Sunday, 29 October 2017

Land Cruising, Chevrolet Truck Style

For us Aussies, cruising in the USA is all about the timing - timing to avoid tropical storms and timing to work within the limited 6 month visa that most of us have.  In our case, our visa "window" started when we arrived in Puerto Rico back in May, so we have to leave the country before November. The result is that Crystal Blues is resting securely on her own in Reedville, Virginia, while we have headed off on a cross country land cruise with a flight back to Australia thrown in for good measure - there is no rest for the wicked. We'll be camping in the back of the truck for the next 10 days, have tent, air mattress, camp stove and pepper spray for the bears. What could possibly go wrong!

We drove out of the northern neck of Virginia just three weeks ago, heading west into the Blue Ridge Mountains. By nightfall that first day we had gained a lot of altitude and adopted a new weather paradigm - fog, cold and torrential rain. We woke next morning to a flooded tent, with our air bed almost floating inside the tent. Ok, so we were still learning how to setup the camping rig.

After drying out (we found a coin laundry at the next town) we traveled about 450 miles southward on the Blue Ridge Parkway over 5 days, reaching the Smokey Mountains, camping each night in Park Service camp sites, mesmerised by the staggering colors of fall in this part of the world. Then, crossing into the Carolinas, we climbed and climbed to the highest point in the eastern USA, before entering western Georgia as we continued south through spectacular country.

 Eventually we had to leave the mountains and turn westwards, reaching Chattanooga late one evening and finding ourselves in a dusty and over-rated commercial camp ground where everyone pretended to be in the wilds. Geez, what a joke. Next day we barrelled on westward on the (excellent) interstate highways, arriving in our treasured target of Nashville, Tennessee, primed for country music and good times.

Thank you Nashville! Those good times sure happened, and our camp site was struck somewhat more slowly the next morning ... however Memphis beckoned, and we drove on westward to a delightful camp in a state park on the edge of downtown Memphis, home of the Blues. That night, Beale Street in Memphis surely had the Blues, however we felt the downtown area was still struggling to revive itself from the racial and social traumas of the past, and the Beale Street experience felt somewhat contrived. We should have stayed in Nashville a little longer!

Tent Time In Arkansas
Next day we continued westward, heading for Texas, eventually crossing the state line into Arkansas and finding another friendly (if crowded and dusty) commercial camp site just outside the city of Little Rock. Overall we found the government (national park) camp sites o be the most attractive and relaxing, though the commercial sites usually had the best wash facilities.

This turned out to be our last camp site on the journey westward, as we bumped the throttle down and cruised a comfortable 300 miles into Dallas Texas just 24 hours later. In Dallas we focused on Mexican food and good old retail therapy, visiting way too many outlet malls and giving our credit cards a fright.

Just Layin' On Arkansas Grass
We'd covered about 1500 miles in our super Chevy Avalanche, spending just under US$500 on gasoline, which was no surprise - 500 cubic inches of V8 engine drinks heavily. Average fuel economy was around 18 miles to the gallon on the highway, way less of course in the mountains.

Later this week we'll reverse the whole experience, landing back in Dallas and heading north east to Virginia in the Chevy, hopefully on a different route. So more camping fun awaits. 

Many thanks are due to our friends in the USA - Amy & Arthur Hoag for making the truck available, and to Walt Keith and Mary Frazer for providing the safe berth for Crystal Blues.

In Dem Old Cotton Fields .....

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