Author: Erika Martin

Road trip 2018

Day 2 – Tennessee (Part 2)

After we left Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, we headed 56 miles northwest to just north of Chattanooga, to a KOA campground in MacDonald, Tennessee. The route that we took was so gorgeous. It took us along the Ocoee River and Lake Ocoee. Lots of windy roads, but it was literally along the river and lake shore. Zach and I talked about all the people white water rafting and how we would be afraid to do it. We’ve decided that sometime in the near future, we’re going to make a trip back and we’re both going to face our fears together and get on one of those rafts and go over the waterfall and down the rapids together.

My original plan was to stay another night in Georgia but pretty much every campground that allowed tents was south of where we were and it didn’t make any sense to head south for the night when we’d be packing up the tent in the morning to head north, so we just decided instead to go north and set up camp for three days instead of two. It was a good choice. Usually I’d rather stay somewhere primitive than a crowded KOA, but this one is really nice and has a cute little “tent village” off in a grove and you pick the spot you like. There was no one else tenting so we got dibs on wherever we wanted to be. It wasn’t packed up against someone else, and far enough away from everyone else instead of right up against other campers or RVs like I’ve been used to in the past with KOAs.

Zach wanted somewhere with a pool, but I really don’t think we’ll be making much use of it, as the forecast isn’t that awesome for the three days we’re here. In fact, we were able to set up camp and make dinner and then the thunder started clapping. We brought our dinner up to the pavilion at the entrance to the campground so that we had shelter and Zach could watch the storm roll in. It POURED and lightning must have struck close because as soon as it hit, the thunder was right behind it, so loud that it hurt our ears.

It rained steady all through the night so we hung out in the tent and chilled out. Zach watched plane and train YouTube videos, which makes me so thankful that I can hot spot my phone and be able to use  our laptops on this trip. The rain lightened up for a little while and he caught 8 fireflies in the woods behind our tent. According to Zach, “Fireflies are amazing insects. They glow in the dark!” I told him that glow worms do, but he quickly dropped some knowledge on me and informed me that “Glow worms are firefly larvae, so it’s the same insect.” He planned ahead and also brought some glow sticks with him. He said he loves the variety of colors. He humored me and put them in rainbow order because he knows that’s how I like things.

While we were in McCaysville, GA during the earlier part of the day, we stopped into a lounge, thinking they had lunch. I asked the bartender if they served food and he said, “Nope, only beer.” Zach insisted that we needed to stay just a little bit longer so he could look around. He said, “It’s not too modern in here, which is how I like it. It’s like it’s the 1960s or 70s.” The bartender looked a bit confused.

And on the way to the campground, as we saw the storm system moving in, he proclaimed, “I am going to give the storm a middle finger if it doesn’t obey me and give me lots of lightning.”

I’m happy to report that he didn’t have to give it the middle finger after all.

Road trip 2018

Day 2 – Georgia (Part 1)

We split up Day 2 between Georgia and Tennessee. Because we got a late start on Day 1, we weren’t able to walk the 3000 steps down into Tallulah Gorge. I have to stay on track with our travels since everything is planned down to the day to make sure that we return home on August 5th, as school starts the next day. Instead, we drove to the lookout point so that we could see down into the gorge, as that was better than nothing. One of these days, we’ll make a special trip back to camp out at the state park and do the gorge steps.


I never think that I have a fear of heights until I’m presented with my kids going to the edge of a cliff. But it appears that Zach also has a healthy fear of heights. He used to have no fear at all and that used to scare the crap out of me when he was younger. Perhaps it’s more caution than fear as he gets older.


He looked down into the gorge and started giggling and I asked what was so funny. He said he was imagining running and jumping off the edge and seeing how far down he could make it before he landed on an outcropping. Fortunately, he had no plans of that. He said, “I was just using my imagination.” Way to stop your mom’s heart, kid.

From Tullulah Falls, we headed 70 miles west to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Blue Ridge, GA. I did a lot of homework while I was putting this trip together months ago. I wanted to build this trip around Zach’s interests and one of his biggest interests is trains. His other interests are crickets, lightning and thunder. I can’t really do much about those last three as those are left to chance and nature, but trains are something I can do something about. I used the trusty Google machine to look up train rides and built them as much into the trip as I could. The southeast is full of train history as the rails were a huge part of industry and trade. There’s still a lot of train traffic when it comes to hauling goods across the country, but there’s also a lot of tracks that were abandoned when the trucking industry came along or certain industries died out. Those tracks are now in use by scenic railways and the public can get a taste of the gorgeous countryside.

We enjoyed a one hour train ride along the Toccoa River (which is the Trout capital of the world) and saw lots of fly fishermen out in the river. We stopped at the little town of McCaysville, GA and had lunch in a delicious little deli, Katz’s New York Deli, where the peanut butter fudge cupcakes were amazing and Zach got his grill cheese with ketchup….because grilled cheese is LIFE!

While in McCaysville, we walked to the Tennessee border, which is right at the Pearly Gates cafe. It’s such an odd border between the states. It goes diagonally across the town. One part of the parking lot at the IGA is GA and the other in TN. One of the stores in town operates in both states because of where the state line goes. When the train stopped at the drop off point, the front part of the train was in TN, the back half was in GA.

While we rode the train along the river, Zach picked out the four notes in the train horn and sounded them back to me. It amazes me that he can pick out the individual notes, even when they’re all blended together. We talked about his favorite sounds on the train….the click clacking of the wheels against the tracks and the squealing of the wheels against the steel.


One of the best parts of the day yesterday was just after leaving River Campground near Tallulah Falls. First off, the owners are amazing. It’s a gorgeous little campground with a very rustic feel. We got a primitive site in a little clearing, right near the creek. The owners inherited the business from her father who passed away a few years ago. It sat dormant for a while, but they brought it back to life and it’s incredibly charming. There’s tent sites, RV sites, and covered tent sites. The owners, Tim and Melissa, are some of the kindest and caring folks I’ve met. Tim met us at the entrance when we checked in late to guide us to our site and Melissa checked in with me by phone a bit later to make sure we were settled. When Zach and I went to the bathhouse later to get ready for bed, we met Melissa and her daughter and she was just as charming in person as she was on the phone. We had a great talk about our road trip plans and as we were talking, Zach walked around the front of her van and then came back to us. He said to her, “Hey, I saw that you have a big plastic jar with pretzels in it. That would make a great bug habitat. Can I have it when you’re done with it, please?” I laughed and told him that we were leaving the next morning and he should probably not be looking into other people’s vehicles.

Melissa laughed it off and said that it’s refreshing to meet someone that was so honest and open and that he was so polite about how he asked. We finished our conversation and I got into my car to drive us back to our site and just as I went to back up, she stopped in front of my car. I wondered what she was doing….and then about 30 seconds later, she came to my door, handed us the big plastic jar and said, “I want Zach to have this. And he can have the pretzels, too! He’s right, it would make a great bug jar!” As we drove back, he said, “This is the best bug jar ever! She was so nice!” As much as it’s refreshing to Melissa to meet someone as open and honest as Zach, it’s just as refreshing to us to meet someone so genuine and friendly as Melissa….and as giving to someone she’s just met. If you’re ever going through northern Georgia and need a place to camp that is chill and relaxing, I highly recommend River Campground.

So, back to the thing that made my morning as we left the campground….Zach started planning out the 50th Anniversary Party of Missing the Year 2012. He talks all the time about how 2012 was his best year for his mind and body and how he wishes he could go back to that. I need to make it to 86 years old so I don’t miss this party because it sounds like it’s going to be LEGIT!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Day 2 – Tennessee!


Road trip 2018

Packing for a 31 day road trip

A friend asked me how I planned for packing and to be honest, packing for 31 days on the road seemed a little daunting at first, but I literally only packed everything the night before. I had it planned in my head as to what I needed, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so the day before, I went through my mental list and just started packing. My boyfriend installed a roof rack on my car so that we could put the car carrier on top for long term storage of extra clothes, some food stuffs, and essentials. Everything else got put in the back seat and “trunk” of my Kia Soul. These little cars are like a clown car. It’s amazing what you can fit inside, but that car carrier was the best thing I ever did to this little work horse! I fit our clothes into two bags each and then made a “3 day bag” of clothes that we could take into our tent or a house (when we stay with friends) rather than lugging everything we own with us (my mom’s genius idea from her own road trip that she’s currently on). Toiletries got put into one bag, and our valuables got put into a backpack.

All of our camping gear and camp stove that we need every night got put into the “trunk” of the car so that I can easily store it and have easy access to set up when we make camp. The cooler is in the middle of the back seat so it’s convenient to reach into when we want something to eat while on the road. We put two cases of water on the floor of the back seat, as well as a couple bags of snacks. The rest of our blankets, pillows, overnight bag, etc. got put on the seats around the cooler. It’s a tight fit, but there’s still room for me to be able to see out the back window and the side windows so nothing is obstructing my view while driving.

We’re day 2 into our trip and it seems to be working well.

Road trip 2018

Zach and Erika’s Epic 30 Day Road Trip Adventure Begins

This trip started months ago in our minds. Zach and I talked about taking a road trip to Vermont and so we planned to put a couple weeks aside to travel up the east coast and take in some sights and adventures that we had never done before. But then, Zach said he wanted to go to Nova Scotia again, like his father and I had done with he and his sister (Elise) when they were little. I have been wanting to get back to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island for years, so I told Zach that if we were to add those, we’d need to add another two weeks to the trip. So, a 2 week trip became a one month trip. 31 days, from Georgia to Prince Edward Island, Canada and back.

The thought of 31 days on the road was a little much for Zach to take in at first, but the more I told him about all the awesome things I had planned for him that centered around his interests, the more he got on board with the idea. It took me two full days to put together our itinerary….about 10 hours total of mapping. My Google Drive is my best friend and our Road Trip File has 12 folders in it, day by day, state by state, mapping out each state and province that we are stopping in, what we are doing when we get there, where we’re staying, approximate costs, etc. To say that I’m organized is an understatement, but I had a goal. Our goal was to see the fireworks over the Savannah River for our first 4th of July in Georgia, and to make it back the day before school starts. So, that put us leaving on July 5th and returning August 5th. I had to be precise in every single plan. We are now one day in and we we left about 5 hours later than planned (you know how that goes), so we missed out on our first sight seeing of the trip, but that’s just one of the breaks of trying to stay on track. I’m the only driver…it’s just me and Zach….so onward we go.

We started out from the Savannah area around 2 pm yesterday and drove northwest through Georgia to Tullulah Falls. It was a beautiful drive and mostly off the highway through rolling farmland. It took us about 5 hours to do 2

81 miles, but this part of Georgia is gorgeous. My car kind of forgot what it was like to go uphill since we’ve been living in the low country on the coast for the past 10.5 months. I started wondering what was wrong with my car and why we were going so slow in 6th gear when I realized that we were going uphill and I needed to shift down to pick up some more speed. My car and I forgot what it’s like to drive in elevation. When we got to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tullulah Falls, GA, I was so excited to see mountains rise off in the distance. I don’t miss the cold of Vermont, but I do miss the mountains. When I told Zach to look up and see them, he let out a “Whoa!”

We stayed at River Campground last night and chose a primitive tent site. We are the only ones in this little clearing and it took Zach a few times around the clearing to pick out the perfect spot for the tent. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t muddy, but clean. He was a great help in getting the tent set up and then took off to take a shower because it’s still humid here in the summer, even up in the foothills. While he was off showering, I attempted to get our new camp stove set up to make ravioli for dinner. We’ve never used a camp stove before. In all the years that we’ve gone camping (and we’ve done a lot),

we’ve always cooked over an open fire. I went with the camp stove this time around because I wanted to make it easy and quick. Of all the things that I forgot to pack, I forgot the butane torch to light the stove with, so we ended up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with chips for dinner. A trip to Walmart is in our future today. 

Last night’s sleeping adventure came with a bit of feeling nauseous as Zach got up and down, up and down, to fix the “pressure” in his head and every time he got up and down off the air mattress, it felt like I was on a sailboat, rolling in rough seas. We got a couple light thunder storms through the night that Zach was excited about and kept waking me up, and as usual, he’s now sound asleep while I’m wide awake.

The plan today is a train ride… now it’s time to wake the sleeping bear.