Spring Travel Plans and Google Maps

I am SOOO ready for winter to be over! We’ve had colder-than-normal weather even here in the Deep South, along with rain and even a decent snowfall in January. I am so antsy to get back in the RV and hit the road.

As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to keep our 2004 Toyota Tacoma to use as our “toad”, which we will drive separately from the RV. The only precondition that I had for this arrangement was that we would replace the factory-installed audio system in the truck with a new one that has current technology, including Bluetooth capability. Hubby was agreeable to that (and why wouldn’t he be since he got to keep his beloved Tacoma!), and we got the JVC KW-V230BT system installed this week. It sounds great, and it will make it much more enjoyable to drive the truck while Andy is driving Lizzy.

So now we are planning our spring travels, which will be more-or-less shake-down trips before we move into the RV permanently later this year. And in order to give Lizzy (and ourselves and the kitties) a good shake-down, we need more than just a weekend trip to a local state park.

Fortunately, I have quite a bit of paid time off accrued at my job, so I was able to get approval for a two-week vacation in April. Our plans are to head south toward the Gulf Coast and then go east into the northern part of Florida and possibly southern Georgia. Our goal is to become more comfortable with making up plans as we go, boondocking for as long as possible before paying for hookups, and learning to locate essential services while on the road (dump stations, fresh water, propane, etc.).

However, at this point I’m not really ready to just hop in the vehicles and start driving. I need to have at least some idea of where we’re going and how long it will take to get there, especially since I do need to be back at work on a certain date. So this week I’m teaching myself how to use Google’s “My Maps” to pin interesting locations and then map routes between them.

TripMap

First draft of our route for April 2018

I’ve been playing around with the map today, primarily to learn how to use the application. It’s not exactly intuitive, but I found a few YouTube video tutorials that gave me a pretty good overview of how to use it.

The first step is to mark or “pin” locations where you might want to stop along the way. I’ve been using Campendium.com to research possible free/cheap campsites along this general route. We do plan to limit our travels to the less congested areas of Florida, and we know that we will be competing for camping space with the last of the snowbirds who will still be in the area before they head back north for the summer.

After pinning your locations, then you use the “Directions” function to link these pins in the order you plan to visit them, and Google maps your route for you, providing you with distance and driving time between the pins.

As I said, I’m just starting to put our route together, but I can already see just how much time it takes to plan your travels when you have to consider things like road conditions, hookups, proximity to services and amenities, physical demands of driving, and possible bad weather conditions. I think it will be much simpler when we don’t have to worry about being somewhere on a particular date and we can just plan our route as we go. Ahhh…just a few more months!

We do plan to do a short weekend trip, probably to our local state park, sometime in March so we can shake the cobwebs out. We may try to dry camp on that trip, but it will probably depend on how cold or rainy it is when we go.

So that’s what’s going on with us at the moment. We’re making sure to get all our medical, dental and optical needs taken care of before the summer. Andy just got his first new pair of glasses in about ten years, and not a moment too soon. The lenses in his old ones had gotten so cloudy that he was having trouble seeing well enough to drive. We’ve both cleaned up our eating habits and are at good, healthy weights with no significant health issues that we know of. We plan to do our second garage sale in March, and I’m still in the process of scanning paper photos to my hard drive.

The nomad life is calling, and we’re getting ready to go!

Must a TOAD be Towed?

One of the most important decisions we’ve had to make as we prepare to enter full-time RV life has to do with what auxiliary vehicle we’re going to use while we’re on the road. Those vehicles are commonly referred to as “toads” because they are typically towed behind the RV, usually Class A and Class C motorhomes.

While there are many RVers in smaller rigs who don’t use a tow vehicle, most of those with rigs of our size or larger do have a toad. It just makes sense to have a vehicle that can be used for running errands or sight-seeing while the large motorhome is parked at a campsite, possibly connected to electric, water, cable and sewer service. Nobody wants to disconnect all that just to run to the grocery store!

We’ve considered several different scenarios as we’ve made our plans for full-timing. We actually did consider not using a toad–but only for a few minutes, and then moved on. Last year on most of our trips, including our week-long trip to Tennessee for the RV Rally, Andy drove the RV and I followed behind in our Prius. We did not want to invest any money in a tow dolly for the Prius since we had no plans to use the Prius as our toad in the future. The only drawback to using a separate vehicle is that we did get separated once or twice when driving in heavy traffic around Chattanooga, and the walkie-talkies were no help at all once we got over a mile or so apart.

After doing a lot of research we decided that we definitely wanted a vehicle that could be towed flat, also known as “four down”, since it seems to be less hassle and less expensive than using a dolly or a trailer. We found out that not every vehicle can be towed flat (neither our Prius or our Tacoma pickup qualify), so we started looking into the possibility of buying a used Jeep and selling our current vehicles.

Jeeps are well-known for being reliable, easy-to-handle toads. Both the manual and automatic transmission models can be easily put into tow mode, unlike most other vehicles. We originally decided on the Jeep Compass, but later became more interested in the Jeep Wrangler Sport. Andy even visited a Jeep dealership to check out a few, and we found one on CarMax that looked very interesting. We were just about ready to pull the trigger.

But part of our transition to this new lifestyle is learning to look at our spending and purchasing decisions much more critically, especially when it involves thousands of dollars. While we would be able to pay cash for a Jeep and the towing setup, it would be a big chunk of change. We have to remember that my retirement income stream will not start for several more years, and while we have enough savings to be comfortable until that time, we don’t want to burden ourselves unnecessarily.

So after we discussed it further, we changed direction again, and this time it’s our final answer (unless something totally unforeseen happens!). We are going to use our Toyota Tacoma Pre-runner as our toad, but we’re not going to tow it. One of us will drive the RV, the other will drive the truck.

Our un-towed TOAD will be our Tacoma pickup with camper shell.

Here are some of the advantages that we see in this decision:

  • The Tacoma is a 2004 model with less than 100,000 miles on it. It has always been very reliable.
  • It has a camper shell on the back which will provide us with more storage space while we’re on the road.
  • It has the off-road package which will allow us to do some of the back-country exploring that we were planning to do with the Jeep.
  • The cost of insurance and registration will be lower for an older vehicle.
  • It already has a tow hitch on it in case we ever need it for anything.
  • When looking for boon-docking sites in the desert or on forest roads, the Tacoma can go ahead as a scout vehicle to make sure it’s safe for the RV to follow.
  • There will be less stress on the RV engine when climbing mountains, and less weight on the brakes when descending.
  • RV will get better gas mileage if it doesn’t have to tow anything. And the Tacoma will get better mileage traveling in the slip-stream from the RV.

The downsides to this solution are:

  • We don’t get to ride together when moving from location to location–but we’ll be together every other minute of the day, and we don’t plan to make many long drives anyway, probably a max of 250 miles in a day. Most days we won’t be moving at all.
  • If one of us gets too sick or injured to drive, we could be stuck in a location for longer than anticipated if we can’t figure out how to move both vehicles with one driver.

The only thing that needs to be upgraded in the Tacoma is the audio system. It currently has a radio/CD player, but we’ll be replacing it with a system that includes Bluetooth connectivity so we can connect our iPhones for music, audiobooks, navigation and hands-free phone conversations.

We’re not the first couple to decide to use an un-towed toad. Here’s a link to a great video from Duet Justus that explores all the options for toads.

So, it’s nice to finally have that decision made so we can move on to the other 999 decisions that we still have to consider this year! We’re so antsy to get on the road!

 

 

Digitizing Old Photos

My project for the next few weeks is to try and complete the digitization of all our old  paper photographs, along with any paper documents that we might need to reference in the future. I actually started on the photographs last fall and made some good progress, but I still have quite a few more to sift through. Some of them are in albums, but many are just loose in boxes or bags. And of course, some are in frames on the walls or on shelves.

My project for this month is to scan old photographs and get rid of the albums.

Right now I’m concentrating on the ones in albums. It’s sad to see how the colors have faded or changed over the years under plastic. It makes me appreciate that much more the value of having digital copies of the photos. I’m using our HP Photosmart printer which has a flatbed scanner to scan the photos, and the software that came with the printer does a decent job of correcting the colors and removing dust and scratches. However, it’s nowhere near the quality that the photos had when they were originally taken.

I’m not scanning every single photo that we’ve kept in the albums. For instance, we used to travel from home in Houston, Texas to visit family in Arizona every year. And every year we would visit Sedona and do some hiking, and every year I would photograph the beautiful red rock formations in central Arizona–I couldn’t help myself. So now I have multiple photographs of the same red rock formations, with no context to make them meaningful. I decided to only keep digital copies of the photographs of ourselves, family members, or scenes that we can identify with something that brings back a specific memory. The other photographs are beautiful, but our plan is to make that scenery our backyard soon.

And for paper documents, I’ve ordered a Fujitsu Scansnap mobile scanner that we will be taking on the road with us. I’ll be using it to scan records and receipts from our file cabinet that we might need in the future.

I have plenty of storage space for the digital files on external hard drives that I’ve acquired over the years, and I’ll also be utilizing Cloud storage for some things. It’s a lot of work to go through this process, but it feels so freeing every time I toss one of these old picture albums in the trash can.

My goal is to do something every day to get us one step closer to full-time RV living, and this year I’m right on target!

 

This Is The Year

Happy (belated) New Year, everyone!

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who have been hanging out in the Southwestern U.S. for the past few months, you’re probably dealing with unusually cold weather as we are here in North Mississippi.  Between the holidays and the weather, we have not had a chance to spend any time in Lizzie since we returned from Tennessee in early October, and I miss it so much!

Right now Lizzie in covered up and tucked in at the storage facility. We winterized her when the weather first turned cold, but we still go by every week to check on her and keep the batteries topped off.

Lizzie is covered up in the storage lot, but we check on her every week.

But the excitement is building! This is the year that everything changes!

Our plans to become full-time RVers this year are starting to accelerate. Since I am still employed full-time, I won’t reveal too much about our plans right now in this public forum, but I can tell you that we’re getting our house ready to go on the market. Last week we had our kitchen and laundry room floors redone, replacing the old worn laminate stick-on tiles with new ceramic tile. Of course we already had the master bathroom remodeled last year, so we’re hoping the improvements will add to the value of the property when we list the house later.

We replaced the tile in the kitchen and laundry room in January. This is while grouting was in progress.

We’re continuously looking for things to declutter, discard, donate or repurpose. We’re finding so many examples of over-consumption, duplication and needless hoarding–typical behavior for societies that have houses with space to fill. The process of downsizing is a little harder for Andy than it is for me as I don’t tend to get as emotionally attached to things in general. But even I have things that I struggle with letting go of, and I have to continually remind myself why it’s important to just let it go.

IT WON’T FIT IN THE RV!!

So, this is going to be the year when it all happens. Right now the posts to this blog will be somewhat infrequent while the weather is so cold, but as soon as we’re able to stay above freezing for a reasonable length of time, we’ll hit the road again for more shake-out adventures.

Like I said, I don’t want to reveal a whole lot about our plans until about July, but just know that this year is going to be epic. So stay tuned and follow along!

 

RV Rally in Sevierville TN – Wrap-up

It’s been over a week since we returned home from our first RV Rally, and we’re so glad we invested the time and money in the experience. We met a lot of great like-minded people who both inspired us toward our full-timing dream and also challenged our assumptions about what the full-timing life is all about.

Kudos to Howard and Linda Payne for putting together an event that was fun, educational, well-organized and inspirational. These guys know their stuff, and they are also hella fun to listen to as they recount their adventures and mishaps on the road.

One of the highlights of the week was on Saturday afternoon when many of the attendees graciously opened up their rigs (their homes) for tours. Andy and I concentrated on the fifth wheels since that will likely be our next purchase once we graduate from Lizzy, our 22′ Class C. If you’ve never been inside a fifth wheel RV, you should make it a point to check them out whether you’re planning to buy one or not. These units are amazing, with all the comforts of home but the flexibility to live just about anywhere you choose (as long as you have a big enough truck to pull it around). I’ll have to admit, I experienced a fair share of “rig envy” while touring these beautiful homes, but I’m doing my best to suppress it!

We did have one free afternoon during the rally, so Andy and I took the car and drove from Sevierville, through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, to Cherokee, NC.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, and the leaves were just starting to develop their fall colors. We stopped several times to get out of the car and enjoy the scenery.

Great Smoky Mountains on a beautiful fall day.

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When I was growing up, my family took several vacations in this area. I remember vividly staying at the Redskin Motel in Cherokee, and happily spending all my allowance money at the tourist-trap souvenir shops along Cherokee’s main drag. We couldn’t afford a family vacation in Gatlinburg, so Cherokee was a great alternative base camp. The little town has, of course, changed so much over the years, and now has an impressive area developed by the Native American Cherokee people that includes a park, museum, and other infrastructure that was all new to me. I would love to go back and spend more time in the area and become more educated about the history of the people who were there originally.

This is as high as we got today!

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The rally officially ended on Sunday morning with a send-off breakfast, but we skipped that meal since we weren’t convinced that their sad attempts at vegan options would be better than what we could prepare for ourselves–plus we needed to get on the road for the long trip home. We pulled out of Sevierville just after 9am, and got home around 4pm as I recall. We spent an hour cleaning out the RV and getting her back in her storage lot, and then it was time to rest up to return to work the next morning.

Our main take-away from our first RV rally was simple–we are more convinced than ever that this is what we want to do. We are financially ready for this. We are capable of handling challenges intelligently and calmly. We are excited about seeing new places and experiencing different cultures that exist outside our comfort zone. We know there is a support system of like-minded, kind individuals who are happy to share their knowledge and experience with relative newbies like ourselves.

So we’re moving forward with the grand plan! Our first yard sale is taking place this weekend as we begin the process of divesting ourselves of almost all our worldly possessions in order to fit into that little RV named Lizzy.

Wish us luck!!

Our First RV Rally – Sevierville, TN

Greetings from the River Plantation RV Park in Sevierville, Tennessee, at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Andy and I have been here since early Monday afternoon, attending the RV-Dreams Fall Educational Rally. So far it has been a wonderful experience, giving us the perfect opportunity to learn more about the fulltime RV lifestyle from those who are currently living it. It has also been a chance to learn more about our own RV by using it in ways we have not until this point.

We left Tupelo last Sunday afternoon just after 3PM, timing our departure so that we would arrive in Chattanooga, Tennessee just after sundown because we wanted to get our first boondocking experience under our belts. We parked the rig (and our Prius which I was driving as a chase vehicle) in the Walmart parking lot and settled in for the night. While it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten (we were near a train track), it was not bad at all. We ate our dinner in the rig, baking potatoes in the microwave while we ran the generator. The following morning we had overnight refrigerator oats that I prepared before we went to bed. We took our time and pulled out of Walmart just after 10am since we couldn’t check in at the RV park until noon.

Settled in at Camp Walmart.

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The River Plantation RV park is also a new experience, it’s our first private park (as opposed to the state parks we’ve been using). They provide full hookups, including electricity, water, sewer, and cable TV. They have two swimming pools and a hot tub, a lazy river, pickleball courts, a video game arcade, an onsite RV/Bus wash facility, and other amenities, including the conference center.

We’ve had a couple of issues with the hookups:

  • The breaker on the hookup pedestal has tripped three times so far. One of those times was when we were away from the campground, and when we returned the power was off to the RV. Wouldn’t be a huge issue except that the kitties were in here and without A/C it was starting to get a little stuffy.
  • The park advertises that they have free wi-fi, but it was not working all week until just this afternoon (hopefully it continues to work).
  • The sewer connection is on a PVC pipe that sticks up out of the ground. Our RV’s outlet is pretty low, so there’s not much downhill slant between our outlet and the sewer drain. We would prefer a lower-to-the-ground outlet.

But overall, we are enjoying our stay here at River Plantation. We had our RV washed yesterday (they charge $2/foot, so it was $44 for our rig).

We’ve met so many interesting, helpful people, many of whom are just like us, in the early stages of getting their rigs and their lives ready for fulltiming.

Interestingly, we are the only ones at this conference who are in a Class C rig. Everyone else is in a Class A, a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. That just makes us feel special, not weird.

The cats have done well on this trip, with the exception of one little scare. When we were getting ready to move the rig to the RV wash facility yesterday, Andy opened the drivers side door and Molly fell out of the RV. She had been hiding on the floor between the door and the drivers seat, sensing that we were about to start moving. As soon as she hit the ground, she ran up under the RV and would not come out. I had to belly-crawl on the gravel, under the RV, to get hold of her so I could pass her out to Andy, who put her back in the RV. She immediately hid under the laundry bag on the bed and stayed there the entire time the RV was being washed (I stayed inside with the kitties while Andy stayed outside watching them complete the wash). But as soon as we got back to our campsite and settle back in, she was fine.

#Molly says it’s bedtime. #forliz #rvcats

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Tonight we’re having a potluck at the rally, so I’m cooking spaghetti (vegan, of course). We have two more days of seminars and rig tours, and then we’ll head home on Sunday, driving straight through to Tupelo.

We’re having a blast this week!

Tombigbee State Park – Timelapse on the Lake

I shot this footage three months ago on our first camping trip to Tombigbee State Park. It was my very first attempt at a timelapse with the GoPro Hero5 Black, and I was just winging it–had no idea what settings I should use. I wasn’t going to publish it at all, but since I spent two hours of my life on it (not to mention the mosquitoes taking two pints of my blood in the process), I’ve decided to release it from the hard drive.

One thing I’m really looking forward to when we go full-time is to be able to really concentrate on my photography and videography again. It’s been awhile since I’ve spent a lot of time behind the camera, but I’m just itching to get back into it. I have the gear and software that I need (well, the major part of it anyway), and now I just need the time and the subject matter to shoot.

This clip is only 1:24 long. Enjoy!

Wall Doxey – Return of the Ants

We made our second trip to Wall Doxey State Park over the Labor Day weekend, and despite an “antsy” start, we enjoyed the weekend immensely.

We left home after I finished work on Friday afternoon, pulling out from home just after 5PM, and arriving at our campsite a little after 6PM. This time we were in site #36, which has a perfectly level concrete pad and lots of great shade.

We got set up pretty quickly, and then I cooked some pasta for dinner. The sauce was from a jar but I added sauteed onion, garlic and mushrooms, as well as some vegan Gardein meatless meatballs. Andy had made a big chopped salad for the weekend, which we topped with our favorite gourmet vinegars, and we also opened a bottle of wine. Great dinner!

However, it didn’t take long after we got there for the ants to find us! When we were at Wall Doxey two weeks earlier, we had a problem with ants getting in the cat food that we normally just leave on the floor for the girls to nibble on, so we knew we couldn’t leave the cat food out. But this time the ants found the chocolate chip cookies that we were storing in the overhead compartment. The cookies were in a clamshell package from the bakery, and the little buggers had no problem at all finding their way into the package. They were also trying to get into the Tupperware container that held the dry cat food, but fortunately they had not succeeded when we sighted them.

We wound up putting the cat food in the refrigerator, but the cookies were a lost cause as far as I was concerned. But my hubby, who can’t stand to watch a TV show where someone is drawing blood or throwing up, decided that a few ants would just add some protein to his cookies. He spent a good half hour going over each individual cookie, brushing off the ants he could see (they kept burrowing and hiding under the chocolate chunks), and then he put the cookies in zip-lock bags and put them in the refrigerator. And he’s still eating those cookies, even though an occasional ant still scurries across the surface.

Even after we hid everything that we thought the ants might be after, I was still seeing a line of them in the overhead storage area, as well as some others scattered around the RV (around the sink, near the dinette, in the shower). So I finally grabbed a can of Off! and sprayed the overhead. Dumb move….with the vent fans blowing, the bug spray quickly spread throughout the RV, and only then did I think about the cats breathing in that stuff (as well as myself since it blew back in my face).

Long story short, the ants pretty much disappeared and the cats survived, although one of them threw up a little bit right before bedtime. I felt terrible about possibly harming them with the spray, and won’t make that mistake again. Before our next trip, Andy is going to bomb or spray the RV thoroughly to get rid of any critters that might still be in there. We’ll also carry some ant baits with us in the future.

Otherwise, it was a very relaxing weekend. The weather was perfect, considering it is still late summer–the remnants of Hurricane Harvey had passed through here the day before we left and there had been a lot of rain, but the rest of the weekend was mostly sunny with lower temperatures and humidity.

We did a hike on Sunday morning around the lake after having our “traditional” Sunday-morning-in-the-RV breakfast of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. We cooked a foil-packet meal of onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes and Tofurkey kielbasa. We had our first campfire of the season on Saturday night, although the wood that Andy gathered was pretty damp from the Harvey rain so it didn’t burn very well.

One of my favorite parts of each camping trip is getting up early in the morning while Andy is still asleep and then going for a walk while it’s still peaceful and quiet outside. The temperatures each morning were in the low 60’s, and I enjoyed some peaceful walks around the campground and down to the lake.

We broke camp around noon on Monday (Labor  Day), and after a stop at the dump station we headed home. We let the cats ride free both coming and going on this trip, without being confined to their crates. I drove on the return trip, and Maggie eventually settled on the back of the dinette where she could look over my shoulder out the windshield. Molly, however, decided it was safer to stay under the seat, which was fine until we got home, and she refused to come out. It took me a good 15-20 minutes to finally drag her out without hurting her or pulling any of the under-seat wiring loose. While we don’t mind the kitties hiding under the seats while we’re in camp, we’re going to have to come up with a solution to keep them out of there while we’re in motion–another project for Andy before our next trip.

Since we’re planning to become full-timers, we try to learn or experience something new on each trip that will help us in the future. In addition to the above, some other new things this time were:

  • Tested and used the outside shower (just for rinsing dishes, not washing our bodies!)
  • Concluded after five trips that the coffee percolator is not a good fit for the RV life, even though it makes great coffee.  It’s just too messy to clean up all those coffee grounds. We have already purchased a small five-cup drip maker that uses a paper filter basket–much easier clean-up.
  • This was our first trip when we didn’t have to run the A/C 24/7. We were able to use just the fans quite a bit, which was nice but it also meant managing humidity levels differently in the RV.
  • The pasta meal was something new–and we learned that cooking pasta, sauteing veggies, simmering sauce, draining pasta and cleaning up splatters is quite challenging in a very tiny RV kitchen. The foil packet meals on the grill are much easier, but we wanted to practice options for when we can’t cook outdoors.
  • We took ice cream with us this time, and confirmed that the freezer works VERY well. That ice cream was rock-hard even with the freezer set on medium.

Last of all, we have a bit of a mystery going on. The RV has two bubble level indicators on the back to help when setting up. On our last trip we found that one of the indicators had lost the liquid from the little glass tube.  On this trip we found that the second indicator had also lost its liquid. No idea what’s happening to them, but we need to get those replaced.

Now we have just under three weeks to get ready for our next adventure, which will be a 381-mile trip to Sevierville, TN for our first RV rally! Stay tuned!!

New Video – RV Camping at Wall Doxey

I finally got my video published from our last camping trip to Wall Doxey. I’m just starting to learn how to use the GoPro, and how to edit videos into a coherent story, so I’m not totally satisfied with the quality of this one. I wound up buying a new laptop that has enough processing power to handle video editing (my older laptop just crashed every time I tried to edit). I’m using Corel VideoStudio Pro X10 as my editing software–not enough time to learn to use the Adobe product right now.

Anyway, if you have 20 minutes to spare, here’s a look at our last adventure. Enjoy and share!

More RV Maintenance, Outing #4

Since our last posting, we’ve sunk some more money into Lizzy to get her in prime shape for traveling.

First, we took her to a local tire store that specializes in truck tires. Andy was having some problems reading the tire pressure on one of the valve stems, and we wanted to have all the tires inspected, even though they have less that 12,000 miles on them. Turns out two of the tires had some dry rot and weren’t exactly safe, so we replaced those. All the other tires appeared to be fine, and we got the valve stem problem taken care of.

Secondly, the air conditioning in the cab wasn’t working properly since the day we picked her up from the seller (it worked fine during the test drive). The cold air would blow through the windshield defrost vents as well as the floor vents, but would not blow through the main dash vents. Andy took Lizzy over to the local Ford dealership, and for only $51, they solved the problem–squirrels or mice had chewed through some of the connections behind the dash. Easy fix, and not nearly as expensive as we were expecting.

So after that, we were excited to head out on our fourth outing. This time we went further from home, about an hour away, to Wall Doxey State Park near Holly Springs, Mississippi. This is an older state park, built by the CCC back in the day, and it’s really beautiful. The campground has just over 50 RV sites, and they’re mostly wooded, with lots of space between most of them. They have paved surfaces, most are very level, and they provide electricity and water (no sewer at the individual sites but there is a dump station).

There’s a beautiful lake in the park with a hiking trail that goes all the way around, and there are several pavilions and lots of picnic tables for day use.

We arrived there on a Thursday afternoon, so it wasn’t crowded at all. In fact, even over the weekend it never was more than about one-quarter occupied, which I find amazing considering the beauty of the park. The sites are $18/night, unless you get the senior discount like we do, then it’s $14/night. An absolute bargain.

We got some rain on the first night, but after that it was a beautiful weekend, although it was very humid and pretty warm. I did the hike by myself on Friday afternoon, but couldn’t talk Andy into going with me because of the heat.

The cats did very well on this trip. For the first time, we did not take the car with us, so I got to ride shotgun in the RV on the way over, while the cats stayed in their crates on the floor just behind our seats. On the way home, I actually drove the RV for the first time since we did the test drive.

We decided to let the cats stay out of their crates on the return trip–but it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. When we stopped at the dump station on the way out, I realized that the bathroom door was standing open, so I asked Andy to close it before he got out of the RV to dump the tanks. Later as we continued the drive home, Maggie tried to get in my lap a time or two while I was driving, so Andy was occupied trying to keep her corralled. We heard Molly in the background, but couldn’t spot her. When we got home, we found her–she had been locked in the bathroom for the whole hour-long drive home. We felt terrible, but she was actually probably better off in there without being exposed to the passing 18-wheelers going by the windows–that would have freaked her out a lot more!

Right now we’re planning to return to Wall Doxey on Friday afternoon for the Labor Day weekend, but we’re watching the weather closely to see how much rain we might be expecting from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, assuming he ever moves out of the Houston area. We can deal with a little rain, but don’t really want to expose ourselves to possible tornadoes and flash flooding if that kind of situation develops.

Finally, I just bought myself a new laptop to use for video editing. The laptop that I’m currently using just doesn’t have the graphics or processing hardware to handle the demands of video editing software, and I want to be able to share our adventures on my YouTube channel. The new laptop is supposed to be delivered today, and I’m hoping to get a new video posted by the end of the week, before we take off on our next adventure.