Journal of the “Taste of Carolina” caravan by Dick Martiny

Judy and Dick Martiny are currently on the Taste of Carolina caravan and Dick is writing a journal. Here are his first two chapters.

“Taste of Carolina” Caravan
Saturday, April 18

We were packed and pulling up the driveway by 8:00 am in 52 F temperatures. Half way to the road, the Smartire pressure alarm indicated we had a tire with below recommended pressure. We returned to the barn and inflated all tires to the recommended levels. By 8:30, we were again on the road and headed north. At Jackson, GA, we refueled at Flying J for 2.109/ gallon diesel.

With a few miles of delay south of Atlanta, we cruised smoothly all day. The sky was clear, the dogwoods were in full bloom and the trees had discovered spring. By 3:30 pm, we arrived at the BMW visitor center in Spartanburg, SC. It is a beautiful facility but closed for visitors on Saturdays and Sundays. At 5:30 pm, we were parked and shopping at the Wal-Mart in Gastonia, NC.

Sunday, April 19

The sun was out as we awoke. We completed breakfast and pulled onto the road by 8:30 am. The traffic was light so we arrived at the rendezvous campground in Asheboro, NC by 10:00 am. We were 2 hours early but the parkers had a site for us. We set up in 15 minutes and joined other campers for church service at the pavilion. After church, we reconnected with the Scudders, the Carligs, David Knight, Tom Cotter, the Blockers and the Yeates. Each caravan has a large number of persons we have travelled with previously. After a short meal and a nap, we drove to Asheboro to pick up items at CVS and locate the NC Zoo Park.

The official opening of the caravan was a dinner of Brunswick stew, hush puppies and peach cobbler. Each unit received their driver’s manual and was introduced. We had two “first-timers” and 18 experienced caravan units. The caravan leaders’ motor home failed enroute and is getting the water pump replaced. The Scudder’s were appointed to provide leadership as necessary while the Kings arrange for the repair of their Isuzu engine.

A hot shower and a glass of wine preceded a good night’s sleep.

Monday, April 20

The Scudder’s picked us up at 9 am for the short drive to Richard Petty’s museum in Randleman. We were given a guided tour of the magnificent facility by a close family friend and admirer. The family values of the four generations of drivers were clearly All-American. Each generation has won major car racing events while contributing to their church and their community. Richard’s 200 victories and community service were highlighted with recognitions from thought leaders from all walks of life. He continues to attend every NASCAR event and purchase the #43 issue of every commemorative rifle made by Remington. His collections are fantastic.

Lunch was at the Blue Mist Restaurant for barbeque or chicken plates with dessert. It was too much good food to consume in one setting and most took some home. The group drove out to Victory Junction. This is a memorial to Richard’s grandson, Adam who died in a race accident at the age of 19. Adam had visited Paul Neuman’s camp for troubled children and returned home to recommend his family create something like that. After his death, his family and their many friends created this amazing camp for children with health problems. It was built and is operated on donations from admirers, businesses, and colleagues. Every part of the facilities paraphrases their race car history, i.e. the cafeteria is the Fuel Stop, the hospital is the Body Shop, etc. 2500 youngsters and their parents are guests each year. Every guest has a personal counselor and team of medical support needed to assure a great experience without unpleasant difficulties. This is a truly remarkable memorial. We were given an escorted tour by an experienced tram operator who has served this cause for several years.

We drove to Bob Timberlake’s Store in Lexington. This remarkable painter also designs home furnishings, and special use canoes and sailboats. We bought a print to celebrate Judy’s 70th. It took a few miles to detour to find the Candy Factory before returning to camp via country roads. Back at camp, we had our first GAM, supper and a meeting to plan the breakfast we will serve on Thursday. Dick had enough free time to repair the igniter problem on our water heater.

Tuesday, April 22

Dave and Kathy Carlig picked us up to go to the Potteries just minutes after the Kings dropped off their cooker, tablecloths, and money for the breakfast on Thursday morning. The road to the Ben Owen’s family pottery was filled with local potteries. Dozens of small pottery businesses are the heritage of the unique clay from this area of North Carolina. Ben gave a demonstration of forming many different size objects while answering our questions about this skill. His facility has eight large kilns to cure his products. The largest vessels were over 3 feet high and packed for shipment to a business office in New York. Much of his six month backlog is commissioned by customers around the world. His education was family taught and reinforced by world travels to the artisans around the world for vacations .The museum on site include works from many artists including his grandfather.

Down the road was the “original” Owens Pottery. We were given additional talks and demonstrations about clays, glazes, and painting of their products. Their objects are more utilitarian than artistic but very nice. They made dinnerware, soup bowls, casseroles, mugs, etc. The economy has hurt their business but they seem to supplement with other interests and staffing reductions. Our lunch was at Woodson Family restaurant in Seagrove where we enjoyed too much BBQ, chicken, vegetables, and homemade desserts. The BBQ was made with vinegar and mustard instead of tomato sauce.

After a long nap, we had GAM #2 at 5 pm at the Hall’s. Judy went to Wal-Mart to purchase ingredients for Thursday’s breakfast with Jo Hobbs. She received a message from her husband enroute that his last Aunt had passed and they will be leaving the caravan for an emergency trip to Arkansas. Tomorrow will be a day of rearranging to provide coverage for this meals preparation and execution. The hot water heater repair continued to function properly.

Taste of Carolina
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cooler weather greeted us. The sun was shining and the forecast was for a high of 70. The igniter on the hot water heater had stopped working but the tank had warm water for the morning needs. After breakfast, we walked to the Hobbs trailer to say goodbyes and offer to provide whatever help they needed for the trailer storage in their absence. They had arranged to leave it on this site for 5 days connected to power (for only $5 per day). The Carligs offered to replace the Hobbs on the breakfast responsibilities. The breakfast will be using Gracie Buchanan’s recipe for omelets in a bag, three fresh fruits, coffee cake, and bread. We set up the pavilion for seating 50 of us with tables for the food serving. We headed to town to buy an additional propane burner. The plan was to provide five pots of boiling water to cook the omelet bags in less than 15 minutes.

Wal-Mart had a good assortment of camping stoves but no turkey cookers. Dick thought a high BTU (10k or bigger) burner would be needed to reheat water after the first use. We discovered Lowe’s had also stopped selling this cookers because of customer complaints after they put partially thawed birds into hot oil. We thought about electric heaters but it would have required 3300 watts or greater. We headed for the NC Aviation Museum while we considered our options. The displays and videos are good but not extensive. The one person in attendance does everything needed to keep the place operating. They were restoring a Rutan Vari-Eze for display next year. All the displayed planes are fully restored. We headed south to see the Pisgah covered bridge. It is parallel to the main road on a walking path with picnic area. The wood structure and bridge supports are picture perfect. Back to Wal-Mart to purchase a 20,000 BTU two burner propane cook stove made in China and selling for less than $30. This completed the hardware preparations and food prep was performed around supper time. 50 bags of ham & cheese omelet, three gallons of pineapple, strawberry and blueberries, two large coffee cakes and two loaves of bread were prepared for the 39 persons coming for breakfast.

We went to bed with the water heater still being fussy. Dick lit it with a propane igniter but it would not provide its own spark.

Thursday, April 23

We awoke at 5:30 am to start heating water for cooking the eggs in a bag for the 41 members of the caravan. Cathy and Dave Carlig and Linda Robinson joined us. We had everyone fed by 8:30 am and it went very well. The site was cleaned and driver’s meeting was conducted quickly. By 10:00 am we are prepared to leave for Dublin, NC. We traveled with Duell and Linda Robinson and David Knight. It was a very pleasant drive with one fuel stop, one ice cream stop, and one historical stop (Lumber Bridge, NC). The local church had been burned by Sherman, restored by local efforts, and alive today. The cemetery had markers dated back to 1780s. The nearest neighbor was building beautiful multiple room bird houses.

We arrived at LuMil Vineyards about 2:30 pm. The vineyard has been built during the past five years to replace the tobacco fields that had existed here for over 50 years. After a nap, we walked to the tasting room and porch for sampling the products. It was fine but will take a great promoter. We enjoyed conversations with the Robinsons and the Peacocks. Dinner was catered in the converted equipment shed and was delicious. Pig pickings, chicken and lots of veggies filled our bodies. The dinner speaker was the owner, Ron Taylor. He was a very engaging, a local politician, and activist for North Carolina agriculture. Judy won a centerpiece (wine bottle holder) door prize. We took an evening walk before bedtime.

Friday, April 24

The Scudders and Yeates were with us for travels today. We started with Harmony House Plantation, a family home during the American Revolution. Though locked up, we could look through windows at furnished rooms in all the buildings. The area included a school, a store, a church, and a one room family cabin. Several men joined us to set up for their Civil War reenactment scheduled for tomorrow.

Our next site was White Lake. We drove the entire shoreline without finding a public access so we went to Elizabethtown and had one on Melvin’s world famous hamburgers. The service was personal, fast, and yielded a tasty meal. After returning to Dublin, we found the peanut store and the strawberry fields before returning to the camp for a GAM with strawberry shortcake for all. We sat on the porch for conversations with the Scudder’s and others. A double decked bus owned by the vineyard took us for an evening tour of their facilities. Ron Taylor narrated the trip with stories about his family, the area and this new business venture.

Saturday, April 25

After cleaning the truck, we picked up the Scudder’s by 8:30 am. The “Storytelling Festival of Carolina” was in Laurinburg, NC 45 miles away. Joe knows the newest roads so we travel under his guidance with help from the Driver’s manual and the GPS. The last two are not as accurate as Joe. The Boy Scouts were parking the festival visitors in a farm field opposite the John Blue House as we arrive at 9:30 am.

The festival had drawn presenters from across the US for 3 days of enjoyable, entertaining, morally correct stories based on some facts with appropriate exaggerations and a few lies. We laughed, we thought, and we laughed some more. The sunny day flashed by with 30 minute breaks between entertainment blocks. Collards, sandwiches, sausages, funnel cakes, kettle corn, and sodas kept us nourished. Mary and Judy took time to tour the John Blue House built in 1890’s by a self taught business man that manufactured agricultural equipment until a fire destroyed their plan in 1945. The 12 room home was furnished with antiques from the turn of the century and decorated with ornate carved woodwork both inside and out. It would be a good visit anytime. The temperatures had dropped into the 70s when we returned to camp for a light supper and a quiet night’s sleep.

Sunday, April 26
We began the day with a sausage biscuit breakfast, specialty breads, jams and grape cider on the porch of LuMil vineyard. It was a lovely, clear morning and the driver’s meeting was short before we moved to Smithfield. We traveled with Joe and Mary and took our time to enjoy the beauty of this countryside. Some of the cornfields had been planted – some tobacco also. The blueberry farms were larger than we expected and the economic impact was significant to this area. For lunch we stopped in Newton Grove for a good Chinese meal, then over to the Dollar Store and Food Lion for a stretch/walk. We still were too early for arrival at the campground so we drove north to the Outlet Mall. Dick purchased a $40 Lodge Logic cast iron grill for placing on his new $30 two burner propane grill. We returned to the KOA campground by 2:45 pm to set up. Dinner was a Blue Moon pig-pickin’ with all the extras – again too much food (except if you wanted some leftovers for your trailer). The Carligs and the Scudders joined us for an animated, noisy game of Mexican Train before we headed for bed.

Taste of Carolina Caravan
Monday, April 27

We chose to drive by ourselves today. We left camp before the others, stopped at a huge antique mall in Selma (the finest collection of consignments we had ever seen), before arriving at the oldest water powered corn grist mill in NC – Atkinson Milling Company has been in business over 250 years. The current owner (with 50 years here) toured us through the numerous transformations he has made to this $8 million dollar sales business. His humble pride and pleasure was obvious. He was transitioning the operations to three sons.

We had lunch at Moore’s Barbeque and ordered off their menu. The frequency of non-barbeque requests indicated many of us have been BBQ saturated. After lunch, we stopped at a new outfitter’s shop north of town to admire another business transitioning out of tobacco dependency. His offerings of automatic and assault weapons would have boiled any liberals that passed through his new store. Our afternoon tour was the Tobacco Farm Life museum exhibits, buildings and videos. It reflected on a life style 50-75 years ago. Enroute home, we again visited the Outlet mall and Judy found a shirt she will enjoy. Back at camp, we had GAM #4 at the Yeates. Eating and talking lasted over two hours. A snack for dinner and we went to the laundry before bedtime. We played checkers while waiting for the washers/dryers. Some things never get too old to enjoy. We slept well.

Tuesday, April 28
We awoke and had a leisurely breakfast before riding with Mary & Joe Scudder to the Bentonville Battlefield. This was the last major confrontation of the Civil War. For three days, the two armies fought before the Confederate Forces withdrew to protect their surviving membership. Both sides had lost large numbers.

We ate at Holt’s Restaurant. Dick’s liver and gizzards with several different dressings was not the only sign of overeating. We wandered through the main business district enjoying nice second hand stores until 2:30 pm – when we are scheduled to tour the Ava Gardner museum. About 2:15 pm a car slowed on the street and the driver waved. It was Carol Montague and her Aunt. What a nice surprise. We committed to reconnecting this evening and tomorrow.

Dinner was a good home prepared pasta salad. Joe Scudder and Judy Hice joined us for a game of Mexican train. Carol and Winston Montague joined us for good fun, great updates, and laughter. We were in bed by 11 pm.

Wednesday, April 29
KOA provided a courtesy breakfast of waffles with the Scudders. Some email and odd jobs filled the hour before departing for Benson and a reconnect with the Montagues and to meet Carol’s mother, Mary Lee.

After a nice visit, we enjoyed getting acquainted with the family including Rusty and Streamer. We followed the Montagues to Raleigh and the Farmer’s market. Great veggies, fruits flowers, bakeries, trees, etc. before a big lunch of seafood. The Carligs, Hices, and Dave Knight had made the same choice for lunch. We left and drove to the fairgrounds to acquaint us with that facility before leaving our rig there as we fly to Minnesota on May 8 for Kaitlin’s confirmation. The ride back to the camp was not smooth as we lost confidence in our GPS and made some bad choices. Several neighbors joined us for a couple hours of small talk, snacks and fun stories before dinner. Fresh veggies and more pasta salad for supper and a listen to the President’s news conference, we are ready for bed at 9:30 pm.

Thursday, April 30

The group breakfast was Texas toast sausage, egg & cheese sandwiches from Hardees. Jamie conducted the driver’s meeting 30 minutes early. We joined the Scudders as parkers at Rocky Hoc. The ride was filled with CB talk about a variety of topics. We stopped for a very good lunch in Windsor. We arrived at the park about 1:45 pm and prepped for the arrival of others by 2:30 pm. About half of the power boxes had been occupied by wasps which were removed quickly. By 3:45 pm, all had arrived and were parked on the same side of the fishing pond. The grass was filled with sandspurs and many were tracked into the trailers.

We rode with Scudders to Nixon’s for supper. It was too much good seafood and crab legs. We returned to the camp, watched the geese come in for supper, and the sun set. Two of the geese couples have about a half dozen goslings.

Friday, May 1

About 8:45 am, we picked up the Scudders. The visitor’s center showed us a movie about Edenton and its historic sites, toured the Iredell House/grounds, and toured the city in a bus/trolley. Like many coastal cities this town was a major harbor for the British before the Revolutionary War. After lunch, we walked the business district and made purchases at the True Value hardware and a consignment shop. The hardware store had everything including fishing equipment, gifts, artwork, jewelry plus all the usual hardware items. The consignment shop was filled with stylish, quality women’s clothes. Joe and Dick were patient.

The town was developing its water front, Mallards, geese, cypress trees and an old lighthouse awaiting restoration filled the park. The lighthouse had been moved to this location in 1955 after serving as a private residence for 30 years. It is the last example of a rectangular frame building built on a screw pile base in the US. A nap refreshed all of us before dinner and musical entertainment at the Red Barn. Dick spent some time trying to understand why the trailer converter only returned the batteries to 12.3 volts but the battery charger raises it to 13.9 volts. The literature says the convert should get to 13.5. The music and dancing at the Barn was good clean fun for families of the area. Most of our group attended – the others seem to be recovering from an assortment of ailments. No swine flu virus here but it fills the air on the evening news reports. We thank our Lord we are not required to inhabit all the areas visited by national news reporters in search of the weird and horrendous events of some lives.

Taste of Carolina Caravan
Saturday, May 2

The Carligs drove the Scudders and us to Hertford and Elizabeth City. The museum in Elizabeth City was very well done. We also went to the Farmer’s Market downtown. The lunch at groupers was very nice. The Chocolate Shop was willing to fill any remaining voids we had. Dick and Mary continued their search for “Oil of Oregano” – a reported herbal cure for arthritis. Two members of this caravan describe friends which left their wheelchairs when they began using this treatment. One might have gained mobility at the price of loss of memory. The local herbal shops don’t have the magic mixture.

The hardware store in Hertford sold glass door knobs until two members of the caravan bought his remaining stock. The drugstore had a soda fountain with scoops of homemade ice cream for $0.60. We had our fill before heading to the Newbold White house but we arrived after closing time. Back at the camp, we had a 20 minute nap before joining the others for going to Church at the local Catholic parish. It was a friendly group with a good Father. Service was conducted in the fellowship hall because a large number of the parishioners needed to avoid the 15 steps up the sanctuary. This is the oldest Catholic congregation in NC still meeting since its construction in 1858. The renovation 25 years ago has given them a very nice place to expand and meet in.

A sandwich for supper was squeezed in before returning to the Red Barn for the Saturday night music. The friendly crowd of last night had returned for both couples and line dancing to music by a trio of local musicians on an assortment of instruments. We drop into bed tired and smiling. We would be even more tired if we knew how to dance.

Sunday, May 3

Joe joined us as we headed for the Alligator River refuge area at the intersection of 64 and 264 to find the red wolves and alligators being protected there. Our critter count didn’t include either. One deer, two quail, a rabbit, and many, many turtles tried to fill the bill. It was an interesting ride through farmland made workable by making channels through the area to drop the water table. We stopped in Engelhard for lunch – a buffet meal with a great assortment of southern favorites, dessert and drink for $10. We ate too much barbeque, chicken, and pot roast with plenty of vegetables and pig pickin’ cake.

On the way home, we toured the Somerset Place Plantation. At its peak it was staffed by 288 slaves on 100,000 acres of land by a forward planning owner who provided secure housing and medical care (including a hospital). The original family occupied the site for only 30 years before the Civil War and fires made the place unlivable. It is now owned and shown by the State Historic Department. The people presenting the facilities are very good.

Dinner was assembled by grilling the four bass Joe had caught yesterday, salads by Judy, Cathy and Mary and wine. The bonfire by the pond had been prepared by Gary Brocker and enjoyed by most of the caravan members. Rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Monday, May 4

We drove to our final campsite after a group continental breakfast of packaged pastries and fresh fruit. The drivers meeting was conducted quickly before our departure.

On our way south, we tried unsuccessfully to find the Dutch flower fields in Terra Ceia and to visit the estuarium in Washington (it was closed). We parked near the river and had a good lunch at a local deli. We arrived at the KOA campsite and got set up before a major rainstorm hit. We called the Watson’s to arrange a visit with them while we are in the New Bern area. At 5:30, we gathered at the pavilion for a Smithfield catered meal of chicken, barbeque, Brunswick stew, and fixings’ before playing Joker with Linda Robinson and Nora Guros. Dick and Linda won all three games. More rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 5

We drove to the Tryon Palace and historic homes before the rain began and continued intermittently all day. The Palace was constructed by the first governor of the British colony of North Carolina as his residence and the meeting place for his cabinet and assembly. It was very well presented. The restoration was completed at a cost of $3MM in 1950’s. The original structures were destroyed by neglect and fire after the Revolutionary War and the site was taken by the state for a highway right of way. Three dedicated wealthy ladies bought it back after the bridge on this highway failed. The original construction was only 3% of the restoration cost. Tom and Ellen Watson met us after lunch. We had several hours to talk over coffee, have ice cream at the Cow’s Café, a visit to their home, and a meal at Captain Ratty’s filled with reminiscing conversations and a visit to the Arts museum being headed up by Jim Bisbee. It was a good afternoon and we appreciated the time they were willing to spend with us.

The rain stopped and we looked forward to better weather tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 6

Joe & Mary took us to Bennett Winery where we listened to the owner, Mr. Harrell, tell us about his way of making wines, growing grapes, the damage Democrats are doing, the economic situation, etc. This 80 year old has strong opinions, a sense of humor, and a struggling winery. For lunch, we traveled to Aurora, home of the PCS Phosphate mining operations. They have sponsored a fossil museum filled with findings from there mining operations. They transport large piles of dregs into town for fossil searches by visitors. Dick found a large sharks tooth. Many small teeth were discovered. The displayed fossils were of many plants and animals. A 20 minute video described how these formations were developed and are mined.

After returning to the campground, we napped, Judy did laundry, updated our caravan journal, joined the group for Pizza and ice cream, and played regular dominos until dark. Better weather is forecast for tomorrow.