Gut-Check Tour – Day 13

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.

Thursday, April 19, 2018, The Woods RV Park and Campground, Montgomery, Alabama

It’s moving day again, and we’ve arrived at the last campsite of our journey.

I got up fairly early this morning and fixed some refrigerator oats for our breakfast, giving them time to let the chia seeds gel while I updated my journal. We had breakfast and cleaned up the dishes, then I went to get a shower. This time I used the showers in the newer ADA restrooms. These are cleaner and roomier than the ones in the older bathhouse, but only the handheld shower head really worked. The shower head that was fixed higher on the wall was just barely spitting water. Regardless, I got a good hot shower and felt refreshed for the day.

I started getting the inside of the RV cleaned up and ready to move while Andy got his shower, and then he got things ready to go on the outside. This time we did not have any of the issues we had on the last move–he remembered to raise the stabilizers before moving Lizzy off the leveling blocks, and he made sure to disconnect all the hoses and fittings and put them away.

We pulled out just a little after 10:30, but had to stop at the dump station on the way out to empty the tanks. Then we were on our way. I hated to leave Falling Waters State Park, it was such a beautiful spot!

We headed north from Florida into Alabama, and made our lunch stop at Johnny Henderson Family Park in Enterprise, Alabama. This is a beautiful city park that has numerous baseball and softball fields, a lake with swans and a walking bridge, several playgrounds and a splash pad for kids, and a walking track that goes around the lake.

We got a parking spot near the restrooms and had our lunch of salad and pinto beans. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day with low humidity, so we opened the windows and the door and were completely comfortable without the air conditioner.

After lunch we took a walk around the park on their walking track, and could not get over how gorgeous it was. This was one of the most beautiful city parks I’ve ever been to, and would love to be able to walk here every day.

After our walk we got back on the road. Andy needed to stop for gas for Lizzy, and Apple Maps wasn’t really cooperating with either of us, but we finally got to a gas station where he pumped $100 worth of gas before the pump shut off (37.894 gallons @ $2.639). He doesn’t think she was completely filled up, but it was close enough.

We came into Montgomery from the southeast side, and the part we drove through did not appear to be the best part of the city, although we haven’t seen the rest of it for comparison yet. We got to the RV park just before 4:00 PM, got checked in and assigned to site #205. It’s a typical RV park, with gravel pads, full hookups, and no shade. It’s near the freeway so there’s the background noise of traffic but it’s not that noticeable inside the RV. There’s a small lake at the rear of the property but it’s not visible from our site. They have three washers and three dryers at $1.50 a load. And, they have GREAT Wi-fi!

After we got hooked up and settled in, we relaxed on our front porch for a bit with some wine and snacks, and then I cooked dinner. I made Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca with Chickpeas and Artichoke Hearts, one of my favorite one-pot dishes. I didn’t have any capers to go in it, so we just spritzed it with lemon juice on the plate. It was a good, warm, filling meal, and there’s enough leftovers for our last night here.

The evening was cool and breezy. We tried taking a walk around the park after sundown but it was uncomfortably cold and windy so we only made one loop. We spent the rest of the evening listening to music and reading. There’s nothing I love better than getting into bed with those speakers right over my head playing some good music, and reading a good book until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s so relaxing!

There’s a lot to see here in Montgomery related to the Civil Rights movement, and I’m hoping that we can do some exploring tomorrow. This is the city where Rosa Parks inspired the bus boycott, where Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored as a young man, and where the Freedom Riders made history. There’s also the first capitol building of the Confederacy which doesn’t interest me at all. Oh, and there’s the Hank Williams museum and memorial. That’s enough to get us out of the RV for a bit.

I’m sad that this trip is almost over! But it has been amazing, and has given me a small taste of what our future life will be like. It will be AWESOME!!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 12

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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida

What an awesome day!

We started out enjoying a beautiful sunrise in our shady campsite, while having a big plate of fruit and some coffee.

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes and getting dressed, we walked down to the waterfall. I had been there yesterday, but Andy had not gone with me. It was a nice stroll, and such a beautiful setting–I could spend hours just sitting down there listening to the water cascade off the lip of the sinkhole.

We came back to the campsite and rested on our front porch for awhile, and then we had our lunch of chopped salad and black beans. Then it was time for another exploring trip.

We wanted to to visit Panama City Beach since neither of us had been there. Before we left, I checked to see what sites and experiences in the area that others had recommended. One that caught our eye was David’s Sno-Balls, a local shop that makes New Orleans-style beignets and sno-balls, as well as po-boys and other things. We are suckers for beignets, and Andy loves shaved ice desserts, so we decided to make David’s our first stop.

It took us about an hour to get there from the campground. It was an interesting drive through the north Florida countryside and the Pine Log State Forest. We made it to David’s around 1:30 and had an order of a dozen “baby beignets” (regular beignets cut into quarters and then fried), followed by a Dreamsicle sno-ball stuffed with vanilla soft-serve ice cream. It was a totally decadent stop, but worth it.

We left there and drove a couple blocks south to the main beach drag, and were fortunate enough to find free public parking at Half-Hitch MB Miller Pier. We wound up walking about a mile down the beach and then a mile back. It was a gorgeous day, the beaches were not crowded but there were plenty of people there having fun and enjoying the sunshine and just-right breezes. By the time we finished our walk we were wishing we had come prepared to get in the water and spend more time on the beach–and we’re not really “beach people”. It was THAT enjoyable.

My only complaint about PCB is that there aren’t enough (any?) public restrooms available, at least on the part of the beach where we were. We were lucky enough to find a condominium with an unlocked gate to their pool area, and the ladies restroom was unlocked–otherwise we might have had to leave the beach to look for a McDonald’s.

After our beach stroll, we drove further west for several miles, then turned north, stopped for gas, and then headed back to the campground, arriving here about 4:45 PM. We had left the windows open and the fans on in the RV for the kitties, and they were just fine in the shade of all these trees.

We relaxed awhile and then we fixed black bean burgers and chips for dinner before calling it a night. It was another one of those days that makes me even more anxious to start our full-timing lifestyle. The freedom to go new places, see more things, live with a minimum agenda–it’s something that I look forward to and can’t wait to get started!

Tomorrow, sadly, it’s time to leave this beautiful campsite and head north, back toward the sticks and bricks. We’ll be staying in Montgomery for a few days in an RV park with full hookups, and I’m hoping to find some interesting things to see in the area. There’s a rich history of civil rights struggle in Montgomery, and I’d like to check out some of the exhibits or museums associated with that.

Onward bound!

Gut-Check Tour – Day 11

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 – Falling Waters State Park, Chipley, Florida

Today was pretty laid-back. We didn’t do anything exciting, but that’s a nice kind of day as well.

I spent some time in the morning working on creating Google Maps of our route so I can start publishing these daily accounts as blog posts. Trying to figure out Google Maps is a challenge, so I felt good when I got the maps done.

I fixed us some oatmeal for breakfast, then we both got showers at the bathhouse. The facilities are certainly not five-star caliber, but the water was hot and plentiful, and the place was clean. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait for a shower, as there was no one else in the bathroom.

Andy fixed us a big salad for lunch, and I made the cashew dressing and heated up some pinto beans to go with it.

After lunch we drove into the nearby town of Chipley to visit Walmart for groceries and to refill our four drinking water containers. Since we eat so many fresh fruits and vegetables, and our refrigerator is small, we need to restock fairly often.

I knew that most Walmarts have good complimentary wi-fi in their stores, so I had brought along my laptop. After we finished shopping, we pulled the truck around to the back of the store, parking close to the wall, accessed the wi-fi, and from there I was able to research and book us a place to stay after we leave our current location. I’ve learned a lot from watching various nomads’ YouTube channels! LOL

After we got back from town and put the groceries away, I decided to take a walk to the crown jewel of this state park, the waterfall. According to the information I could find online, it’s a 1.1 mile round trip hike (walk), so it didn’t seem that it would be too bad, but Andy didn’t feel like it was something he wanted to tackle. So I did the walk myself, and it was beautiful!

The trail starts from here in the campground, just a couple of sites away from ours. The first part is downhill on hard-packed sand with steps cut into the hill using landscape timbers. There’s a boardwalk section at the bottom of the hill that crosses a wet area full of ferns, and then you emerge from the trees onto the beach and swimming area of the small lake. There are some nice bathrooms there along with a picnic area. There’s also a sign saying that there are alligators in the area.

Crossing the beach, the trail continues on a concrete sidewalk, before turning into boardwalk for the remainder of the walk. And not just any boardwalk–it’s NICE boardwalk with railings and the occasional covered bench for rest and reflection. Along the way there’s a plugged oil well from when there was an unsuccessful drilling attempt (they seem to be inordinately proud of this failure), and not far past the oil well is the waterfall.

The boardwalk turns into steps that descend into a sinkhole, and the waterfall cascades over the lip of the sinkhole into a cave 75 feet below. We were lucky that we had all that rain come through on Saturday night because the waterfall only runs like this after there’s been a good rain. It’s not a huge amount of water, but it’s really beautiful, and the air is nice and cool standing on the observation point halfway down into the sinkhole.

I took some pictures and video and showed them to Andy when I got back, and I told him how easy the hike was, so he’s going to go with me to revisit it tomorrow.

We spent some time reading on our front porch, and then I prepared hobo packs for Andy to cook for dinner. I used onion, small yellow potatoes, peppers (red, yellow and green), garlic, and sliced Morningstar Farm Breakfast “Sausage” (veggie) links. (We usually use Tofurkey Italian Sausage, but Walmart didn’t have those.) I added a generous shake of Mrs. Dash Southwest seasoning and wrapped everything up into big foil packages, one for each of us. Andy cooked them on the grill for an hour and they were delicious! This was the first time we had used the Morningstar Farm sausages, but they weren’t bad, and it’s good to know they work as an alternative to the Tofurkey brand.

After cleaning up the dinner dishes (not many since we cooked in foil packets), we enjoyed the evening sounds of birdsong while reading and chatting, and turned in around 9:00 PM.

It’s interesting that we have not even attempted to use the television or watch a DVD the entire time we’ve been on this trip. We both prefer to read, and the television just seems like an invasion of chaos when you’re parked in such a beautiful peaceful space. I don’t miss the TV at all.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 10

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.