Travel days are exhausting. Packing up and leaving takes us about 1-1/2 – 2 hours on average. Then we have to make our way to our destination. Traveling on the road in a huge MH, navigating freeways, highways, truck stops, eating, whatever else comes along is a chore; it's mentally exhausting. I know I don't do the driving, but navigating is a tough job. (Adding a bit of humor!) We drove almost 3-1/2 hours from Charleston SC to Charlotte NC, pulled into our campground (Camping World Racing Resort) checked in at the front office, and proceeded off to park the beast at our assigned site; only to find that another family was occupying our site. Here it is 4 pm, and they haven't left yet. Check-out time is 11:00 am. Why are they still here?
We figured things out; they made a mad exit and told Mark they didn't realize it was their day to leave; how do you not know it's your day to leave?
Julie, the Cruise Director (that's me!), started early trying to get an itinerary ready for the week. I found a few things I thought would interest us, but the rain came in. Yesterday, 3/16, it rained like a Spring Day in Washington. It poured buckets; playing tourist in the rain is not my idea of a fun day.
I found a few interesting places in my research, mainly because they were inside and out of the harsh weather. Mark and I hopped in our silver chariot and headed to downtown Charlotte to hit one of our first stops at 7th street Market - parked the car, and walked a short distance, only to be disappointed in what we saw (more information below).
I researched and found that only about half of travel bloggers travel. How do you blog about traveling and not travel? So please note if you are reading about a favorite destination on my blog, you can rest assured I've been there and give first-hand info and my honest opinion and advice.
Downtown Charlotte -
7th Street Market – It's described as a hot spot to visit, shop, and dine. Well, it's more like a glorified food court with a few Nicky Nack shops that were, for the most part, blasé. There was a little wine shop where you could do wine tasting, but it's not a place you should go out of your way to visit. If you happen to be downtown and very near, you can hop on by to check it out.
Camp North End - started off as a Ford Model T & A factory in the ’20s and in the '40s was expanded to become an Army Quartermaster supply depot. The site consists of 76 acres in the renovation phase located just outside of downtown Charlotte. There are a few shops that are up and running and some cute outside eateries that look very inviting. However, it's still very much in the construction and expansion phase. . But I will say, when it is completed, it's going to be EPIC! It truly is my kind of place, very eclectic, upscale, retro-type feel.
Levine Museum of the New South -This was something we decided to visit on an overcast day. It was fascinating walking through and reading about the history of Charlotte. It focused on how people's lives in this area changed after the Civil War. They talk about everything from the Ku Klux Klan to picking cotton in the fields.
It was all fascinating. However, there was a piece that stood out. They had a chair where you could film yourself talking about your viewpoints on how life has changed for you since the Civil War and the civil rights movement.
Sharing about how your life has been affected, and how you felt overall. It was just fascinating listening to others talk about their life now. One young gentleman (born and raised in Birmingham, AL) described feeling "hopeful." I would have to agree with him. I think we have come a long way but still have a ways to go. When I looked at some of the pictures, it was heartbreaking.
Sleepy Poet Stuff – A big antique store filled with nothing but fantastic items that I wanted to buy and knew that I couldn't. We saw everything from furniture to clothing. I found a dress screaming my name but didn't buy it because I didn't have any boots to go with it. We walked out with a small wine "plaque" that we would hang in the motorhome somewhere.
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Since our campground was just across the street, we took a tour. They have it set up because of Covid, that you drive your own car on the tour and tune into FM radio frequency to listen to the tour guide who is leading the procession of vehicles in their van around the track and facilities. She narrated over the radio, we got to drive on the track including the high banked turns at a couple of places; we were able to get out a few times, snap some pictures and hear about all the wonderful things that go on during a race event. I'm not a big NASCAR fan, but this was interesting. The one thing that stood out to me was not the cars and the track itself. It was the condominiums that you could buy inside the racetrack. That blew me away; you'd have to be an enormous car enthusiast to understand.
We packed up and moved on to our new destination on March 22nd and stayed at a KOA (Asheville East KOA) campground just outside of Asheville in a town called Swannanoa. A beautiful river flowed through the campground and a small lake (small in size) that was not far either. While there, we visited a few sites and took in the history of the Asheville area.
Blue Ridge Parkway – We took off on a Saturday. We drove part of this incredible scenic drive leaving Asheville and spending about 2 hours going through the Pisgah Forest, stopping at overlooks, snapping pictures, and helping other tourists that were breaking down on the side of the road.
Trolley Tour through Asheville – As you know by now, doing these trolley tours is part of our list of “To Do” at most large city stops. It allows us to see so much and hear the history. We try to take advantage of them as much as possible. We didn't realize that this city was so full of history. They have some fantastic hotels located in this city. The Rivers Arts District is just full of little shops where you can stroll through a look at all of the artwork that many local artists have done, and it also offers a few restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops.
Sylva, NC – We drove here one day to meet up and have lunch with our friends Ann and Rick, who we met while staying in Port Aransas, TX. They are from Washington (Spokane) and have become very dear friends of ours. We found out they were camping not far from us.
We met up for the day, had some pizza, and visited a site not far from the restaurant where a scene in The Fugitive was filmed. ( The freight train smashed into fugitive Richard Kimble's transport bus, and the carnage left over from the collision can be found here.) We enjoyed our stay in Swannanoa, but the show must go on.
Sunday, March 27th, we packed up and headed to a remote campground near Marion, NC called Mountain Stream RV Park. Once we made our way up the curvy windy road, we fell in love with this campground. We were very remote, and had a stream running through the back of our site and our own little private deck, with sunny, cool days. We loved every minute of it and wished we could have spent more time here on much warmer days.
While staying here, we got very close to nature and did some hikes, and visited a State Park. The days were mostly sunny, but it was very cool. The temperatures were down in the low 30's most nights and got up into the mid-60s during the day. We just dressed appropriately and went exploring.
Chimney Rock State Park – Chimney Rock is a 535 million-year-old towering monolith and has been an iconic focal point in the Western North Carolina mountains for well over a century. You will see panoramic 75 mile vies of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure when you get to the top. Dogs are welcomed but will have to hike up the stairs and are not allowed on the elevator or left in your car.
Once we were done scoping out the views and snapping a few pictures, we went down to the town of Chimney Rock, NC, and had lunch at a little restaurant called Old Rock Café. We sat outside and enjoyed the view of the river (Broad River) and snapped a few pictures too. I highly recommend a great place to grab a sandwich or a burger and enjoy the scenery.
We took a few hikes while staying at Mountain Stream, enjoying the beautiful terrain, landscape, and breathtaking waterfalls.
Grassy Creek Falls – It was near Little Switzerland. We parked our car, took off on a nice well-routed path, and led us directly there. Once we got down there, we snapped pictures, enjoyed the views, and hiked back.
Crabtree Falls – This hike was a bit more strenuous as we did have a nice path initially, but it became more adventurous and challenging as the trail went on. We hiked over some running creeks, which made the rock a bit slippery but nothing we couldn't manage. The round trip was about 3 miles, and once we arrived at the waterfall, it was stunning. I give this hike 5-stars.
We enjoyed our time in North Carolina immensely. However, all good things must come to an end. We woke up on Friday, April 1st, packed up, and headed north to Tennessee. This travel day was going to be pretty long as we had about 4 hours on the road ahead of us, but we knew once we made it north, we would be embarking on new adventures meeting up with old friends, seeing family, and exploring new places.
North Carolina is not a place I hear people talk about a lot when planning vacations. I will say it's a diamond in the rough. There is so much to see and explore. If you have never been, I recommend you put this state on our bucket list.