Wintering Along the Gulf Coast - 2015-2016
Here we go again, heading southward to avoid another New England winter. We're generally headed for the Gulf Coast region between Pensacola, FL and westward to MS and perhaps LA. I don't guarantee that I''ll be posting every day, especially when we're settled in somewhere for a spell, but you're invited to check in now and then to see what's happening with us. You can also see just where we are by choosing the "Where are We?" menu option under "Our Travels". I'll also include links to all the campgrounds we visit along the way.
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28 Oct 15: A beautiful sunrise this morning as we started off on the first leg of our trek to the Florida Panhandle. Of course, a beautiful sunrise often doesn't bode well: "Red skies in morning, sailors take warning." And that was the case for today as we were heading in the direction of heavy rain from former Hurricane Patricia. We had spent last night in the RV in our driveway so we could make an early escape and perhaps make it to our night's destination before the worst of the rain settled in.
At 0630 we were on our way. But.....not without a problem. 20 miles down I-84 I remembered that I had left the 2016 RV registration tag sitting on my desk. So back we went. All right, let's try again. Now it's 0730 - we wasted an hour. We were doing well until we hit heavy traffic approaching Waterbury, CT. Four lanes merge into two at a massive highway construction zone. Five miles an hour at best for about 6 miles. Once past that, we rolled, or should I say bounced down I-684 to White Plains, then over the Tappan Zee Bridge to I-287 into northern New Jersey. Although we had encountered a sprinkle or two earlier, the steady rain held off until we were entering New Jersey.
A few miles after turning on the windshield wipers, suddenly the passenger-side blade came off the arm. By some stroke of luck, I had put some heavy-duty twistems on the blades when I installed them, for they didn't seem too secure. So at least I didn't lose the blade and I was able to re-attach it.
A few more miles got us to Mahlon-Dickerson Reservation, a county park near Lake Hopatcong at noon. We have stayed here quite a few times over the years. The first item of business was to fill the RV's water tank. Then we were finally able to sit back and relax after 249 miles - 40 too far!
29 Oct 15: On our way at 0800, although not too speedily - morning rush hour traffic kept our pace on the slow side. But eventually things improved and we were good until we got to Harrisburg, where construction caused a delay. At least we were going in the right direction - the back-up on the side coming the oppposite way was a much worse than what we experienced.
While talking abour traffic and driving, I gotta say we're loving the gas prices! New Jersey - $1.79, Virginia - $1.85.
Finally made it to Thurmont MD and the Manor Campground at Cunningham Falls State Park. We've stayed here a number of times on our treks south and back. The main thing to remember is to be here Sunday through Thursday nights when the Golden Age Pass is honored.
30 Oct 15: We delayed our departure this morning until 0930. Not so much because of traffic, but because I wanted to stop at the Verizon Wireless store in Frederick, MD. Yesterday I got an email about a special offer that would let me increase my data plan's gigabytes and save a few dollars. Sounds like a deal to me!
Back on good ole I-81, southbound we roll. Today's destination was Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista, VA, another of our usual stops. Since it was Friday, we decided to spend two nights here - campgrounds further south were all booked full for the weekend. We like Glen Maury Park: sites are out in the open, it's near the railroad, and is within walking distance of several restaurants.
|From the park one can walk about a mile and a quarter along a levee alongside the Maury River. The levee ends where the river takes a turn and passes under a railroad bridge. In the late afternoon sun this would be a great spot for a train picture. In the background are the Blue Ridge Mountains.|
31 Oct 15: It always fun watching folks at campgrounds. Late this afternoon two small RV's came in together and wandered all over the place, with one following the other. They finally settled on a couple of sites and parked side-by-side facing opposite directions so their doors would be facing each other. But the real kicker was watching one of the women get out her broom and start sweeping leaves...and not even in the small area between the rigs, but behind them.
1 Nov 15: An extra hour of sleep....or an extra hour of "day" today, depending on one's point of view. I heard someone say that daylight savings time is like cutting a foot off the bottom of your blanket and reattaching it at the top.
We're quite annoyed: two years ago we subscribed to Sirius XM satelllite radio, primarily so we could listen to C-Span radio when rolling along down the road. But Sirius recently deleted C-Span, replacing it with Fox New Headlines. What a waste listening to the same news bits over and over. I did contact Sirius XM to complain and eventually I did talk to someone who at least authorized a 50% refund of my recent renewal fee.
Short day day today - 128 miles. The weather radar was showing rain all over the place, but we encountered only a brief sprinkle of two. Arrived at Stony Fork USFS Campground about 1100 and got our usual site.
|As we were walking back from paying for our site, we passed this neat little Alto trailer. We stopped to talk to its owner wo let us take a peek inside. He and his wife had just picked it up a few days ago in Quebec and were on their way back home in Alabama. It was designed by an aeronautical engineer and it's evident with the all-aluminum construction. That roof, hinged in the front, lowers in the back for travel - it looks like a large teardrop trailer. Those are windows all along the roofline.||
3 Nov 15: After two nights at Stony Fork it was time to make a little more progress in our trek southward. So we set off at 0900. Nothing outstanding about the drive down I-77 - lots of trucks, lots of clouds and a little occasional drizzle. We arrived at Ebenezer County Park in Rock Hill, SC, just south of Charlotte, NC, at 1400. Got a nice site, #27, out in the open with a great view of the lake.
We had a bit of an awakening regarding the status of our black tank. Normally we can go 8-9 days before needing to dump. Today is day 6 of this trip and we discovered that we were full just about to the brim. I then remembered that we had used the RV over the 4th of July weekend and had not dumped then. So we were really at the 9-day mark. Needless to say, the very first order of business upon our arrival at Ebenezer Park was to empty the tanks.
|4 Nov 15: Yet another boring day on I-77 down through Augusta, GA, to Fort Gordon. They don't take reservations here, but I had called the day before just to get a feel and was told there were a couple of sites. The campground at Leitner Lake Recreation Area is about 8 miles from the main part of the post, so upon arriving we went to the office first, where we learned there were 4 sites available. We paid for two nights with the understanding that we call them with the site number we selected. Which we did after choosing site 8, a very nice site right on the lakeshore. The next day was a pleasant no-travel day. Before lunch we took a 2.5 mile walk over to the other side of the lake.|
6 Nov 15: This turned out to a longer day than we like. Despite hitting the road at 0830, we didn't arrive at our day's destination until 1700. The first reason for the long day was the need to bypass a planned overnight stop. I had called Robins Air Force Base (AFB) a couple of days ago, only to learn they were full. So that meant we had to press on to the next stop on the itinerary, Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany in Albany, GA, about 235 miles. Another factor was that our route included only about 65 miles of intersate highway driving, with the rest on two-lane roads. On top of that we had a delay for mechanical reasons: I had been getting a shimmy in the front tires, so we stopped at a garage near Cordele, where owner Jimmy Smith had us in the shop within minutes. He pulled one tire and re-balanced it with no problem. But the other tire on the right side wasn't so accommodating. Despite several tries, he could not get it to zero out, so he put in a balance bag. To do that he had to partially unmount the tire from the rim in order to get the bag of beads inside the tire. And since you can't have a balance bag on just one side, he had to go through the same process with the left tire. Jimmy went out with me to break in the beads - you have to get up to about 65 or 70 and then the bag will burst open releasing hundreds of little beads which somehow find where they need to go to even out the tire. It actually did work. But I now need to find a Michelin dealer to see what's wrong with that right tire. At least it's driveable without the shakes now. So after all that we entered MCLB Albany about 1700, found our campsite and took a deep breath....or two.
10 Nov 15: Our three-night stay at MCLB Albany certainly gave us a variety of weather. Saturday, despite the gloomy forecast, turned out to be mostly sunny and quite warm, with a high tempperature of 84 degrees. I took my bike off the rear of the LD and did a 10.6 mile ride around the base. Sunday was quite a different story: much cooler and heavy rain just about all day.
|Rich, our next door neighbor, had an interesting hobby: using an old drawknife and a homemade, foot-powered vise, he fashioned wooden spoons and spatulas out of wood that he picked up here and there. As his bug hat might suggest, the Georgia gnats were out in force.|
Yesterday our 3-night stay was up; I called the office to see if we could stay another night, but we were told that folks were slated to occupy both our site and the other 2 empty sites, so we had to come up with a plan. And what a plan it was! A 10-mile trip over to Chehaw Park on the north side of Albany. The campground was close to empty so we had no problem getting a site.
This morning was spent dealing, again, with our front tire problems. Although the balance bags that were installed last week helped, there was still more shimmy than I liked. I called a local tire dealer that could also do alignments on larger vehicles. Nice folks, they had us in the shop within minutes, pulling both front tires to re-balance them. They weren't exactly happy when I told them about the balance bags, for that meant they had to dismount the tires to clean out the beads. They were successful in balancing both tires and made an adjustment to the toe-in of the tires. We took it out for a test drive and things were much better. We left the tire place about noon, stopping for lunch out before heading back to Chehaw Park.
Country church on way to River Junction Campground
|13 Nov 15: As we near the goal of the first part of our trip, Florida, we're able to slow our pace a bit. So much for the interstates! Back on Veterans Day we left Albany and headed down through Bainbridge to River Junction COE Park on the east side of Lake Seminole, just a few miles north of Chattahoochee, FL. Along the way we stopped for a few groceries, and I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of WWII veterans as well as a current Army National Guard member, thanking them all for their service. River Junction is a small park with only eleven sites, each with water and electric hookups. Other than campground hosts Tom and Brenda, the campground was empty, so no problem snagging a site.|
The next day we had planned for only a 5-mile day, intending to stop at a city park in Chattahoochee. We stopped by, but were not impressed at all. The next possibility was Florida Caverns State Park, about 25 miles further. I tried to call them a couple of times to see if we could get a spot, but kept getting a busy signal. We headed there anyway and upon arrival, learned that the campground was flooded from recent rain. OK, now what, Coach? Next along our route was Falling Waters State Park; I called and was told there were several sites available, so on we went. Arriving at noon, we got our site and settled in for a warm, sunny afternoon.
|In the morning, right after breakfast, we took a short hike out to see Florida's highest waterfall - 73 feet. What is interesting about this fall is that instead of coming down from a hillside, it flows into a deep sinkhole.|
Unfortunately (Friday the 13th?) we had to move on today for the park was booked full for the weekend. Boy, I hate the reservation system! It wouldn't be so bad if parks kept a few sites as first-come/first-served. Florida claims to keep 10% of sites for that use, so in a park with thirty sites, there should be three walk-up sites. But most parks use those sites for their volunteers so they are NOT available to the public. Boo hiss!!
Back in September we had made a reservation for four nights starting the 20th of November at Florala State Park, right on the Florida-Alabama state line. I called to see if we could arrive early - "Not a problem". So off we went, arriving just before noon. (Another of our tough travel days - 58 miles). To our surprise, Florala is no longer a state park! In early October the state of Alabama announced the closing of five state parks because of budget problems. Not the Parks Division budget, but the General Fund. Legislators forced the Parks Division to hand over $10 million from its budget to cover other programs. The city of Florala recognized the economic benefit of the park on the city and made a deal to take over the park, effective 16 Oct 2015. We're happy here for the next 10 days - a great spot right on the lakeshore with fantastic sunsets and within walking distance of town.
21 Nov 15: We're enjoying our stay in Florala. Except for one day with heavy rain and the threat of tornados, we have enjoyed very pleasant weather. Plenty of opportunites for walking, biking and just sitting by the lakeshore, book in hand. Florala is an interesting little town to wander through au pied - has a look of time having passed it by.
This seems to be permanently parked on Main Street. Note the old pump mounted on the sidewalk in the background.
If it weren't for the van parked out front, one could easily imagine oneself back many years in time.
24 Nov 15: Time to depart Florala and get ourselves down to Gulf Islands National Seashore's Fort Pickens Campground just south of Pensacola. We had actually succumbed to the reservation game and back in August had booked two weeks there. On the way out of Florala we filled up the gas tank for $1.81 a gallon - whoo-hoo! Further south in Crestview, FL, we stopped for a major replenishment of supplies. We arrived at Fort Pickens only to find a sign as we approached the gatehouse: "Fort Pickens Closes at 5 PM today." The ranger at the gatehouse says, "Well, I guess you folks didn't get the word - the campground is closing at 5 PM due to expected flooding of the road." Strong easterly winds, with a full moon and a storm in the Gulf of Mexico were all forecast to cause problems for the very low-lying road.
So, what do we do now, Coach? To compound the problem, friends Dave and Jane were supposed to be meeting us for a few days to enjoy Thanksgiving together. They had made reservations at a hotel outside the park. I got on the phone and called the military campground on Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP) and we able to snag one of the last available sites. We contacted Dave and Jane and they were able to cancel their hotel room and get a room at the Navy Lodge on NASP. And since we had been planning on enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with the troops at the Navy Chow Hall, we didn't have to travel far to get there.
Much to our annoyance, the National Park Service canceled our entire two-week reservation, not just the portion during the projected 6 day closure. By the time we figured that out, someone else had reserved our site! The staff at the Navy campground were very helpful in taking care of us, finding room for us until it would be time to move on.
On top of all this confusion, I discovered that I was mistaken on the dates for our next stop, Davis Bayou Campground over in the Mississippi section of Gulf Islands National Seashore. I had put down on our calendar 8 Dec as our arrival there, but oops, we're really not due there until 15 Dec, leaving us with a week to fill. I got back online and discovered that the site we had reserved at Fort Pickens, although taken for the rest of our original dates, was available for a week starting on the 8th, so we grabbed that. Thus we will get to spend some time out at Fort Pickens after all.
Now here is a great way to spend Thanksgiving morning - a sunny 70-degree walk along the pure white sand beach near the NAS Pensacola campground. It's about half a mile down the beach to a short trail that leads up to the Pensacola lighthouse, nicely decorated for the holiday season.
|Since the lighthouse was closed Thanksgiving Day, we returned the next morning to climb the 177 steps to the top of the tower. Built in 1859, the 150-foot structure provides a grand view of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, with downtown Pensacola in the background. The light boasts a first-order fresnel lens which is still in operation.|
Near the lighthouse is this huge old live oak tree.
Also on the Naval Air Station is Fort Barrancas, built in 1839, served the country through several wars. It was finally decommissioned in 1947.
|On one of our daily walks at NAS Pensacola, we spotted a large ship, the "Sampson", heading out of the harbor. It had what appeared to be a helicopter pad hung out over the bow and a massive derrick near the stern. "Sampson" is the largest of several pipe-laying ships that work with off-shore drillers in the Gulf of Mexico. Built in 2010, the vessel weighs in at 28,632 tons and is 590 feet long. It is capable of lifting 1,760 tons with its enormous central crane.|
8 Dec 15: We finally made it to Fort Pickens today. Entering the park, we could see the effect of previous storms which had covered the road with sand. For a moment we thought we were looking at the aftermath of a freak snowstorm, but of course it was just the pure white sand that had been plowed off the road.
We were comfortably settled in on site A-35 well before noon. After lunch we took a walk around all the campground loops and chatted with neighbors.
|11 Dec 15: The weather has been sensational - sunny and warm with high temperatures in the 70's. We've done some walking, some bicycling and have seen some great sunsets.|
But then...uh-oh! Once again the curse of Fort Pickens struck us. Late ths afternoon we were informed that the park would be closing tomorrow and we would all have to leave. Another approaching frontal system was forecast to be preceded by two days of strong southeasterly winds up to 40 MPH, which could cause the low-lying road to flood and/or get drifted in with sand. So much for our week at Fort Pickens - we got only four nights. With three days to kill before our arrival at Davis Bayou CG in Mississippi, we made a reservation at Big Lagoon State Park, a few miles west of Pensacola.
12 Dec 15: Another tough travel day - 31 miles! Made it to Big Lagoon before 1100, giving me time for a bike ride after lunch.
28 Dec 15: Yes, I know I have been a bit remiss on updating things recently, so here we go.
We spent three nights at Big Lagoon SP, giving us time to do some exploring of the park. There are several miles of trails through the park, some of which we walked. There are many wooden boardwalks all through the park, while for the most part the rest of the trails are quite sandy, making walking a bit tedious.
Down at the end of the park road in the day-use area is a 3-story observation deck, from which one can look out over the bay and marshes.
All along the Gulf Coast one sees trees that have obviously been dead for a long time, yet somehow they remain standing.
On the 15th we moved on, leaving Florida for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Breaking with our usual policy of not making reservations much in advance, back in August we had booked a site at the Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou Campground in Ocean Srings, MS. When we were last here in 2012, the campground was first-come/first-served, but the next year it was added to the reservation system. Darn! But there is an upside: one can now stay up to 4 weeks except during January-March, when there is a two-week limit. We were able to book the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January for a stay of a month.
We have always enjoyed our stays at Davis Bayou. It's nice being close to town; I'm able to ride my bicycle out for basic supplies like milk when needed. There are also good places to walk, including a trail to the Visitors Center where one can watch an interesting movie about the Gulf Islands.
There is a great assortment of wildlife here, including large turtles, alligators, and various water birds; almost every day we take a walk down to the bayou to see what we might find.
So far this trip the weather has definitely not been winter-like. We have enjoyed mostly sunny days with warm temperatures, sometimes even hot and humid, as the past few days have been with highs in the upper 70's. But this current warm spell broke this morning with passage of a cold front with some severe weather attached. Shortly after getting up this morning we found we were in a tornado watch area, so we began keeping a close eye on the weather radar. At one point, two areas of heavy rain merged into a hook-shaped echo just a few miles southwest of us, so we decided it was time to head for the cement block bathhouse for shelter. But nothing came of it and we were able to return to our "home" and enjoy our breakfast.
11 Jan 16: It's starting to get a bit chilly here as our 4 weeks at Davis Bayou come to an end. It was colder here this morning than it was in Bangor, ME - 30 for us, 34 in Bangor. but it was a nice sunny afternoon for our last day.
12 Jan 16: Back on the road this morning for a long drive of 75 miles west to Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, MS. Along the way we stopped for a few supplies and lunch, arriving at Buccaneer about 1330. The site we had reserved turned out to be quite shaded, so we went back to the office and were able to move to a sunnier site. Puddy-Tat is quite happy with the new site beause we're facing south and she can spend the day enjoying the sun on the dashboard.
17 Jan 16: We were blessed for a few days by a visit from good friends Louis and Louise, whom we had met in Jackson, MS, several years ago. When they heard we were going to be spending some time on the Mississippi coast this winter, they made plans to come down for a visit. Louis is a seasoned bicyclist with whom I have ridden before. While they were here this time we did two good rides along the coast. Even better were the delicious meals to which they treated us - one night at L'il Joe's grill in Bay St. Louis and last night a scrumptious meal at the Sycamore House restaurant, also in Bay St. Louis. We sure had some great laughs while enjoying each others' company. Hated to say goodby.
While riding with Louis one day, we came across this incredible carving in the remains of a live oak tree destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. At first I thought it was done by Marlin Miller, the same carver that has carved lots of beautiful trees over in the Biloxi, MS, area. But this tree was carved by Dayle Lewis. The story goes that 100 years ago a member of the DeMontluzin family kept the tree from being cut when the road was built, said Douglas Niolet. “I guess she saved it for us,” Niolet said, because he and two others found their way to the oak and hung onto it for more than three hours during Hurricane Katrina. The tree died after the storm and the survivors asked Lewis to carve it into the angels that watched over them. It is now known as the Guardian Angel Tree.
22 Jan 16: Three days ago we put in a long day's travel....all of 15 miles from Buccaneer SP to McLeod County Park in Kiln, MS, a nice park on the banks of the Jourdan River. We originally planned to spend just a couple of days there, but then yesterday threatened severe weather and since we're in no hurry to be anywhere, we stayed over an extra night. There were tornado watches just west of us in the evening, but all we got were some garden-variety thunderstorms.
What a change in the weather in less than 24 hours! Yesterday we were out in our shirtsleeves with the temperature in the low 70's. This morning when we awoke, it was 42 and dropped another degree or two before we left. And the cold north wind really picked up as well. The drive across Lake Ponchatrain was a white-knuckler - although I wasn't worried about being blown over, it was a struggle to stay in the lane. At least the wind was blowing right-to left and not left-to-right, since we were in the right-hand lane nearest the railing.
Today's destination was St Bernard State Park on the southeast side of New Orleans. We arrived about 1100 and were soon settled into site 12, facing the sun (if it were out today) to keep Puddy-Tat happy. Our entertainment for the rest of the day will be watching all the hype over the big storm moving into the mid-Atlantic region. Happy to be here, not there.
2 Feb 16: Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, so theoretically we can be looking forward to an early Spring. For us, we're at the halfway point of our 6-month winter escape trip. Time sure zips along.
Things have been pretty quiet here at St Bernard SP - other than my need to go to the ER a week ago. While bike riding with friend Louis about three weeks ago, I took a fall which scraped my lower leg rather nicely on a jersey barrier. It seemed to be healing at first, but then infection set in. Now, after a week on antibiotics, it truly does seem to be healing well. I can recommend all the folks at St Bernard Parish Hospital - very professional and very friendly.
Just a few more days here - no vacancies after Friday anywhere in the New Orleans area. We're probably going to head south to Grand Isle State Park.
14 Feb 16: And yes, that's just what we did. A little over a week ago we departed New Orleans and struck out down through bayou country. This part of Louisiana seems to have more water than land mass, with rivers and canals running all over the place. One such canal/river paralleled the road for miles and all along it were dozens of small ships. Although some were rigged as fishing boats, for most it was hard to discern their purpose. They weren't real big and thus couldn't carry very much. As we continued south, there was more water and less land and eventually the road took to a seven-mile toll bridge ending at Grand Isle. It reminded us in some ways of the drive out to Key West, FL.
Eventually we made it to Grand Isle State Park. Once home to pirates (Henry Morgan in the 1600's and Jean Lafitte in the early 1800's), the island is now a summer vacation mecca with lots of cottages, although surprisingly, no large resorts or condominiums. It is also a major support base for off-shore drilling operations. Helicopters are constantly ferrying crews to and from the rigs, and supply ships pass near the park. At night one can hear the rumble of their engines. We took a walk around the village of Grand Isle one afternoon, with a map of the island that showed locations of historic homes. We weren't impressed - the definition of historic seems to be only that it had somehow escaped destruction in storms. They were certainly nothing to brag about and most seemed to be boarded up. We did find a short trail on Nature Conservancy land which was a pleasant little walk.
Otherwise we have spent our days with walks on the beach and enjoying the warm sunshine. We've been here 9 days now with hardly a cloud in the sky the entire time. That might change tomorrow with some showers in the forecast, but then the rest of the week is back to sun. Sure is nicer than the below zero weather back home in New England!
You never know who you might run into when traveling. Liz happened to glance up one afternoon and exclaimed, "Wow - here comes Buzz Lightyear." And sure enough, there he was, a devoted traveling companion of Donna.
23 Feb 16: Our two weeks at Grand Isle were up last Friday, so we headed on down the road, ending up in Baton Rouge, LA. Our route took us back to the east side of the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville, LA. From the height of the bridge one gets a great view of the size of the river and its importance as a major shipping route.
|The East Baton Rouge Parish has an extensive recreation department which, among other things, operates Farr Park Equestrian Center and RV Campground. The park is six miles south of Baton Rouge on the bank of the Mississippi River and just two miles south of Louisiana State University and its Tigers Stadium.|
So much for that spell of great weather that we enjoyed at Grand Isle - it's still warm, but has turned to a rainy spell, with a threat of severe weather later today. We have gotten out for walks along along the levee and a couple days ago I rode my bike up to the Baton Rouge waterfront. There is a six-mile paved trail along the levee from Farr Park into the city. Along the way one gets to see lots of tugs and barges on the river, along with larger ships.
In town the trail passes under the Mississippi River bridge and alongside the USS KIDD (DD-661), a WWII destroyer now open to the public. Commissioned in 1943, she saw service in the Pacific, was taken out of service in 1946. But she was commissioned again in 1951 to serve during the Korean War. In September of 1957, USS KIDD participated in the filming of the motion picture "Run Silent Run Deep" off the coast of San Diego. Later she was used for training at the Naval Destroyer School at Newport, Rhode Island and retired permanently in 1964. Here in Baton Rouge she rests in a unique docking system designed for the near forty foot rise and fall of the river each season. Half of the year, she rides the currents of the Mississippi; the other half, she sits dry-docked in a cradle where visitors can see her full dimensions.
28 Feb 16: A few weeks ago we got as far south as our travels would take us this winter - Grand Isle State Park south of New Orleans. From there we went to Baton Rouge, our furthest west point of the trip. So now we've made the the turn and the buggy is sorta-kinda headed headed for home, although with no great speed. We still have six or seven weeks before we need to be back in New England.
While we were at Farr Park in Baton Rouge Liz spotted this brightly adorned little RV.
From Farr Park in Baton Rouge we headed east a few miles to Tickfaw State Park, near Springfield, LA. We spent 4 days there, enjoying some great weather. We almost stepped on an alligator while out for one of our walks.
7 Mar 16: March is always a tough month for us wanderers who eschew reservations. Weekdays aren't quite so bad, but weekends down here is when everyone heads out in the spring. Too hot later in the season. So sometimes we break down and make a reservation a week or two in advance. While at Farr Park we had planned out three stops: Tickfaw SP, Fountainbleau SP and Bogue Chitto SP.
|Fountainbleau SP is located at about the mid-point of the 31-mile Tammany Trace, a former Illinois Central RR line that was converted to a hiking/biking traiil in the 1990's. I managed to get a couple of bike rides in: a 10-mile ride into Mandeville and return and a couple of days later a 22-mile round-trip ride out to the east toward Slidell. In Mandeville I passed a cemetery with lots of above-ground crypts and also a small plot for four fallen Confederate soldiers. On the ride eastward I passed over a former railroad bridge that was converted to a narrower bridge for bikers. It still has a bridge-tender and is available for bikers to use from from sunrise to sunset.|
Liz is dwarfed by a massive live oak tree.
At right: this once-mighty tree still defiantly stands.
We had intended to spend a week at Fountainbleau and Bogue Chitto, but as often happens, circumstances change. During our first few days at Fountainbleau we started hearing rather grim forecasts to Louisisana for mid-week - lots of rain (up to 10" possible) and a threat of severe weather, i.e., tornados. The campground at Fountainbleau was in very low-lying ground that was already soggy after just a little shower a few days ago, and we could picture it getting very wet and muddy with heavy rain. So we forfeited one night's fee and left three days early, heading inland a bit to higher terrain. When we got to Bogue Chitto today, we were able to move the last three nights of our stay to cover the three nights of our early arrival. We are up on a hill of sorts, so flooding should not be a problem. And we'll keep our fingers crossed regarding the severe weather threat.
19 Mar 16: Oh my, I have been a bit remiss in updating this blog, haven't I? So back to our stay at Bogue Chitto SP: we did escape the severe weather threat with no problems. It did rain mightily overnight, but being up on the hill, we had no problems. A day or two after the storm I tried to walk down to the Bottomlands Campground, but found that it and the road leading to it were flooded. We also learned that Fountainbleau SP, our previous stop, had been evacuated because of flooding - we were glad we had decided to leave before that.
Bogue Chitto was our last stop in Louisiana, as we headed northward up into Mississippi. After taking a look at good ole Reserve America and seeing that MS state parks didn't seem to be too busy for its being March, we pressed on without reservations. First came a stop at Lake Lincoln SP near Brookhaven, south of Jackson. We had no problem getting a nice site and were pleasantly surprised by Mississippi's discount for seniors - only $14/night.
Then it was on to Roosevelt SP, about 30 miles east of Jackson. Here we got a very nice waterfront site in one of the two campgrounds in the park - one on each side of the lake. For some reason, in the east campground, waterfront sites are not considered "premium" sites, which come with a hhigher price tag and no senior discount. So again, only $14/night. The weather has been rather pleasant lately with comfortable temperatures, so we've been able to spend a lot of time outside. I decided to check out one of the trails yesterday and ended up on a 2 1/2 mile hike with an overall elevation up-and-down of just over 10,000'. I also had to do a little scrambling to get around some rather soggy and mucky areas. I came across something unexpected: a large piece of petrified wood! I had seen some out west, but never in the eastern half of the country.
Today marks the end of the current warmer weather. Yesterday afternoon and evening we had some pretty impressive thunderstorms roll through, followed by a cold front this morning. Instead of 70's, we're now down near 50 at noontime.
20 Mar 16: First day of spring, so they say. I suppose that should focus us a little more on getting home....but on the other hand, what's the big rush? We did make a little progress today - exactly 100 miles northward to Starkville, MS. There we found a small campground run by the Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources. Nothing fancy, but a convenient for an overnight stop.
21 Mar 16: Time for an oil change for the trusty Lazy Daze. I called the local Ford dealer first thing, but nope, they were not interested in servicing an RV. So we figured we would just keep our eyes open as we drove and see if we might find someplace. And presto, there is was just as we heading north out of Starkville - a Jiffy Lube kind of place. Pulled in, they said they could do it, I inched into the bay, they did the deed, and we were on oour way in about 20 minutes! On we went, up to Tupelo and Tombigbee State Park.
23 Mar 16: We enjoyed two pleasant days at Tombigbee - sunny and warm. Yesterday we got in a 2.5 mile walk before lunch. The park has two disc golf courses, so I decided to try it. Oops - not my forte. We did witness the epitome of rude campers - a young couple with two very youg kids in a tent. This morning as they were packing up, they threw all their trash into the fire ring and tried to burn it. But the ultimate came when after getting into their car and starting the engine, they opened a window and tossed a bunch of trash out onto the ground.....and drove off.
We're just about all the way up through Mississippi. Today's destination was J. P. Coleman State Park in the northeast corner of the state.
24 Mar 16: We weren't thriilled with the site we had been assigned, so on our daily walk we scoped out other possibilities. In a different area, we found a nice private site with a great view of the lake. I called the office and they said we could move to it. Huzzah!
27 Mar 16: Easter Sunday. Because of a forecast of severe weather for today, we had decided yesterday to have our dinner a day early. In the freezer we had a nice hunk of filet migon that we grilled outside - delicious!
28 Mar 16: "Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest states in the land of the Free...." - remember that? Yeap, today we ended up at David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg, TN. We're appreciating the winter senior discount of 50% that Tennessee offers.
29 Mar 16: Just a one-nighter last night - back on the road today headed to Old Stone Fort Archaeological State Park in Manchester, TN. We had a little difficulty finding the park office so we could register for a site - it's hidden away at the park museum. We weren't too excited about the campground, for it was a lot more wooded than we like. So this will be a one-nighter also.
2 Apr 16: A few days ago we drove from Manchester to Crossville, TN, and Meadow Park City Lake. Getting there was rather interesting as we got involved in a house-moving operation. A house sure doesn't move very fast.
|Meadow Park was a fantastic find - just the kind of place we really enjoy. Small, open, view of lake, clean modern bathhouse and a wonderful park manager whose passion for the park is very evident. Quiet and relaxing, some nice walks.|
Apr 16: We hated to leave this great little park, but it's time to move on up the road a bit. Today we drove 120 miles to Cherokee County Park near Morristown, TN. Not a very pleasant campground and we're glad it's only an overnight stop.
5 Apr 16: On we go - today's destination was Observation Knob County Park in Bristol, TN, way up in the extreme northeast corner of Tennessee. Although this park caters mainly to seasonal campers, they do keep some nice sites right along the lakeshore for use by short-term visitors like us. Thanks to a not-so-great weather forecast that includes some snow flurries Friday and/or Saturday, we decided we've gone far enough north for the time being and will stay here until Sunday. Then we'll make the final crunch to get home by the end of next week.
15 Apr 16: Ten days later, here we are back home in New England. The trip northward from Bristol, TN, was along old familiar routes and our stays were all at places we have previously visited: Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista, VA; Cunningham Falls SP Manor Campground in Thurmont, MD, and our final night at Mahlon-Dickerson County Reservation in Lake Hopatcong, NJ. All in all a great winter with 4394 miles added to the odometer.