Posts Tagged With: RV

Off to Florida’s East Coast

The last part of our Florida journey begins as we head east out of Destin and Henderson Beach State Park to make a brief return to Falling Water State Park in Chipley.  We had planned this stopover as part of our initial itinerary so the trip to the Atlantic coast would be in two smaller runs.  Little did we know we would have been evacuated to the park as part of the Hurricane Sally “drive around.”  So although this was our second visit, at least it was dry and sunny.

 

     

     

Once making camp we hiked a rather long trail to the waterfall again, turns out that yes, there was still water there.  But it did look brighter in the sun and the rest of the 3 mile hike was filled with lots of wildflowers blooming.  Fall seems to be a lot of purple and yellow colors: asters, goldenrod, wild indigo, sunflowers and such.

The trip east to St. Augustine took 5 hours, surprisingly, but it was flat, straight roads with little traffic but rain for the last miles.  As we made our way around the historic district and across the Bridge of Lions we remembered the last time here when Jeff and Vic joined us for a few days and we met up with Phil and Jennifer, friends from home.  But it was in the 90’s then and right now it was 70’s and drizzly.

 

Not to worry, we got ourselves settled into the Anastasia State Park campsite with no problems, although all we put out was the awning for now.  Didn’t take long for the mosquitos to find us.  Funny, we have been watching DVD’s the past week or so, since over-the-air TV hasn’t been available, and one of our selections was the first three Jurassic Park movies.  This campsite could definitely make you think you were there on the island, with overhanging trees, palmetto leaves, Spanish moss and vines hanging from the branches.  Need to watch those puddles for vibrations …

   

It cleared off and we drove to the beach access.  As we did we got a nice teaser (also a reminder from last visit) as two spoonbills flew over the car.  Naturally I didn’t have the camera handy.  My previous visit here was an unsuccessful attempt to get a photo of the spoonbills.  Looks promising?  But the next day, as we were scanning the marsh from the beach boardwalk we only saw egrets and ibis.  Jackie asked an obvious birder (big camera, pair of binoculars) where we might see spoonbills and his reply was “well, they’re kind of all around.”  But he did add that peregrine falcons were migrating through and “there’s one now.”  Actually, we did see another falcon but no more spoonbills yet.

   

     

   

Since we had a cloudy day, chance of rain and the surf was pretty wild, we drove back to the St. Augustine historic district and walked around the oldest city in the US.  Very quaint and filled with history of the Spanish settlement – and plenty of shops for the tourists.  Lunch at the Prohibition Kitchen was a huge burger and beer cheese soup that hit the spot on a drizzly day.

So what else did we do?

One nice, breezy but sunny day at the beach with some wild surf

   

 

 

Another brewery discovery and two flights at Bog Brewing

 

Dinner on the rooftop of the Salt Life Food Shack (yes, THAT Salt Life) and lucked out with half-price sushi rolls and happy hour beer!

Dark night walks with Kodi around the camp, only to get bit by those darn skeeters

Add another brewery to the list: Old Coast Ales 

Beach time watching the shore birds.  This time we discovered that the ruddy turnstones (sandpipers, not a musical group) took quite an interest in us – standing around at our feet – looking for a handout?  Also marveled at how much the sand was covered in shells and bits.

Searched for the spoonbills every day, with no success

Did see gopher tortoises again

And then we packed up for the road and drove to Hilton Head Island.  This was an extra few days we added once we heard from Dad’s community that he needed a bit of help with some essentials.  It took us 5 hours, somehow a bit longer than expected, but where we were staying was a very nice private spot: Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina.  We’ve been here before and it really is nice – it’s the closest spot to park the motorhome and also see Dad.  So we have the weekend to take care of a few things, meet Dad under limited COVID conditions and visit with my brother Jeff , Vicki, nephew Adam and his fiancé Ashley.

We did manage to get all of our assistive items set for Dad, had lunch of fish, shrimp and calamari on the bay at Hudson’s (saw dolphin but had to run indoors from the patio mid-meal due to a downpour) and met up with Adam and Ashley to see their new home.  Oh, and Jeff got his hot tub powered up and bubbling, so we got some time to unwind.

We finally head out for home as this weekend wraps up.  Watching yet another hurricane (Delta) hit the Gulf coast we are thankful we aren’t still in the area.  This month in Florida has been a bit more rain, a bit more driving for Jackie than we had planned and a whole lot more of Florida than we expected but that’s why we call these things adventures.  Great fun in the sun, surfside eats and new breweries to explore – but it’s always nice to get back home, too.

Are we there yet?

Thanks for coming along on the journey.  What’s next?  Maybe a fall trip to the mountains, a “deep cleaning” of the car and motorhome for sure.  Who knows?

 

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Florida Replay

So when we last left off on our fall Florida adventure we were camped out in High Springs, Florida blogging and beer sampling at the High Springs Brewery. You know one of our travel goals is to magically find the nearest brewery to sample new brews and catch up using their wifi. And somehow we manage to find those local gems, enabling us to help the local economy just a bit and upload our stories and pictures.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



We did manage to get a weekend stay at a campground just a block off the beach in Panama City Beach, so we packed up once again and hit the road to go back about 250 miles west to restart this Florida vacation. I have some pictures to share of the springs here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, which actually started as a privately operated swimming hole until it was recently acquired by the state. So not everything in the campground was up to the usual standards (such as no breakers on the electric hookups).
 

Maybe the most white-knuckled part was the road in and out of the park. When we first drove in I was surprised that we were driving down a sand road, not a dirt road, but a two-rut sandy track. I carefully kept moving down the half-mile long drive following along behind Jackie and was sure glad we weren’t towing the car on the tow-dolly behind us. But it got better – naturally we had an overnight thunderstorm the first night with rivers of water running through camp. When we decided to try a trip to town for wifi (and cell service) we felt ready to tackle the sandy road after watching a FEDEX semi driving in. Heck, if he could do it … but dang, it was a wild ride out and through the big puddles. Our RAV-4 did its best impression of a 4WD Jeep as we splashed up and down and swam and skidded along the track. It was just as bad coming back in and I just kept wondering how in the heck we were going to get our rig outta there. Again, I shudder to think what we would have done if we were towing the car.



Maybe I am a bit jumpy about getting bogged down after the stuck-in-the-mud episode at John’s place this spring, but I surely did NOT want to add “sinking in quicksand” to this adventure. So the next morning I took several deep breaths, instructed Jackie to lead on (but to keep moving no matter what) and I would follow behind. I’m telling you, people pay to do these mud runs, probably not in 33 foot motorhomes, but they pay for an experience I would just as soon never repeat. As I navigated around most of the deepest puddles and tried to find solid, dry tracks to follow, side-slipping and bouncing along I finally spied the last big mudhole. This one would not stop me, so I hit the gas and figured there was no stopping me at this point! Made it through, but I think we owe the park a couple of bags of sand (they can come wash it off!)

Enough of the dramatics – we actually had a nice 5-hour drive across the Apalaciacola River basin and surrounding swamps and pine forests. One handy tool we have used this trip is a pair of 2-way radios we brought along. It made it easy to share navigation info and gas status between the two vehicles instead of relying on the cell phone.

 

We are now back in PCB in a decent campground that is very close to the action. First thing after getting set in camp (again!) was to get to the beach. Yes, the sand was just as white, but the water was definitely murkier brown, not the see-your-toes clear gulf we love. Well, what can you expect, the flood waters are still receding. We swam a bit, sat in the beach chairs a bit, then went back to shower, change and go out for dinner (before we got chased away again). We took our Fat Tuesday mugs with us for frozen daiquiri refills at Pineapple Willys and finally felt like we were starting the beach vacation. Along with a LOT of other people. And kids. Guess the fall breaks are starting already?? Ah well, we had our face masks and got a nice table way out on the pier at a big table all to ourselves. Fried oyster po-boy and mahi-mahi strips made it a perfect beach dinner. And those brain freeze daiquiris!

 

 



Back home it seems they got a good round of rain from Sally, too. Terri was nice enough to check on the house and yard – our rain gauge said 4” of rain but otherwise all was ok. Friends are good!

To round out our stay at PCB we really wanted to swim more, but we got a cold front that blew in, overnight showers hit, temperatures went to the 60’s, breeze kicked up from the northeast and the sun hasn’t been seen in days.  We hear that Tropical Storm Beta is sending some clouds our way, too.  So we spent a day cleaning up the motorhome and restocking some food and drink.  Of course had to drive to Pier Park and wander the shops, with masks, and basically not spend money but comment on all the other folks wandering around.

Also opted to unhook the bikes and ride along the beach road, looking for potential rental units for the future.  By Monday, our last day here in PCB, it was still overcast, but at least the water was getting back to clear.  Since our pass for St. Andrews was still valid we drove to the park to see what it was like.

  

 

     

 

The campground was still closed off and there was a lot of water in places you normally don’t see it,  Making our way to the beach revealed a big transformation.  The same spot next to the jetty where just a week ago we were sitting on beach chairs was now a new channel from the lagoon to the gulf.  A big new area of sand filled half of the children’s lagoon and there was lots of dune erosion.  Sad to see such damage.  Good thing they had moved out the heavy equipment we saw last week, but I am sure more will be back to rebuild these dunes and fix the breach.  

And with a bow to tradition, we went to Sharky’s for lunch, complete with grouper sandwiches and “Shark Attack” drinks on the beach.  Still one of our all-time favorites.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.  A phone call confirmed that they are open, minus some of their beach.  Looks like we are in for more overcast and rainy weather, but we are ever optimistic that this warm and sunny Florida vacation will yet happen. A good omen was a bald eagle we saw circling overhead.

Stay tuned and thanks for following along.  I feel so good that there are friends and family out there who actually enjoy reading these musings. Happy Birthday wishes to Linda, btw.

 

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Plotting the 2017 Adventures!

The rather mild Georgia winter is almost over as we make plans to de-winterize the motorhome and hit the road with some new adventures.  I figured it would be a good time to update everyone and share the excitement of a new season of outdoor fun.

The motorhome got a cover for the winter.

Repairs and Diagnostics (skip if you aren’t much into RV maintenance)

First task was to correct the problem of our motorhome’s gimpy back leg, so to speak.  The leveling jack for which I replaced the springs and foot would not extend and it was more than my feeble brain could figure out, so we uncovered the van, drove it to our local RV shop and within days they made the repair and had everything back to order.  It seems a solenoid needed replacement.  Yippee – back to “four on the floor” when needed.

The leveling jack that needed replacement springs and foot. The wood wedges were needed to expand the springs enough to install.

Back in the driveway I ran the generator a bit, connected the shore line for electricity to charge the house batteries and did a bumper-to-bumper diagnostic.  The dashboard 12v power outlet (formerly known as cigarette lighter) had not worked since I replaced the radio, so this was a needed repair.  Simple, right?  Not so fast, buddy.  The nice thing about the Winnebago dash is that it is hinged, so you can swing it up to have access to all the gauges and connections.  But you also have to have enough flexibility in your wired connections not to unplug things when you do that.  The short wire on the 12v socket needed to be a longer one, so I replaced a longer negative wire and connected to a grounding screw in the frame.

Power to the positive was harder, since I couldn’t find a handy splice or available connector in the wiring nearby. It must have been spliced into the old radio power supply.  The remedy for this was to run a new wire from the fuse box way over on the left side to the outlet way over on the right side.  Hmm… how to best do this?  Let me remind you that I taught 6 years of technology and engineering, one unit of which was electricity and electronics – but that really doesn’t mean I have all the right wires, connectors and electrical understanding to just bang this out without thinking.  A hammer, nails and lumber — that I can do. Automotive… not so much.

But after a few runs to several automotive supply stores I found a nifty add-a-fuse power splitter that let me connect to the radio’s slot on the fuse panel and we had success!  Radio works, power outlet works, and now we can conveniently charge the cell phones and such on the road.  Yes, we do have an inverter with AC outlet for just that sort of thing, but it is above the windshield and not within reach while driving.

Adventure Planning

So what’s next on our travel bucket list?  We want to do some more camping in the Georgia mountains and maybe nearby Alabama and Tennessee State Parks this spring.  We booked two weeks back at St. Andrews State Park, Florida in early summer, which is our time for snorkeling and paddleboarding.  But the big trip late summer and fall will be out West to visit Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton National Parks.

Just a wee bit ago (yes, that’s Doug) there was “The Great Camping Adventure of 1969.”

We researched and planned out the trip to do a southern route to Grand Teton NP, then Yellowstone NP and on up to Glacier NP before the snow arrived.  Booked the date in Yellowstone and were all set to book Glacier when … my, my, what do you know?  A little ‘ol 5 minute solar eclipse was scheduled to pass along the Tetons on the very day we wanted to stay there. Booked up full — the whole county. Nothing available until weeks later. We were told by park rangers that they had been getting calls about it 5 years ago! End of days? Nah, not for us, but it did require an entire re-working of the trip.

So I reversed our path to a northern route to Glacier NP first, then looping back down to Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP.  We made the changes in reservations and filled in the gaps. On the trip out, we will camp in South Dakota in the Badlands NP and Custer State Park, checking out Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and the Black Hills.  From there we stay in Bighorn National Forest, check out Devil’s Tower National Monument and then to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.  Lots of hiking planned and probably a rafting trip down the Snake River, too.  I bought a new lens for my camera to better capture the wildlife and scenery and we are looking into buying a spotting scope for more close-up wildlife sightings (wolves maybe??).

“The Great Camping Adventure of 1969,” probably in the Needles section of the Black Hills.

Some of this is revisiting places my family camped in when we pulled off “The Great Camping Adventure of 1969.”  Yes, during the most historic summer of the century, while hippies were hitch-hiking to Woodstock; Watts and Newark were burning from riots; Charles Manson and cult were murdering Sharon Tate and men were first landing on the moon, my family of six was packed into a Plymouth station wagon, pulling a Cox pop-up camper, speeding across the US on a 6-week grand adventure! No TV, no Internet, no cellphones or social media, just a poke-your-sister-in-the-backseat kind of entertainment.

In Yellowstone we listened by car radio one night as Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon.  Yep.  Missed that one live on TV.

New Traveler

Every good Shetland Sheepdog knows how to keep a close eye on the flock.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know about Kodi from the postings that Merlin (our cat) has been making on his Mews page.  Kodi is a few months old now and is somewhere between a toddler and a teenager, dog-wise.  He loves going for walks on a leash, fetching a ball, rope knot or any of his toys, and is just learning some agility.  He has made some new dog friends and visited lots of folks already.  But the best part is that he will soon be joining us in the motorhome on our camping adventures.  He has checked it out and it seems to work for him – although we haven’t rattled down the road with him in it yet.  Benji will always be our special Adventure Dog and travels with us in spirit, now Kodi is set to learn what it is like and joins Merlin in the motorhome as we head out into the world together.

Kodi trying out the agility tunnel.

So while we await the arrival of nasty yellow pollen and plan the final de-winterizing of the motorhome, we do what everyone else at this time of year does: we plan for the upcoming season of warm weather, sunshine, warm water and wild adventures.

We will report back from time to time, so follow along with us!

PS. Merlin says you should keep up with his Mews page, too.

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Beach Tales

St Andrews 2016 (100)b

A month in Florida is hard to beat: a perfect mix of sunny weather, sparkling clear water, a white sandy beach and plenty of little fish to chase around the water.  That’s been our June so far, with a few stories to share.  We don’t have wifi here in St. Andrews State Park so it has been a convenient excuse to postpone updating the blog and just enjoy the sand and surf.  But a trip to Starbucks will give me time to share what’s been happening:

St Andrews 2016 (65)b

St Andrews 2016 (111)b

St Andrews 2016 (132)b

We love Panama City Beach and St. Andrews State Park.  For us it is a very casual, friendly and laid-back vacation spot.  Can’t beat the campsite, with a view of the Lower Lagoon, a nice breeze and lots of kids on bikes and golf carts zipping around.  We arrived just as the rain stopped from tropical storm Colin and many of the sites were underwater.  A high tide surge added a little more waterfront to many sites, too.

Nice (?) waterfront site

Nice (?) waterfront site

St Andrews 2016 (6)b

High and dry at St. Andrews

The storm cut into the dunes along the Gulf beach, creating a cliff of sand.  You know how kids always want to get buried in the sand at the beach?  It usually means someone gets totally covered in sand and has to rinse off.  Well, sadly, a teenager who had been digging tunnels and caves in this particular sand wall was trapped when the sand collapsed on him.  We were watching the boys dig the tunnels, but minutes after we left the beach emergency crews arrived to dig him out and administer CPR.  Unfortunately he died the next day.  Kind of a rough start to the week.

Ready for the beach

Ready for the beach

Jackie’s sister Judy and family came down to PC Beach mid-week and we spent time at the beach together, snorkeling along the rock jetty and splashing around in the surf.  Just had to snap a shot of us all getting slathered with sunscreen!  We joked about the long trek to the water with all the gear and laughed about the big deck umbrella they brought along.  One afternoon a dark line of thunderstorms moved along the coast as we watched and debated when to pack up.  That decision was made quickly when the wind rack kicked up and umbrellas started to go inside-out.  Jackie grabbed and shut ours down just as we watched Judy’s umbrella go airborne in a slow-motion tumble that pierced itself on a pole, then lifted and tumbled further over the dune.  Ok, time to go.

Tut, tut looks like rain!

Tut, tut looks like rain!

Back at camp we got a phone call that our niece lost her glasses in the scramble.  Could we come help look for them?  Tracing our steps back from the parking lot, down the long boardwalk, up and over the sand dunes and down the beach to the scene of the crime, we looked earnestly for the purple frames.  Not much luck, but I brought a small fan rake and began to skim the area where we were sitting.  Probably useless, but just maybe … wait, what’s that?  Something popped up out of the sand as I scraped along and Presto! there were the glasses.  Great save.

20160608_214449  20160608_214522

Another vacation goal was to seek out local craft breweries and compare the samplings.  We found Nivol Brewery in a strip shopping center and were pleasantly surprised by their operation.  Had some samples of wheat, porter and red ales – they have only been open a month, but have a good selection of local beers on tap.  With their full license pending, we had to buy a souvenir pint glass but could then have a fill of our choice of beer.  We chatted up the brewmaster, who already knew about and carried Burnt Hickory brand and had been visited by Dry County (they have the same tank system), but of course we talked up Southern Sky Brewing, too.

Maybe the strangest craft beer sampling came the next day.  An internet search listed “Screw and Brew” locally, so I just HAD to see what that was all about.  A definite pint glass purchase, I figured.  Jackie helped navigate the location, “wait, you just passed it” … well, according to the online maps, but we didn’t see anything.  U-turn and try again.  “Turn here,” as we drove past a small hardware store and through their side parking lot into a pretty gnarly back lot.  Hmm, that wasn’t right.  Back out front we noticed a small sign in the window “home brewing supplies” and thought what-the-heck.  I left Jackie in the car (this was doubtful) and I ventured in.

Hmm, inside it was pretty much a hardware store, with a wall of home-brew supplies.  “Can I help you?”  Uhh, well, I guess I got the wrong spot.  We are on a hunt for local craft breweries.  A smiling clerk said he could recommend several spots (Fishale, Nivol) and I said those were already on our list.  “Ok, well thanks, I guess I got the information wrong.”

“Hang on, I do have some wheat beer if you’d like a sample” he said, and I cautiously nodded okay. “Just follow me out back.”  Ok, this was speakeasy creepy and I was wondering if I would have to know a secret password or handshake.  Out through the stockroom to that gnarly section of the back room and garage … a rusty fridge had a tap installed and an off-kilter kegerator was nearby.  “Don’t have any fancy glassware, (oh darn, the whole point of the visit), but if you are ok with Styrofoam…”  Next thing I know I have a cup of foamy beer in my hand.  “What do you think?  It’s better this week.”  Well, here goes nothing – lot of head but it’s actually not bad.  We walk back into the store and he says he just can’t keep the beer cold enough in the kegerator, it keeps tripping the circuit breaker…

I thank him for the beer, wish him well, take the rest of the cup back out to the car for Jackie to finish (I mean, seriously, am I supposed to just drive off with this beer?  No DUI for me, thank you).  So chalk that one up to the weirdest sampling ever.

2016-06-16 15.16.47

Local samplings at Fishale

Just down the road we stopped in at Fishale, which was a real pub that featured a lot of real craft brews on tap.  Spent time sampling all sorts of Florida brews and decided to visit Grayton Beer on our way west later in the month, since we liked their 30A Beach Blonde.

Best Grouper Sandwich!

Best Grouper Sandwich!

Caught up with one of our fellow teachers from school when we learned she was staying in PC Beach with a friend, too.  Our suggestion was to meet up for the best grouper sandwich in town at Sharky’s on the beach – which lived up to expectations.  Still the best sandwich in town!  We shared stories and encouraged her to join the ranks of the retired (just maybe one more year of teaching she thinks!).  Good fun all around.

Good Friends

Good Friends

So as I wrap up this posting, I should probably share one last story that just goes to prove that you really do need to check and double check your vacation plans no matter how careful a person you are.  We came back from the beach on our last day in camp and sat out to enjoy an adult beverage and the nice breeze.  We had been talking about what we needed to pack up so we could roll out easily the next day, Monday.  Our plans from 11 months ago were to stay Monday to Monday (2 weeks) and then move to Topsail Hill State Park for 10 days.

A golf cart with two park rangers pulls up … “You know that checkout is 1:00 pm.”  Yes we do, we plan to be out tomorrow by noon for sure.  “You were supposed to be out TODAY by 1:00 (it was now about 6:00).  Yikes, no way, we had a Monday check out.  We scrambled to pull up the reservation info on our phone as he explained that they found another site for the folks who DID have the next reservation and we didn’t have to leave until the morning.  But would we please settle up with the Camp Office in the morning?

So what was the story?  Turns out we had a Sunday to Sunday reservation but put it into our Google calendar as Monday to Monday. The reservation at Topsail Hill was fine, but we got the one at St. Andrews goofed up by one day.  Kept wanting to say, “that’s not us, we aren’t those kind of people… we are rule followers and are well-planned… we are retired teachers (and are always right) …we went out West for 6 weeks… “

Ah well, (sigh), honest mistake.

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Happy Birthday drink for Jackie!

 

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Jackie’s birthday celebration at Dewey Destin’s Harborfront restaurant.

Next stop is Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.  Probably won’t get to post until we are back home.

Check out lots of great photos of the parks here.

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Saddle Up and Westward Ho!

Packed and ready to roll the coach on our fall adventure out West!  If you are a motorhome traveler you know the drill.  For the rest of you, let me recap how a motorhome trip is different from packing the car for a week at the beach.  Remember, you are taking a small house with all its onboard systems, so your pre-trip checklist includes:

Plumbing and sewer

You need some fresh water in the tank, but not too much, since you don’t want to haul extra weight. Once you get to a campsite with city water you can connect with a hose and run from that. A small pressure regulator is important so you protect against high water pressure damage. You have to be sure to switch to city water service, not tank fill, otherwise you will discover (as I did in Florida) water pouring out of your overflow hose under the RV about 10 minutes later.

Greywater and blackwater tanks should be empty to start. The lowest sensors in our black tank don’t seem to register, so we are going to pour a solution of borax, water and dish soap into the toilet at the start of the trip to clean them. A bag of ice down the toilet to rattle around while traveling (as recommended) didn’t really do the trick the last trip. You should keep some water in the toilet bowl to block odors (like any p-trap at home). You need your sewer hose and connectors.

Power

You have a generator, which should be in good working order, for the times when you are boondocking. Boondocking or dry camping is when you don’t have any water or electric hookups available. Also you have two sets of batteries: house and engine. Even though they connect and can help spread the charge, you want all of them charged and ready. We have a small solar panel that adds a trickle charge. Be sure you have a surge protector for your electric cord (shoreline).

LP gas tank got filled last week. With our system, you can power your fridge with shoreline electric (when you are hooked up to electric at home or camp) or run off the LP gas, or run off house batteries (or run the generator while on the move or when boondocking). I pre-chilled the fridge in the driveway before stocking it with food.

LP gas can also be used for cooking on the stovetop and oven and it is a source of power for the heater if you can’t run the generator (campgrounds often have quiet hours after 10 pm).

Hey out there, did you pack the cat food?

Hey out there, did you pack the cat food?

Hydraulics

Our motorhome has four hydraulic leveling jacks that are used in combination with jack pads and chocks to level the motorhome. The pistons need to be clean and sprayed with a dry silicone lubricant so they will completely retract when it is time to break camp.

Tires, oil, coolant, wipers, running lights

Since you are also a motor vehicle, every part of the engine and wheels needs preventive maintenance. Tire inflation pressure is important and can vary with the amount of weight you are carrying. Tires on motorhomes wear more than the mileage would indicate, (UV damage and dry rot as I learned on our Florida trip) so you need to keep an eye on their condition.

Kitchen

And of course you need all the pots, pans, dishes, utensils, grill and pantry for your camp menu.

Linens

This motel doesn’t come with maid service, so you need sheets, blankets, pillows and towels.

Planning to add more states to our camping map.

Planning to add more states to our camping map.

But now it is all packed, the tow dolly is ready for the car to be strapped on and we’ll head out. First stop will be in Alabama just northwest of Birmingham on Smith Lake for a night. Then on to Memphis for a stopover.

If you want to follow our progress, check back often or click the “follow” link.

Hey, thanks for checking in and “Happy Trails!”

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Monday Group Therapy

It looks like there are a lot of views for the site, so now I feel an obligation to post regularly about what’s going on, even if it isn’t a camping adventure.

Had a great meet-up this Monday with friends at Kennesaw Mountain for a walk – just about 5 miles for some of us who needed to get in the steps.  Karen, Kevyn, Jennifer, Jennifer with her dog Molly, Starr, Carla, Lynzee and Anna were there for the morning walk-and-talk.  Something of a group therapy session, since we could chat about the good and bad of the recent year of teaching.  I didn’t get a picture, but I think Kevyn did, and if he wants to share one, I will post it.  Most of the conversation was about how short the summers are for teachers and how it really has become a working vacation for most of us.  For those of you who aren’t teachers and who might be saying “hey, you get the summer off, quit complaining” our answer would be “try a year of teaching and you will understand how much you need a few weeks off” (without pay, I might add) to decompress, get caught up with your normal life and just unwind from the stress.

Unfortunately, the summer weeks have become required staff development and training, often unpaid.  Several walking with us will spend the next 2 weeks in science or math training sessions to learn the updated curriculum and new ways to teach students.  Not that math is really any different or science has suddenly changed, just that there are “new” ways to present the material, new terminology and new pacing guidelines to increase the all important student achievement.  Bit of editorializing there, but it was supported by an article in the AJC this week detailing how much is expected of teachers now, with so little in return.  I could go on about all the crazy expectations of teachers, but I will save that for another day.

Back to camping and RV adventures for a moment.  I made a little “hitch helper” for the hitch end of our tow dolly this week that makes moving it around much easier.  Essentially three caster wheels on a board with a 2″ hitch ball so you can hitch the tow dolly to it and roll it around as needed.  Right now it is rolled under the back of the RV and taking up no more space in the driveway.   (After using it a bit, I would probably redesign it to include a balanced 4 casters or cut the wood as a triangle).  Also, we just booked two weeks back in St. Andrews State Park for next June at the site next to the one we had this year — Yippee!  If you are planning to be camping in the state park next year at that time, let us know — and if you aren’t, why not?

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Tow dolly attached to the new “hitch helper.”

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Side view of casters and hitch ball.

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Not our first camping trip . . .

Got to thinking that we must have some pictures of our early adventures camping in a motorhome.  So I pulled out a photo album, scanned (and color corrected) some prints of us in 1978 as we made a camping sweep across Florida that summer.  It was in the quintessential van of its time: the VW micro-bus, camper edition.  It was really quite convenient for two people – small sink that you pumped water from a tank, an icebox that relied on a nice big chunk of block ice to keep cool, food storage and prep tables on the swing out doors, and then you converted almost the whole interior to a bed at night.  Oh, and a pop-up top for extra headroom and ventilation.

No AC, in fact the heater was on for the whole trip.  If you ever had a VW van, you know how the lever and cable to the heating unit usually would rust shut or open, so you either had heat or you didn’t – whether you wanted it or not.

These pictures are from Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World Resort (sorry, it was an evening arrival), and Daytona Beach.

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Daytona Beach 1978

Daytona Van 1978

Daytona Beach 1978

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Fort Wilderness 1978

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Fort Wilderness 1978

It seems we also were in St. Augustine that summer, too.  37 years ago … gosh we haven’t changed a bit!

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St. Augustine 1978

St Augustine Jackie

St. Augustine 1978

On a later trip through Cape Cod we put a bike rack on the front of the van with two bikes attached (extra protection in a crash, no doubt), but that’s another story.

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Tires and bearings

We are spending the day in Lake Park at Camping World while all our tires are replaced. Now we learned that one of the wheel hub seals is bad so after the tires are done we head to another repair shop to have that repaired. The tire change is a 5 hour repair, so we won’t be back on the road for a while. We transferred pets and cooler to the Rav-4.  With the heat its a matter of the car’s AC or staying in the store.

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Jackie is cruising the store with the cat in shopping cart. These two pets have been great.

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A shot of the RV and car loaded up and ready to leave Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine Beach.  By the way, a pair of Pileated woodpeckers decided to fly about on the live oak above our campsite on the final morning (Teasing us?  But I did get the shot this time).

Anastasia St Pk (4)

UPDATE: After 6 hours of tire change waiting and a determination that a wheel bearing seal could not be found in S Georgia, we hit the road and are now back home. Another 5 hour nerve-wracking drive but we are all safe. Did I say I love my shower? Bar’s open! Adventure recap later.

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Lake Park Blues

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Well, we broke camp this morning after a rainy night last night and said goodbye to St. Augustine.  Had to do a quick shower at the beach rinse since it was so sticky hot. Just before Jacksonville we pulled in to a Pilot gas station to check gas and tires. Then round about the Lake City area of I-10 we heard a loud BANG and I looked around for propane blast or who knew what. All I saw in side view was the wheel well flapping a bit, figured we blew a tire. Pulled over and discovered we lost part of the side panel by the gas fill. No visible flat to either of the dual tires. Hmm.
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We continued on to I-75 and just before the state line a couple more thumps and we figured we had a problem. Exited at Lake Park, found another Pilot station and pulled in. Well this time the mud flap was flipped up and shredded so I unbolted it. Did I mention it is like 95+?

This gave me a better view of the inner tire which was shredding and obviously blown. So here we sit while the tire gets replaced… the spare is good, but they are all ’03 manufactured tires. No wonder. So now we are on the phone with Camping World one exit away about getting all of them replaced. Sounds like they will put us up in their campground on site and replace tires in the morning.

Ah well. Fitting end to a flawless trip otherwise.

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Another day another beach

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Loving this vacation in Florida.  We are on St. George Island, which sits between the Gulf and Apalachicola Bay. Quite a barrier beach, reminds us of Ft. Pickens near Pensacola Beach.  Quiet campground with more tent campers.  We rode bikes along the dunes, Doug did a bit of paddleboarding in the bay and we swam in the Gulf of course.  Windy, so the surf seems more like the Atlantic Ocean than the Gulf of Mexico, lots of waves, but the water is warm and clean.  Did I mention I got my fitbit wet in Panama City and it crashed, dead.  So now none of my exercise steps count (if you fitbit, you know the withdrawal).  But fitbit will replace it, soon as I get home and send them a copy of the receipt (yippee, but will I make it until then?).  One more of my “smart purchases” is Omaha Steaks before we left.  Easy portions that are frozen and ready to defrost and grill.  Yeah, we could do the same thing with vacuum sealer and all, but this worked out just fine (lots of steak on the grill, some chicken and burgers – good eats).  We roll out of here in another day, then on to Manatee Springs for some cool water snorkeling and maybe a manatee sighting.

BTW, I finished up “Edge of Eternity”, book three in the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett.  Great read, even though it took me from Christmas until now.  Now in the midst of “The 6th Extinction” by James Rollins.  What are you reading this summer?

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We are now in Manatee Springs and were finally able to post pictures from their snack bar. Bought a triple meat platter of barbecue for dinner at the snack bar. Delicious and finger licking.

More when we can…

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