This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.
Monday, April 16, 2018 – Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida
This was easily our most challenging day on the road yet.
We started off the day preparing to check out of the Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park in Summerland, Alabama. Their checkout time is 11:30 AM, which is earlier than most of the places we’ve stayed, but we didn’t anticipate any problem meeting that deadline.
We had a problem with the bottom drawer under the stove, the one we use to store our groceries. It didn’t want to shut all the way, so Andy decided to try to fix it. After unloading the drawer, it took us awhile to figure out how to get the drawer off the sliders. Then Andy spent over an hour and a half trying to figure out how to fix the problem. By 10:15, it still wasn’t fixed, it stuck out further than ever, and we only had an hour to get ready to leave.
I bagged up the groceries and put them on the bed, and I started getting the inside ready to leave while Andy worked on the outside. I made a quick batch of hummus for lunch, and then cleaned up the breakfast dishes. By about 11:00 we were almost ready, and I walked the trash down to the dumpster. When I came back, Andy had already moved the rig off the leveling blocks.
I got in the rig and helped him set up his new windshield mount for his iPhone so he could use it for navigation instead of the Garmin, and I got him connected to Spotify for his Paul Thorn fix. Finally we were ready to go, and I left the rig and got in the Tacoma to leave. Suddenly Andy appeared at my window and told me he had screwed up the stabilizers.
It turns out he had forgotten to raise the stabilizers when he moved the rig off the leveling blocks. They had dug up the ground and gotten bent and twisted when he had backed up. So he tried moving the rig forward, which helped straighten them back up, but they are still somewhat bent. He was able to raise them with some effort, but will likely need to be replaced.
So we were finally able to pull out of our campsite right at 11:30. I was following the rig in the truck, and as we were about to turn onto the highway, I noticed that our brass water spigot was still attached to the city water inlet on the side of the rig. I radioed Andy to let him know, so he stopped and removed it.
We drove a little over an hour on Highway 90 and then I-10 to our first stop, the Santa Rosa County Rest Stop in Florida (mile marker 30). We cut up some veggies to go with the hummus I had fixed earlier, and we had a nice lunch in the rig as it was a little too windy and cool to eat outside. The rest stop was nice, if a little noisy from the big rigs parked around us. There was a walking path around the perimeter of the property which we took advantage of to stretch our legs.
The second part of the drive was pretty non-eventful. Molly rode under the passenger seat, while Maggie rode in Andy’s lap. We got to Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, Florida around 4:30 PM. Andy pulled up to the gate and got instructions from the ranger. He pulled ahead and left for the campsite while I waited for the ranger to finish a phone call so she could give me the permit tag to hang in the truck. By the time I got to our campsite (#17) Andy was nowhere to be found. He had missed the turn into the camping area. I tried raising him on the walkie talkie but could not, so I turned around to go look for him. I met him coming into the camping area, and then turned around and followed him back in.
We got set up in our campsite (electric/water but no sewer) after using every leveling block we have on board, including the wooden ones that Marty (previous owner) had left us. Andy was even able to get the stabilizers lowered to the ground with some effort and choice words. He met our next door neighbors who seem nice–they have a new-to-them Class B Aspect that they are just getting acquainted with.
Finally we were set up and able to enjoy the surroundings. Our campsite is very wooded and rustic. It’s on the side of the tallest hill in Florida (372 feet) so our cell reception is poor. The bathhouse is decent, with toilets and two showers in each bathroom. They even have a dishwashing station for tent campers (haven’t seen one of those since we camped in Big Bend National Park years ago).
While Andy relaxed on our front porch, I took a walk to the end of the road where we came in, and found that cellphone reception is actually really fast at the top of the hill. We enjoyed our front porch until dinnertime, when I fixed baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli/carrots for our evening meal.
We were pretty tired and turned in early. The campground is full but very peaceful.
So we have a couple of maintenance items to take care of–trying to get the pantry drawer to close and replacing the bent stabilizers. Andy was pretty discouraged after such a rough day, but this is not anything we can’t handle, and it’s the type of thing we’re going to encounter on the road when we go full-time. That is the point of this two-week gutcheck cruise, to make sure that both we and the rig are cut out for this lifestyle. We’re learning a lot, sometimes from our mistakes, but we’re definitely enjoying the lifestyle. Today we learned that even when we have a time crunch, it is imperative that we take the time to check EVERYTHING before we move the rig. Checklists are helpful, but only if they are followed.
I haven’t yet made any reservations for our last stop, which will be Thursday-Saturday nights. Most likely it will be in the Montgomery area at an RV park, since the state parks are pretty much booked on the weekends. Andy is not inclined to boondock for three nights. But I need to get some better cellphone service so I can do my research. That will be my task for tomorrow.