Here we go, heading southwest to our winter spot in south Texas. We estimate that it will take us 16-17 days to travel the 1800 miles from Washington DC to Elsa Texas.
We are asked a lot how do we plan our travel or if we plan at all. Well, we do plan, in phases. First, the plan is just that we have the idea that we want to go somewhere; it’s just an idea at this point. Then a rough plan first just to make sure we can get where we want to go in the time we have. Then lastly, a more detailed plan just before we start to move as well as along the way.
The following is how we make the travel plan:
We only travel a couple of hundred miles on a travel day and then stay at least 2 days on each stop. We planned out the trip before we left DC. First, I have Google maps plot the route in one tab on the computer. Next, I open a tab for Passport America and one for RV Parks Review as well as a second google maps tab. The Second google maps tab I use to find campgrounds as a last resort if I can’t find one via Passport or the RV Parks Review web sites. Lastly, I open my google calendar site. So now I have 5 websites open the same time. And yes, it does get a little confusing at times.
With all of these sites open I first make sure that the google route is the one that I want to take. I make corrections to the map if it doesn’t fit the way I way I want to go. This corrected map becomes the master map so I use the second open map to find new sites on our route on the master map. I now look at the corrected map and try to pick areas of either interest to us and/or about 200 miles from our last site. I look up that area on the Passport America site and see if there are any participating parks. Participating Parks are usually half price. We also make sure that the park can fit us at 40 feet and it has Wi-Fi. We don’t care about full hook up as long as we have water and electric. If I can’t find a Passport park I use the RV review site for the area. If both of those fail I just search the area with google maps for RV Parks.
After I find a suitable park I put in on the calendar. The title of the calendar will include if it is a Passport (PA) or Non Passport (NON-PA), the name of the park address town and how many miles it is from the last site. In the calendar entry I add particulars like if it full hook-up, has Wi-Fi, the phone number and the full address.
Patty and my calendars are synced so we both have the same information on our calendars. This makes it very easy when we are leaving one site and heading to another to just look on our phone calendar to check it out. Also, on the way to our next site we usually call ahead to make sure we can get in.
That’s the way we plan our travel. We plan that out in detail mainly to the next long term stay of more than a couple of days. However, for the travel season (April – November) we will plan a rough map of where we are going. In this way we can make sure we have enough time to go where we want to go. This plan has a lot of padding to it so we can adjust later as we get closer. We do this rough plan before we leave our winter site in Texas.
So, with our detailed travel plan in place, we are following it as closely as we can. We left DC on Sunday the 20th and have made 5 stops in the past week. Our first stop was in Virginia, second was Tennessee, third and fourth was Alabama, and now we are in Mississippi. Our next stop will be in Louisiana.
Our first stop in Virginia from Sunday the 20th to Tuesday the 22nd was at a family resort type park, Jelleystone. These are franchise parks just like the KOA parks, however with more things to do. We were there after the main season and it was rainy and cool so not so much to do for us. It was an OK place and was a Passport park making it pretty cheap at $25 per night.
|Our site in Jelleystone RV Park in Natural Bridge Virginia. That's us in the middle.|
|Patty purchased some new plastic flowers for our front pot. They needed to be arranged and trimmed.|
|Jellystone has a large water slide. We are not in season here now so it is closed.|
Our next stay from Tuesday the 22nd to Thursday the 24th was at the Around Pond RV Park in Baileyton Tennessee. Around the Pond is a private RV park and was not a Passport park. This was a nice park for a stay of a few days. It made it even nicer that the weather was great too!
|Our site at Around Pond in Baileyton Tennessee.|
The sites were nice size and the park was very well taken care of. The park only takes cash and it was $30 a night, not too bad. This park has a lot of “wild” birds that you don’t see in one place. There were turkeys, ducks, swans, and fierce chickens! We were on one of our normal walks when we came upon this group of chickens. It was 4-5 hens and one very pretty rooster. We got a little too close and the rooster attacked Patty. The rooster cut her leg in three places enough to draw blood! We didn’t walk there anymore during our stay!
|Wild turkeys roaming all around the rig.|
|Goats at the RV Park|
|Patty feeding the same grass that is inside to one of the stupid ones.|
|The attack rooster with a couple hens!|
|After the rooster attacked Patty, it was crowing very loud.|
|The office at Around Pond.|
|I was assembling a new bean bag toss game and I got this new friend.|
Then we were off to Alabama to the Wills Creek RV resort in Fort Payne from Thursday the 24th to Saturday the 25th.
|Stopped at a rest park, Patty walking back. |
We stopped because I needed to go but I got back first.
This was our first time staying in Alabama so we added the state sticker onto our map on the RV.
|Our map filled in with Alabama now. We will try to get South Carolina next Spring.|
Wills Creek was also not a Passport park but the cost was only $28 a night. This was another just OK park. It was fine for us as it was located just a couple of miles off of our route on I 59. It was also close to Fort Payne so we could do a little shopping at Walmart.
|Our site in Wills Creek RV Park in Fort Payne Alabama.|
|Something new we tried to make, Pizza. We used fresh Oregano, Basil, and Parsley. We cooked it on the grille. Will try the oven next as the grille got it a little too crunchy.|
There is not much to say about this place other than the weather here was not great. So far we have only had one stay since leaving DC with nice weather. It looks like it is going to be that way most of the way to our site in south Texas! There is a slow moving storm coming out of the Gulf hugging the coast of Texas and pushing up into Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Our next stop was again in Alabama but just a little over a hundred miles away. This stop will be our only one-nighter. We couldn’t find any suitable sites along our route in the 200 mile range so we picked a short travel day but just a one night stay. We headed to the Cherokee Campground just south of Birmingham AL in the suburban town of Helena AL. We were just staying from Saturday the 26th to Sunday the 27th.
|The place in Birmingham AL we didn't stay at as they were full. That doesn't happen very often!|
This stop was one of the ones where we didn’t plan or execute as well as we should have. The Cherokee Campground was full with no place for us. This area is a major fan base for Alabama Universality and the Crimson Tide Football team. The university was just a few miles south of us in Tuscaloosa AL.
We chose not to call ahead this time and got burned! All of the area RV parks were full including the local state parks. So here we were at 1 in the afternoon with no place to go. We were also quite a bit off our route in the rolling hills around Birmingham.
It all worked out in the end though as we got a great place for a one-nighter. The Cherokee Park manager gave us the location of a local RV park that doesn’t have a website and is not manned. The place is the Hoover RV Park and it is part of the parking lot complex for the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium complex. The stadium is a municipal stadium. It is very new and it is a large stadium located in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover GA.
Basically, the park is part of the parking lot complex but it has full hook-ups as well as WI-FI. This turned out to be better for us than the place we had originally picked. It was just a couple of miles off our route, just $31 a night, paved, and pull through. Turned out great!
|Our site at the Hoover RV Park in Birmingham AL|
|On my 5 mile walk near the our site I took this picture of some of the homes here. This area is loaded with gated communities with huge homes.|
Now we are in Mississippi just outside of Hattiesburg. We are at the Okatoma Resort and RV Park. We will be here from Sunday the 27th to Tuesday the 29th.
Getting to Mississippi was probably the worst travel day I think we have had in the 3 plus years we have been traveling. To start off, that storm from the gulf has now consumed us as we are driving in torrential rain.
About 150 miles into the 230 mile trip a slow moving car cuts me off almost causing a major accident! I was sitting up straight tightly gripping the wheel in the heavy rain doing 60 in a 70 zone on I59/20. I was in the right most lane passing one of those 2 lane on/off ramps connected together.
Anyway, a slow moving car doing maybe 30 was in the on/off ramp all of the way right so I didn’t give him much thought. All of a sudden this slow car veers to the left across the lane next to him and directly in front of me. He was maybe 50 feet in front of me now doing 30 with me doing 60 in heavy rain.
All I could think of was that I was going to jack-knife slowing down and swerving to the left to miss him. I looked real fast to the left and I was clear so I slowed as much as I could and swerved into the lane next to the guy. We just missed hitting him by inches. I just was waiting for the crash! We made it with my heart pounding! That was CLOSE!!
After that close call, our GPS took us on wild goose chase down a dirt/gravel road in the rain and with no outlet! This was on the way to our current site. After we were fully down this road, a guy pulled up to me and said “yer lost aren’t you!” All I could do was shake my head up and down in the affirmative. He said the obvious, that I was going to need to turn around, and then he and his girlfriend left us there.
|This is what a wrong road looks like!|
We are sunk up to about 3 inches in mud and rocks in the road, but it was solid under the thick layer on top. The road had one driveway on it so we could do a K turn and get turned around. I was really worried that we would get crossways and be stuck here. We didn’t get stuck and we were able to call the park and get better directions.
OK, now the last mess-up! We get to the park and get checked in at the office. This park is a ways away from anything with all of the park roads being that same mud gravel mix. Anyway, as usual, the check in woman gives me a map of the park and draws a path to where we are to go.
All's well so far. So out to the truck we go and head off following the map. We came to the place on the map that showed where we have 2 right hand turns to pick from. The drawing on the map shows we are to take the furthest right hand turn. This turn didn’t look right to me so I got out in the rain and walked part of it to make sure. Well, yes it was a road but a crappy one.
Rechecked the map to make sure and off we went. Halfway back on this road it became apparent that this was not right. It was now a little too late to be trying to back out and I could see where we needed to be so I continued on. We had low branches, and the road was severely tilted to the left. However, it was still a road and this is where she drew it on the map to go.
|This is where the map said to go on the left loop. It doesn't look right does it!|
|I got out and looked at the road and it was a road, just not a good one!|
|This is where it was real bad but I was already committed. The road tilts a lot to the left and the trees are very low. Our space is just right on the other side of the trees.|
|We made it! This is our site in Hattiesburg Mississippi.|
I made it but I would not do it again! The camp host came up after we were in and asked how I got here because he didn’t see us pull in. I showed him how I did it and he said that I just came up a service road not meant for RVs! He took the map back to straighten out the check in person.
|Nice pool at the park. Again, we are after season now so very few people. We are far enough south now though that people will frequent this place during at least the early winter.|
|We took a hike around the RV Park property.|
|It's hard to see in this picture but the duck in the front has a growth on it's head. In fact 2 of the ducks have the same growth. We can't figure out what it is!|
|Closer view of one of the ducks with the growth on it's head.|
We had sticks, mud, and pine needles all over the rig now. I got up on the roof to make sure we didn’t put any holes in it and we didn’t. Whew! We are here and the end of a hard day of travel.
On Monday the 28th we got the truck oil changed at a near by Ford service shop. The truck just passed another 5,000 miles since the last oil change in Lafayette Indiana. We still have about 800 miles to go to our place in south Texas. It wouldn't be a problem to go on to our place in Texas but I want to get it changed before we leave next spring and I am not sure we will drive 5, 000 miles while wintering. This just gives us a little more security knowing the truck is in good shape too. It was the cheapest oil change I have got in the 3 years with it. The cost was just $89.95! Usually it is just under or over $100.