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.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 9

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.

Sunday, April 15, 2018 – Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerland, Alabama

We survived the rainstorm of the previous night without any lasting damage that we can find. I did find some water in the overhead compartment in the little bin under the window. I think it was due to condensation dripping from the window as I could not find any moisture on the walls or ceiling. We’ve had water in this area before and it’s always been when there was condensation on the windows. Once again, we’ll need to keep an eye on it.

The drip that was coming from the vent hood over the stove stopped during the night when the rain stopped. I guess that could have been condensation inside the vent pipe dripping back onto the counter, but we’ll see. It was still kind of warm outside when that drip started, so the vent pipe may not have been cool enough to cause condensation.

Since it’s Sunday, I fixed cinnamon rolls for breakfast, which is our RVing tradition. After breakfast I took a 35-minute walk around the park. The weather was clear, breezy and cool, with temperatures in the 50’s during my walk.

We decided to do some exploring in Fairhope and Mobile. I found a restaurant on Happy Cow, the Sunflower Cafe in Fairhope, and one reviewer said they had vegan Reubens. That’s Andy’s favorite sandwich, so we decided to go there, and then go to tour the USS Alabama in Mobile.

We found the Sunflower Cafe in a small strip center. It’s a cute place, but unfortunately on Sunday they have a special brunch menu, and the Reuben was not on the menu. We went with the vegan breakfast burrito which came with roasted potatoes, fruit salad and a vegan muffin. It was delicious, probably much better than the Reuben would have been. We also had their blueberry iced tea which was also very good.

After finishing our meal, we drove to Mobile to visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. I had no idea it was so large. It cost us $13 each to take the tour (we got the senior rate, regular rate is $16), and the tour included the battleship, the submarine USS Drum, and all the aircraft on the premises.

We spent about two hours just inside the battleship USS Alabama. It was fascinating! They had the tour divided into three separate routes, Yellow, Red and Green, so you could concentrate on a particular area if you were limited in time. Of course, we did all three routes. We climbed stairs, we crawled into gun turrets, Andy tried out one of the bunks, we did everything possible on that ship.

Next we toured the USS Drum, a submarine that is dry-docked next to the Alabama. That was a cool tour as well, as we got to climb up into the conning tower. Definitely tight quarters!

By then we were both pretty tired and it was 4:30. We didn’t get to look at all the aircraft that they have parked around the property, but you can’t get inside those anyway. But we had a great time, and definitely recommend anyone with an interest in history visit this site. By the way, the park is totally privately funded with no tax payer support. I find that both interesting and sad.

We got back home about 5:30 and had a dinner of leftover Wild Rodeo salad, brown rice salad, and I made a fruit salad to go with it. I’m exhausted and going to bed early. Tomorrow is moving day, so I need to rest up for the drive.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 7

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.

Friday, April 13, 2018 – Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park, Summerdale, Alabama

Today was another moving day as we left Biloxi and drove east on I-10, past Mobile, into rural south Alabama. We are staying for the next three nights at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation Park near Summerdale.

Gutcheck Map move to Rainbow Plantation

We didn’t leave the RV park in Biloxi until almost 11:00. Andy wanted to take a shower before leaving, and I took time to do a little house-cleaning. It’s only about a 70 mile drive between the locations, so there was no need to be in a hurry.

We stopped along the way at the Alabama Welcome Center where we parked in the lot with the semi trucks and had lunch of salad and black beans. I picked up some brochures of things to do in the area, mainly because the nice hostess just insisted that I take them. I haven’t even looked at them yet.

We got to Rainbow Plantation about 2:30 and checked in to site #59. The sites are large and pretty level, and they’re mostly grass and sand. We’re right next to a big oak tree that offers a lot of shade, but not directly over the RV. We have full hookups, but no picnic table or fire-ring. But we’re only paying $22/night, so that’s not bad. There are two bars of Verizon service, but it’s on the slow side.

They have a pool and a large clubhouse. There are two separate unisex showers, which seems a little skimpy for such a large campground. However, a lot of the units here are permanent or seasonal residents, and I doubt they have any use for those showers.

We got set up pretty quickly and then just relaxed under the awning with a beer. I fixed a brown rice salad and some baked tofu for dinner (tofu was a little salty), and then we just stayed in for the evening.

The weather is supposed to get pretty nasty with strong thunderstorms tomorrow evening, into Sunday morning. It’s supposed to be really windy all day tomorrow. There’s already a flash flood watch out for this area. We had talked about going in to town to listen to Kyle play, but we’ll have to see what the weather looks like.

Gut-Check Tour – Day 4

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 10, 2018 – Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg, MS

It’s been such a beautiful day!

I started out the day early this morning by setting up my GoPro to try and capture a time lapse of the sunrise. It was actually pretty non-eventful, but I did learn how to use the software to stitch almost 3000 photos together into a short video.

I did some research and located our first out-of-Mississippi destination. We have reservations at Rainbow Plantation near Summerdale, Alabama for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It’s an Escapees park, so we got a rate of $21/night for full hookups, swimming pool, laundry, etc. While we’re in that area, we’re going to try and catch a performance by Kyle of Drivin’ and Vibin’ (YouTube favorites of ours), as he has gigs in the area each of those days.

After spending all that time on the computer, I took a long walk around the campground, and then came back and made homemade hummus for lunch. Andy cut up a bunch of raw veggies and we chowed down on a pretty healthy meal (except for the Nutter Butter cookies that I picked up a Walmart in Wiggins yesterday).

After cleaning up the dishes we spent the afternoon reading and enjoying the outdoor patio. Today’s weather was the best we’ve had since we’ve been on this trip, with highs in the low 70’s and just enough breeze to keep it comfortable. There are still rigs arriving and leaving, but it’s not nearly as crowded as it was over the weekend.

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Time for an afternoon nap. #rvlife #lifeisgood #vacation

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For dinner we had the leftover curry from Saturday night over a baked potato, and it was super yummy. And tonight we’re sitting here in the RV, listening to the geese and the crickets as the day draws to a close.

I’m going to hate leaving this place tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to spending a little time in Biloxi. We need to make a run to the grocery store for a few things (nothing urgent, but just to make sure we have what we need to fix the dishes I have on the menu). I think I’m still over-thinking the meal-planning, but I don’t get to cook very often and I like trying out new dishes with various spices. When Andy cooks for us at home, he keeps things very, very simple, and that’s fine; but I like to be a little more adventurous with my food when I have the opportunity.

So far this trip is only confirming that we definitely want to go full time in our RV, the sooner the better. Nothing has dissuaded us yet. 🙂