It stopped raining almost exactly 24 hours after it started. Not nancy-boy rain but proper Hillbilly rain, the kind of rain that would chew tobacco given half a chance. The auxiliary batteries were continuing to give us problems and I had to start the engine to provide the power to start the generator to provide the power to recharge the batteries.
After showering and breakfast in a nice warm RV we decided to go for a bike ride in to the town of Cherokee a downhill bike ride of about 4½ miles, and situated on the edge of the Cherokee reservation. After unfolding and preparing the bikes we put my small backpack in the rear basket to hold the waterproofs etc. Although it wasn’t raining the air was still very damp and so we’d decided to wear the waterproofs, removing them as and when the promised sunshine appeared. Enroute to Cherokee we stopped off to take a look at Mingus Mill, one of only two working water-powered mills in the National Park. It was in a picturesque setting and was open to the public complete with a miller grinding corn in to flour. After taking a few pictures we continued on downhill, spooking the poor motorists coming up behind us. Although we always travel single file and close to the edge of the road they really don’t like passing cyclists unless they can do so with lots of clearance.
One of the first things we saw on our arrival in Cherokee was an Indian chief sat by the roadside in full headgear inviting photographs to be taken with him for tips. This set the tone; it was just another Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, selling tacky souvenirs and minor amusements. There was a Christmas Shop which I wanted to have a look in. Back in 2000 I’d thoroughly enjoyed a look around the one in Boston, Massachusetts; sadly this one was nothing like the same. When I came out I noticed on the porch a nice bench to sit on. Whilst we’d been inside the sun had broken through and it was now glorious sunshine, I sat down and removed my waterproof leggings. After stuffing everything away in the backpack we decided to go for a coffee before making our way back. Two pastries and coffees for a reasonable $6 or so, gave us a chance to sit down and contemplate the return 4½ mile bike ride UPHILL.
On leaving the café Rosina asked about the camera, and unfortunately I didn’t have it with me. She knew exactly where I’d last had it – next to me on the bench whilst removing my leggings, so back to the shop we went but no result, nobody had handed it in. This was both disappointing and annoying, it was the second compact camera we’d lost the use of on this trip the first due to a malfunction. I don’t intend to replace this one, we have the digital SLR and that will have to do. We’ll be passing through Cherokee with the RV on Monday morning when we leave town and will enquire in a few places on the way through to see if it’s been handed in. The annoying thing is that without the correct cable to download the images from the camera it is of no use to anybody else, never mind, lesson learned, I’ve been used to the unwritten campground code of conduct where nobody touches anything belonging to anybody else, and forgot that code doesn’t necessarily apply outside of campgrounds.
We did quite well on our return bike ride, low gears all the way stopping off to look around a reconstructed Mountain Farm complete with all the different kinds of buildings, tools and crops they’d have had in those days. When we got back to the RV we had a well deserved sit down before I took myself off in search of some more firewood. It had broken my heart to pay $9 for three bundles when I’m in a forest, but unfortunately all the suitable wood on the campground had long been burned by previous campers. I rode the bike to the start of the trail, which if I was successful would shorten the distance I would have to carry a log on my shoulders on the return trip. I walked and walked, these logs were clearly far deeper in to the forest than I remembered. I was tempted to just give up, but having come so far I had to be getting close to them. Eventually I came across a few I remembered seeing, they were very heavy but I managed to get one up on to my shoulder and then set off back to the campground. I had to rest periodically as the weight on my shoulder was very uncomfortable even with a tea towel for padding.
On arrival back at the RV I dumped the log next to the fire pit which landed with a heavy thud and then turned my attention to the auxiliary batteries. These had never been right, they’d given us problems at Bryce Canyon on the first trip, and again soon after setting out on the second. I had asked (and paid) for the batteries to be checked at the start of this trip, certainly the contacts had all been cleaned up but the fluid levels hadn’t been and the reason I knew that was because the two batteries are stored in a compartment underneath the entry door step and are held in place by a broad steel bar passing over both batteries and bolted down by three long bolts. The broad piece of steel is so broad it covers up the inspection covers for checking the battery fluid levels and the three bolts are completely rusted and so cannot be undone to remove the steel bar to check the fluid.
These poor batteries cannot have been looked at since the day they were installed on the production line. I have tried to free things up with WD40 with no success, so now it’s 'Harry the Hacksaw' time, the same hacksaw I used to hack to pieces the awning which ripped itself from the side of the vehicle on the Monterey Peninsula, south of San Francisco, back on the first trip. Tomorrow I will attempt to remove the bar and check the fluid levels. If the batteries are dry then all I have for fluid is cooled boiled bottled drinking water, but hopefully that will do the trick.
Once I’d got the battery box cover back on I put a couple of strips of Baco-foil on the bottom of the Fire Pit/Grill as the dirt and ash in the bottom of it was very wet and would have created lots of smoke. With the foil base down in went some of the ‘tourist’ logs, the newly acquired 3½ft log from deep in the forest and the remnants of the log which failed to completely burn a couple of nights ago. Once it all got hold it made a lovely campfire keeping us warm until well after dark. Our evening meal was mashed potatoes and a tin of stew which we’d been carrying around with us as a standby, though given the amount of meat it contained was almost a vegetarian meal; never mind it filled a gap and was made more bearable by lashings of wine.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Smokemont Campground, 60 Enloe Floyd Bottoms Road, Cherokee, NC 28719.