Friday, April 28, 2017

Life by a Georgia lake - by RV or a houseboat?

Wednesday, April 26th

We left Freightliner Service Center confident that our rolling home is as ready for this trip as we are. We headed down the highway at 10AM hoping the commuter traffic would be over.  In the past, we have avoided interstate driving at all costs. On this trip, if we don’t want to be gone for a year, we need a pretty direct route. That means the Interstates. Yuck! 

We don't usually drive on the Interstates.  This is crazy! 
We had been pretty lucky traffic-wise so far, but today we hit the mother-load of tractor trailers.  Combine that with a fatal accident, and we were not getting anywhere fast!  It is so much easier to endure traffic jams in a motorhome, though.  You have comfortable seats, great views out of the huge windshield, cold drinks, snacks, and even a toilet a few feet away should the need occur!   At one point, as we were inching along, the “need” occurred to Norm very badly.

Luckily, before we left, I had gotten into the driver’s seat in a local parking lot, and learned what to do in an emergency.  “Emergency” can be defined as many things, evidently. Today, Norm called his need for the bathroom an official “emergency”.  So when the traffic came to a complete stop, he put the emergency brake on and we changed positions.  Oh Lord, I was nervous!  Of course, as luck would have it, the traffic began to move and I had to drive this huge monstrosity- hitting the brake a little too hard a few times as I got the feel of it. Hearing grunts and a couple of curses from the bathroom, it was clear that Norm was suffering the consequences of my lack of experience. Oops.  Luckily it was only for a few miles before the traffic halted again and I could gladly give the wheel back to Norm.
Driving this big RV is really scary!

What happened to me? I thought as we age we not only got just older, but wiser; more clever.  I used to drive our other RV ( it was 9 feet shorter, but hey, what’s 9 feet? ) and in the past I had the courage to tow very expensive show horses.  Now the thought of driving 65 feet of rolling machinery makes me a quivering mess!  It really hit home the need to get behind the wheel more often in case a real emergency happens but I dread even the thought of it.  
We got one of the better sites on the water.  Not the best view, but very flat and reasonably easy to get into. 

We finally arrived at McKinney Campground  another Army Corps of Engineering gem located on Lake Altoona, Georgia. This is a wooded campground on very hilly terrain, with many of the sites being small and quite unlevel, but those water-view sites makes this place so special. We didn’t like this place nearly as much as the last, though.  It had a lot of boat traffic, roads were narrow, sites were closer and the water was a lot further below our site. We do love getting into campgrounds that make us feel like “camping”, though.  I use the term very loosely, because the comforts afforded us in our motorhome do not come close to what the term “camping” conjures up!  No complaints, that’s for sure! 
We booked this campsite in the middle of no-where primarily because of the unbelievable low cost of the campsites, ( $13 with the magical powers of the National Senior Park Pass ) and the fact that it was along our route.  Not know when the service center could fit us in, and how long service might take, we needed to have reservations somewhere that we could then set a date to have all reservations going forward start.  At 13.00 a night, if we didn’t get there all week not much money would be lost. We only lost one night.

Thursday, April 27th - 

The forecast was 90 percent chance of rain, and the skies looked too threatening to do much outdoors.  We certainly were not willing to go on that busy highway to sightsee ( if there was anything to see ).  Couldn’t kayak due to weather, and the park here was extremely hilly for us “flat-landers” to enjoy. So we just did a few chores and took it easy.  Resting up for what’s to come.

Friday, April 28th

Almost like an RV resort only wetter!

Friends from our previous neighborhood and fellow RV’ers recently sold their big, gorgeous motorhome and purchased an ever bigger and definitely gorgeous house boat here in Georgia.

Seeing that they were a mere 1 ½ hour drive away we decided to go visit, catch up on each other’s lives, and see what house-boating was all about.  Lois and Gerry showed us their new home, served lunch, and gave us a tour of the new summer neighborhood on Lake Lanier. 

This houseboat is gorgeous!  Stepping inside you would never know you were not in a beautiful home.  Just outside the doors, one can enjoy the heavenly breezes, and a fabulous bar on the top deck for socializing. 

Saturday April 29,2017

We decided to take advantage of a special event at nearby Red Top Mountain State Park.  They were celebrating the mining of iron 170 years ago. 

The park ranger explained how they mined for the iron and left this huge "bowl" in the land. 
We took a tractor driven hay ride tour while the young and nervous park ranger explained the history of the area and showed us the areas hidden in the woods where the iron was mined.  It was a pleasant time, and quite informative.

We enjoyed learning about the mining for iron in the era as we took this enjoyable hayride to the different mining sites. 
After that we went to a neighboring campground so I could get a National Park Senior Pass.  Becoming 62 years old a few weeks ago I officially “ came of age “ and for a mere $10.00 will have a life time pass to National Parks and certain other Federal properties!  It also gets us on tours for half price in national parks.

We both did some chores.  Norm polished the chrome mirrors to a blinding shine!

Norm and I decided to have a quiet afternoon doing some chores and perhaps lounge around and take a nice nap.  As we drove to our site we were happy to see all our neighboring campers were gone!  Yeah!  A peaceful afternoon!  Not!  Our immediate neighbors left their two dogs who incessantly barked ALL afternoon.  After a couple of hours, I didn’t need a nap, but a drink!  I can’t believe how inconsiderate some people can be! I really wanted to say something to them, but was afraid they might retaliate in the middle of the night. ( perhaps key the vehicle, or put a nail under a tire, or worse. After all, they have proven themselves to be not very nice people ). 

Most evenings we have watched an episode of “Nashville” to wind-down the night.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Freightliner Service Center, Gaffney Georgia

Monday April 24th,  2017
Travel route to date
Having tried to make a reservation for our yearly RV chassis maintenance the minute we knew our schedule back in February, we were told they were booking well into May.  Darn!  One possibility was to just show up and they would fit us in within a few days - an option we decided to do.  We always try to keep our motorhomes in top shape, particularly on such a long trip traversing the country’s largest mountains. With reservations made for each night, a break-down would sure mess things up, to say the least.

It is so fabulous that the service center gives you a place to "camp" ( as long as there is availability ) with electric power.  There is water available to add to your tank, and a dump station! No hotels!  Yeah!

 The weather forecast was predicting a horrendous rainstorm that was to last a couple of days in our direction of travel, so we wasted no time packing up the rest of our site and headed out, down the pastoral country roads. We discovered our water tank somehow inadvertently got filled while at the campground, so we found a huge paved parking lot to dump the 75 gallons of excess water ( weighing about 600 pounds ) before we headed out.  With barely any traffic on this Sunday morning, this drive lasted about 4 hours, stopping for gas along the way. The rain had started, but was not too heavy at that point.

With a minimum of fuss, we took one of the few open spots in the service center’s “campground” to wait out both the storm and an available spot in their schedule.  It was a good thing we got there when we did, because the lot quickly filled up.

We had more water issues when we discovered the water filter had leaked out the rest of our water tank, and without the proper tool to re-tighten it we were out of luck for the night.  Or should I say, out of water?  With some improvising, and a few bottles of water we had dinner and a pleasant evening listening to the rain pound on the roof.

Come morning we went to the office and were told that we would not be seen that day so when the skies appeared to be clearing, we headed off to do our errands in Greenville.  What a mistake!  The rain came down in torrents, and there were accidents all over the highway.  I can’t believe that people travel well over the speed limit when there are huge puddles on the highway!  I was so scared!  We made it, but I insisted that we take the much longer, back roads home.

Tuesday, April 25th

Not nearly as much rust as I expected for a 2011 model
About 20 minutes after being told they could service our motorhome sometime after lunch, we were informed they could take us in 15 minutes!  Yikes!  We flew around packing up, pulling in the slides, and removing the bike hitch off the back. 
We hung around their comfortable waiting area with several others feeling a kind of “kinship”.  I felt it was similar to going to the dentist.  You go in thinking all you need is a cleaning, and deep inside you are hoping that upon examination those old fillings aren’t starting to fail, requiring a root canal and cap. 

Our "baby" up on the lift.  If only she could fly.......

 Customers would be called into the office if they encountered a problem, as we hoped for that person it wasn’t really bad news.  Some bills were in the hundreds ( like ours ) others as high as $10,000.

By the end of the day they were finished, so we stayed one more night as previously planned, then left in the morning to head to another Army Corp of Engineering Campground north of Atlanta.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Final packing and a RV Club Rally

I am not sure which is bigger - the motorhome or the house?

6 inches to spare! No worries!
Wow!  Hard to imagine that the day is finally here where we are starting our biggest/longest trip of all!  RV’ing for 6 months across the country! 

After a quick trip to Texas’ Big Bend National Park, ( we had to kill some time for the northern mountain passes to open ) we will head to the great northwest to spend the majority of our time in Washington and Oregon.

The rig is packed, and the refrigerator could not hold an extra mushroom!  You would think we were heading to no-man’s land where food cannot be purchased.  My fault.  I definitely miss-judged “eating down” both of our refrigerators at home.  

Our first of 179 nights on this adventure was spent 270 miles north of home at Twin Oaks RV Park in Elko, Georgia.  It was a lovely, no frills park that allowed us to keep the car hooked up, and just drive in and park.  We visited with some other campers, comparing travels, which made for a great evening.

The next day we were off to host our first RV Rally for 11 other people from The Villages RV Club, at Hawe Creek Campground,  an Army Corps of Engineering marvel on J Strom Thurmond Lake in McCormick, South Carolina. 

We found this remote and stunningly beautiful campground last fall when we were heading south from New England.  Looking specifically for a place to take our fellow club members, we spent many months trying to find the perfect location that not only had lovely campsites, but also had “things to do” around the immediate area.  Hiking, biking, golf and kayaking were all vital for our rally site.

We learned of this campground while staying across the lake at another Army Corps of Engineering campground last spring while heading north.   Even though it had closed for the season, Norm and I decided to drive there and either hike into this gated park, or kayak into it like a couple of Navy Seals, if need be.  The winds were blowing a gale from the remnants of Hurricane Mathew, so we walked in - sneaking past the park attendant’s trailer.  Armed with a map of the campground we had previously printed at home ( I had made note of all the dimensions of the various sites ) we carefully examined each site and considered the view, ease of parking, and levelness.   This location was incredible! We were so excited to have finally found a place to host a rally!

The next day we checked out golf courses and a nearby marina which had a pontoon boat we could rent so we could spend a few hours on this beautiful 71,000 acre lake.

After deciding that a small, intimate group would be more manageable at this location, we quickly picked a date avoiding school vacations in both South Carolina and bordering Georgia, and of course, The Master’s Golf Tournament which is held 20 miles away in Augusta. ( We were told campgrounds fill up with people renting their houses during that time ).  We presented this rally at the next RV club meeting and had about 25 rigs vying for the 6 spots! 

Sites, kayaks and pontoon boat were all reserved, and now nearly 6 months later, we were told by all participants that it was a great success!  Weather cooperated with it only raining a little the first night during our pot luck dinner ( luckily Norm and I had extended the awning with a tarp ) and we had a light rain on our way to golf the next day. 

This first step in our make-shift rain shelter was to attach our new sun shade.

We then attached a tarp on top of the sun shade with binder clips.  The sun shade will give the tarp much more support.  Note the tarp attaching under the awning so rain should not drip in.

With 50 year old Girl Scouting skills at hand, we propped the ends up with tent poles, running guy wires to stabilize the poles. We also had tied down the end of the RV awning to protect from the potential wind damage to the awning mechanics.  Note the florescent pool noodles we put on the wires so no one would trip over them.  Ta-dah!  Looked and worked perfectly! Rube Goldburg would be so proud! End result was a light-weight, low cost, highly packable rain protection.

When the sky darkened, we checked the radar and got a little worried that the tarp would not hold up to this scary-looking storm heading right for us!

Everyone stayed dry when the heavy showers came in during our first get-together.

We had a great time playing at the gorgeous Monticello Golf Course at Savannah Lakes Village courtesy of Savannah Lakes Realty. 

We all had large, beautiful waterfront campsites as seen from the pontoon boat. 

I have been dying to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding ( SUP) for years and have not had the opportunity in calm waters.  It was really easy and fun!

peaking of golf, through Savannah Realty Group, we were all given free guest passes to their retirement community, and certificates for a free round of golf at their top rated course!

We had a great time during our rally, and everyone would love to do it again!   We had such a great group of people!  They were so appreciative of the unique location, the food, and all the arrangements we made, and we had a blast doing it!  The last night Norm and I were presented with a lovely gift, which brought tears to my eyes.  How lovely! 

Kayaks were delivered along with some stand up paddleboards to try. Over the next 24 hours we all went out several times to paddle around the coves.  One determined fellow paddled across the lake to Georgia and back.

Norm and I stayed an extra day giving us time to relax and do a little biking at Hickory Knob State Park.  After packing everything up we spent a quiet evening.

Side note:  7 nights without sewer hook-up, and with gauges reading only 1/3 full, I did a load of wash.  Yes, that’s right.  A washing machine in our rig, and enough waste water capacity to allow me to do it!








Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How we planned for "The Big One"

We have planned trips before.  Some were for a few days, some for a few months.  Planning an RV trip lasting a half year is another matter.  Knowing ahead of time where, when and how you are going provides security and comfort. 

Norm and I typically begin our planning nearly a year in advance, but for some reason, we just couldn’t muster up the ambition to tackle such an overwhelming job this time.  We finally decided in February we had better sit down ( for three weeks ) and get it done. 

What we discovered was that RV’ing has gotten very popular, and that sites for 40 foot rigs are a little scarce. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest. It probably has to do will all those big trees and rocks.

We often get asked just how we plan our trips.

First, we purchase travel books for our destination areas.  We had them for scenic drives across the US, National and State Parks so those were put to use again.

Map of a portion of Washington state.  Pink dots are things to do, yellow are campgrounds.

Lots to do in Southern Oregon!  We will just graze California on this trip.
Second – We put little dots on a large map, color coding them to signifying “things to do” or “potential campgrounds”. Each dot has a number, and on a separate sheet of paper Norm listed what each signified.
Third -  Stood back, looked at the map, then connected the dots.

Fourth -  We planned a route, examining each area and tried to best guess how many days we would want to stay at a particular destination.  If we are lucky, there would be a day for golf, a day to hike, maybe a day’s scenic drive.  Kayaking?  Museums?  Ice Cream?  If there is a lot to do, we stay an extra day for rain and rest.  We don’t eat out often, but if there is a lovely restaurant we will plan to go.  We don’t want to drive more than a hour away from our campsite on any given day so we plan accordingly.

Fifth -  We then use as many available methods we could find to ensure the roads are not to steep, have restrictions or God forbid – low bridges.  There are several websites such as All Stays RV, Good Sam’s, and a new one for us .  Many years ago we got the ebook Mountain Directory, which shows low bridges and grades.  In the event of a technological holocaust, we purchased a Road Atlas for truckers which should keep us off the evening news. 

Sixth-  We research the campgrounds – I read the reviews while might Norm check Google Earth for that hidden railroad track or highway behind the large hedge when there are several RV parks to choose from in an area.

Last-  We start calling the parks.  Some were not open yet, so it took us a couple of months to actually secure a campsite.  We put all info into a binder, accompanied by a word document listing day to day activities, when to stop at Costco’s, when diesel will be hard to find we will make note to make sure to fill up.  As people tell us about interesting things to do in an area we will add it to the word document.

The spreadsheet keeps us on track during the trip.


Norm also has a spread sheet showing days, miles to drive, campground, reservation info and deposit amount.

So that is how Norm and I do it.  There are many different ways, but a lot of people choose to just “wing it”. 

My Word document lists things to do, and places to check out.



Cave Junction, Obrien, Oregon

August 17 th – 19 th ,2017 We were so surprised to see what looked like Customs down the road.  Did we take a wrong turn? I thought...