It is 45 degrees outside and cloudy which is good weather for staying inside to catch up on our past five weeks on the road. We are currently stopped at Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores Alabama, having arrived on 12/2/20 for a two month stay. Our plans include leaving here on 2/2/21 for Florida with a couple stops before arriving at Stagecoach RV Park in St. Augustine on 2/15/21. The only other stop we have booked so far is near Mayo Florida on 2/4/21 at Suwannee River Rendezvous. We are still researching a stop in Ocala. As usual, towards the end of the post I have added a couple RV topics to include a unique fifth wheel build.
We stopped briefly at the Okatoma Resort in Hattiesburg Mississippi on the way to Gulf Shores. Not much to say about the place other than it is well off the road and quiet. Our site was along the bank of a large pond. While stopped we hung a photo in our bathroom using 3M Command Strips. This is the first photo we have hung with more to follow. Our daughter had it framed and I have to say it really makes that room more like a home. I replaced the glass in another photo with plexiglass, custom cut at a hardware store, to be hung in the living room. A neighbor commented they had left Command Strips on the walls of their trailer for a number of years and when removed the wallpaper came off with the strips. They recommended heating the area with a blow dryer before removing the strips. No one else has told me they had any issues when removing the strips.
Passing through Mobile Alabama from the north was part of the route. I added an extra five miles or so traveling southwest of town to setup directly through on Interstate 10 thereby avoiding any lane changes in the city. We added another first which was traveling through a tunnel. In this case 40′ below the water of Mobile Bay. Forum posts suggested taking the 1/2 mile tunnel at 35 miles per hour. I was down to 28 by the time we left the other end. I had a little anxiety on the drive but know that can be worked out with more experience.
Island Retreat RV park is two miles from the beach on the Gulf which is far enough not to be among the heavy traffic areas.. The main drag through Gulf Shores is partially lined with tall resort buildings. There is recent hurricane damage but they have done a great job getting everything opened back up. I understand this is a popular spring break area and for charter boat fishing. Shopping at the big box stores is easy to get to. We were greeted with a white sand common area at the resort surrounded by well done landscaping. The pool is open but not heated. Plenty of winter snowbirds here. I’ll have more photos of the area in my next blog post.
Sixteen miles east of the RV park is Fort Morgan which, in one form or another, guarded Mobile Bay for hundreds of year. Made of brick and increased in size to hold huge shore artillery. Mobile Bay is where Admiral Faregate said “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Torpedoes being mines. I captured a brief video of soldiers loading and shooting a large gun as shown in the visitors center. Here is a link to the video if you are interested.
Most important, Fort Morgan has one of just a few beaches on the Alabama coast where it is legal to allow your dog in the water. We found a couple other locations but none are on the actual Gulf of Mexico.
Located on the east side of Mobile, with easy access on and off the highway, is the USS Alabama Battleship Museum. The parking lot is definitely large enough for smaller RVs in case you want to stop during a trip. However, it took my adopted family member, Mark from Washington State and me about six hours to see enough of the park. Not only is the Alabama moored there but you can tour a very clean World War 2 submarine, an air museum and lots of tanks and guns. This is a fantastic, must see site. I can now check of a bucket list item which was to tour a battleship. The Alabama was known as the Lucky A. The only damage it sustained from battle during the war was when a sailor accidently lowered the barrel of one of its 129 guns and blew a hole in a shield. Can you image going to the Captain with that one. The park even has dog kennels at the museum! The view of the Bay and downtown Mobile was appreciated. Mark treated me to lunch at a fancy seafood restaurant down the street as the museum chow hall was closed because of the virus thing.
Before I get to the photos of the Battleship Park, I want to add an interesting comment pointed out by a navy guy who volunteers at the ship. At the beginning of WW2 the Alabama was being built with just the hull having been laid out. Female workers were brought in who learned to weld on the job as they did not have time to send them to a fancy welding school. Others have commented some of the welds are less than perfect. Personally, I would not know the difference. Well, as stated by the sailor, after battles to take Japanese-held islands in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945 the ship is still here, floating and in good shape. The ship led the U.S. fleet into Tokyo Bay the day after the formal surrender documents were signed on September 2, 1945.
I’ve been referring to our adopted family during this blog post. Mark and Patty are from upper Washington State and camped next to us for a month. What a fantastic couple. There came a point in time during this pandemic when we decided it was worth the risk to spend time around the fire, eating food, shopping or running our dogs together. We may keep our distance from 95% of the people we meet but not in this case. None of us got sick from the other and I think I can speak for all when I say it was nice to get back to a most important aspect of RVing which is meeting new people and spending time with them. It was special to watch Karen and Patty dangling their feet in the cold pool water while sitting next to each other talking about who knows what. It was special to take a trip in the truck with Mark to the Alabama, tracking down a load of good oak firewood one day, shopping in town and much more. We will see you in Mayo Florida in a few weeks!
And Now Some General RV Information
The Tiffin family recently sold out to Thor. Too bad to see another family owned business joining a massive corporation. I read the press releases, such as Bob Tiffin will remain running the company and this will allow for building a stronger company. Time will tell if there are any changes beyond making others more wealthy or building a better product. Thor has already commented the profit margins at Tiffin are less than what they expect. At this point I would still not have a problem buying a Tiffin/Vanleigh product. I know Bob Tiffin may want to retire someday and I’m not sure if his family has the want or not to keep running the business. Tiffin owns several of the companies who build materials, such as windows, fiberglass, doors and more, for their RV units.
Palomino RV, established in 1968 and now owned by Forrest River, is building an interesting fifth wheel beginning with 2021 models. The trailers are for sale now. Their River Ranch 42 footer is built with no stairs up to the front portion of the fifth wheel! To gain access you walk up the outside stairs to a set of stairs inside at the front door, similar to a motor home.
I clipped the above photos from the Palomino website. The fifth wheel is 13’6″ tall. They moved the air conditioner to the basement area to keep the height within legal limits. It has no drop frame but adds basement space similar to a motor home. This is a heavy unit. What will they think of next?
Here is a quick tip – We have discovered how fine sand seems to get in the trailer along these coast line communities. Even though we have a concrete pad we place the common outdoor camping rug on the concrete where sand is trapped, falling through the perforated rug material. This makes a big difference in reducing the amount of sand that makes it into the trailer from our shoes. I bought a pair of slip on Skechers relaxed fit memory foam shoes that are very comfortable that way I’m more likely to wear them daily and take them off outside.
Thanks for reading and commenting.