The Journey Begins
And so it began. It was the last day of November in the year 2010 and I was the southernmost regions of Georgia in these our United States. It was a wonderful evening following a most beautiful day topping out at about 85 degrees. Late afternoon brought large cumulus clouds threatening thunderstorm activity but the high winds blew them on out to sea leaving a very pleasant evening. After months of preparation, a trial run to the NC Mountains and a few mistakes, my new adventure had begun officially.
The plan: If “Google” says it’s four hours, plan on it being at least six. Therefore I had planned on doing about 200-250 miles per leg. As such, Woodbine Georgia was somewhere along there and put me fairly close to I-10 which I would pick up in Jacksonville, Fl. From there I would head west. That’s it. That was the plan. Head west like my forefathers did hundreds of years ago.
Actually, there's a little more to it. As a citizen of these United States, you cannot claim the good old U.S. of A. as your home. You have to choose a home state. Good news, there are fifty to choose from. I've chosen Texas because of lower property taxes and other benefits afforded to the full time RV lifestyle.
In fair health, I will be working on the road. Sometimes that work will involve "Workkamping" where campgrounds, state parks and such will provide a free campsite with full hookups in trade for @ 20 hours of work per week. Some also will provide a stipend. Touristy locales with hundreds of restaurants will always need part-time help and I'll even wash dishes for minimum wage as long as I get a good meal, too. No McDonald's for me...Hell's Kitchen?
So, I left the Charleston area and fought after Thanksgiving Day traffic finding myself in a quiet park just off of I-95. Since I don't have to be anywhere at any given time, the plan included two-night minimums at each stop to rest up and tour the area...take some photos and such.
For example Charlie and I visited the historic community of St. Mary's which overlooks the Cumberland Sound near a Navy base. Large Victorian homes housed Inns, restaurants and unique shoppes. A quiet park allowed visitors to park and walk to the water's edge which was speckled with free fishing piers, and private docks with boats and yachts of all sizes and shapes moored and bobbing in the choppy waters. Charlie enjoyed all the smells and greeting other folks as they strolled along the boardwalk.
Connecting the TOAD the night before while Charlie paced inside the coach, I had gotten everything ready for our departure the next day. Having planned the route using “Google”, I knew we’d be traveling nearly 300 miles and would probably experience high winds along the way according to weather reports obtained via the internet.
The trip was uneventful. There were high winds that tried to blow us off the highway not to mention the high winds that kept trying to blow us off the highway and I should mention the high winds that …
Somehow Google thought the trip should only take about 4 ½ hours. 296 miles divided by the speed limit of 70 mph is very close. Google doesn’t take into account Charlie Brown’s (d0g) or my desire to stop and stretch or the fact that it is difficult to maintain 70 mph in an unfamiliar vehicle traveling in high winds that try to blow you off the highway.
The winds calmed during the last 100 miles and I was able to cruise along at a steady 65 mph. Without stopping to refuel still having about 35 gallons remaining in the tank, I estimated my arrival at about 5:30 pm. That would give me about :30 to park at my reserved pull-thru site, hookup the shore cord and water before the forecasted cold night enveloped us.
Amazingly, we pulled into the campground about 4:30 pm. This feat would be much more impressive if we had not crossed into the central time zone. Nonetheless, we still only had about :30 before darkness and the only full service site available was a “back-in” not a pull thru as I had requested.
There are several ways to tow a vehicle behind a motor coach. An enclosed trailer works fine for very small cars like the SmartCar or a motorcycle. An open air flatbed is fairly easy but adds considerable weight to the equation. I chose a Jeep Wrangler as my TOAD because it can be towed “flat-four” which means it can be towed with all four wheels in contact with the ground. Advantages are lower weights, versatility and storage. The one greatest disadvantage is that reverse is not an option. Driving in reverse will damage the equipment and/or the vehicle. Any time a campsite requires backing into, the TOAD has to be “dropped”. This is not difficult and becomes easier with practice…unless it is dark. And it was dark by the time I got to my site on Wednesday!
I unhooked the Jeep then gingerly backed the coach into my site. Turns out the site wasn’t very level and by the time the hydraulic system leveled the coach, the first step was higher than comfortable for both Charlie and I but we could manage for two nights.
There was no cable connection for the cable-ready site however “Richard” responded quickly and added a splitter from another site. It didn’t work. And after trying to configure the TV for over an hour, I gave up. Obviously I am not a great fan of television…The WiFi signal is extremely weak. And there’s a strong chance my sewer hose will not reach that connection, however a dump station is available on the grounds.
It was night just below freezing. So, how do I rate this campground? I’m was on the very back row and could look out over all the other campers, some sitting with quiet abandon while others sport festive lighting. It’s a pleasant scene reminiscent of the days of yore when my family camped in a 17’ Shasta travel trailer! I loved it. Well, except the below freezing part.
Morning light reveals many different things. The cable Richard hooked up the night before never worked. While walking Charlie, I found another cable and hooked it up to the coach. Now there are 80 channels available that I don’t care to watch! And there is an access to the sewer system within a reasonable distance from the coach. Breakfast was enjoyed with Regis & Kelly and then it was time to get ready to explore…
Just after noon on Thursday and about ten degrees warmer than 500 miles ago, we were in the Jeep headed to downtown Bonifay. Bonifay, Florida is a very small town just off of I-10 with a population of approximately 2700. Consisting of a quaint, uncluttered downtown with an eclectic mix of stores from Farm Supply to Merle Norman’s, traffic was light. We drove to a neighboring town to find a hardware store where I found some parts I needed for the tow rig.
Returning to Bonifay, I went into a Piggly Wiggly (grocery) for food and drink supplies. In Charleston, there was a “Pig” just down the street from my house where I often shopped. In Bonifay, only the name was the same. For a town as small as this, there were few empty spaces in front and inside were many shoppers as well as stocking clerks blocking the aisles.
I was searching for frozen breakfast croissants and found none however I found frozen sausage biscuits crammed in the refrigerated units next to and on top of fruit pies. Frozen chicken wings were among frozen fish sticks. Stock clerks left their buggies blocking aisles while a few patrons did the same at the deli in the rear of the store. The country fried steak was fantastic along with mashed potatoes, Mac & cheese, a couple of rolls and a small tea for $4.99!