thcamper
Welcome to Toad Hall
Home of the WxToad

The Winter's Trek of '08-'09

14 Nov 08: Our 4 months at home in New England came to a close on 12 Nov as we finished the last-minute loading of the LD and headed down the highway in a southward direction.

For pictures and comments of all the parks we visit, click on "Campground Reviews " in menu above.

We have a new traveling companion - little Shelby. Shelby adopted us earlier this fall, and took an instant liking to traveling with us. She loves all the windows - watching all the birds and squirrels is like having a special TV show.

Our first stop, as usual, was at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in northern New Jersey. Yesterday we drove down to the FAMCAMP at the Naval Support Activity in Annapolis. We stocked up at the Commissary this morning, and spent the afternoon parked by the river....in the fog.

Godspeed to the crew of the Shuttle Endeavour. We just watched its night launch via the internet in the comfort of the RV.

 shelby010-r
 shelby036  18 Nov 08: We've made it to South Carolina - just barely. We're at Kings Mt SP for the night, which is just south of the NC line. Since my last post, we've been to Cheatham Annex, a Navy facility near Williamsburg VA. While there we met an old Air Force colleague for dinner and got caught up on things. We can heartily recommend the RiverWalk Restaurant in Yorktown, located almost literally beneath the York River Bridge. Next stop was at Occoneechee SP in southern Virginia, where we thought we might meet up with a friend, but she had left that morning. It was a very nice park, but......our RV got covered with some kind of berry juice - we couldn't decide if it was coming directly from the pine trees (unlikely) or from bird droppings. What a mess! The roof, of course, is the worst, but even the vertical surfaces were covered. I spent an hour cleaning the sides, front and rear, but still have to tackle the roof sometime. Tomorrow we arrive at Twin Lakes COE near Clemson SC, where we'll be until the end of the month.
 

25 Nov 08: We've been at Twin Lakes COE near Clemson SC almost a week now. Last Friday we were able to get the LD in for its 60K service; one less thing to worry about. On Saturday, fellow LD'ers Brenda and Alex Rutchka arrived for a couple of days; we enjoyed their company. We've logged a bunch of miles on the pedometer with our just about daily walks. It's been chilly - a couple of mornings ago, we awoke to 19 degrees! And I made a blunder: although I disconnected the city water connection, I failed to bring the water filter inside and it cracked when it froze. Luckily we had recently bought a new one which we hadn't used yet.

Today we spent the day at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Click here to follow our walk through the garden.

scbg11 
 lehigh01  30 Nov 08: Back on the road once again. We left Twin Lakes this morning, the day the park was closing, and headed westward into the Georgia mountains. We have some long-time friends whom we visited for a few days; they live full-time in an RV at Paradise Valley CG near Cleveland. They have a large Excel fifth-wheel trailer and also have put up a neat little 400 square-foot cabin on their lot. Being as it was cold and snowy during our visit, the wood stove in the cabin made for a cozy setting to get caught up on old times. The next-door neighbors were gone for the winter, so we were able to park in their driveway.

4 Dec 08: On Monday, during our visit with friends in the GA mountains, we were treated to a full day of snow. As temperatures fell in the afternoon, the ground actually became white. A major event during our visit is the annual Fall Classic Croquet Tourament. Toward the end of the tournament, the balls were picking up snow like we were making miniature snowmen! The outside fire helped warm us between shots.

Yesterday we said our goodbys and moved south a bit to Victoria Bryant SP near Royston, GA. Got a walk in this morning and Liz baked one of her delicious loaves of bread. By mid-afternoon, rain had settled in.

A camping tip: I recently picked up one of those headband LED lights, and what a help it is around the RV at night. Whether arriving late and hooking up in the dark, or just needing to go out to unhook the water for a cold night, the headlamp leaves both hands free.

lehigh10 
 magnosprg23  9 Dec 08: Our slow progress southward continues. While at Victoria Bryant SP, we experienced two failures the same day: our toaster over decided to spark itself into oblivion, and more seriously, we discovered that our water pump was leaking badly around the pump housing. Normally, with hookups available, that wouldn't be a major issue, but it's been so cold that we have to unhook the city water connection each night to prevent freezing. After a pleasant stay at Victoria Bryant, we moved down to Petersburg COE CG northwest of Augusta, where we met up with friend Susan in her LD. When we left there yesterday, we made a stop in Augusta GA to pick up a new pump. We spent last night at Magnolia Springs SP near Millen GA, where we had a little visitor: a very friendly orange cat stopped by, apparently looking for a new home. But with our own new little kitty, we had to turn him down. Today we made it about 60 miles south to Gordonia-Alatamaha SP in Reidsville GA. Stopped for a few groceries, but neither grocery store in town was very well-stocked. Looks like a nasty day tomorrow with heavy rain, so we're planning to spend a couple of nights here and tomorrow I'll tackle the water pump replacement.
 23 Dec 08: Oops, I haven't been so good at updating our journey; I guess because we've been too busy just relaxing. We arrived at Eagle Hammock RV Park at the Naval Sub Base at Kings Bay, GA, on 12 Dec, where we enjoyed 9 days on the best site in the park, along with some incredible weather - sunny and quite warm, up near 80 for a week. We did a lot of walking and spent a day exploring St Marys, a small former fishing port near the base. On the 21st, we resumed the southward trek, actually making it into Florida after 5 weeks from home - you can't accuse us of burning up the highways! We're now enjoying a front-row site at Pelican Roost RV Park at Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville. We always enjoy our stay here because of the proximity of the shipping channel into JAX and the Navy ship basin beside the CG. There's a constant parade of maritime activity: Navy destroyers and frigates, cruise ships, a casino ship, tankers, and container ships. And yes, I did manage to get the new water pump in successfully.

nrb59

Pelican Roost RV Park, NS Mayport FL

 palatkarr01

Billy Sparks operating the Rails of Palatka layout

More pix

Where does the time go??It's now 2009, so Happy New Year to all. We did manage to stay awake until midnight, quite a feat for us early-to-bed types. I gotta say, though, as much as I've always liked Dick Clark, I think he needs to give up his New Years Eve gig. On New Years Day, we departed Mayport and went visit friends on the west side of Jacksonville for a few days. Dave helped me with a project on the LD: adding a separate electrical line for the small electric heater we carry. I can plug this new line into the 15A outlet on the utility post and we no longer have to remember to turn the heater off before using the toaster over or electric teapot. Thanks, Dave.

On 4 Jan, we said our farewells and thank-yous to Dave and Jane and headed down to Blue Spring State Park. This is an annual stop for us, as a very good friend and mentor lives nearby. We had an interesting lunch stop in Palatka on the way to Blue Springs: we spotted a caboose by the old Palatka RR station, so stopped for a photo or two. A fellow came over and invited me inside to see two huge model railroads and a museum. The station is open two days a month....we just happened to hit one of those two!

  15 Jan 09: See - I actually remembered to write 09, not 08. Anyway, here we are back at Mayport. Our original plan didn't pan out: we left Blue Springs SP and went down to Manatee Cove CG at Patrick AFB. After three nights in over-flow awaiting a hook-up site, we decided we really didn't care for the place that much. The CG is waaay around the back side of the runway, far from things, and rigs were jammed in pretty tightly. On top of that, I developed a sharp pain in one knee, necessitating a trip to the doctor....who put me on crutches! We called Mayport and they were able to squeeze us in - a couple of nights in the back row and then we able to move to the front row overlooking the river - the same site we had in December! nrb64
 nrb70 United States Naval Ship SACAGAWEA is a Lewis and Clark class, dry cargo ship with a primary mission to resupply the U.S. Navy fleet through connected replenishment and vertical replenishment thereby enabling the fleet to remain operational at sea. The crew consists of more than 100 civil service mariners and up to 47 military personnel. She arrived at Mayport yesterday and departed this morning. Accompanied by tug Tractor 5, she is heading out through the gate to the Basin.
 2 Feb 09: Groundhog Day - Punxsutawney Phil emerged to the sun this morning to find his shadow waiting for him, so 6 more weeks of winter. Guess we won't head the RV northward quite yet. OK - what's been happening? My knee is better - got to see a Doc at the Mayo Clinic in JAX about 10 days ago - diagnosis: arthritis. We moved from NS Mayport to NAS Jacksonville a week ago. The campground itself isn't quite as nice as Mayport, but it does offer a nice nature trail and riverside observation deck along with a great variety of birdlife, such as this great blue heron. We've seen an osprey with a fish in its claws being chased by a bald eagle intent on stealing its meal, a white heron, a little blue heron, several woodpeckers and lots of warblers.  nasjax25
nasjax123   For aviation buffs, there's a nice display of aircraft associated with the history of NAS JAX, such as this PBY Catalina . To see the rest of the aircraft on display, click here.
 12 Feb 09: We've been on the move since my last post: we spent 4 nights at Stephen Foster SP in White Springs FL. We happened to be at Stephen Foster the first weekend of Feb, which is when the monthly Coffeee House is held, featuring local singer-songwriters, poets, and other performers. A wonderful fun-filled evening, all for free! Then came a night at Ochlockonee River SP just south of beautiful downtown Sopchoppy; we arrived there just in time to catch the tailend of the 2nd Annual Stone Age and Primitive Arts Festival. Another of our favorite spots, St Joseph Peninsula SP east of Panama City was our next stop, where we got our favorite site right near the beach. Old friends from previous years were there. But dang it all, my knee started acting up again!

ochlock39

The 2nd Annual Stone Age and Primitive Arts Festival at Ochlockonee River SP 

 tyndall57

 

 26 Feb 09: "Jet noise - the Sound of Freedom". That's what we've been hearing for the past week and a half. The FAMCAMP at Tyndall AFB near Panama City is right under under the approach zone to the runway, so there is a constant parade of fighter aircraft. This shot of an F-15 was taken right from our campsite. You can find the usual campground review and pix on the Tyndall FAMCAMP Review page.

 tyndall62

 

 tyndall59

 

 tyndall55 Above left: a pair of F-22 Raptors pass over the campground. Above right are two F-15 Eagles. To the left, a remotely-controlled QF-4 drone returns from a mission. 
 5 Mar 09: So much for the "Sound of Freedom" - we said farewell to Tyndall AFB and moved all the way across town (Panama City) to St Andrews SP, where we enjoyed the company of fellow LD'ers Don & Dorothy. And we were finally able to return their LD doormat that they left behind at Joshua Tree NP in CA a year ago - we've been hauling it around ever since hoping we'd have a chance to see them again. Leaving St Andrews, we finally turned north. We stopped for lunch in the parking lot of a closed restaurant, where we spotted these classic automobiles. Our next stop was at Three Rivers SP near Sneads FL at the south end of Lake Seminole.

 3rivers21

 

 oldcar01

In front of a now-defunct restaurant near Blountstown FL we spotted some old cars, including this two-door sedan.

 oldcar02

There was also an old Desoto and a Plymouth.

al01

Abandoned house near Gordon AL

12 Mar 09: This is our third day at Hardridge Creek COE park south of Eufaula AL. This is an absolutely beautiful park, with many waterfront sites and very well maintained. We're out at the end of a small peninsula with a great view of the lake and both sunrise and sunset. The weather has beautiful - at long last some warm weather so we can truly enjoy being outside.

14 Mar 09: Nothing unlucky about yesterday, Friday the 13th, even after having a black cat cross our path as well. We departed Hardridge Creek COE about 0900 and treked all the way up to White Oak Creek COE - a very tiring day of 12 miles! We had picked our delightful waterfront site by 0930 and then took a little ride up the road to Eufaula. What a neat little city - lots of beautiful old building. We took a walking tour, and as the trees were just beginning to pop out, we could only envision it a few weeks later in the spring. Restaurant tip: the River City Grill.

Today we spent awaiting the rain - those danged weather guys are always telling lies. By noon, the sun was out, so we went out for our daily 2-mile walk. Finally late in the afternoon, some light rain began.

eufaula13

The Skillman House in Eufaula, built in 1891.

jones13

 

19 Mar 09: We spent last night at the Rocking R Ranch, a farm owned by an old Air Force colleague near Eufaula, AL. Nearly 200 acres, several ponds, a herd of 50 polled Herefords, several burros who keep the coyotes at bay, some peacocks and quite a flock of chickens. Fresh eggs for our One-Eyed Susans at breakfast. Kitty Shelby had a ball here watching all the chickens and peacocks running around the RV. Saying goodby to Bill and Lorene, we moved up the road a ways to Bluff Creek COE park on the upper reaches of Walter F. George Lake north of Eufaula.

jones01

 

jones02

 

22 Mar 09: We had two goals for our travels today from Bluff Creek COE to Amity COE north of Lanett AL on West Point Lake. The first was to find the Salem-Shotwell covered bridge, but to no avail. After stopping in Salem to inquire about the whereabouts of the bridge, we learned that it was moved a few years to a park in Opelika and restored. Scratch that goal off the list. The other item on our list was a dollhouse built over a child's grave in Lanett AL. Little Nadine Earles died a week before Christmas in 1933 at the age of four. Her grieving parents built this large dollhouse to house her headstone. It even has a small fireplace and many of Nadine's toys. Of interest was the "Let it Snow" snowman hanging in the front window. nadine01

nadine03

 

Fort Tyler (below) was built out of earth on the highest point in West Point/Lanett in 1862, complete with moat and parapet. The site of one of the last battles of the Civil War and the last Confederate fort captured by Union soldiers, visitors can explore the old fort, which features period cannons. The remains of the fort are located just inside the Alabama side of the Alabama-Georgia state line.

forttyler03

 

forttyler07

 

26 Mar 09: We're slowing making some progress northward, although we surely not in any hurry! Our last morning at Amity COE presented us with our first threat of severe weather for the season - a tornado watch. It got pretty dark and did rain pretty hard, but only a couple claps of thunder and it was over by 0930. We usually hit the road about 1000, so I was able to unhook and stow our cables and hoses without getting soaked. As we were leaving the park, the gate attendant cautioned us about the continuing threat of severe wx; I told him that everything nasty was now past us, but he said no, that the Corps had said more was coming. I didn't tell him what I used to do for a living. <G> After a tough day of 70 miles, we arrived at Cheaha State Park near Anniston. Cheaha's claim to fame is being atop the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha, at 2407'. The observation tower was built by the CCC in the 1930's. cheaha05
al08 28 Mar 09: We had another bout of early morning rain yesterday at Cheaha SP, and although we waited until 1100 to depart, it was still raining, so I did get a little damp getting ready to depart. Our planned route included the Talladega Scenic Highway and the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway; neither was quite so scenic today, thanks to the low clouds and drizzle. We did make a short stop at Little River Falls outside Fort Payne, AL, where we had a rather misty look at the 45' falls. Our destination: Jackson County Park in Scottsboro. We're staying here a couple of nights, to sit out the third and hopefully final round of perhaps nasty wx.
29 Mar 09: We survived the tornado warning in Scottsboro last night - nothing too drastic occurred. Our progress northward finally saw us saying farewell to Alabama. We paused in Chattanooga TN and drove up the top of Lookout Mountain to visit the military park. In November of 1863 a decisive Civil War Battle was fought here, the Battle Above the Clouds. The next spring, Gen Sherman began his March to the Sea from Chattanooga. Click here to see some more of Lookout Mountain. We found our way to Chester Frost County Park north of the city. It was such a beautiful park we decided to stay a week. lookout07
tn river09

1 Apr 09: Awoke this morning to find the clouds clearing. We drove down to the Chickamauga Dam and River Park, where we parked for lunch and then did a three-mile walk along the Tennessee River. Starting at the dam, the paved path winds it way southward along the river to downtown Chattanooga. The dam was built by the TVA in the 1930's and dedicated by FDR in 1940.

2 Apr 09: Time to hunker down again - more tornado watches just to our west.

13 Apr 2009: Here we are, back home in MA after 5 months on the road. For the most part, after sitting through snow at Cherokee Dam CG in TN, we high-tailed it on home at the rousing rate of 150 miles per day. We like the leisurely pace which leaves us time to enjoy the afternoon at each stopping place. Stops included Hungry Mother SP in VA, Falling Waters CG in WV, French Creek SP in PA and the Army's Round Pond Rec Area at West Point NY. Didn't do any sightseeing these last few days.

Now we have to get busy: we've made a decision to purchase a newer, larger Lazy Daze RV, so we need to get our current one cleaned out and spiffied up in preparation for selling it. So if you know of anyone looking for a 2002 23.5' Lazy Daze, steer them our way.

So farewell until our next adventure - which ought to be in early June when we pick up our "new" LD.

flld02