I’d like to welcome a few new readers whom we had met in campgrounds. Click here for a list of older posts to see if there is a topic you are most interested in. I don’t advertise to increase readership of the blog as it remains just a place to make a record of our travels for ourselves, keep family and friends updated or refer new friends interested in getting started in living their future in an RV. And for those long-time readers, I’m starting to use more headlines in my posts so you can quickly scan the subjects and read what might interest you.
Changed Travel Plans
We changed our travel plans for this spring/summer trip for two reasons.
We have visited a couple larger cities on this trip when our normal travel style is to avoid heavily populated areas. Karan and I talked after leaving Charleston South Carolina. We agreed we want to go places we enjoy with as little hassle as possible and big cities are no fun for us. The second reason to change plans is her mom up in Michigan is moving to assisted care living which we are excited about and are most likely heading that way.
So, we decided to skip the trip to Washington DC, reroute and spend more time at several locations as we drift towards St. Louis Missouri (6/26/22) and down to Branson (7/10/22) for a longer stay. Today, we plan to stick the RV in storage for two weeks in Nashville where we have done it before and drive up to Michigan to see Karen’s mom. Things could change in the next couple of days, however. Not particularly a reason to change plans but we cut out maybe 500 miles of towing. I’m hearing there are possible diesel fuel shortages along the east coast as well but that would not be concerning to us as we have grown in experience on the road and take things as they come. Really sorry we are going to miss Bill and Kelly in Pennsylvania. Their blog is called Bill & Kelly’s American Odyssey. They posted a wonderful video which reveals why we all travel fulltime.
Short Stay in Southwest Viginia
On the way to Bristol Tennessee, I decided to climb over the mountain following Fancy Gap on I-77 north of Charlotte North Carolina into Virginia rather than going over on I-26 north of Ashville North Carolina were most would go to visit wonderful Ashville. Along with being an easier route in my opinion, this also gave us a chance to experience a little bit of Virgina. The truck did great on the 12-mile climb and shorter decent. I decided to run with the truck at 55 miles per hour during the 4%-5% grades and was happy to never notice the truck engine above 2,000 RPM and no added heat on the transmission. Using the tow/haul mode along with the full exhaust brake was the thing to do as I only hit our brakes one time going down the hill.
Fort Chiswell Virginia
We stayed four nights at Fort Chiswell RV Park Virginia which is located at the first exit after turning westbound from I-77 to I-81. It’s a quick exit where we did not even have to change lanes. Lots of history around there with some believing this was the start of the Wilderness Road Danial Boone was hired to carve out of the forests to the west towards the Cumberland Gap. This is along the migration route down which figures such as Sam Houston would have taken. Born nearby was Stephen Austin, also a founding father of Texas. Austin first moved to Missouri where lead mines had been located. His father had arranged to move families to Mexican Territory into what we call Texas with the blessing of Mexico’s President. Stephen completed his father’s dream. Then the attitude changed in “Texas”. Austin was placed in prison for two years in Mexico and only lived a short time after Texas gained its independence.
Electric Vehicles Showing up in Parks and RV Tips
Over the years Karen and I have continued to fine tune the way we live on the road. The simplest changes can make a world of difference if it involves something you do almost daily. For example, I don’t place the folding camping chairs in their bags for storage any longer because we are just getting them out at the next stop. Small deal but I hope that makes sense.
I’ve always coated my fingers with goop while putting oil and seasoning on meat to be grilled. Now I’m brushing it on and consider my grill setup nearing perfection. Ya, real cooks will say that’s a no brainer. I brush the oil and seasoning on while the meat is on the grill and have also been making better use of aluminum foil to reduce cleanup.
We are currently camped west of Knoxville Tennessee near Oak Ridge hoping not to become radioactive. We spent three weeks in Bristol Tennessee which will be the topic of my next post.
It is rare that a specific campground becomes a destination location for us. In July of 2015 my wife Karen asked to put 4 Paws Kingdom Campground and Dog Retreaton the must-see list. So here we are, at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains living among the trees with dogs and their owners. We booked a two week stay as during this spring/summer trip we are doing our best to stay at least a week at each stop and two if it is a destination. I’ll have to say the longer stays with shorter drives between each has been wonderful. If I had no desire to return “home” the preferred way of travel for me would be take off in a direction, never look back and stay for a week or two everywhere while circling the United States with maybe a two month stay for the winter.
Stop to Visit Family on the Way to 4 Paws
On the way to 4 Paws, we stayed for a week in Spartanburg South Carolina. From Spartanburg we made a day trip without the RV to the west side of busy Charlotte to visit Karen’s Uncle Dave and Aunt Rose whom she had not seen for many years. They live on a wooded lot near a residential lake. We much enjoyed the conversation, lunch and walk around the property. I sat there looking at Karen’s uncle and marveled at how much Dave’s gestures and features reminded me of Karen’s mom. You can tell Dave and Karen’s mom grew up in the same house. Rose is a sweetheart and any man would be privileged to have her in their life. We did take a photo, but I never got a copy from Karen.
While stopped in Spartanburg with nothing to tour in the area I had plenty of time to review our upcoming route and decided from 4 Paws Kingdom I’d be taking I-77 north through Fancy Gap rather than the higher elevations on I-26 north of Asheville. By the way Asheville North Carolina is the main reason folks come to this area so if you are near, I’d suggest researching Asheville.
4 Paws Campground and Dog Retreat
4 Paws Campground has resort level customer service. We were met in the street during check-in, a park employee showed us to our site and helped us navigate the hillside location to include guided service into our spot. They picked up trash every morning at our site, office staff were amazing, and Karen could even get her fancy coffee at times at the pavilion. If you come here, follow the campground’s direction listed on their website! This is a hilly area with truck routes and narrow country roads. There are plenty of day trips to take from the park if you’re interested. They have done a great job with the campground which includes something like 24 dog waste locations to pick up after your dog. They advertise this is a dog retreat but it’s okay to bring their human friends. Of course, they have lots for the humans to do and enjoy while here. This is the only campground in the United States built from the ground up as a dog retreat! With eight themed dog parks, pet grooming stations and more set in a quiet wooded area. Dogs barking was never an issue.
A couple Interesting RV Tips
Have you ever walked around a campground and noticed some RVers are better prepared than others? Us careful researchers can spot another in a second just by what accessories they bought. Everyone at 4 Paws were fantastic to meet. Campers get along always, but I’d have to say there was something different here. Folks stopped to talk always… Everyone was outside more often…. We had the best mutual bond which is the love of dogs…
I was staring over at our neighbor Kathy’s travel trailer hitch, noting it was a serious setup. I could see she had done her research. Next thing you know we are talking, and she emails information from her research in selecting a travel trailer hitch to help prevent the serious sway problem they can have while towing. Having a fifth wheel has spoiled me in terms of it feels more controllable in the wind. If I ever went back to a travel trailer, I’d consider the ProPride 3 P Hitch. Read all about it and trailer sway at this link.
In case your toy hauler needs another room, apparently there are options to buy an enclosed room for the deck area. We don’t see many toy haulers with the back deck down inside RV parks as they just don’t fit the space. The guys who started Keystone RV Company sold out then started Grand Design then sold out to Winnebago. I heard at least one of them started Alliance.
We are currently stopped outside Bristol Tennessee/Virginia where my family settled in the late 1700’s. In my next post I’ll show you the video of the drive up the mountain and through Fancy Gap on I-77. The truck and my nerves did fine.
Here is the short version of this post: When going down big hills use the tow/haul mode along with full exhaust brake if you have it. When towing normal I’m thinking I’ll leave tow/haul on and either the full or auto exhaust brake when going through towns with lots of traffic lights or stop and go traffic.
The rocks at the core of the Appalachian Mountains formed billions of years ago, according to the US Geological Survey. At one time all of the continents were still joined as one supercontinent surrounded by one ocean. About 540 million years ago the supercontinent began to break apart and seawater began spreading into low areas between the new individual land masses forming new oceans. God’s work for sure.
Geologists can prove the chain of mountains we call the Appalachians had been pushed up from the center of the earth roughly 480 million years ago, rising to elevations above the present-day Rocky Mountains which are still growing and much younger than the Appalachians. Over millions of years the Appalachians were eroded down to the current highest point being Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet located north of Asheville North Carolina. Today I-26 takes you through that area and links up to I-81 in Tennessee. The Appalachians tend to be more round at the top or flatter because of wind and water erosion. One can’t see the jagged areas through the forests now growing within the lowered elevations.
I lived 56 years of my life in the heartland of glorious America on a flat area at roughly 700 feet sea level and visiting family in the Ozarks at about 1700 feet sea level. Typical vacations might include the lower elevations of the Appalachians to tourist areas near Knoxville Tennessee. And maybe we might make our way through a gorge between the mountains (I-40) heading to Florida if we decided not to head south and cut across flat Interstate 10.
I had never driven eastward far enough to experience the Appalachians and had little idea they form so many barriers to the east coast. I can speak for other flatlanders who live at lower sea levels that mountains are mountains, regardless of how tall, and make us nervous to drive through them. Thirteen miles of 6%, or especially 7%, grades driving down or up an interstate highway between two mountain peaks is a long way regardless of if we are in the Rockies, Bighorns, Appalachians or wherever. I suppose we would have built up confidence had we lived in states like West Virginia and became accustomed to mountain tunnels and hills on Interstates like I-77. We are going to be within the mountain chain for weeks (gulp).
As a side note, researching my family’s migration history during and after the colonial period in Virgina and Tennesse has been enlightening. The British outlawed settlement west of the Appalachians because they would lose control of the population and ability to tax them. After the Revolution folks started migrating over just a few ancient paths as they dealt with the same barriers we have today through the mountains. I had no idea the Cumberland Gap was created when a large meteorite struck Kentucky. I’d heard about Daniel Boone as he and his son had roots in Missouri where I’m from. He defied British law and in 1769 took off on his journey which included discovering a trail west through the Cumberland Gap while facing Indian resistance. Or course, Native Americans had forged many of those paths over thousands of years as they spread out on the continent.
My own family traveled down a migration path that is now the general area of Interstate 81 from Pennsylvania. I’m still researching how they made it to Missouri through Ohio during times that appear to be maybe 10 years after the migration routes became more widely known out east. And some got lucky to have come from Europe directly to the Midwest well after establishment of shipping lanes, improved roads and railroads. For me, all this research about my family’s migration has added a clearer understand to what Karen and I have discovered while in the areas of the Oregon Trail further west. You might want to click on this link for more about that.
This trip through mountainous areas has been front and center in my mind since last December where I talked to easterners while at winter camp in St. Augustine Florida. I’m doing my best not to let anxiety of the pending drive ruin the trip. We are currently stopped at the foothills in Rutherfordton North Carolina for two weeks. I can see the big mountains in the distance. The first week of this stop I had to tell myself that I would let concern over the route go for the week and just enjoy where we are now. I’ll worry about the drive a couple days before it happens and know I’ll build confidence in the weeks to come. Glad to have RV Trip Wizzard as a tool in planning the route which includes elevations and road grades. Even more happy with the decision to purchase Mountain Directory East (I have the West version as well).
I appreciate the advice I got from other’s months ago who have been through the same areas. But I needed more information than they offered before making my own decisions. The perceived difficulty of the route is relative to if you live or travel routinely through mountains or not. Many say just staying on interstates, which have standardized road grades, is safe enough. Wrong – some of those interstates are just improved state highways in my opinion, having been built decades ago. And some folks don’t have newer tow vehicles which I’m glad we do. One gentleman said I-26 over the mountains north of Ashville North Carolina is no big deal. Damn, I searched the IRV2 web forums and found out that would be highest point in the mountains. What the heck…. So, as we are not in a hurry, I’m traveling east to go over at Fancy Gap well north of Charlotte North Carolina on I-77. Hope the wind and well-known development of sudden fog decide to stay out of the way the day we make the climb. I’ve been in contact with a trusted local resident, and fulltime RV traveler, in Pennsylvania regarding two routes I’m thinking about once we head back west.
Using Our Ram Diesel Truck Features in the Mountains
I will put a few videos at the bottom of the page where heavy duty trucks were compared for uphill and downhill performance and more.
Eagle Scout, Over-Planner me has never routinely used the exhaust brakes on our truck in over 15,000 miles of travel. I’ve never studied the owner’s manual for that feature either. I’ve been happy enough with using tow/haul mode and occasionally pushing the exhaust brake button because it seemed to slow down the truck when going down taller hills. So, for this next section of the blog post I’m assuming some might be as stupid as I’ve admitted being regarding using truck towing features. And I’ll hopefully provide ammunition for those trying to talk their spouse into getting a new truck:)
The best advice I ever received before purchasing the truck to tow our 16,000-pound (gross weight capacity) fifth wheel camper was to forget about the difficulty of driving it on a daily basis when not towing. Get the truck you need while towing as there will be times it is not safe to drive anything less. For my fulltime traveling family, that meant a 3500 dually diesel with an upgraded transmission. I would have purchased less truck and less trailer if only using it while on vacation. Chevy/GMC/Ford/Ram truck brands are all good for heavy towing and offer the same warranties. Get the one you like. Just make sure it can handle the weight in terms of rear axle rating and combined gross weight capacity. Click here for more about weight capacity which I consider to be the most important info I ever posted about selecting a truck.
On our Ram truck dash are two buttons for towing features. The truck also has a selector to manually control the transmission gears but that’s not necessarily needed when using tow/haul or engine exhaust braking. Some say whatever gear you are in when going up a hill is the same gear you should be in when going down. Again, our truck features handle this automatically.
Tow Haul mode is available on trucks with diesel engines and as I understand on some gas engine rigs. Push the button and the truck will automatically adjust the transmission shifting to best benefit towing and coming to a stop.
Exhaust braking is available on diesel vehicles and probably a main reason folks buy a diesel. On our truck there are two settings. Push the button once and the truck exhaust is used to slow the truck full-on, meaning the truck will reduce its speed, stopping, if possible, just using the exhaust system. There is a warning to make sure no one will hit you from behind should the truck suddenly reduce speed. Hit the button again and the truck exhaust braking enters an automatic mode which will keep the truck at the same speed it was at when you last took your foot of the accelerator or brake pedal.
The tow/haul mode and exhaust brake can be used at the same time. I should write that again. I have found if I put the truck in tow/haul and automatic exhaust braking (or full when going down big hills) then it handles everything on its own and I can concentrate on watching the turns in the road as we descend. If for some reason the truck’s speed goes much above what I want, I’ve been told to push the brake pedal sharply to bring it down to speed and then let up. Never ride the brakes or they could over-heat. I should add the exhaust brake system uses the trucks engine/exhaust not the brake pads on the truck’s wheels. (Update – many have been telling me they just use the full exhaust brake, not the automatic when going down long steep hills)
Semi-trucks use air brakes although I wonder if some also have added exhaust brakes. One of the reasons you see runaway truck lanes on downhill mountain roads is just in case a semi runs out of compressed air for the long trip down and can no longer brake. That’s not an issue with an exhaust brake.
We recently had our trailer brakes inspected and wheel bearings repacked. I replaced the tires and upgraded part of the suspension which is a decision we are happy with. Our truck service is not due. We are safe to travel.
I have also started trying to understand and talking to others about anxiety when driving. I’m thinking being older and more out of shape has changed my breathing and I’m probably drinking too much caffeine the day before traveling or not getting enough rest. In my 20’s I went up Pike’s Peak and can’t remember ever feeling anxiety. More recently the five-mile bridge to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula proved to be no issue but other tall bridges have. Probably because they look scarier when approaching from the side when you can see the entire bridge versus driving straight onto a bridge without a curve before it. Tunnels are another story… Then again, I used to have anxiety at other times while towing but no longer do, presumably because experience is building confidence.
I’ll post next about our current stay here in Rutherfordton North Carolina at the countries only RV park designed from the ground up for dogs and their human companions.
We moved north from the Brunswick/Savannah Georgia area to Charleston South Carolina with definite plans as to what Karen and I wanted to tour. We scheduled two weeks and considered this a destination stop rather than just traveling through. It turned out we loved our spot in the South Carolina woods so much we spent more time at home than planned. The terrain is starting to change, and we once again enjoyed early spring blooms as we had moved far enough north to make a difference in terms of what stage spring was in for this area. Soon the entire country will be in full bloom. We just get the chance to see it several times by moving north.
We accomplished a few mundane tasks such as catching up on laundry, trip planning and washing the dog. I was reminded as we pulled into our spot of talking with another camper a few weeks ago who was newer to Rving and had damaged the back corner of this fifth wheel while turning a corner. He was not aware of “tail swing”. Forgive me if you already know what tail swing is. Basically, with a trailer or motorhome there is a specific pivot point when the RV starts to turn the back of the RV will swing wider with the possibility of striking an object. The distance from the pivot point, such as the trailer or rear motorhome axles/tires, to the bumper of the RV will allow for more or less swing depending on how long the RV is from the back bumper to the pivot point. In other words, longer RV’s might have wider tail swing. Our spot required turning a corner wide to clear a truck parked between our path and our spot. I could have asked the owner to move but knew I could make the turn and still avoid the tail of our trailer swinging into a parked RV with its slide out along the edge of the roadway. This is a good time to have a ground guide watch to make sure you don’t hit anything.
The town of St Geroge is not much to see, having been established in 1829 and located along what was once the main route between New York and Miami Florida. Typical growth to include the train having come through and still does. The countryside is rural and very quiet. We are about 40 miles from Charleston and 20 miles from Summerville where there is plenty to see and do.
Colonial Dorchester near Summerville South Carolina. Suburb of the original Charles Town (Charleston)
Per a National Parks placard, Old Dorchester was laid out in 1697 as a market town for the Congregationalist colony (Puritans) from Dorchester Massachusetts. The village consisted of 116 quarter-acre lots, a town square and church which was built later in 1720. Charleston was the first South Carolina colony and Dorchester was later to be located out in the country at what became a trade center. By 1781 Dorchester had about 40 houses and gradually declines after the Revolution. By 1788 it was abandoned.
The Park’s Service has plenty of written documentation about the history of the town and we were lucky to run into a couple park rangers who explained the establishment of a nearby fort, built to guard a nearby river and store gun powder for defense of Charleston. Ruins of the Dorchester settlement are scattered around. What I find to be remarkable is an original graveyard with colonial settlers buried near what remains of the church steeple.
I’ve started paying more attention to the written history in these parts of the country, to include any maps or signs we discover. General Nathanial Greene of the Continental Army was considered by George Washington to be his most dependable commander and had taken charge of the Continental Army in the South where they won back control from the British. In the weeks to come I’ll write more about Greene. There are many towns and counties named after General Greene, the largest being Greene County Missouri which is where Springfield Missouri is located. On a personal note, my family has a grandfather that fought with a Pennsylvania Regiment and a grandmother (yes – grandmother) who served with a Virginia Regiment during the time Greene and Lafayette were up north fighting the British. My grandmother served at least three years. Her regiment was combined with another Virgina Regiment after Valley Forge. Greene drifted south with the reformed regiment. I’ll also add one grandfather fought as a Hessian Soldier on the British side. These are family, where we are soon traveling to see their roots in the area of Greenville (Greene County) and Bristol Tennessee/Virgina after the Revolutionary War. Family who follow this blog should be interest for sure. Anyone with the last name of Susong or Seneker from Tennesse or Virgina are most likely related.
As circled on the map above, I have described our campground stay at St George SC, then touring Summerville SC. We then moved on for a single day trip to the Charleston area. Prior to arrival, I had two goals. To experience Fort Sumter and view the preserved Confederate submarine, the Hunley both of which are unique American history that can’t been seen elsewhere.
The traffic on I-26 to downtown Charleston is terrible at all hours. A local said he had lived there since the 70’s, the population has tripled but the roads have only doubled. Folks at the campground were unanimous in what beach they prefer on the Atlantic which is Edisto Beach south of Charleston. As we had just come from Savannah Georgia, we had no interest in seeing the old parts of Charleston city other than I suspect the history of their slave trade would have been enlightening. The Hunley submarine restoration building was only open on weekends by appointment. Sorry to say, we decided not to venture back into the traffic to tour it in North Charleston.
We have already toured WW2 aircraft carriers so passed on the York Town. It’s not the original which was lost I believe at Midway Island. The ship is located with others at Patriates Point where you can easily find a day full of activities. We skipped Patriates Point, but I would have liked to see the Vietnam War setup they have which is interactive.
There are two points from which to catch a National Parks Ferry out to Fort Sumter which is only accessible by boat. One location is downtown the other is at Revolutionary War era Fort Moultrie and hands down the place to visit out on Sullivan’s Island. We took the east outer loop (I-526) around Charleston to get there which cut down on traffic. Never knew about Fort Moultrie but later recalled that was where captured Chief Osceola was taken during the Seminole Indian Wars in Florida. Which is an area we have also explored during our travels across the panhandle of Florida. Osceola was captured when he agreed, under the white flag of truce, to meet in St. Augustine. Many towns around the United States are named after him as during the time the capture was published in newspapers and citizens were upset Osceola and others had been tricked to come in under a white flag to talk. Citizens named their towns after him out of respect.
I’ll most likely regret not having made it to the Hunley Submarine Muesum. But I will not regret skipping the boat ride out to Fort Sumter. Why? Because I’m thinking all I would have gotten out of it was to say I stood at Fort Sumter. The Fort had been three stories tall before the Union Army destroyed it while in Confederate custody during the war. Then modern coastal guns and buildings were added during the period of WW2. Karen and I would have had to take turns staying behind with the dog also as they are not allowed at Sumter. I had a great view of Sumter from the shoreline as well as from a lookout point and gun emplacement at Fort Moultrie.
The original Fort Moultrie was built from palmetto logs. The British took Charleston during the Revolutionary War but were later defeated.
Got stuck on a big bridge coming back from Sullivan’s Island. I could feel the bridge moving as trucks drove by, but Karen said she could not.
Thoughts About Fulltime Traveling
Sometimes while traveling fulltime you have lazy days and just sit around the campsite rather than touring in town. Others describe this as a lifestyle not a vacation. Life goes on and there is plenty to do such as paying bills, working a remote job, constant RV repairs and maintenance, laundry, and groceries. Seems like if we are going to drive hundreds of miles pulling 15,000 pounds of trailer, we should be out seeing local sites. But some of my favorite alone moments have been sitting at the dining room table looking outside at our new back yard. The views change even if you don’t leave the campground. Views like the black hills of South Dakota in the distance or the tall pines in a South Carolina forest are hard to beat. During challenging times while RVing I remind myself why we are doing this. I have to say it also reinforces the decision to travel when others remind us that we are living the life they dream of. If I had to put a number to it, I’d say traveling fulltime with no permanent house to go back to is 70% fun and 30% suck. Important to note if you are considering the lifestyle. The 30% parts can come in short lived intense moments. Some like the thrill and challenge of the 30% for sure. I over plan to minimize what can go wrong but have become better at just rolling with it which certainly was not something I could do easily our first two years on the road.
We are planning to meet up with Dee Walter of Tumbleweed Blog (I’ve followed her blog since 2015) as well as Kelly and Bill of Bill & Kelly’s American Odyssey Blog (following since 2016) on this trip after Washington DC. Destinations can be more than a place. Something to look forward to. See the sites and meeting new friends! Can’t get any better than that.
What the hell, we were that close to Myrtle Beach and did not go there. Same, same are words I use. Seen one beach community seen them all. Seen one civil war museum, seen them all. We are looking for new experiences and places that can’t be seen anywhere else.
Between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL, is the city of Brunswick with four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Spanish explorers were seeking gold more than 400 years ago only to find golden marsh land rather than gold.
Back in 2016 I added a line to the spreadsheet of places we might want to visit, noting a stay between Brunswick and Savannah Georgia could be a place from which to explore both Georgia colonial ports. These cities are a common stop for travelers heading up or down Interstate 95 on the way to or from Florida. And for sure, a place of vacation for others. Perhaps second only to the countryside of any Hawaiian Island, I found the historic district in Savannah to be the most beautiful city I have ever visited.
The Next Chapter Blog mentioned McIntosh Lake RV Park in Townsend Georgia as being a reasonably priced stop between Savannah and Brunswick. Frankly, I had never heard of Brunswick Georgia and until visiting the location never had an appreciation for what it might offer. I’m glad we stopped in between and took day trips to both places rather than skipping over either location. We paid $252 with the weekly campground rate but ended up staying 14 nights which averaged $37.80 a night on full hookups parked on a grassy pad off gravel campground roads. This was the first time in a long time our RV park had a recreation hall with a comfortable sofa, TV and pool table. Atlantic beach areas and plenty to see is within 40 miles. We had a surprise earlier when our dear friends Ray and Charlotte called. They were delaying their return home to Traverse City Michigan due to winter weather and would be moving their motorhome more than 160 miles in the opposite direction to spend the week with us at McIntosh Lake RV Park.
St Simons Island – Near Brunswick Georgia
St Simons Island and Jekyll Island are the two popular sandy beach areas to enjoy the Atlantic. Jekyll, having been a playground for the rich and famous long ago, is more rustic and you can camp on it. Folks live all year long on St Simons and this is where we found Georgia colonial history. We spent little time in the town of Brunswick which was one of the original port cities during colonial times and later a major exporter of lumber. Timber from its strong oaks were used to build our nations war ships in the 1700’s.
Colonial Fort Frederica Settlement, On St Simons Island, Brunswick Georgia
I’ll explain shortly about British General Oglethorpe’s involvement in settling the Georgia Colony, the last of the empire’s colonies in North America and one of the original 13 with the establishment of Savannah. Fort Frederica was built in 1732 as a buffer between the Spanish of Florida and British Georgia. This area has strong religious ties. Accompanying General Oglethorpe were John and Charles Wesley, leaders of the evangelical movement and founders of the Methodist Church.
Visting the sites of these settlements, reading published original documents and witnessing the ruins, is a very good way to confirm what we learn from history books. I was completely caught off guard at Fort Frederica, thinking it would be just another pile of rocks (tabby actually). This was an archeological dig site. Uncovered are the foundation ruins of each building of the small settlement set among the backdrop of what remains of the fort’s powder magazine. Modern historians have a road map of what the place originally looked like. Each street is now grass and at the end are signs with the street names. As you walk along there are stops at each ruin to explain what the building was used for with small artifacts on display. This was a remarkable experience.
The Christ Episcopal Church congregation was established as a mission of the Church of England in 1736. The Rev. Charles Wesley conducted the first services in the chapel within the walls of Fort Frederica. After the Revolution, this and other churches of England formed the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.
Located alongside the road to the Frederica settlement and Fort is the current Christ Episcopal Church built at the site in 1884. The grounds are magnificently landscaped. Unfortunately, the grounds were closed on Mondays when Karen and I visited it with our friends Ray and Charlotte. Well, there is a cemetery attached and it seemed legal to walk over the church grounds to pay respects, especially as there were no funerals being held that day. Outside the gated entrance was a tree and placard marking the area Rev. Wesley first preached at the location. I had been reading about the history of St. Simon and Georgia colony and over time got to recognizing names of noteworthy folks that lived in the area. Such as a minister’s wife who dedicated her life to a boy’s home and now, buried around her, are the same boys who grew and lived a productive life. A revolutionary war soldier, another who died in captivity during the civil war who had been an immigrant and more. I’m humbled by their achievements.
Fort King George National Historical Site
Fort King George was built in 1721 by the British to watch over the inland waterway at St Simons Island. The fort is located on the mainland north of Brunswick. It was occupied for six years during which time 140 officers and soldiers lost their lives here and are buried on the adjacent bluff. The fort was placed to counteract French expansion and the area was first visited by the Spanish. After the fort was abandoned, British General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736 to setup a lookout post and lumber production.
And Without Further Ado – Savannah Georgia
Near the end of the American Civil War, General Sherman of the Union Army took Savannah for his headquarters. In the south Sherman is most likely known as being the first asshole in a complete human form. At least he got one thing right which was believing Savannah is the most beautiful city he had ever seen and decided not to burn it to the ground. But that is just a glimmer of the city’s history…
Savannah is located 75 miles north of Brunswick off I-95. Established in 1733 it was Georgia’s first settlement and state capital. It was a planned city or in other words the town was designed with purpose and to be something different. From a drawing to a city. It was laid out to consist of wards seperated by common green spaces which are now parks every few blocks or so. It was designed to be a walkable city as well. Houses were close together because they needed no personal green space as the community used a common area. These square parks located throughout the historic district are beautifully landscaped.
Savannah was to be a utopia. Designed and settled under the leadership of British General Ogelthorpe, who was a Member of Parliament, and a person who sought to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Slavery was outlawed in the beginning as was drinking rum. Savannah was first settled by 113 colonists and flourished. It became, and still is, a major shipping port in the south. The current river walk is below a main road and along the Savannah River. Shops are built into the old basement areas with other facilities above. The current city has a fun vibe about it in my opinion. This is a don’t miss stop.
We are leaving the Charlston South Carolina area on 4/3/22 taking a turn to the north towards Bristol Virginia and a couple stops in between. Trying to decide if I can handle the mountain grades on I-26 north of Ashville South Carolina into Johnson City Tennesse or if it is worth it to go 100 miles out the way and take the easier grade on I-77 through the Fancy Gap. Our diesel truck can handle it easy as we have 30% more truck than the trailer requires. My nerves will be the challenge:)
We moved 50 miles north from St. Augustine to the northwest corner of Jacksonville Florida two weeks earlier than planned. I was required to travel to Kansas City (Liberty) Missouri as a witness in two criminal trials during which I had been the lead investigator. Unfortunately, there were no available spaces at or nearby our campground in St. Augustine where I could extend our stay. We would have been out of town at the time we were expected to vacate our spot in St. Augustine and unable to move our RV. Knowing I would be flying from Jacksonville it was reasonable to move closer to the airport. As it turned out, the trials would once again be continued to another date and the trip to Kansas City was called off. Our chance visit to Jacksonville became unexpectedly interesting.
I had no idea Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida. I knew the city had grown to the point the county is basically the entire metropolitan area. Busy I-95 traverses downtown and the huge Saint Johns River, three miles at its widest point, is an obstacle in terms of roadways. There is a drop in elevation in the river which of course is typical and a reason rivers flow. But what is not common in the south is this river flows to the north. If you find yourself in the area the outer loop on I-295 is always less busy on the west side than on the east closer to the Atlantic Ocean according to locals and my own experiences. Fellow RV bloggers Random Bits RV are from Jacksonville if my notes are correct. Wish I could have tracked them down to see if by chance they were in the area for a visit or even still living fulltime in their motorhome.
Karen and I grew up in the Midwest so living in coastal cities is a huge experience for us. As usual upon arrival we want to know where the best sandy beach is and how close is Walmart or a decent grocery store. It’s particularly more difficult to find a nearby beach and avoid heavy traffic near the larger cities which at the time I’m writing this includes not only Jacksonville but Savannah Georgia and Charleston South Carolina. I’ll report about those cities in the next two blog posts. One often has to hop over to barrier islands to access the best beaches on the Atlantic.
Now I’ve been over some bridges in my life some of which are considered monuments in my hometown. Taller and longer bridges seem to be a dime a dozen on the Atlantic coast. Someday I’d like to write a blog post regarding driver’s anxiety when traveling fulltime. I can’t recall ever reading another’s blog post on the topic. Tall bridges, driving in storms and wind, through tunnels 45′ below the water, down mountain grades 7000 feet higher than you grew up in, narrow lanes through busy city construction to include complicated detours. The list is long in terms of what can cause anxiety when driving. I can say for sure one forgets about the trailer behind you when your eyes are glued to the road while your fingers crush the steering wheel. I’m doing my research now regarding driving anxiety and will get back to you on that.
Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island
You got to drive over that Dames Bridge pictured above to get here from the side of town we stayed in. But worth it to find something different. We have seen plantations elsewhere such as the interior of Alabama, Georgia or even the boot hill of Missouri. The Kingsley Plantation is different. It’s the oldest remaining plantation home in Florida and an example of the task system used during the years of slavery in this country. Construction materials used for building and crops profited from are different. The Kingsley Plantation is a link to European trade from, in my opinion, the colonies in America. No Florida settlement was not part of the original 13 colonies but it sure the heck had something to do with how this country came about. One has to put aside the emotions associated with the terrible facts of slavery and concentrate on how folks lived back then, or you will not learn from the visit.
As a side note, it’s 2:37 am right now as I type this, 40 miles west of Charleston South Carolina. The temperature outside is 70 degrees on March 24th. I’ve had to turn on the air conditioner to remove the humidity inside the RV in order to cool the place down. I’m retired with no place I have to be so yes, I’ll stay up as late as I want. Life is wonderful…. I can hear the rain bouncing off the top of the RV and hope the tornadic storm further north does not impact the area of North Carolina where we are headed next.
The Kingsley Plantation is named after Zephaniah Kinglsey but that’s not important. He spent 25 years here. He had three wives one of which had been a slave he bought when she was 13 years of age. That’s disgusting of course. He brought the family here in 1814 and had a strong opinion of how to maximize profits of his slaves. In short, the task system is giving each and every individual slave a set of tasks to complete each day. They work until that’s done and whatever time is left the slave can use to attend to their personal needs such as growing food. Zephaniah had other business interest and left his wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, from Senegal West Africa in charge. Now this gets interesting. Anna was the slave Kinglsey bought when she was 13. Her father was a ruler in Africa who captured other Africans to be sold into slavery. Anna was captured by another tribe and sold into slavery. She actively participated in plantation management, acquiring her own land and slaves when freed by Kingsley earlier in 1811. The plantation grounds offered other interesting details about life back then and what we would later find to be common among other plantations scattered along the Atlantic coast.
With an enslaved work force of about 60, the Fort George plantation produced Sea Island cotton, citrus, sugar cane, indigo (popular blue) dye, and corn. Kingsley continued to acquire property in north Florida and eventually possessed more than 32,000 acres, including four major plantation complexes and more than 200 enslaved people. Sea Island cotton is different than what is grown elsewhere in that the grains are longer and more preferred. It benefits from the sea salt within the marshlands that are harder to work than open fields in dryer areas. The Florida plantation system began in 1765 within British Florida (Spain gave up Florida to Britain in 1763) and ended with the American civil war in 1865.
If one spends much time at historic locations in the south on the east coast you will become familiar with a building material called Tabby. Tabby is a type of concrete made byburning oyster shells to create lime, then mixing it with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells. Tabby was used by early Spanish settlers in present-day North Carolina and Florida, then by British colonists primarily in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. The complete plantation buildings and ruins were fascinating and dog friendly.
The one park ranger at the post was tied up for the most part talking to one visitor. I had walked over to the river and looked down from the sea wall. I noticed what appeared to be crudely formed clay bricks along the shore and finally found an opening to ask the ranger about them. The bricks were used within the ships coming from Europe as ballast. Once they arrived at Kingsley Plantation the bricks were replaced with cargo. While the land was being cleared as part of restoration for the park, the bricks were pushed by bulldozers to the water’s edge as seen in the two photos below.
Amelia Island Sandy Beaches and the French Fort Caroline
Amelia Island is one of a chain of islands extended from South Carolina to Florida. These islands played an important role in the founding of our country. Located northeast of Jacksonville Florida, Amelia Island is 13 miles long and approximately four miles at its widest point. The Atlantic Ocean communities of Fernandina Beach, Amelia City, and American Beach are located on the island. So was the French settlement at Fort Caroline until the Spanish found out and sent soldiers from St. Augustine to kill most of them. This is the American frontier in the years before, during and after the original 13 colonies as the nations of Britian, Spain and France competed for land against each other and the indigenous tribes that occupied the area.
I’m so fortunate to have been delayed writing this blog post. We had moved on through Brunswick and Savannah Georgia to Charleston South Carolina. Taking in the local history in those places opened my eyes to the bigger picture as to how the boarders of our country came to be during the early years. Ya, I knew about the 13 original colonies, but what happened when the individual colonies were established was vaguely explained in school or I did not listen. And yes, we spent time enjoying the beauty of the places and walking the dog along the beaches looking for and discovering “why moments” as in why we travel fulltime and live in a 35’x8′ box.
I am completely humbled by and respect those that worked for a lifetime researching and resurrecting history so that people like me can briskly walk through an historic location in two hours.
The City of American Beach was founded by Abraham Lincoln Lewis who was Florida’s first black millionaire to benefit his African American workers during segregation when blacks were not allowed to swim at most of the Jacksonville Beaches. American Beach lost homes and buildings as a result of Hurricane Dora. The Civil Rights Act desegregated Florida’s beaches. We started our drive checking out the beach areas at Fernandina Beach, but they were overrun with visitors as spring break was starting. I could not find parking at the various coastal access points in Fernandina, so we drifted south along Amelia Island and came upon American Beach which I highly recommend. My sister Mary asked me to check out Amelia Island as she has wanted to go there. At this point, I’ll recommend considering St. Simons Island outside Brunswick Georgia over Amelia Island. Amelia Island might be a little more upscale than St. Simons which has more residential areas where people live all year. St. Simons is about 60 miles north of Amelia. If you are heading into the area do your own research for sure. Unfortunately, we did not have time to check out the American Beach Museum as we wanted to make it home before rush hour traffic.
France knew the Spanish had settlements in the Americas and wanted in on the commercial opportunities so in 1562 they established a colony near the mouth of the St. John’s River outside current day Jacksonville. With help from the Timucua Indians, the colonists began building a village and fort. The Spanish later settled St. Augustine in 1565. As I understand it, a Frenchman was captured and revealed the settlement. The Spanish were like – what – the French are here? They marched on the French settlement, killing most everyone other than a few Catholics and some they enslaved. France took the place back during another fight, but the settlement did not survive. Otherwise, the French settlement may have been the oldest continually occupied city in America rather than St. Augustine. This fighting for land on the frontier gets more interesting when you throw in the British outposts which I’ll explain later with our visit to Savannah Georgia.
Should Have Done this Months Ago
Well Karen and I broke down and bought one of those state sticker maps and stuck it on our RV. We add stickers only when we actually camp in a state. When parked in the black hills of Custer South Dakota we noticed another couple placed the map on the inside of their entrance door and we stole the idea. Folks see the map which often leads to conversations where they have traveled. It also adds a little artwork to the inside of our home. Some add stickers when they drive through a state with their RV or when they stop and do something significant in the state. We just added our 23rd state sticker which is South Carolina. We both enjoy the moment when adding a sticker although our goal does not include visiting every state.
We are currently camped at Jolly Acres RV Park in the South Carolina woods for two weeks 40 miles from Charleston. Our spring/summer trip has begun. We will be traveling north up I-26 from here on the way to visit family, both living and dead.
What I’ll miss most about St. Augustine Florida were the friendships we developed within the snowbird community where folks are parked for the winter. Plenty of fulltime travelers have come off the road after a few years because the positives did not outweigh the loss of community. Above is a photo of Karen learning a new skill which is weaving pine needles using basic supplies we carry in the RV along with what she finds on the ground. Dental floss is used for the string and Elmers’s Glue is rubbed on the backside for water proofing and smooth finish.
It has taken three years to finally see what I had somewhat been missing. Not the “got to live in a community thing” but all the great people we are meeting are an essential part of this if one intends to stay on the road long-term. I’ve read other’s blogs when they wrote about friendships. The power behind those experiences was not easily understood within their written words. One has to experience it first-hand.
Mike and Norma are from the west side of Michigan’s upper peninsula in the Iron Mountain area. We met through their dog Axle who is the most friendly and obedient dog I’ve ever seen come out of a shelter. We have an open invitation to camp near them someday in Michigan.
The Canadians are back! Met no fewer than three couples at Stagecoach RV Park. Paul and his wife Pat (Patricia I’m guessing) are from Washago Onterio. Where 80% of Canadians live 100 miles from the US border, they don’t. I enjoyed the conversation about life in Canada and their national history. We had a meal together and I tagged along with them to Jacksonville for a big outdoor RV show. They have owned property in the US and traveled extensively. The couple wants to downsize from their 40′ Grand Design Solitude to the same floor plan we have which is 34′ 11″ in our Vilano. They had a large motorhome before and passed along the pros and cons. Glad to have his number as he would be a good source for motorhome construction. He immediately told me to never buy a certain chassis in a motorhome and what would be the best. Sorry, can’t recall the chassis brand but apparently in a motorhome that part of the foundation is super important and might help one reduce the motorhomes to select from during your search.
We were at the Jacksonville RV show the first day when unfortunately, the factory representatives had not shown up yet. So, I asked the salesman why the Grand Design lacked 1000 pounds of gross weight capacity compared to three other companies who build the same floor plan. He said because they want to keep it towable with a three-quarter ton (2500) series truck. I refined my question and asked what exactly is built with less capacity where you would lose the important 1,000 pounds of cargo space? I got the dumb stare answer. So, I crawled under the trailer and believe the answer is now frame construction. Beyond that I was completely impressed with the Grand Design. But then again some don’t need 3,000 pounds of cargo. I checked construction areas others might not know to look at and found 99% of the time everything looked excellent. Congratulations to Grand Design for keeping up with uniform construction in a time it’s hard to find skilled labor! I’d buy one. The salesman uttered the couples current Grand Design is maintaining value. I can see that to be true as Grand Design is popular which helps resale. He shot them a quick price on the new unit. I did some math on my phone and showed it to the salesman adding I’d thinking he would be closer to my number (32% off MSRP delivered). He said I was close but just a little low. I thought back and maybe I was a little low as the best off MSRP is found in more expensive rigs. I came away believing one can still get 30% off true MSRPand yesterday, 3/6/22 I read where shipments of new RVs have finally begun to decline.
Below is an interesting new floor plan at 32’7″. Yes, two feet shorter makes a difference when backing into a tight camping spot off a narrow road. However, the height of a big RV is equally concerning.
Replaced Westlake G Rated Tires with Sailun S637 G Rated Tires
Westlakes are still a popular brand tire for new RVs. Because the cost and their load capacity are impressive. Decided I wanted tires built in Vietnam rather than South Korea. Just kidding. Actually, after 15,000 miles two of our Westlakes were showing uneven wear. It would take a full blog post to pass along what I learned as possible reasons. In our case one tire on each axle, at opposite corners, were showing more inside wear than the other two tires. I had them rotated 1000 miles ago and still believe they are safe to run on. However, because I have no idea what could be going on inside the tread, I decided to replace them rather than to risk a blowout. I compared the Goodyears, Westlake and Sailun. I’ll watch for uneven tread wear on the new tires which I ordered from Simpletire.com and highly recommend as a vendor. Justification, other than safety, to replace tires early is that damage from a blowout to the RV will be more expensive and inconvenient than the cost of new tires.
My tires arrived in a UPS truck at the office within three days of the order which I tracked via text messages. I caught the driver and asked him to drop them at our site. I was worried about availability as Sailun had a recall on tires dated in 2020 and they would be low on stock. A neighbor who was in the tire business looked at my Westlakes and confirmed some of the fine rubber dust on the tread surface of our existing tires was caused by unbalancing. As the trailer goes down the road ever so slightly the tire skips on the ground. Again, I could write an entire post on balance vs not balancing trailer tires. Most don’t balance them. I took two tires off at a time and had Discount Tire mount them as their shop was two blocks away from our camping spot. I used our spare tire to temporarily replace one that was missing during the install along with support from our hydraulic jacks. Good thing I did as the spare tire was down to 65 PSI from 80 even when filled with nitrogen after three years. This was a good opportunity to confirm the contraption that lowers the spare tire under the trailer was in working order. I’ll need to remove and paint some of the rust on the spare tire wheel which is steal rather than a higher rated aluminum rim. Our spare was rated E which is below what is needed for anything other than slow temporary usage in our case.
Wow, how many can say they lived in St. Augustine Florida for a total of three months! I was here a few days back in the 1980’s on vacation. There is no comparison when one is able to dig in and get to know the place.
As mentioned in my last post, we stayed here last winter for a month as well and toured many places in town. There are excellent dog friendly beaches here. The parking garage in historic downtown is $10 a day and worth it. No problem finding a spot for our dully truck on the third level. For shorter RVs or trailers there is a large vehicle parking area across the street. This was a walled city in the 1500’s and if you look closely, you will find the reconstructed city entrance through the gates as well as old retaining walls and buildings still standing inside.
Common places to tour are the old fort, St. George Street and the lighthouse. We had a “why moment” as in why we are traveling, when enjoying a local beer in a courtyard off ancient St. George Street surrounded by Florida vegetation. I turned to a lady near us and said, “you know we are probably going to hell for enjoying this so much.” She laughed and said, ya, there is two feet of snow back home where she is from.
Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe it or Not wanted to buy a mansion here, which was converted to a hotel, in order to display odd items he had collected during his world travels. He died before family bought the place which became their first of 25 museums. This is where the original TV show was filmed. Can’t see that anywhere else so it was on my list. Odd place for sure. The Red Train tour of town leaves from here and your dog is welcome to ride with you. The Trolly Tour in town does not allow dogs but you can get off and back on at stops compared to the Red Train which is a continual tour. The Trolly will send a van to get you at Stagecoach RV Park, and perhaps other parks. According to friends the one day Trolly pass is worth the money.
We ate out more often than usual. My favorite on this trip was Pizza Time located on the oldest street in America, St. George. This is the second highest rated pizza restaurant in the nation on Trip Advisor. The thin crust melts in your mouth. Many of the ingredients are imported. An employee suggested we take a tray outside with us so we could enjoy the meal wherever, just remember to take the tray back.
Lance Travel Trailer Tour Owned by Our Friend Michael
From the road one morning came the cry “oh my is that Wyatt!” Our friend from last years visit, Michael was walking his Cocker Spaniel Toby and recognized Wyatt now nearly full grown when he last saw him as a puppy. Michael and his mom have traveled all over this area and had great ideas where to camp. He said they replaced their Rockwood travel trailer (more budget friendly brand) with a 28′ Lance. Wow, I had to see that. I’ve noticed the famous builder of truck campers had begun building travel trailers a few years ago. They are pricey and something to consider if you are looking closer to Air Stream price points. As expected, I was impressed with the construction details on the Lance.
In conclusion I’ll say that folks in RV parks are for the most part respectful of your privacy. More common than one might think is the helpfulness of other RVers which in no way a bother if you think about it. Specifically, it is true that if you break out the tools and start fixing something there is a chance a neighbor will come over to inquire what’s up. I usually do this by asking if they have all the tools they need which leads to getting into the project with them. When you are away from home base when a repair is needed it goes so much easier with an extra set of hands and mind to think through the fix. More than once I’ve handed out spare parts, screws, wire or whatever and was glad to do it. I’ve received more help than I’ve been able to give. Snowbird parks (where folks go for the winter) are by far the best place to find extremely experienced RV owners who are happy to show you the modifications and upgrades they have made to their rigs. Goodby Covid! Hello to more friendships yet to be discovered.
We are currently parked northwest of Jacksonville Florida.
I made a list of what topics I wanted to report about. There were 16 items. I’ll just talk about a few and move on. This is a journey of discovery; much is learned during the process.
We have been stopped in St. Augustine Florida for the past five weeks. We booked our site last year when we also stayed at Stagecoach RV Park. I can get into this snowbird way of life. Staying here for two months with familiar people camped near us is good for filling a need to be part of a community. I’ve decided you can’t get this sense of community from any less than a two month stay during winter when folks are parked waiting out the snow up north. That got me thinking about what-if we should stop traveling fulltime and still want to enjoy winter in the sun. What rig would I want to live in for only a few months.
In the past three years we have stopped traveling only twice for two months at a time. We occasionally stop for a month but mostly move in 3- or 4-day increments, favoring weekly stays. We have pulled the trailer just over 15,000 miles since August of 2019. Think of it as going one way between Washington DC and Los Angeles five and half times.
2021 Budget Results
Budget advise for fulltime travel is hard to give. Because there are individual circumstances to consider such as is health insurance provided by Medicare or not. During my planning stages I used the average budgets of two fulltimers whom I thought traveled the same way we would be doing with similar rigs.
Our 2020 annual expenditures were $48,754 or $4,062 average per month BEFORE taxes. After taxes we spent about $3,791 monthly in 2020. I include anticipated income taxes in my budget. I exclude RV/truck depreciation from the budget which is substantial. These costs are all inclusive otherwise and yes, healthcare is part of it. Let me know in the comments if you have questions.
Our 2021 expenditures were $51,145 before taxes or $4,262 average per month. We are dept free so there are no RV or truck payments required. Interesting figures include we spend on average about $29 a night for RV spots. Truck fuel is about $305 a month. Our monthly grocery bill averages $1,206 a month. We eat good and this includes beer, snacks, entertaining guest/family at cookouts. We don’t eat out much so restaurants were just $135 average per month. Turns out we also tend to visit tourist spots that are lower cost and seldom go into large cities. We have not traveled in the northeast or California which are pricey. Average this year per month for entertainment was $61. We travel in our RV fulltime, not sit at one stop for months such as while workcamping. Moving less often would be a fantastic way to reduce costs. We set aside a savings account to offset months where our income would be less than our expenses and just now started to use that account. COVID slowed down our travel plans. I had expected the extra savings to be gone by now (our third year of travel) at which time we would consider volunteering or workcamping at times.
There will be no 2022 budget results. Because we are now disciplined and know about what we can spend each month. I do not enjoy living off a budget and the time it takes to track it. I know what should be left in the accounts at the end of the month after expenses and will just keep an eye on that.
Fun Times in St. Augustine Florida
I could easily start and end this section with “we enjoyed special times with a few special friends in the sun.”
Ray and Charlotte made the trip again this year from Traverse City Michigan. They had to come because our dog Wyatt’s best friend is their dog, Dixie who needed a ride to Florida. We visited the family at their Michigan home over the past year and if things go as planned, we will see them again in a faraway place next fall.
Bill Weiler is my oldest friend, meaning someone I’ve stayed in contact with more years than any other. He and Sharon live on Merritt Island and if things go as planned, we are still expecting to attend a rocket launch as viewed from their backyard. He has a special pass to get into places at Cape Canaveral as well. Among her many talents, Sharon is a writer and Karen is enjoying her books. Both made the two-hour drive north to St. Augustine where we enjoyed conversation and a BBQ lunch. Bill was able to talk with my neighbor, Kurt and Sammy from the mountains of Tennessee. Kurt worked at Sprint (a.k.a. United Telecom, United Telephone) during the times Bill and I worked there and knew the same people. Small world. Hope I got the spelling of their names correct. Figured it’s not polite to ask their names and how they are spelled for a future blog post.
People who own dogs travel in RVs because they don’t want to leave them at home or in motel rooms. I’d say there are a dozen families here whom all got to know each other through their dogs.
We split the bill and rented a large pontoon boat. What a day we had traveling up the inland waterway to the outlet at the Atlantic. Ray has family in the area and knew the routes. He even allowed me to tag along doing some cleanup work at his mom’s home during which time we removed a large shed and the six-foot yellow snake that came back to visit again after the first relocation. Of course, the history of St. Augustine is unmatched as the oldest city in America. We spent much time touring last year when we were here for just a month.
Spring and Summer Trip Plans
Finally had time to make some trip plans for the next two seasons. We have been almost close to freeking Canada over two summers and never escaped the heat even at 6,000 feet. So why not spend the summer back in Missouri if heat is everywhere. We will arrive in Branson Missouri for no less than two months beginning July 10, 2022. Going to spend a lot of time on Table Rock Lake.
On the way we will head north from Florida on or about March 27, take a left at Charlston, across I-26 into the Shenandoah Valley. Then north through the Bristol Tennessee area to visit ancient family who settled there. Then back over the Appalachians on to Washington DC. We will then head out to south Pennsylvania and Ohio. And for the first time crossing back into Missouri via St. Louis (Dee – I’ll let you know more later on the timing for a visit which currently looks like arriving June 26th for a week stay.) This is our first-time cramming booth a spring and summer trip into one itinerary.
Within my last post I mentioned I might violate an RVer rule whereby to preserve the peace we do not talk about controversial issues. This has been a most difficult post to write because it requires restraining my opinion which I admit has been influenced through our travels from state to state. This has required much reflection on my life’s experience, and frankly in light of recent national events is upsetting to think about long enough to write about. After much thought I decided to write this wordy statement:
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone followed the rules! Some decide that violence is a better solution. I think because some violent rule breakers, and some that support them directly or indirectly, believe chaos will force a community into changing the ethical, moral or legal standards of a nation. Chaotic behavior is unpredictable and appears to be random – but it’s not.
I love our country. Next to family and God, my country is all I have. Anything that affects my country is very personal. Just as I’m sure it is for others who are reading this text. The United States is the finest nation ever formed in the history of mankind and with the support of God and our diversified people will remain so. As designed, our system of government is molded from our national experiences as well as what worked and what did not work in nations before us. We are a young nation where its founders were smart enough to know the Constitution was just the beginning, that it required a process to amend its laws. Reaching our full potential as a nation has yet to happen, but it will. We have a roadmap. Progress has been slow but deliberate. Many have suffered along the way; history reminds us of this. I love my country and being an American comes first before any argument between the left or the right.
Jump to the bottom of the post if you are just interested in RV tips, in this case regarding staying at cabins within RV parks as an alternative form of travel.
Our visit to Montgomery was not a pilgrimage. There was a lot to see in the area and worth a longer stop as we were heading through town. We had a chance to visit Hank Williams along with the Tuskegee Airfield and downtown Montgomery.
Now on to Montgomery
Montgomery Alabama history reveals two dramatic events along our nations path to becoming what we are today. Montgomery is the birthplace of the confederacy and civil rights.
Our approach to Montgomery was over much of the same road where in March of 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capital in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama. These Americans marched for what is a basic right to vote. A right guaranteed through amendment to our Constitution but interfered with. The first attempt was bloody. Later the Federal government provided protection as the march was finally completed. There are monuments and a visitors center today for those interested in understanding the march.
While in Montgomery we setup camp at Gunter Hill Corp. of Engineer Park. This is an amazing campground especially the Catoma Loop where there is not a bad spot for big rigs. We booked one near the Alabama River for nine nights. We should have stayed for the two-week limit.
One Approach to Changing a System – War!
I’d have to summarize a dozen prior posts to reflect on what we have learned during our travels regarding the American Civil War. For me, the most dramatic are the graves. Oh my god, the bodies lying shoulder to shoulder in graves at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. I’ll never forget that. I still feel I could have done more to find the history of the two young soldiers, one from Andersonville and another from the Shiloh Tennessee battlefield, where I took a photo of their tombstones wanting to know who they and their family were. I discovered these young men had no history, or at least not enough to be remembered even within published US census records.
January 11, 1961, an ordinance of secession withdrew Alabama from the “Union of Sovereign States” inside the senate chamber of the Alabama State Capital building. The first President of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. He was sworn in on the footsteps of the capital. His statue remains to this day at the building. Montgomery was the first capital of the Confederacy before it relocated to Richmond Virginia. The first white house of the Confederacy is located in downtown Montgomery.
Well, I hope our country learned a civil war is not the answer to over-throwing a government? Glad 10 million or more did not die like during the Russian Revolution that came afterwards. Study the history, our country may be young, but our system of government is not when comparing to what has happened around the world that led to other current governments. I still consider myself under oath to protect our Constitution. An oath we all for sure take before joining the military and as civilian law enforcement. My father once told me he recalled when the word God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s. I looked into the history of the Pledge which was fascinating. On June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a joint resolution of Congress adding the words “under God” to the Pledge.
The war ended with some still thinking the law of the land was wrong and their cause was important enough that they should resist change. This goes on for years leading to the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. I’ve just unfairly described 100 years of complicated American history in two sentences for the sake of moving on to the next chapter relative to the civil rights movement.
Montgomery – Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement
Two people come to mind when thinking about the definition of leadership. They think out ahead of the rest of us, sometimes taking us down roads we don’t want to travel. But they know where we as a nation need to go and prod us along usually at great expense to themselves. Two gave their lives in service to our nation and in my humble opinion are the definition of leadership.
I appreciate President Kennedy when during his ignoration speech of 1961 he told the world what he believed. He says, “let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens – and to let the oppressed go free. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world – ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” President Johnson later signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote. Discrimination did not end but now there was specific law to enforce. This is progress and it continues today, perhaps too slowly, but that is the nature of things when opposing forces bang heads.
I appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King JR. and what he said during a 1963 speech in Washington before 250,000 peaceful Americans, black and white. He says, “in a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Months ago, I downloaded a readable version of the Federalist Papers. Wow, it’s like War and Peace and Atlis Shrugged jammed into one book and written in early English dialect. I’m gaining an appreciation for what colonial America leaders went through just to get most of the states to ratify the Constitution, in 1788 or about five years after the Revolutionary War. The Federalist Papers are a group of articles published to gain support from the public to vote the Constitution into law. I’ve not made it all the way through the Papers but am finding enlightening history such as the notion slaves are property as well as people.
Fast forward – in slow motion- to 1956 when lawsuits were entered because of segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks was 42 years of age when in Montgomery she refused to give up a seat assigned to black passengers, to a white passenger because the white seats were full. There is a museum in town to include the bus. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Before her refusal to move from her seat on the bus others had been arrested to include a 14-year-old child. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pressed into service to organize a bus boycott which resulted in change and most likely began the modern civil rights movement that goes on today.
We missed the Rosa Parks Museum and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Due to Covid inside the Civil Rights Memorial was closed. We wrapped up our stay at two more area attractions.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Tuskegee Alabama is maybe 30 miles east of Montgomery. We tried to stop at the Tuskegee Airfield last year but the federal government had it closed down due to Covid. This year the grounds were open but not the aircraft hangers and museum other than on specific days of the week. No worries, there is a paved walking trail with stops along the way where signage tells the reader about the heroic all black fighter squadron of World War 2. I’ve known about the Tuskegee Airmen since I watched the movie years ago. It’s impressive they never lost a bomber while escorting them to include into Germany. The recruits that flew were well educated self-made men. Nearby the airfield is Tuskegee Institute National Monument where the graves of alumni Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are located. The campus was shut down due to Covid. I’m glad in the past recent years there has been more attention paid to funding black colleges that produce men and women of this caliber.
After the war and even today past members of the Tuskegee Airmen travel around giving talks about success. Many went on to great careers in the US Military. One story is when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the field when training was being conducted. She demanded a plane ride and received it from a black pilot. She then asked the base commander why these men were not in Europe fighting the war. She went back to Washington and told the President what she knew. The Tuskegee Airman promptly left for the war. At first they were shunned by white pilots until their heroic efforts to guard bombers was discovered. Thereafter they were requested by bomber crews to escort them flying the state-of-the-art Mustang fighters.
Hank Williams Grave – Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery
Oakwood Cemetery is huge. If one does not find the Hank Williams loop and end up in the old cemetery you will find the roads to be tight and have to drive over to Hank’s grave. Frankly, the graveside is a bit overdone, maybe even gaudy. More impressive for me were the well-manicured graves of around 90 foreign pilots who died while in training at Montgomery’s Maxwell Airforce Base during World War 2.
Warning – Personal Opinion Ahead
I have to add a comment in support of my brothers and sisters who are still on the job as police officers. The memorial in Kansas City Missouri honoring officers who gave their lives in service to the community was vandalized during a “peaceful” protest. This is an insult to those that serve our neighborhoods at great risk. This is an insult to the community itself who hire the officers to protect them. I’m retired so I can say what I want. Others on the job cannot. This has been on my mind for well over a year. If someone does not support law enforcement, they should get a T-Shirt that says so. And hang a sign on their house as well. We are way under-staffed and would certainly be willing to take someone off the list who does not want our help. There, I’ve said it in a public forum even if I’ll bet everyone agrees that reads this.
We have not seen the last of this. The more recent civil rights movement activity was laced with more than just being black. Others want to be recognized who are also protected by civil right legislation. Others still want to fundamentally change how our government works or popular opinion involving ethics and morality. Some who view criminal behavior as normal will continue to weaken punishments. Those committing minor crimes will once again grow into committing larger ones. But behind the scenes there will be needed changes that as usual will come around slow and deliberate.
RV Tip – Rent a Cabin if You Want to Get to Know the RV Community and Don’t have a Rig Yet.
Maybe because we once camped so much in tents along a trail or spent whatever weekends we could parked in an RV nearby home is the reason I never knew one can rent cabins inside RV parks in tourist areas rather than a stale hotel room.
Until we started traveling fulltime in an RV I had no idea there were cabins to rent inside wonderful parks. Karen and I have often visited with folks renting the cabins, some who were interested in the RV lifestyle. On one occasion in Buffalo Wyoming we met a family with a small RV parked next to a rented cabin. Their truck had broken down and was in the shop. The parents enjoyed time alone in the RV with the kids camping nearby in a furnished cabin. If you consider the cost of owning and hauling an RV, to include the depreciation, cabins certainly are a good deal. Wish I knew about cabins at RV parks when traveling by car across country. Below are a few photos I took when Karen and I were considering building a cabin to “go home to” when not traveling in an RV.
We are currently parked in St. Augustine Florida for two months. 81 degrees at the beach on 1/2/22
It’s raining outside so this would be a typical time for us to do the laundry, go shopping for food, watch a video or whatever as the sunny warm days are reserved for having fun. But we are moving tomorrow to Alabama for a 10 day stay west of the capital city of Montgomery so that prompted a slight change in the daily activity of this full-time traveler. No shopping or watching videos until a few other things get done such as route planning and pre-packing.
We had been watching the weather reports for the last several days, which is typical before a move. Appears we are lucky in that tomorrow turns out to be the best window of opportunity to move without rain and wind so no need to extend our stay or change the next stop. We have been parked here in Quitman Mississippi for a full month. Wow, that was nice as we had been on the move since last March, never staying anywhere for more than two weeks until now. We are looking forward to St. Augustine Florida for winter where, for only the second time in all our travels, we will be stopped for a full two months.
This morning I completed route planning for our next move. No big deal. Just 170 miles on US Highways for three hours. Check-in time for the Corp of Engineer campground we are moving to is 4:00 pm. That’s way to late for this time of year when the sun sets early. I checked and someone has our spot the day we arrive. Check out time is 3:00 pm so that’s when we plan to arrive. Here is Quitman Mississippi we arrived at the designated time for check-in, also 4:00 pm. We did not fit in the assigned spot and it was dark by the time I finally was able to back-into a different spot elsewhere in the heavily wooded campground. I’ll not repeat that mistake again. I’ll arrive early with plenty of available daylight.
I finished up route planning that includes for me, comparing the route suggested by my trip planning application (RV Trip Wizard) against what is suggested on the Garmen RV GPS. Then I check Google Earth street view for anything of concern. In this case someone had posted in a campground review the road to the park in Alabama was heavily treed with lots of limbs and it was easy to miss turns into the campground. There will be no problem as I’ve even taking Google Earth screen shots on the laptop computer showing the intersections and campground signs as needed. I also have a photo saved on the phone of the actual campground map as so often there is no one in the check-in booth when we arrive. I’ve completed the route planning to the point I can visualize the entire move. Get a 10′ pop-up trailer if you just want to hook up and go without any planning. Get a 35′ fifth wheel that’s 13′ tall and weighs 15,000 pounds and you best not slack off on route planning 🙂
I rarely plan for any fuel or rest stops anymore. I did when we first started traveling as I felt more comfortable knowing in advance where we could fit this big RV. After almost 14000 miles of towing, I’m comfortable enough with just pulling off the highway where it might fit. On interstate highways there is always a rest stop but on US highways it’s a bit tricky noticing a possible resting place in time to get the RV slowed to make a turn. It is rare that we travel over 230 miles in a day which in my planning would require researching a spot to stop for fuel. We can travel about 320 miles between refueling and it’s my rule we always have 100 miles of range left in the fuel tank wherever we are going. Hense the 230-mile limit (320-100).
I should probably get on to how we got here in central Mississippi and what we did of interest while we were here. I have a couple other points to get out first. I’ll add some RV tips later. I should report there are now more than 300 folks who follow this blog. Wow, that is amazing to me. I had only started the blog back in 2014 to record research info and later get comments and suggestions from others during our planning stages for full time travel. Although we occasionally handout a business card to special folks we meet in campgrounds, we do no advertising or pull any gimmicks to attract readership. I go back and read most posts before hitting the publish button, fearing I might leave any political or overly religious content behind which is considered a no-no for Rver’s. Some are really emotional about certain topics. I consider myself open to all opinions but definitely want a chance to state my own opinion. Then we can each walk away and think about what the other said. I hope I’ve been living up to expectations regarding blog content. I sometimes break the rule. I suspect after we leave Montgomery Alabama in a couple weeks, I’ll break the rules regarding posting my view on continued racial tension in our country. My question or topic would be “why are we still having to talking about racial issues in this country”, one of just a couple still under their original forms of government?
I could write twice as much as I’ve been doing. You would be amazed at all the amazing one-time experiences that happen on the road or the weekly lists of challenges. The blog would become a diary if I were to report all the details.
Okay, back to travel… This trip started back in maybe 2016. You read that right, 2016. We were camped in Illinois at the time when an old-timer camp host said he spends the winter in Mississippi where the prices are cheap, the weather is tolerable as are the folks that live here. We moved to this very park in Quitman Mississippi during the first weeks of the pandemic and decided we wanted to return during our fall trip. We stopped at the Dewyane Hayes Corp of Engineer Campground in Columbus Mississippi on the way here for a few nights as we headed south.
Then we moved to Archusa Creek Campground near the small town of Quitman Mississippi for a much needed month stay. We were tired from the travel season, having only stopped for two weeks at a time after leaving Florida last March. Sometimes the destination is the campground itself which is the case with Archusa. The roads inside the park are narrow making the spots hard to back into. But worth it to be in the tall trees of the forest that surrounds the park. We left the kayak inflated and took the dog out wearing his new $100 life jacket with us on the small shallow lake on several occasions. Upon arrival we policed up all the extra firewood left behind by others. Took long walks. Watched the dog run the entire campground loop off leash, which was nearly vacant most of the time. We planned a day trip to Meridian Mississippi located 30 miles north but only ended up touring the local historic cemetery and doing some shopping at larger stores. Meridian is the sixth largest city in Mississippi and of significant historical value as well as having a few modern notables such as home of the father of country music. Meridian has a couple newer multi-million-dollar interactive museums and civil war sites. All in all, I would not consider Meridian a destination spot. Below are a few photos from the Rose Hill Cemetery where apparently the Queen of the Gypsies was buried with family in the early 1900’s. I’ll spare you the history lesson regarding gypsies and their country of origin other than to report a huge clan buried their “queen” here with 20,000 in attendance at the funeral.
In Quitman we simply enjoyed our days outside in the sun and trees. For the first time in months, I used the credit card just once to top off the truck fuel for our next drive. I’d bet it costs a good 25% more to travel than it does just sitting around at the campsite. I’ve got a good start planning our spring trip for 2022 which will be up the east coast from Florida to Washington DC then back to Missouri where we are hoping to spend three months in the Branson area. On the way we will most likely cut up into northeast Tennessee and Virginia. I’m still considering the best route west from DC to south Missouri, probably through Pennsylvania.
I’ll close with a couple RV tips. I knocked out a few maintenance items and minor RV repairs while we were stopped for the month. It’s a never-ending thing if one uses their RV enough. Had a 50′ green garden hose that was hard to roll up for years. Finally, the connections wore out so I bought the best replacement which is a 50′ Zero Ghose. I cut the old green hose up into sections and put new connectors on the end. Now I have a 10-15′ shorter hose to use to flush the black tank. No more fighting to roll up the longer hose which makes just one more thing easier to do on a move day.
See ya in sweet home Alabama. Can’t wait to visit Hank Williams in Montgomery. Also looking forward to the national civil rights memorial and much more.