Brrr … Banner Elk: A Series from Life on the Road

Kristi Buttles
6 min readOct 22, 2021

(Note: CLICK HERE to view my photo gallery of scenic highlights from this trip.)

The view from our bedroom, Photo cred: Author

We had so much fun with our RV in Florida, even with its challenges, that we wanted to go somewhere — anywhere — right away. Our two sons wanted to come as well so we packed our winter gear and headed to a family favorite, Banner Elk, NC.

Precious’ favorite seat in Eddie, Photo cred: Author

The drive to Banner Elk is so beautiful!

Photo cred: Author

We love this area and have been here several times over the years. It’s convenient to snow skiing, sledding, tubing, ice skating, and that’s just the winter activities. It also has a ton of shops and restaurants for every flavor. Our two favorite restaurants in Banner Elk are Sorrento’s Italian Bistro and Stonewalls Restaurant. The spinach and artichoke dip at Sorrento’s is on point. All of the steaks and the salad bar are awesome at Stonewalls. It’s pricey, but worth the splurge.

This little village is nestled between Sugar and Beech Mountains and is also near Hawks Nest for snow tubing. Also, don’t miss Linville Falls, their winery, the myriad of hiking trails, and the nearby, ominous Grandfather Mountain with its famous mile-high swinging bridge as well as a small zoo and lodge right on the mountain. It’s also close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a bucket list drive for sure, and a day’s drive to whitewater rafting. Did I mention it’s beautiful? Banner Elk’s vibe is a mix of locals and travelers which means there’s something for everyone all year round.

With only one night to spend here, we made every moment count. The guys went sledding and took a night hike, while Precious and I chilled, or should I say we kept warm, in Eddie.

Love these goobers! Photo cred: Author

We stayed at Grandfather Campground, which given the mountains and zero level ground anywhere, they did a great job clearing level spots for RVs.

Home for the night! Photo cred: Author

Everything was going splendid until morning. We learned a newbie lesson the hard way … water pipes freeze. Yep, we awoke to all our freshwater completely frozen including water for the sink, shower, and toilet. We had yet to learn how to winterize the RV, nor did it even cross our minds. So yeah, we had 45 gallons of fresh water frozen in every inch of pipe that hangs below the undercarriage. It’s not rocket science that they would freeze, but with only owning him for two months the thought never occurred to us.

Bruce tried everything. He tried running the Eddie’s engine to warm them up. Nope. He tried shaking the pipes loose by hand. Nope. He even used my hair dryer with a long extension cord to try to heat them. Nope.

Thankfully we had bottled water. We could skip showers, but I really wanted to wash my face, so I boiled bottled water on the gas stove and let it cool. Perfecto!

Photo cred: Author

I also promised my guys a big breakfast to make a great first impression with Eddie, but this requires a lot of kitchen cleanup. I reluctantly used bottled water to wash the dishes. Regarding the toilet, yep, we had to use bottled water for that, too. Lesson learned, but at least we could laugh about it.

Photo cred: Author

It was such a gorgeous day with full sun despite the below freezing temperatures, perfect for a walk. Even this Florida girl can admit there is nothing like the sound of crunching snow under foot, and glistening powder on every surface that looks like millions of diamonds. It is breathtaking! Speaking of, the icy, mountain-fresh air is so clean and crisp it hurts to inhale deeply, but those deep breaths refresh the soul as much as they do the body.

Morning walk with Precious, Photo cred: Author

After visiting the campground’s trading post, we packed up and stopped by Blowing Rock, NC (another favorite of ours) on our way home just for fun. It touts just about every kind of outdoor activity including zip lining, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, etc. Its quaint downtown has a plethora of shops and restaurants, and with its charming old-town feel full of locally made things to buy and taste, it can be a quick stop to let kids run around the playground or somewhere to spend the entire day.

Bruce looks like he is gift-wrapped! Photo cred: Bruce Buttles

Precious is more of a shopper than me, and she loved perusing the products. Her favorite is smelling candles. Yes, she is spoiled. At 15 years-old, I let her smell all the candles she wants. Love her so much!

However, she slipped on some ice and hurt her leg that has an old knee injury. Since then, we’ve learned how to travel better with her and I’m going to post about that soon. Everything regarding RV life is on a learning curve. She’s okay now, but gave us quite a scare that day.

It wasn’t until we were halfway home that the first thawed drips slowly dropped from the faucet. Eight months later we’re still learning how to winterize Eddie, though it will never be my idea to camp in cold weather.

Despite the major change of plans with being unexpectedly without water, everyone had a fabulous time. I was worried the water issue gave our guys a bad first impression of Eddie, but they are undeterred. They’ve come with us on trips since, which are forthcoming, and yep there have always been some unexpected things that happen, but honestly, it’s those moments that make trips memorable. Maybe we are gluttons for punishment, but if every trip went flawlessly, they’d be kind of boring. What would we laugh about later? Remember the time…?

One overnight in the RV turned out to be quite eventful and made us thirsty for more, literally, but maybe not in the cold just yet. Eddie and I needed time to thaw. We were quickly back to packing our t-shirts and heading somewhere without ice and snow. The next trip’s surprise officially had me hooked on RV life!