Bristol, Sullivan County, Tennessee – Seneker Family Genealogy

Most of this post will be more interesting to family! – Make sure and click on links listed in blue type as I have imbedded PDF files for family or whoever is interested to learn more.

The Tennessee state flag was designed by LeRoy Reeves of the Third Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, who made the following explanation of his design:

“The three stars are of pure white, representing the three grand divisions of the state. They are bound together by the endless circle of the blue field, the symbol being three bound together in
one—an indissoluble trinity. 

The three divisions of the state described by Reeves are the western portion of the state, along the Mississippi River, central region with Nashville as the current capital and the east which includes Bristol Tennessee. Living full time in an RV allows us to experience the distinct cultural difference and topography within each state’s boarders. I’d have to summarize Tennessee as being a strong representation of the American pioneer spirit. From which Danial Boone cut trails west, Davy Crockett was born, Sam Houston took with him to Texas, and where the Carter family transformed mountain music in the undisputed Home of County Music in Bristol Tennesse. Perhaps more significant than the Oregon Trail’s route to western expansion are the pathways from which early American’s migrated through the state of Tennessee.

God, I love this country! I’m proud that my own family traveled the same pathways as they spread out from the original colonies to open territory in Missouri. Chances are if your family has history dating back to the Revolutionary War period, and are of German or Scotch/Irish decent, they may very well have traveled the same path.

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Fort Chiswell Virginia – Enroute to Bristol Tennessee

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.

Video posted at Bill and Kelly’s American Odyssey Blog.

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.

Downloaded the video from our dash cam of the climb up to Fancy Gap on I-77 towards I-81. Sorry, no sound as I have spent zero time learning to add music and turned off the microphone on the camera in case I cuss about being cut off by a small smashable car or other idiot things we see. Also, I might get a little panicky as we travel into the unknown frontier with big hills and don’t want to embarrass myself with the audio. Fancy Gap is known for possible high winds in areas or sudden fog. I checked the Virginia and North Carolina Department of Transportation sites, to include real time traffic cameras along I-77 the morning we left.

Fort Chiswell Virginia

Fort Chiswell is at the intersection of I-77 and I-81 in Southwest Virginia. It’s a popular spot to overnight while on a trip in the valley within the Appalachian Mountains.

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.

View from Fort Chiswell RV Park
View from our campground. Was a wonderful place to just sit outside or walk the campground for a few days.

Electric Vehicles Showing up in Parks and RV Tips

Anyone else started see electric cars being charged at RV parks? This was the second sighting in two months. Wonder if there will be a new rule added at campgrounds in our future. I sent a letter to the editor of a popular RV newsletter, not to be a party pooper but believing it would be a good article.

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.

On the springs of a fifth wheel, and probably a trailer trailer, is a silver band which is shown on the right where the spring attaches to the shackle. The band is not tight around the springs which concerned me. I know the springs are kept in place where they mount at the axle and held down by the U-bolts shown on the left. After researching and finding someone I trusted, I’ve come to the conclusion the silver bands do nothing other than contain a part number and I’m not worrying about them anymore.

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.

Mark

4 Paws Kingdom Campground and Dog Retreat- Rutherfordton NC

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 Retreat on 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.

Uncle Dave and Rose’s backyard on the South Carolina side of Charlotte.
Our spot at Cunningham RV Park in Spartanburg SC off I-26. Read the reviews before staying here.

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

Site 13 – Pull through completely enclosed by a fence! Our dog Wyatt has never had a fenced yard. This was a welcome break for us as well. Wyatt was free to do what he wanted without close supervision. Yes, dogs bark at other dogs when they walked by. Owners don’t mind and the noise was never a problem. All the campers are dog lovers and because of mutual interests are very easy to make friends with.

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.

Wyatt gets his summer haircut and then later bath in the park’s airconditioned dog wash.
Wyatt gets to swim off leash with friends at the big pond. There are eight dog parks here that are fenced, each having a specific purpose.
Getting ready for fun at the chase park every Saturday morning. Nope – they don’t chase each other. See the next photo
This is a plastic bag on a wire which is chased by the dogs. Wyatt did a wonderful job as the crowd cheered him along.
Easter weekend the park was full. This is getting ready for the dog’s easter egg hunt. There are no breed restrictions nor limit on the number of dogs folks can bring. They have permanent rental RVs under shelters and plenty of cabins if you don’t own an RV.
Road to our spot. The park is located between a couple hills. The drive in revealed the peaks of the Smoky Mountains between the trees at times but you can’t see them from the park itself.
They name the camping spots. I took this photo of site 10 – “Dixie” is the name of Wyatt’s best friend.

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…

ProPride 3P Hitch

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.

Alliance Toy Hauler with a canvas room on the deck.

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.

Preparing for the Appalachian Mountains

Our route so far as displayed on RV Trip Wizard: Briefly on the flat part I-40 in North Carolina, north on I-77 up a big hill called Fancy Gap to Virginia and then travel most of the valley on I-81, taking a right towards Washington DC and later west on I-70 through the mountains of Pennsylvania to the foothills in Ohio if my nerves can handle it.

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.

Appalachian Mountains

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.

Throughout our travels we have been amazed at how much of the United States was once an inland sea. Experiencing the geology has been wonderful.

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).

Here is a page out of Mountain Directory East for Pennsylvania. All those yellow triangles are warnings about particular areas on mountain roads. Each triangle has a number where you can look up the written warning in the directory. I was totally caught off guard when first finding out even Pennsylvania has so many mountain areas. No wonder some drive into the state well north on I-90. Keep in mind once we are in the mountains, we will be taking day trips up and down the sides of them.

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.

The Fast Lane Truck videos are excellent. In this one they compare new 3500/350 Cummins, Duramax and Power Stroke while towing 30,000 pounds up the Ike Gauntlet in Colorado. This is a 7% grade over 8 miles to 11,158 feet in elevation. This is the road to the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Technical stuff: 2014 video explaining of full vs automatic exhaust brake and how both turn off below 1200 RPM which is one reason one might have to down-shift the truck. I don’t have enough experience yet to know how often the truck might drop below 1200 RPM when using the tow/haul (for transmission shifting) and the exhaust brake together. For sure if both are turned on the truck will once again take over when the engine returns to 1200 or above RPM. On my truck, the first time you press the exhaust brake button to turn it on it goes directly to full which I assume is for a reason.
Super C RV, diesel Cummins. Combined weight 26,000 going across Continental Divide in Rockies with 6% grade using exhaust brake and never touching his regular brakes. Note what he says about Rockies vs Appalachians in that the Rockies ups and downs are shorter than the Appalachians. Curves make a difference I’m finding out.

Visiting Colonial Charleston South Carolina and Thoughts About Fulltime Travel

Map of North America 1656 – 1750. Charleston was founded as South Carolina’s first colony in 1680.

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.

Our spot at Jolly Acres RV Park outside St George South Carolina in Dorchester County. Locals refer to this area near the coast as the low country. We are moving up state to Spartanburg South Carolina next.

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 blue X is where I had to avoid the outside corner of our trailer swinging and striking the parked RV when turning wide around the parked white truck heading to our camping spot.
It’s a little hard to tell, but the back corner of the white truck is actually parked far enough back that I had to go around it tightly, then quickly turn again to align our camper to pull into our spot. It was no big deal; we just had a parking spot that was not setup well by the campground. We met the owner of the truck and his wife. Good people we enjoyed a meal with later in the week.
Tried out something new on the grill. BBQ wings came out awesome. There were a couple well stocked grocery stores within four miles of the campground where I discovered a bag of wings. You know the signs that hang between the rows at the grocery store listing what’s generally in the isle such as baking, beer, snacks or whatever? Well at the Piggly Wiggly here “grits” are listed on a row sign. There must have been 20 feet of shelving with all kinds of grits. I looked it up, according to Quater Oats, per capita the small-town of St George consumes more grits than any other place in America. We missed the Grit Festival by only a week. I love me some grits and have a bag for the road.

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.

Wall in St Goerge South Carolina. Town is named after a plantation owner who donated land for the railroad. It is the county seat, population 1,200. Perfect size place for us. Rural America is a peaceful place.
1800’s building with a neat courtyard as seen in next photo.
I was thinking about all the old towns where buildings have come down between others. This would be a good use of space, in this case a break area for the business.
By no means worth the 20-minute drive. While drifting around out in the country near St George we stopped in at the UFO Welcome Center (Bowman South Carolina). Just a big pile of junk for the most part but a lifetime of work for the guy who might live in the trailer next door.

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.

Model of original Dorchester Settlement
Short walls of old fort. Brick area was the powder magazine which at the time was the supply for the defense of Charleston. Gunpowder is made using pure saltpeter or potassium nitrate. During the War of 1812 they mined it out of a Kentucky cave (which we have toured the old mine.) They found it in Missouri as well. Prior to that, 90% of gunpowder was imported and a constant concern for the Continental Army.
What remains of the 1720 church. Puritans settled the area. Eventually folks left for a new town not far away but out of the marsh area.
Dig down about a foot or two anywhere in the general area of the park will reveal the old colonial foundations of homes. The National Park’s Service has the original settlement maps down to the street level.

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.

Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historic Site on Sullivan’s Island

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.

Entrance to Fort Moultrie which was originally built of wood as a colonial fort and saw combat during the Revolutionary War. Then Fort Sumter was built on an island just off the coast across from Moultrie. Both would be in service during the Civil War. You know the story on Sumter which is where the first shot was fired to start the war. Sumter would be destroyed during the war overtime. Both Forts also served as coastal artillery positions up to WW2 in defense of Charleston Harbor. Modern structures are included among the old ruins where modern guns had been in place during WW2.
So, we are walking across the street from the Fort Sumter/Moultrie Visitors Center to Fort Moultrie and I look across a grassy area where there is a tiny plot with black fencing. The tiny spot is the marker for Chief Osceola. What a find!
Ever wonder why Fort Sumter was first at war? For sure it had to do with capturing guns and such. But South Carolina of all, wanted to preserve slavery. Charleston is ground zero for slave trade coming out of Africa. The visitors center devoted a significant space to telling the history of slave trade.
Take the dog and walk the huge grounds around the historic spaces outside Fort Moultrie. Dogs are not allowed on the boat to Sumter however.
Visitors Center. No need to take the Ferry to Sumter to visit it.
View across Charleston Harbor. You can thank me for this next tip. No need to travel far for a sandy beach. There is one across the street from the visitor’s center used by locals. Plenty of parking at the visitors center however you have to pay the $10 entrance fee or get in free with an America the Beautiful Pass.
That’s Fort Sumter out in the bay as seen from the large walking path outside Fort Moultrie.

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.

Fort Sumter
Inside Fort Moultrie on shore across from Sumter.
For legal reasons I would like to state I did not stand on any gun emplacements or parts to get this photo! True story – Confederates used guns pointed at Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie to bombard Sumter along with a few they brought along. This gun is pointing right at Sumter! Hmm, must have sucked to have the first shots fired at you coming from your own guns.

The original Fort Moultrie was built from palmetto logs. The British took Charleston during the Revolutionary War but were later defeated.

Notice the flag the soldier is holding up in the face of the British.
Neat building across the street flying the South Carolina flag.
Neet church across the street from visitor’s center.
The flag of South Carolina is a symbol consisting of a blue field with a white palmetto tree and white crescent. Roots of this design have existed in some form since 1775, being based on one of the first Revolutionary War flags. They cut the original flag from blue cloth used by the army to make uniforms. The half-moon crest is the breast plate of their uniforms, and the tree is a palmetto used when the fort was originally built.

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.

Photo is not mine but it’s the same bridge out to Sullivan’s Island. Don N. Holt Bridge photo by Post and Courier News
From our trucks camera as we approach the scary bridge. I did not include the parts where we are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way up over and down the bridge. It was worth the hassle to get to see Fort Sumter.

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.

Quick RV Tip – You will not find this in an owner’s manual. See the blue arrow pointing at the trench in the gravel! We decided to give the dog a bath and complete maintenance on the hot water tank at the same time. Draining the tank into a tote we use to store our grill and bathe the dog. While filling the tank I noticed a drip from the drain plug and removed it to put some plumbers tape around the threads. If you do not have a faucet open while filling the tank it will fill with air at the same time. The air is under very high pressure, enough that when I removed the drain plug, without bleeding off the air, water shot out from the tank and made the trench in the gravel. Wonder if that much pressure is hard on pipe fittings? For now on when I refill the hot water tank I’m leaving a faucet open to bleed off the air. In the past I bleed off the air once the tank stopped filling. You may already know to never turn the heat on for the hot water tank until it is full of water or it will be damaged.

Colonial Georgia – Beautiful Savannah and Brunswick

Our nation’s third largest shipping port – Savannah Georgia as seen from the river walk. That’s the back of Karen’s head on the bottom left 🙂 That’s yet another US Highway 17 bridge in the distance along the coastline – tall for sure.

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.

Locations mentioned in this blog post

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.

Our spot McIntosh Lake RV Park – Townsend GA dead center between Savannah and Brunswick off I-95.
It’s not a real lake. More like a larger spring feed pond. Fished one day with no license required. I could see the big bass but caught none.
Local foods from “the famous” Georgia Peach World just off the I-95 exit on the way to the RV Park. The real attraction is the kids play area and petting zoo behind the business. There is no parking for larger RVs at the small store, but you might be able to park at an empty motel nearby and walk over.

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.

East Beach St Simons Island- Go Here. Good parking, sandy wide beach, excellent parking with restrooms.
During our visit on East Beach dogs were allowed to run on the beach – off leash. Wyatt’s and his best friend Dixie had a wonderful time. Later in the season the city does not allow dogs to do this.
East Beach on St Simons Island is located next to the old Coast Guard Station which is the white Building and now houses the WW 2 Coastal Defense Museum. A German U-Boat had been sunk just miles off the coast of Brunswick. You can walk over to the museum from the East Beach parking lot.
Plenty of shopping and Georgia style restaurants to select from. We changed our minds and decided not to rent a golf cart to tour the town which has busy single lane, but well managed, roads. The north side of St Simons Island is quite and full of history. Speaking of food – thank you again Charlotte for the biscuits and gravy! I’m guessing Ray cooked the sausage so thank you as well.

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.

These are the street signs, marking the names of the old settlement’s streets
Down each street are the ruins of its buildings with details.

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.

Anna Dodge – Gave her life’s work to raising orphaned boys.

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.

Rebuilt block house on the right which solders fought from.
Recreated barracks
Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America and reconstructed using old records and drawings.
What is left to a lumber mill that operated for 200 years. In 1736 indentured servants of the Scottish Highlanders set up pit saws here and sawed lumber for houses in Savannah and Frederica. Fort George was the location of the first commercial manufacture of lumber in Coastal Georgia.

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.

In this plot plan you can see the 15 parks strategically placed in the center of wards.

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.

Having only one day to spend in Savannah. Ray, Charlotte, Karen and I – along with the dogs, took the Old Savannah Trolly Tour. We paid to get on and off as we wanted to visit places along the route which was well worth it. Uniquely, at some stops characters in costume would step on the trolley. These were the famous people of Savannah, speaking in character about their life.
Typical shared garden space which shows up every few blocks in the historic district.
General Oglethorpe monument in a town square.
Savannah is home to a large art college
Savannah is well known for haunted buildings. This paint color on the shutters and door kept spirits out.
Portion of river walk.
Lunch on the river walk. Through the windows is a passing container ship, having just finished at the docks.
I had a good time walking next to a young police officer. I had asked why so many Sergeants on foot patrol. He said everyone is working 12 hour shifts with no days off because of St. Patrick’s celebrations. He wanted to work for the Sheriff but did not want to spend time working the jail. Made me think back a few years when I was that age and just getting started.
1700/1800’s bell which was rung when it was time to shut down at work.
Savannah is host to the countries 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The day after, the Navy brass band was still hard at it. They had energy and rocking songs.

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:)

Jacksonville Florida

View of downtown Jacksonville Florida during an earlier trip in 2017.

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.

Riverwalk Jacksonville Florida
Our corner spot at Big Tree RV Park in Jacksonville. Click here for a review. $40 a night with a weekly discount or $50 otherwise with water/50 amp/sewer/cable TV/WIFI connections. The cheaper parks we experienced in St. Augustine and Jacksonville Florida are overpriced in my opinion when compared to south Texas. I’ll pay the price because the Atlantic Ocean is worth the trip.

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.

Dames Point Bridge east side I-295 loop Jacksonville. Photo from Tourist.com. Taller so ocean-going cargo ships can make it upriver to the port I’m assuming.
Underlined in yellow are the areas we toured during this trip to Jacksonville.

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.

Long and narrow road into Kingsley Plantation. Later we discovered it is the original road with the planting fields having overgrown.
This is the original house and not open to visitors during our visit. The structure is old, and they are trying to minimize visitor traffic inside the home. A short walk from the front door leads to a shipping dock located on the Fort George River with access to the Atlantic.

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 by burning 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.

Tabby barn. You can see the lines where layer upon layer was built upward. They built forms with wood, when that dried, they moved the wood form and built another layer.

Inside the barn are displays describing the plantation system.
That is a Tabby floor warn down from 200 years of usage. Tappy is waterproof, and an insulator against the heat or cold weather.
These are the slave quarters. Arranged differently in that they form an arch around the landscape which was meant to replicate an African village from which slaves came from.
Ruins of one slave cabin. There were slightly larger structures for slaves having more responsibilities.

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.

Pieces of bricks used for ship ballast. Look at all the shells around it. I can totally see now how limestone caves could form inland where there once were shallow seas. Most limestone is made of the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate). Marine organisms that create calcite shells use carbon dioxide and calcium to form their exoskeletons. After they die their calcite shells collect on the seafloor in sedimentary layers.
Kingsley eventually moved his family to Haiti, the first independent black republic in the New World. Anna, the children, and fifty former Kingsley slaves moved to the northern coast of Haiti. Now old couples sit on benches in the plantation yard, holding hands and watching birds fly over the marsh. A much better use for the land in my opinion.

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.

Forgot to take a camera with me during play time on American Beach. This is a photo from the city’s website. Not sure what date it was taken, and you can no longer park on the dog friendly beach which has a large parking lot free of charge.

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.

Historians actually don’t know the exact location of the French Fort Caroline but agree they were close enough during construction of an example management by the National Parks.

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.

The state sticker map should be easy to remove someday although it’s designed to survive the weather outside. I’m looking for a sticker to place outside the door on the face of a slide with the Letter S (our last name) and our first names underneath rather than hanging a sign from the fifth wheel or portable post we have to pack up every time we relocate.

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.

Final Days in St. Augustine Florida – New Trailer Tires – Tour Lance and Grand Design Campers

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.

John is a master at weaving and someone who gained by respect for his general knowledge. This is a plate warmer to include shells he had found on the beach. We first met when I was removing tires on our RV to be replaced. Next thing you know, he is on the ground lifting my new tires onto the axles. He was weaving a chainmail armor piece from a bag of parts he bought at a sale. I was mesmerized by the craftsmanship where the techniques used dated thousands of years ago. He and his wife, Carolyn took us to a very nice BBQ diner the night before our leaving the RV park. We had their dog over for a day while they traveled to the Space Center. We hope our paths will cross again maybe in Wisconsin where they live.
Charlotte and Ray from Traverse City moved out to their next spot. Their dog Dixie is Wyatt’s best friend, with this being the third time camped nearby where they can play. We took our boy for a walk which included him dragging Karen to their empty spot wondering where they went. We have not told Wyatt, but Charlotte and Ray will be giving Dixie a ride to Georgia for a surprise visit on their way home to Michigan. We will meet up in March near Savannah. We also have a camping spot booked across the street from them at Table Rock Lake State Park, Branson Missouri, this coming November.

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.

Grand Design 310 GK – 15,000 max gross weight capacity

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 MSRP and 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.

Grand Design 280 RK – new floor plan at only 32’7″. Rear kitchens worry me as usually there is a heavy fridge at the tail of the RV, bouncing as you go down the road wanting to bend suspension systems. However, in the case of this floor plan they have moved the fridge into a slide out. Looks livable for a shorter trailer. The floor plan was not at the RV show so I could not check to see how they insulate the water line to the bathroom sink. I’ve found no issue with the heavy fridge being located in a slide which for us are hydraulic. I’d also want to test drive the sofa and kitchen chairs to see if they are wide enough to watch TV.

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.

Touring Town

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.

It was raining the day of my visit to the museum. Good time for indoor stuff. Karen stayed behind. We don’t mind the time apart which is important.
Shrunken heads. Nothing said they were not real.
One of many wax figures. This is the tallest man to ever live. There was a good video with him alive as a child and more.
Walked into this room where a video camera replaced my head with a mask as I moved around. That’s me with the phone camera.
Asked an employee what she found most interesting in the place. This is a scaled replica of the space station built with wood match sticks hanging from the ceiling. This building has interesting architecture as well. During another day Karen and I walked over to the Flagler College Campus where the buildings are amazing to see.
Trick with mirrors. This is the ghost of one of the ladies who passed away during a fire in the museum building. The next photo is a view when looking into the same room from a different angle.
The ghost from the last photo is gone!
Zoom in and take the test. I saw the figure rotate right and then left. I’m not as smart as the test would suggest. There are hundreds of small items to see in the museum which will take about two to three hours to walk through. Outside behind bushes is one of only a few full-size replicas of the David statue with his junk hanging out. Lots to see outside the museum which is free if you are waiting for the Red Train to arrive prior to a tour of town.

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.

Even an upgraded sturdy ladder to the roof compared to the cheap crap on my more expensive fifth wheel.
1,343 pounds of cargo capacity after all the options are on the trailer. This trailer is a model 2570 which is 24′ of living space and 28′ overall length. The advertised cargo capacity is just over 2,000 pounds which is impressive on a trailer with a base weight of 5,657 pounds and not built poorly. However, I’ve not had the time to read any owners reviews on the Lance travel trailer so I’m not fully informed. Add the total cargo capacity to the base weight on this specific trailer and it looks like the trailer has a max gross weight capacity of 7,000 pounds. I know from experience you can expect a hitch weight of about 10% or 700 pounds if riding level.
Small step up to the dinette. You can get a table and stand alone chairs as an option. The reason for this step within the slide is because the trailer is built to be shorter in overall height as explained by Michael. The head room was not lacking for sure.
MCD – best day and night shades in the business.
It was typical in this trailer to find Lance used every inch of space well. And still left enough cargo capacity where you can actually use all the storage spaces.
What, 24′ of living space and actual usable bathroom shower. It’s not a one-piece unit for some reason.
Walk around bed!
Old school torsion axles rather than springs like everyone else. This would be an independent suspension. Michael tows with a 1500 series gas truck and says the camper rides beautifully compared to his last trailer with spring suspension.

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.

Winter Among Friends in Florida – 2021 Budget Results – Finalized Spring/Summer Trip Planning

One of several beaches in St. Augustine Florida – We love the Atlantic coast… Go there and compare against the others!

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.

Vilano Beach Florida. Our fifth wheel model by Tiffin is called a Vilano, named after this beach community.
Bozzo loves the water than rolling around in the sand till he looks like a sugar cookie. Then gets in the truck which I’ll be vacuuming sand from for the next year.
Karen says hello and approved the photo before I posted it…
Folks down here run Suzuki and Yamaha motors in the salt water. Wyatt hates boat motors and barked at it for the first half hour or so.
Dixie from Michigan – Wyatt’s best friend. I’ve got photos of Ray and Charlotte but did not have time to get them approved before posting. Thank you, Ray, for hauling our asses around in the boat all day. I’ve never navigated these kinds of waters, he has.
No need to make a special trip in the Palm Coast area to see an old fort. Drove by on the way to a place to drop the hook for lunch.
Old plantation dig site under shelter.
Look at the size of the vine on the left!!!! Huge…. Florida vegetation is way different than Missouri’s where I grew up.

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.

Route from Florida. Tell me if I’ll get us killed in the mountains before we leave! I-26 from Charlston to Asheville then I-81 north. I know Pennsylvania is not flat in the south either heading from Washington DC towards Columbus Ohio.
As usual I’ve been picking the neighbors brains who are from areas we are traveling to. Once we get close to actual stops, I’ll ask the locals and research state highways in an attempt to get off the beaten path. At some point we are stopping at 4 Paws Kingdom in North Carolina which is an RV park for dogs and their human companions beginning 4/10/22. We will be there two weeks as Karen has an uncle nearby west of Charlotte who has invited us to stay over at his house -in a real bed I’ll bet :). Otherwise, this season I am attempting to book one week stops at each campground.

RV Tips for Today – Short Version

Fulltimers – you know I’m right when I say we usual don’t shut the bathroom door while the spouse is in the other room. The floor plan in the photo is the bathroom view out the front door. Don’t buy this floor plan unless you want everyone staring at your private parts.
Okay, it’s total BS when motorhome folks say it’s easier to hook up and leave a campsite than with a tow behind trailer. I confirmed the above photo is a normal condition. At least 11 connections to hook a toad (towed vehicle) behind a motorhome. During my rig research I decided a motorhome would be best for us if we planned to travel a lot of miles each day and be constantly on the move. A fifth wheel provided better living space at a cheaper price for longer stays. I learned while on the road the actual best reason to have a motorhome which is – because you can tow a car that your wife will drive to the store or wherever when she will not drive a big truck. Seriously, that’s why many take a second car along on the trip. Taking the freedom of a spouse to just jump in a car and go wherever is of great concern if they don’t drive monster trucks. Hands down, Blue Ox is the #1 brand of hitches for motorhomes and most tow their toad flat on all 4 tires, which is probably a Jeep.

Trip to Montgomery Alabama – Birthplaces of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Movement

In view is the capital building of Montgomery Alabama where a vote was taken by a group of states to secede from the Union, forming a new government. On the right two blocks from the capital, below the white stairwell, is a locked door leading into what I understood to be the church office area of Dr. Martin Luther King JR – Beginning at the age of 25 he pastored just one church, and this is the one. By age 39, he would die for a cause.

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.

Gunter Hill COE Campground (Catoma Loop), Montgomery Alabama. It’s about a 20-minute drive to the city from here. Full hookups on a long concrete pad. Easy maneuvering on the interior roads. Wonderful laundry room. Half off with the America the Beautiful Pass.
Finally found a small Christmas tree for the RV!

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.

This is Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate State of America outside the capital building in Montgomery. We have visited the site of his capture by the Union army after the war as well. I’m of the opinion statues should stand until citizens of the community decide otherwise through proper legal action. Then they should be preserved for historical value. Those that deface monuments should be charged with crimes. Thirty yards away is another monument recognizing a visit to Montgomery by Marquis de La Fayette (we call him Lafayette) to the city after the revolutionary war. Surrounding the drive to the capital building is a modern flag of every state in the Union. These folks in Montgomery are telling a story if one listens.
Preserved State Senate Chambers in Montgomery where the Confederate States were formed.
First White House of the Confederacy. Lots of sites to visit within walking distance of downtown where parking is cheap and available. Take your bike for even more access.
This one will throw a few curves in someone’s game. This is on display within the same room where the Confederate States were established. This is a list of black representatives that served in the Alabama House of Representatives after the Civil War. Wow, lots of names on this plaque. So good they had a role in reformation of the south. Today 80% of Montgomery population is black. Where I lived and went to school in Missouri most are white like me. It’s not uncommon to stay within large communities of black Americans when visiting the deep south. We have met so many good people of all races, often just standing in line at the grocery store or laundromat talking about whatever. Sometimes we are the only white folks in the building. No worries, people are people, and everyone likes to pet our dog, Wyatt.

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.

Dr. King’s church down the street from Capital.

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.

View from outside into the stairs leading to the control tower. The airfield is still under use with the museum and grounds sitting off to the side with the original buildings.

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.

Confederate soldiers that died in the hospital.
Huge cemetery. Hank’s grave is on the hill in the background. There is a well-marked circle drive off the main road leading to it where you can park.
Here is Hank! – On the right.
Foreign pilots killed in training at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery during WW2

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.

These are about a mile out of Custer State Park in South Dakota. RV’s, horse camper/trailers and cabins all in one park.
Northern Florida – yup, has an air conditioner which is a must to ask about when booking.
Central Mississippi. Two story! Had the best lake spots compared to us RV campers. Our favorite…
For just $11 more a night one can rent a furnished cabin compared to an RV spot. Bring your own bedding.
A final tip, someone left this behind at a spot we camped in. We use a rubber sewer connector at times to hold the hose connection inside the sewer hole. Someone filled a gallon zip lock bag with nearby gravel which is used to hold down the sewer connection when the sewer pipe has no threads. Neighbor across the street also says get a box of large puppy pads that are used in dog training. When they use the public showers, they place one on the floor to stand on as they exit the shower.

We are currently parked in St. Augustine Florida for two months. 81 degrees at the beach on 1/2/22