After saying our good-bye's to friends in NC, we headed south through SC for a quick stop on Lake Hartwell, a Corp of Engineers lake that straddles the SC and GA border, off I-85. We have stayed in a couple COE parks, on Lake Lanier, when we lived in GA, and most recently the COE park on Table Rock lake in Branson, MO. As with the other parks, Twin Lakes campground did not disappoint. All of the sites have at least lake views and our site was lakefront. Gorgeous views of the lake and the occasional boater.
Since we were only staying two nights, we decided to see what as much as we could see of the area and headed in to the little town of Pendleton, SC. We stumbled upon their local library which had some interesting ruins on its property, so we stopped to investigate. They were the ruins of Tanglewood Mansion, that not only burnt down to the ground, once, but twice. It was an interesting mansion with the exposed lower level in back with the fireplace running all three floors.
After driving around seeing more of Lake Hartwell and of Clemson University, which owns just about everything in and around Clemson and Pendleton, we decided we needed some lunch and what better place than Rick's Pizza Pub. Located in an old bank, this was some amazing wood fired pizza! We had a veggie white pizza and it was soo good, there was no time to get a picture.
We then headed over to view another mansion, the Woodburn Plantation, which was closed.
Driving out of the plantation drive, we stumbled upon a little agricultural museum, so we stopped to investigate. The Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina is an amazing place, staffed by volunteers who are all too happy to share the history of farming life in the south. This is a hands on museum that depicts the history of cotton and tobacco farming as well as offering live animals, vintage farming equipment and even a period schoolhouse. Admission is free but a small donation is suggested. What a great find! Unfortunately we were soo busy learning that we forgot to take many pictures. Seems to be a theme that day.
We ended the day with a walk around the campground. Even though it was the end of November and there was a nip in the air and only in the high 40's, there were still several campers there, enjoying the beautiful area. This is one of the only campgrounds open year round and they close all but one loop. I can only imagine how busy this place is during the warmer months.
From here we move onto GA for a couple stops, including Gainesville, GA where we lived for 10 years.
If the website looks a little strange, bear with me, I tried to make some updates and of course screwed up other things. Uggghh, still learning!
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We arrived at Mill Creek Campground Monday around 2pm to find our mini-reunion group had just pulled in as well. Mill Creek is a wonderful Corp of Engineers park on Table Rock Lake near Branson, MO. We had planned this trip with friends way back last year and booked our sites just as the window opened to make sure we had sites together. Little did we know, we booked the most coveted sites in the park out at the end of the peninsula. We were surrounded by water on 3 sides and had great views of the lake activity.
The sunsets were also pretty amazing and each evening offered a different palate to photograph.
This park is was quiet and well kept. Bathrooms and showers were always clean and the sites were well cared for. We even spent some time talking to the hosts and restroom attendants about bidding for COE positions. They were a wealth of knowledge and we feel more confident on accurately bidding on those in the future. One thing we did not like however is that they said the park here requires a three year commitment. At this time, that is not something we are looking to commit to as we want to get out and travel. We know many other COE parks do not require this long of a committment so a COE workcamping position is not out of the question.
We spent alot of time relaxing with friends enjoying the view. We did not have set agendas and had a very relaxed timeline. Our boys took their first road trip and came down Thursday evening to Tuesday morning. It was great to have them join us and the group was happy to see them again. The main focus of this visit was a mini-reunion of sorts for Rick and his Army buddies, Kirk and Bill. They were stationed together in West Germany (Fulda, Germany) in the mid 80's as part of the 11th Armored Calvary, "The Guardians of the Frontiers of Freedom". This was the time just prior to the wall coming down between East and West Germany. Every year their entire unit has a reunion in June and we have attended many in the past years. This year the reunion was in Boston, and unfortunately our travels and timeline would not lend to us being out east so we decided to plan a mini-reunion in a central location for the small group. Bill and Denise hailing from Texas, Kirk & Betsy from Northern Missouri and us from Wisconsin, Kirk and Betsy scouted locations and found this gem of a park in southern MO near Branson. We hoped to have a couple other troopers join us but plans did not line up. Hopefully we will see them next year at the reunion in Las Vegas. As you can see by the pictures, good times were had by all and some of the ol' libations from the years in Germany flowed freely.
Outside of relaxing and reminiscing, we did plan a couple excursions. Some successful, some not. On Wednesday we ventured to Top of the Rock Ozark Heritage Preserve. This is an amazing location perched above Table Rock Lake. It was developed by Bass Pro Shops Johnny Moris and has an Arnold Palmer golf course and driving range, a golf cart tour of the area and caves, a Ozarks Natural History museum, as well as Big Cedar Lodge and amazing restaurants and shops. We took the Cave and Nature Trail golf cart tour and were able to get a military discount. They do charge $10 for parking but you can then use the $10 coupon they give you to apply it to any purchase, including the golf cart tour. They offer 2 and 4 seat golf carts , so our group of 6 took one of each. The views were amazing and the property was a very natural, but beautifully manicured setting. The bridges were Amish built and it looked as if they were going to be building another one over a ravine. This was a self guided tour and you could take as long as you wanted and had plenty of pull off parking spots to take in the scenery. Several of the waterfalls pooled and flowed over the golf cart path, making it more adventurous but never compromising safety. The paths were paved and roped to ensure there was no off-roading, much to the chagrin of the guys. The tour also had a cave that you drove through and had a drive up "Bat Bar" that served beverages. Of course, we couldn't pass that up!
After the tour, we took the shuttle to the other end of the preserve to see the golf course, restaurants, shops and sink hole. Yep, you read that right, they discovered a sink hole in 2015 after some heavy rains, right next to the driving range. The Cathedral of Nature sink hole started out as 70 feet wide and 40 feet deep and is now 350 wide and 200 feet deep. There is some great footage here and more information on the journey of this amazing discovery. There is also a beautiful chapel, perched on a cliff, overlooking the lake that no doubt hosts amazing weddings. The entire property is amazing, thoughtfully done and a beautiful tribute to the area and its ancestors. We loved it soo much that we went back on Friday with the boys and took the nature trail tour again and also went thru the natural history museum. We were all amazed at the extensive collection amassed in this one location and how well the history of the Ozarks was told throughout.
Thursday, before the boys arrived, we went out to check out one of the oldest icons in Branson, Dick's 5 and 10 in downtown Branson. It reminded us of the old Woolworth's, minus a malt & ice cream counter. They had everything in there and more. After everyone purchased their mementos, we headed over to The Farmhouse restaurant for some good ole home cooking.
On Sunday, the group decided to head up to Springfield to check out the worlds largest Bass Pro Shop, Museum and Aquarium. Since I was a bit under the weather, I stayed back to keep an eye on the homestead. Everyone had a great time and there was soo much to see. It was a day of lots of walking and seeing some amazing things. Here is just a few of the pictures from the museum and aquarium.
Since the boys and Denise and Bill were heading out Tuesday morning, we decided to do a jet boat ride in Branson on Monday. Since none of us were really fond of doing the Branson strip and battling the crowds and traffic, we were excited to see that the jet boat took off from Branson Landing, which is on the "quieter" side of Branson or what they also call Old Branson. I had called ahead to make sure they had room for us and was assured there was plenty of seats on the 4:45pm ride and to come on down. Well due to the curvy roads and traffic, that is a 30 to 40 minute journey. Once there, I called again to confirm their kiosk location as Branson Landing is an open air shopping and dining district. They gave us directions and again, said to come on down. Once we got to the kiosk, we were told that they cancelled the 4:45pm ride as they did not have enough people to go out and the next ride would be the following day. It seems they need at least 20 people and we only had 8. Interestingly enough though, several other groups came and inquired as well and were told the same thing. Doing the simple math, with those other inquiries we probably would have had enough people. We figured they really just did not want to go out again and turned everyone away. WOW, that was a disappointment! Not wanting it to be a wasted trip, we decided to drown our sorrows in some chocolate and ice cream! We then went back to the campground and enjoyed a wonderful steak and corn dinner and then smore's later around the fire. To cap off a wonderful evening, we were treated to fireworks across the the lake at a local resort.
Tuesday was an early morning with a 6am departure for the boys and a 9:30 departure for Denise and Bill. They each have a long way to travel and the boys are doing another one day roadtrip back home to WI, which takes about 10-11 hours. They took a different route back to see some new scenery and avoid St Louis. Can't wait to hear about their adventures when they get home.
As for the rest of our time here, we will be doing some more serious R&R! Tuesday afternoon we are going to a local farmers market and then a quiet dinner back at the campground. Wednesday we will be doing some laundry and other household chores to ready for our trip to St. Louis to visit with family.
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This story started several years ago with an idea of taking our camping experience to the next level...full time RV'ing. Rick and I have always liked camping and everything about it. The planning and preparation, the journey to the campsite, set up and ultimately camping itself. We both did some form of camping/up north WI relaxing when we were younger. Then we started tent camping together in Georgia with the boys when they were very young. We loved the state parks and the COE campgrounds around Lake Lanier.
Once we moved back to WI in 2008, we bought Rick's sisters expandable camper and began camping all over WI. The entire family really liked the experience so we decided to explore National parks and set our sites on Yellowstone with side trips to Custer State park, Badlands and the Grand Tetons. One small detail though, in order to camp in Yellowstone, campers needed to be hard sided. So the decision was made to upgrade to a 2011 Keystone Outback.
We made many happy memories camping in our Outback through the years around WI, the MI UP and IN. Each time sad for it to come to an end, but already planning the next journey.
Fast forward to 2013 when discussions started to take shape around full timing. Soo many unanswered questions...can we afford it, will we like it, do we sell the house, what about the boys, how do we get mail, what do we do for health insurance, will we get the Packer games on TV (you know, the important stuff!)? Over the next couple years we would spend alot of time researching, following full timer blogs and learning everything we could about the full time life. The more we learned, the more we liked.
This brings us to late 2016 when everything really started to take shape.
Stay tuned to find out about finding the answers to MOST of our questions about the full time lifestyle.
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