, it was, after all, my Birthday.

We spent the remainder of time at the park fishing and exploring the museum. It was a very cold weekend, so we kept a fire roaring all the time. We celebrated valentines day and Lee Thomas' Birthday while on this trip as well.

On President's day, we hopped on the Sam's Shortline Train to Plains, home of former President Jimmy Carter. It leaves from the park. There was an actor on the train impersonating Teddy Roosevelt. He spoke at an auditorium in Plains, and was entertaining although he probably should have rehearsed a little more. We had previously visited the childhood home of President Carter, so this was more about the train ride than anything. One thing of note regarding Plains, there is no ATM. Yes, that's right, as of the time of our last visit, Plains has no ATM, anywhere, not even the bank. Be prepared.

In Summary, Georgia Veterans State Park is an awesome destination with a good many nearby attractions. In warmer weather, I would think getting a lakeside site might be a bit more difficult because fishing and water sports are what this place is made for. The weather's usually pretty nice this time of year. We just happened upon an unusual weather event. On the bright side, we didn't see a single gator.
The Richardson Tribe

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dollywood - A Real Value...

Eventually (visit our Dollywood page)
The day after the extended Richardson family's Thanksgiving feast, the Tribe headed out for an early lunch at No Way Jose's Mexican restaurant in Pigeon
Forge, then on to Dollywood. It had rained all morning, and we were hopeful that the crowds might be a little smaller. When we arrived, the crowds were just as we'd hoped, thin. The weather was pretty chilly, but we were prepared with the toasty trapper hats we bought here last Winter, one of our best investments. This was the first of our two days at Dollywood during the Thanksgiving holidays.

Another good investment from last Winter was the purchase of Dollywood Season Passes. As far as value goes, a single day at Dollywood is not necessarily a good value, especially with four kids (and cheap like me). However, it's pretty inexpensive to upgrade it to a season pass which gets everyone in for free for the next 12 months (or from before Christmas through Christmas of the following year). If you spend a few bucks extra, you can upgrade one of those passes to a Gold Pass. Gold Pass holders pay no parking ($10), and receive a 10% discount on everything in the park. 

Now, if you've never been to Dollywood, wipe those images of redneck midway carneys and sticky sidewalks from your mind. A nicer place you'll never visit. It's clean, the rides are top-notch and safe, and the people that work there are very friendly and down-to-Earth. For kids, the rides, games, and sights are awesome. For grown-ups, it's better than Disney, especially this time of year when millions of Christmas lights sparkle all over the park and a variety of seasonal musicals and live bands also contribute to the holiday spirit.

For many more pictures and details about this trip and other trips to Dollywood click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mama always said "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

But then, I never was a very good listener...
November 25 - The Tribe ate Thanksgiving lunch with the extended Richardson family, then jumped in the packed camper and headed for Wears Valley, Tennessee. Typically, when we visit this area, we stay at the KOA campground in Townsend. It's one of the nicest campgrounds in the area, but it's a bit pricey (we paid almost $70 this Summer for river-side sites), and if you don't plan to use their many valuable amenities, it's hard to justify.
On this particular trip, our plan was to spend two full days at Dollywood, and very little time at the campground. I spent several hours researching campgrounds in the area, even over in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. I found a few questionable prospects, but most were booked-up through the holiday weekend. Then, I discovered Cove Creek RV Resorts and Rentals, a destination that appeared to be an ideal place to camp in Wears Valley between Townsend and Pigeon Forge. What's more, the rate was an acceptable $33.00. It sounded great!

Here is what their website said: (the words are theirs, the pictures are mine)
"At Cove Creek RV Resort choose sites offering personal outdoor gazebos with lounging areas and outdoor fireplaces or perhaps you would prefer to be creek-side so the lull of the babbling waters can soothe you to sleep at night. Whichever you choose Cove Creek RV Resort will not disappoint. We offer a first-class clubhouse, bathhouse, workout facilities, onsite laundry facilities, a game room, an outdoor pool and outdoor recreation, a conference center as well as an onsite fishing pond. 

We are working to make the campground better, please bear with us as we are 75% complete.” Please enjoy our reduced summer rates as compensation for any minor disruption."

Ok, the key here is the last sentence of the above quote. It gives you the
impression that the campground is undergoing some "improvements", and it's almost done. Further investigation made it appear the description was published in early Summer (June), so one might assume, as I did, this nice luxury campground is probably nearing completion by November. The pictures were great, but there were suspiciously very few pictures to view. Finally, I cast all caution aside and booked three consecutive nights. Shame on me.

When we arrived at Cove Creek RV, the office was dark, but our site was identified on
a map taped to the inside of the clubhouse's front door. As we pulled through the park on the way to our site, I began to feel as though I'd been a little misled. I was getting peeved. The first sign we saw said something to the effect of "Buy your own RV Site starting at $69,000". I asked myself, "when is $69,000 too much to pay for a concrete pad in a pasture?". The sites are narrow, and nothing was really finished. Our site was at the end of a row. It faced a gravel drive, some unfinished pads, some exposed sewer pipes, a dumpster, construction equipment, and a storage warehouse behind an old chain-link fence. The pictures tell the story.

In all fairness, that last sentence on their home page does provide a bit of a disclaimer that warns of the campground's condition, and there is a nice looking pool and exercise room with four pieces of equipment, and Wears Valley is beautiful, and it is convenient to Pigeon Forge, and it was just $33 a night, and we really didn't spend anytime there during the day, and the site was pretty level, so I'll give them a break. I'd have probably stayed here in the same situation had I known the truth in advance, but I'm most offended by the website's misrepresentation of the camping facility and its surroundings.

On the other hand, I think that someday this will be a very nice "RV Park". I doubt you'll be able to rent a site for $33, and maybe someday in the far far distant future, their sites may also be worth $69,000, but I'm not holding my breath.

I began reviewing destinations for this very reason, so you won't have to make the same mistakes I make. You won't find Cove Creek Luxury RV Resort on our Places to Go page, but I still felt like I owed them a little write-up.