Down by the Toe

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

On the edge of Yancey County, NC and not far from Mount Mitchell lies Toe River Campground. Nestled in a bend in the Toe River this campground was exactly what I want to avoid in campgrounds.


My brother and I had planned to get away for a guys weekend of just hanging out and such. I picked the campground because it was on the Toe River and the river is supposed to have some decent trout fishing. When I arrived I thought, it looks good so far. The river flows by the office, game room and event hall. I stopped to check-in at the office as one usually does. The folks working were nice and I was checked-in in no time. Well, after I had to leave a credit card number with them to cover loss of the gate badge that I needed to get into the campground itself. I proceeded to the gate, badged in (just like I do at work) and started down the gravel road. I passed by a very nice swimming pool before arriving in the campground proper. Then things proceeded to go down hill and I’m not talking about the road.

The first sight that I was presented with was a pickup truck with a bed full of teenagers. This might not have been so bad but they were driving around the campground waving a huge Confederate Flag. If the rest of my family had been with me I would have turned around, gone back to the office and demanded a refund. Thank goodness they weren’t drinking too. Of course, that is VERY not allowed in this campground as indicated by the large signs threatening arrest if caught in possession of alcohol.


I found my site, eventually. Backed in and did the normal set up of the camper. This all went as expected since I have done it multiple time before. My site was right on the water and the one that I had reserved for my brother was right next to mine. Unfortunately, on the other side of me was a permanent or seasonal site. That would not have been so bad if it weren’t for the three large guys missing shirts and flashing lots of butt crack while working on a jeep behind their camper.  Now that I was set up I settled in to wait for my brother to arrive with his teardrop. Once he pulled up we were able to place his camper in such a way that both of the campers obstructed the worst of the scenery.

We settled in and visited for the afternoon and evening, made a wonderful dinner of salmon and wild rice, then had a few under the radar adult beverages. The following morning I made eggs, sausage and bagels while we decided what the plans of he day were. Soon, we had settled on just exploring the area, departed the campground headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. First stop was Mount Mitchell which I had not been to since the new visitors center had been built and the radio tower was removed. I was probably 10-12 years old and remember the hike up as being rather rough which it is no longer.


There was not a concrete plan for the day, so after looking at the map, we decided to take the first gravel road on the right after we got back on the parkway. This ended up being 15 or so minutes down the road but was well worth it. Once we had turned off, and navigated past the local bear hunters gathered at the top of the road, we proceeded down one of the most fantastic gravel roads that I have ever been on. Obviously it was built as a logging road a century or so back but it has been maintained quite well. The road 20 or 25 mile long road ran through some of the best country in the Pisgah National Forest. We stopped several times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Eventually we emerged in a small valley community that had a lot of local color to it. At this point we decided lunch was in order so we headed toward Burnsville. This took us more than another hour and two more gravel highways to get there. Burnsville turned out to be less than what I expected but if you have an hour you should check it out sometime. It’s quaint-ish. We rounded off the afternoon by simply heading back to the campers and hanging out for the evening. I did manage to squeeze an hour of unsuccessful trout fishing in.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast. I don’t even recall what it was. Then packed up and rolled out. My brother headed to the Boone area to take is daughter to lunch since she had returned to ASU for her sophomore year just a few weeks earlier. I meandered down the mountains by an alternative route and for headed home.


I learned a few things on this trip. Avoid NC highway 80 with a trailer no matter how small, its a beast of a road. If you wish to camp in this area you would be better off staying at the state run campground 10 minutes away. Lastly, do extensive research on the campground to determine how it is run, I had assumed that since Toe River Campground is run by the county that it would operate by similar rules as the State ones we have visited. Specifically, the sites are used short term; not so here. There are campers that have obviously been there for years. Heck, some even had roofs and carports. I’ll talk about my thoughts on this in a later post…  Safe travels.

Refrigerator Performance Mod

It is commonly known that the 3-way refrigerators found in most pop-ups are less than perfect. When we first got our pop-up I excitedly plugged it in in the driveway to check out everything. Not having any prior experience with these refrigerators I didn’t know what to expect. What surprised me was that the temp never dropped below 53 degrees, admittedly it was 95 degrees at the time.

I spent some time reading about solutions or improvements that could be made to unit. I even contemplated replacing it with a dorm fridge in the end I decide to try the external fan addition that seems so common. I had a 120mm computer fan in the attic that I had purchased several years ago but never used. Using a piece of thin aluminum flat stock I mounted it to the body of the trailer behind the refrigerator vent.


In order to better direct the airflow from the lower vent across the fins of the heatsink on the rear of the refrigerator I used a piece of aluminum roof flashing to make a baffle. The baffle reduces the size of the opening between the two vents thus forcing greater airflow along the rear of the fridge where it does the most good. The fan increases the airflow by ejecting the hot air out of the upper vent and enhancing the chimney effect. I wired the fan into the 12v power side of the fridge controls using bayonet connectors for easy removal. I also installed a simple on/off switch in the lower vent section, which is also an access panel, so the fan can be easily controlled.


During the preparation for a trip we will plug in the camper to charge the battery and cool down the fridge. We also turn on the new exhaust fan. Within 4-6 hours the temp is down to a point we are comfortable enough with to load it up with our supplies. Once loaded the temp continues to drop. It gets so low that I worry about freezing stuff. The pic below shows the temp inside the camper and the temp in the fridge on our trip to New Bern. I’d say we are good as long as we follow the process.



Our First KOA - July 2015

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

The middle of July brought about our first trip of any distance. We drove the 2-1/4 hours from Raleigh to New Bern to follow the river that is dear to us. This trip came about when we were chatting with one of our neighbors. Every summer they spend a long weekend at the KOA in New Bern. We decided to go at the same time.


We arrived on a Thursday afternoon. The power and water sites were on the edge of the woods across from the full hookup sites. We were guided to site 25 by the KOA host. The site is the last in a row of five and only about 150 feet from a bathhouse. We spent the next hour or so getting settled in. Since we lost our bag awning on our first trip out we brought along the canopy that I used to use when I did the Wake Forest Farmer’s Market many years ago. Once settled in, we explored the campground, checked out the dock and took the kids swimming. The campground also has two stocked fishing ponds but we had failed to bring any gear. We decided to go out to dinner and to Walmart to pick up the basics so the kids could fish. once we returned to the camper the kids, of course, immediately wanted to go fishing. So that is what we did until it was time to get ready for bed.


Friday morning we slept in. My dad and stepmom were coming to the campground to see the camper since they had not seen it yet. They arrived a few minutes after 11 am and checked things out. We then followed them into New Bern for lunch. We ate at The Chelsea Restaurant in downtown. If you get the opportunity to try we highly recommend it. Following lunch we spent a couple of hours checking out the old hardware store, the birthplace of Pepsi and other shops. I’ve been driving through New Bern regularly for 20+ years and never stopped to visit. We will be going back.


We arrived back at the camp to find that our friends still had not arrived for the weekend. It was back to the pool. That evening our friends arrived and the kids all harassed the campground together. T and I relaxed. We cooked burgers over the open fire and then did the s’mores thing with our friends.

Saturday, our last day due to teacher work week starting on Monday. T got up early and went to pick blueberries across the road from the campground. I started cleaning up the campsite and the kids stormed the campground again. They played giant chess, swung on the swings and fished more. A good time was had by all. When T returned we packed up, said farewell to our friends and headed home.

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