Wednesday, May 21, 2010 - We departed our mountain home at 7am for the 360 mile trip to the caravan's rendezvous in Dublin, NC, arriving there about 2:45pm. Found most of the others already there. There are just 13 trailers and motorhomes on this venture. We parked in an open field on the property of the LuMill Vineyards. This is a 1000 acre farm that formerly grew tobacco and peanuts. They converted to a vineyard five years ago, and it seems are doing very well. We had an excellent meal in the facility with samples of the various wines served. The owner talked off the cuff for an hour after dinner explaining the family owned business.
Our caravan leaders are Jamie and Susan King who we were with a few years ago on the Southeast Coast caravan.
Thursday, April 22, 2010 - The LuMil Vineyard is an unusual place - though a working farm, it seems more like a tourist mecca with tour rides on a double decker bus around the 1,000 acre complex, fishing lakes, lakeside cabins to rent, an RV camping area, walking trails, flower gardens, a windmill, a banquet house, a gift shop, a wine tasting room, a museum of farm equipment, all on manicured grounds.
We began the day with our first GAM (get acquainted meeting). Being number one on the alphabetical roster, it fell our lot to be a host. So, we gathered on “The Porch” outside the banquet hall and met with the Calderwoods (Drew and Sheena) from Scotland, the Clarks (Bob and Betty) and the Bowmans (Devin and Kay) from Virginia. The Bowmans were mother and son. Everyone told a little about themselves as we enjoyed coffee and muffins.
Then came a tour of the farm as we perched on the open upper deck of the bus. Only 53 of the 1,000 acres are planted in grape vines - muscadines and scuppernongs. This was originally a tobacco farm, but that business evaporated about seven years ago. The family that owned the farm were flexible enough to convert quickly to a vineyard. Some of the grapes have been growing for seven years now. Other fields have been planted since as the market continues to grow. They harvest the grapes in the Fall of the year with machines of their own design, then take them to a local winery for processing and bottling. They have six different wines, eight different ciders, a non-alcoholic wine, and a host of jams, jellies, and preserves marketed under the LuMil label and sold in the gift shop.
LuMil comes from the names of the Taylor family parents - Lucille and Miller Taylor.
The rest of the day was free time. We drove into Lumberton and then to Elizabethtown to see what we could see. This is flat country with a lot of open space. Much of the land in Bladen County was given to former slaves after the civil war, and it would appear that many of their descendants remain here. There was a black cemetery in the middle of the LuMil property with some graves dating to the 1860s. Some of the caravaners made a trip to Myrtle Beach, others stayed closer to camp.
Friday, April 23, 2010 - One of our assigned duties was to prepare a Continental breakfast for everybody - right up Ann’s alley. She took the lead in ordering sausage biscuits from a local restaurant, muscadine cider and bread from the gift shop, strawberries and fruit from a local farm and grocery. She was up at 6:00am slicing melon, bananas, apples, grapes, and strawberries for mixed fruit cups. All seemed pleased.
Then came a drivers meeting at which our leaders announced a big change in plans. They had learned that the RV Park where we were to go next could not handle us, and they had had to make some quick decisions on how to proceed. But, they had it all worked out. Instead of moving to Wagram, NC we went to the Sleepy Bear RV Park in Lumberton, NC. This stop was to attend a story telling rally on Saturday. All arrived safely at the new location and handled the change well. The leaders of these caravans have to be flexible.
In the evening the leaders had prepared a Brunswick stew and fried chicken cookout. It's doubtful that we will ever have to buy a meal for the next couple of weeks.
Saturday, April 24th - The Storytelling Festival of Carolina is held on the last weekend of April each year at an historical site near Laurinburg, North Carolina. This was the event that the caravan was designed around. Though a smaller version of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, it was just as entertaining. Two large tents that held about 700 people each were set up on the grounds along with vendors of all sorts. There were six featured tellers - all outstanding, but different in their approaches. Three ladies and three men - Carmen Agra Deedy, Doug Elliott, Gwen Rainer, Kim Weitkamp, Andy Offutt Irwin, and Mitch Capel. Our favorites were Kim and Mitch. It all started at 10:00am with two tellers in each hour with half hours between. We sat through three hours of storytelling and caught all six of the tellers.
Among the vendors was a black couple serving collard sandwiches - collard greens and fatback between two thin hoecakes.
Also on the site was the amazing John Blue House, a large two story affair built around 1890. Ladies in period costumes were conducting tours of the house. The ornate gingerbread trim all around the house was really something. There were also historic cabins on the site as well as a pre-Civil War cotton gin and press, an old doctors office and country store, and a large collection of old plows and farm equipment.
Sunday, April 25th - We attended the West Lumberton Baptist Church this morning along with Devin and Kay Bowman. Never have we been so thoroughly welcomed as visitors. I think almost every member, including the pastor, came up to give a personal welcome. They were meeting in a new, large building well appointed with cushioned seats instead of pews - probably 500 of them. There were no song books or Bibles, made unnecessary because of the projection screens. The baptistry at the front was 12 to 14 feet wide in a window high enough for a large projection screen to fit inside. The choir loft extended across the entire pulpit area. But, the most unusual thing came when the preacher began his sermon. He came down to the main floor and walked continually up and down the aisles and across the front - the entire time of sermon, never referring to notes, although his scripture references were on the screen, front and back. The sermon was on the 16th chapter of Revelations. No way to get sleepy with him moving around like that. One of the welcomers had warned us ahead of time to expect that. At the end the pastor asked for prayer to include a request for traveling mercies not only for the four of us, but for the whole caravan.
We traveled during the afternoon to our new stop near Asheboro, North Carolina - about 100 miles from Lumberton. The highways was four laned most of the way. We arrived at the Holly Bluff Family Campground precisely at 3:30pm. The arrival window was 3:30pm to 4:30pm. The parkers were ready for us. We are in a densely wooded area with no hope of acquiring satellite TV, and no WiFi.
Asheboro is the county seat of Randolph County 70 miles from Raleigh and 70 miles from Charlotte. According to the official visitor guide, this is the center of pottery making. Our schedule will include visits to the pottery makers, some NASCAR activity, and the NC Zoo. So, stay tuned.
Monday, April 26th - This was the day we were supposed to be traveling, but we came here one day early because of the campground mixup, so it was a free day. We decided to go to the North Carolina Zoo, billed as being the largest zoo of its kind in the world. Can’t argue with their claim. It was really special - 500 acres given over to animal habitats. Paved walking trails wandered all through the zoological park. Animals ranged from tiny honey bees and miniature frogs to giraffes and elephants. Those the most fun to watch were the dozen baboons. They were scampering all over the place. The park is divided into two sections - Africa and North America - with the animals appropriately located. We walked about five miles in about three hours wandering through the sections. Not only were the animals interesting, but the plant life was outstanding. And, it was fun just to watch the human traffic - lots of kids of all ages on school field trips.
After the zoo we looked up an old covered bridge called the Pizgah Covered Bridge, said to be one of two originals in North Carolina. This old bridge was used as a movie setting in 2009.
Then we went hunting for a place to upload this to the website, finding it at the Staples store in Asheboro.. By the time that was done, it was time to return to camp where the Makoviches and Clarks were preparing a cookout for the caravan. Jim had his tripod and cooking rack suspended over a wood fire, cooking pork chops. The Clarks were preparing corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, apple sauce, and rolls. Anne Thompson was working up a salad. It wasn’t long before it was all ready under a large shelter, and we enjoyed a fantastic meal, followed by peach cobbler and ice cream.
It started raining just as we were finishing the meal, and the most vivid double rainbow appeared in the eastern sky - beautiful!