Friday, March 30, 2012

 Friday, March 30, 2012
Fort Mountain State Park - Chatsworth, GA

2- Chester Frost Park - Hixson (Chattanooga), TN
3- Chattahoochee Bend State Park - Newnan, GA

4- McKinney Campground - Acworth/Cartersville, GA
5- Lake Winnepesaukah - Rossville, GA (Chattanooga)

The weekly "Top 5" is defined by the number of visits for each particular destination page on the PB&J Adventures website. This data does not indicate that these destinations are better than any other, just more searched. Performance data is provided by Google Analytics®.

Friday, March 23, 2012

James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park - Summerville, GA

The Park that Inspired the Tribe.
In 2007, the Richardson Tribe reserved a cabin at James H Floyd State Park, a place we'd visited only once. The cabins were new and very clean, and the park was lovely. We spent two glorious days relaxing and having fun. This trip stands out for us mostly because the two and a half-year-old twins' experienced their first real hike. As we were checking out on our final day, a couple in a "class c" motorhome were checking in. We admired their coach, and dreamed that we might have one some day. It was approximately one month later that we purchased our first motorhome. The rest is history.

James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park is a precious gem nestled in a little valley near Summerville in Northwest Georgia. The park is named for James H Floyd, otherwise known as "Sloppy," a local politician (state rep.) from decades ago. The surrounding area is primarily wooded, but there is also plenty of farm land.
Regarding amenities and activities, James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park has plenty. The park features two lakes where row boats and pedal boats can be rented. Motorized boats are not permitted on either lake. If you have a Georgia fishing license, you can fish from shore or the footbridge that crosses the lake. There are two playgrounds: one near the lake and one in the campground. If you have children and plan to camp, we really recommend the sites 20 through 25 are very near the playground. Site 21 practically owns the playground, making it convenient to enjoy a campfire while the children play nearby. Hiking and mountain biking are virtually unlimited because the Pinhoti Trail runs along Taylors Ridge, a short hike from the lake. If a shorter hike is what you have in mind, you can hike up to the old marble mine and reflection pool (en route to the Pinhoti).
If you like rockhounding, this is the place for you. Taylor's Ridge, especially this portion, is covered with shattered rocks. Apparently a geological event caused the limestone to buckle and shatter, like an explosion. The result is amazing. What's even more amazing is the fact that much of the rock is a very fine laced agate. You will also find rose quartz, druzy quartz, pink marble, purple chert, fossils, geodes, and more. There are also a couple of other rockhounding and fossil sites nearby.
There are occasional events at Sloppy Floyd State park. One of our favorites annual events is Adventure Day. This is an entire day dedicated to activities such as rock climbing, fishing, archery, bb guns, snake shows, good (free) food, and more.

In summary, this James H Floyd State Park is simple, but it's beautiful. There's no miniature golf or game room. It's a place to fish, hike, mountain bike, rockhound, and relax. This is our kind of place.

For more pictures, details, and PB&J Adventure Journals, click here.

This Week's Top Five Destinations:

Friday, March 23, 2012
1- Chester Frost Park - Hixson (Chattanooga), TN
2- Great Smokies/Townsend KOA - Townsend, TN
3- Chattahoochee Bend State Park - Newnan, GA

4- Lula Lake Land Trust - Lookout Mountain, GA
5- Stone Mountain Park - Stone Mountain, GA

The weekly "Top 5" is defined by the number of visits for each particular destination page on the PB&J Adventures website. This data does not indicate that these destinations are better than any other, just more searched. Performance data is provided by Google Analytics®.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Week's Top Five Destinations:

 Friday, March 16, 2012
Chattahoochee Bend State Park - Newnan, GA

2- McKinney Camp Ground - Acworth, GA
3- Chester Frost Park - Hixon (Chattanooga), TN

4- Fort Mountain State Park - Chatsworth, GA
5- Great Smokies/Townsend KOA - Townsend, TN

The weekly "Top 5" is defined by the number of visits for each particular destination page on the PB&J Adventures website. This data does not indicate that these destinations are better than any other, just more searched. Performance data is provided by Google Analytics®.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stone Mountain Again -Thank you sir, may I have another?

If you're old enough, you may remember this line from the movie Animal House. During a fraternity hazing, Kevin Bacon's character was forced to say "Thank you sir, may I have another" after each whack of a paddle. In a way, I can relate. We continue to camp at Stone Mountain year after year, and continue to be frustrated at the condition of the campground and the seemingly casual way the "Theme Park" area is run. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with day one of our visit.

Springtime at Stone Mountain can be exceptionally beautiful. The park is covered with flowering trees and shrubs, and the landscape is absolutely beautiful. We had friends coming into town, so we decided Stone Mountain would be a great place to meet them. We planned to camp at Stone Mountain for two nights beginning on Friday.

Rather than fighting Atlanta Traffic on Friday Afternoon, we decided to wait till later in the evening to arrive at the park. We arrived at the
gate and paid our $10 fee to enter the park. This, by the way, a per vehicle fee. If you tow a vehicle, don't drop it outside the park, or you'll have to pay two fees. Yes, $20 just to get to the campground. I knew what to expect when we got to the campground. The office was closed so I proceeded to my site. Unfortunately, the condition was even worse than I remembered, so I pulled into an empty site for the evening with plans to move in the morning. I put out the slides and hooked up power. No electricity! Oh well, no big deal. Homer (our RV) is self contained and everything works without outside electricity (except the microwave and coffee pot).
The next morning I took a walk to find a better site. I observed exactly what I'd seen over the past six years of camping here. A campground with so much potential, the largest in the state, slowly falling apart. To be fair, they have made improvements to a portion of the campground, but for the most part, the sites are poorly maintained, the roads are crumbling, and trash is accumulating. I chose a somewhat level site (probably 5" slope to left and back) adjacent my original selection before heading to the campground office to purchase tickets for the park.

When I visited the campground office, I had no problem changing sites (the
campground was almost completely empty). The lady at the office was very nice and apologetic. I felt sorry for her because I'm sure plenty of first-time visitors come in angry about their site. As I said before, I knew what to expect. While at the office, I purchased six tickets for the park, around $150. It's a little easier to swallow the expense here, because when you purchase tickets at the campground, you receive a second day (to be used any time in the calendar year) for no additional charge. We piled into Homer and headed for the RV parking near the attractions. The plan was to ride the shuttle, but were informed the shuttle only runs when enough people are camping. Of course, the water taxi wasn't running either. This information should be very obvious on their website, and it is not.

The amusement park (I really hesitate to call it that) officially opens at 10:30am
(seasonal) and closes at 5pm (yes, even on the weekend). We arrived at 11am, and were surprised to see that very few of the shops were open (most did open later, seemingly random). The train and Summit Skyride were running, and the miniature golf and Skywalk features were open, but that was about it. We decided to play some miniature golf then ride the Skyride to the top of the mountain to meet-up with our friends. We were excited to see so few people in the Skyride line, thinking it would be a very brief wait. Unfortunately, they seem to have reduced the frequency of runs because of the smaller crowd.
The view from the summit of Stone Mountain is pretty amazing. The Atlanta skyline is pretty amazing from here. You can also see the North Georgia Mountains as well as two nearby rock mounds similar to Stone Mountain. One is Arabia Mountain, and the other is Panola Mountain, a state park. We decided to walk down the mountain instead of riding. The kids ran most of the way. The plan was to catch the park's train back around to the attractions. We stood and waited for the train, which slowly passed us without stopping. We waited for it to come back, but it soon became apparent that the train didn't stop here anymore. Fortunately, there is a shuttle bus that stops at that location periodically.
Back at the attractions, the kids first wanted to go see the animals at the "Plantation." We all love farm animals and especially remembered the goats from previous visits. We weren't disappointed. We spent a lot of time petting the sheep, goats, and pigs, and talking with the ladies that take care of the livestock. After touring several of the old homes and other structures at the plantation, we proceeded to park's 4D theater for a Yogi Bear movie. We all loved it! The kids were also eager to try out the new Sky Hike, a sort of obstacle course on stilts. All four of the children and I decided to give it a try. There is a very similar feature at Dollywood with one exception. Dollywood's "Adventure Mountain" always offers a relatively easy route. I witnessed a pretty small child that got really scared on the third obstacle. He had no choice but to proceed through the entire level. Our kids did just fine, but I was ready to get off before I completed the first level. There are three levels. It's a great feature, but I think some alternative exits should be added.

After a full day at the park, we headed back to the campground. We were so
looking forward to a nice relaxed evening by the campfire with a view of the mountain across the lake. This is what keeps bringing us back, the view. Other than having a hard time keeping the firewood I purchased at the office lit, the evening delivered. It was beautiful. In all, our memories of the day were all positive. We had fun, saw some sights, and got a little exercise. We plan to come back in the near future to use the second day of tickets, and perhaps ride bikes at nearby Panola Mountain State Park. Yes, with all my gripes about the campground and the park in general, we keep coming back for more. So I'll say it again: "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

Note: As critical as I am about the Stone Mountain Campground, I still recommend a visit. Just be aware of the condition of many of the RV sites. I cannot give an opinion on the tent sites, and many of the sites near the office have been redone. If you don't expect too much, you might not be disappointed.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A New Adventure (in our back yard)

An experiment in Micro-Farming - More
A few months ago, Rebecca mentioned that she represented the first generation in her family that didn't learn the old-timey methods of self sufficiency. Ours is the age of convenience. Everything comes from the store processed, pre-packaged, and ready for consumption. Just pop it in the microwave, washer, or whatever electric device fits the need. We take for granted our day to day needs because they are typically right there at our fingertips or just a short drive away. In our travels, we have visited many parks and museums that display and demonstrate the tools of the past, and we're always amazed at how resourceful and creative people can be. These folks knew how to solve problems and prepare for the worse. They raised, preserved, and prepared their own food, made their own clothes, heated their own homes, and taught their children how to do the same. Life was tougher back then, but their skills could sustain them when times were bad. Those skills are important, even (especially) today.

So, we decided to begin the process of learning some of the old-timey skills while applying some of our modern knowledge by building a "Micro-Farm" at our Georgia home. Nothing massive, and nothing too high maintenance (we still want to travel). We are fortunate to live very near to my parents and other family members, so we have some help when we're away. However, I still want to automate things so that feeding and watering tasks will be minimal.

The process of building started well before Christmas. The plan was to make Christmas gifts of some of the animals and supplies. My first step was to convert an old screened-in sandbox into a chicken coop, a fiberglass greenhouse into a goat shelter, and to erect some goat-proof fencing. My experience of raising a goat as a child taught me that goats are brilliant escape artists. That skill, however, is about the only brilliant skill goats have.

Since the addition of four goats, four rabbits, and six chickens, I have made a few fencing adjustments here and there, built a rabbit hutch, built a portable chicken/rabbit run, and built a new goat condo. We are currently looking for more laying hens while building a raised-bed garden area.

This project has resulted in a lot of work, but the benefits are already beginning to become evident. For instance, Lee Thomas, our oldest (12) has created a chore list that assures the animals are fed and watered daily. He did this on his own with little resistance from his siblings. Additionally we are currently harvesting about 3 eggs a day from our four laying hens (the other two are too young), so we need more hens. The children (and Rebecca and I) are learning a lot about animals and responsibility as a result of this experience.

So, there you have it. We are officially a family of "micro-farmers". As I said before, we certainly do not intend to stop our on-road adventures. I am currently designing automatic feeding and watering systems so we can travel with some peace of mind (and remember Paw Paw). I plan to publish periodic updates as the farm evolves, so keep an eye on PB&J Adventures.

Please visit the PB&J Adventures website for more. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

This Week's Top Five Destinations: February 5

Weekly Top 5
Every week, thousands of people visit the PB&J Adventures website. The Weekly Top 5 represents the five most frequently visited destination pages on the website. This week's most popular destinations are:  

Townsend/Great Smokies KOA
   4- Cedar Creek Park
   5- Lula Lake Land Trust

Click the links to learn more about these awesome destinations.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Disney's Fort Wilderness

A Camper's Magic Kingdom
Fort Wilderness, a Disney resort, is located just across the lake from Disney'sSpanish moss abounds at Fort Wilderness Magic Kingdom. A short boat ride delivers you to the park's gate. In fact, from here, you can get to every Disney attraction either by boat or bus. Once you're a guest of the Disney campus, everything gets a lot easier.

First and foremost, Fort Wilderness is truly an RV resort at its finest. The full hookup (incl. cable) campsites are large with lots of tropical vegetation providing considerable privacy. While the quality of the campsites is consistent, their "quietness" can vary considerably (see PB&J Adventure Journal). I must say it's difficult to find a site you to really complain about. On the other hand, until I stay in those sites, I'll never really know. On another note: There seems to be a real "Disney/Mickey Mouse" theme with many of the campers. It's entertaining to ride through the campground looking at the many colorful and flashy decorations, lights, stuffed animals, and so much more. It's borderline magic and tacky, perfect for this north Georgia family.
The amenities at Fort Wilderness are awesome. Virtually every activity in the park has a component for the kids. For instance, the massive pool (featuring a water slide) is the site of many afternoon games designed to keep the kids active and entertained. Other features include bike riding on nice paved roads, off road Segway tours, horseback trail riding, sandy beach, pontoon and speed boat rental, golf carts, bike rental, horse farm, volley ball, tennis, basketball, canoes, golf, and I almost forgot, THE MAGIC KINGDOM!
And that brings me to the local attractions. Well, that's pretty easy. Obviously, the park is made for the Magic Kingdom. Simply hop on the shuttle, golf cart, or bike (no cars and no parking) and head down to the dock for a free ferryboat ride to the park. All the Disney properties (Animal Kingdom, Epcot, etc.) are easily accessible from here. Within half an hour of Fort Wilderness are many of Orlando's other offerings. Universal Studios' parks, including the new Harry Potter portion of Universal's Islands of Adventure are all just a short drive away. Don't forget Sea World, not to mention, all the dozens of other attractions in this family fun capitol. There is no arguing. You'd be hard-pressed to be bored here.
In summary, I'll admit we loved this park. It was great for the kids and grown-ups alike. It was convenient and easy. If you plan to go, I'd suggest taking bikes (with lights), or renting a golf cart (reserve in advance). The buses are very convenient, but frustrating to wait for late at night after watching the fireworks across the lake.

For more pictures and details, including a PB&J Adventure Journal entry on Fort Wilderness, click here.