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The Adventure Continues

October 22nd, 2014

The Adventure Continues

I'm going to start off by saying my future blogs will be much shorter than this. In the beginning we were moving about the country rather quickly, and much of it is a blur to me now. Once I get to the point where we start volunteering (my next blog), I'll write a single blog for each park to highlight everything we saw and did while we were there. This blog is basically picking up where the last one left off. Enjoy!

Due to complications with prior pregnancies, my wife, Amanda, and I decided to stay close to home until the delivery. Savannah was born in June 2010, and after all her doctor check-ups were taken care of, we got the old beast (called so more for it unwillingness to cooperate than for its size) back up and running. We set our sights on an in-law wedding in Holly Spring, Mississippi. We had a few weeks to putz across the country, so we planned out our route.

At the time, we had a year pass for Bush Gardens, so a visit to Amanda’s father was the first stop. It was only a 3.5 hour hike, no biggie, right? We drove for about an hour when the generator took a dive. So we stopped at a small campground in Southern Maryland (hadn’t even left our own state). So we took the opportunity to visit Fort Washington National Park after cleaning the generators carburetor. Back on the road the next morning, no harm, no foul.

The visit with dad and mama in-law went great. Quality time spent and some fun at Bush Gardens, then onward we marched. Along the trail we passed through Danville, North Carolina. If you ever happen to find yourself there, The Checkered Pig is a must eat! It was featured on the Food Network, The Travel Channel and Versus Network.

Our next stop was Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina. The battlefield park was beautifully kept and as informative as most others we have visited. During one of our many visits to Gettysburg Amanda decided she wanted to start collecting national park stamps. So she was thrilled to have another addition to her passport.

We rolled into Rock Hill, South Carolina (beautiful little town) and stayed at Andrew Jackson State Park. We spent some time talking to the volunteers working the office. That definitely sounded like a good (and cheaper) way to see the country. We stopped by Kings Mountain National Battlefield, and then pressed on.

Aiken, South Carolina was the next stop. It seemed every little town we ran into was quainter than the last. We overnighted it at a Walmart so we could take a little time to explore the town. Aiken is definitely on our plan to revisit someday. At the rate we were moving, it really took away from time to sightsee. This made us give volunteering even more consideration.

Our next planned stop was Athens, Georgia, but we had to make a stop in Augusta due to another generator problem. The carburetor was shot. We stayed there at the repair shop overnight, as they were expecting the replacement to be sent next day. Thankfully the part arrived early and we were on the road again in a reasonable amount of time.

My wife’s half-sister lived in Athens, and we had planned to stop for a short visit. It turned into a week visit because the refrigerator was next to give us a fit. After talking to my cousin in Atlanta, he said he had a big ice chest we could use. Being so far apart, he was also delighted to have us visit a few days.

On the way to Athens, we saw a sign for Harlem, Georgia, “Home of Oliver Hardy”. Well, we couldn’t pass that up. No campground to be found, so we figured we’d find a place to “boondock” for the night. We found a local police officer, “sure just park it in that lot for the night. I’ll let the oncoming shift know.” It was dark, but it wasn’t long before we found the train tracks across the street. All in all (beside the hourly late night train) it was a cute little town with a Laurel & Hardy Museum. On to the next town!

With the expense of the carburetor replacement, we definitely didn’t have the money for a fridge repair right away. So until we passed back through Atlanta, we were stuck with this giant ice chest in our shower. Filled with our food, it had to be constantly maintained with ice, and with my back problems, Amanda had to remove it every time we wanted to shower.

After a few days in Atlanta we took a short jaunt north to Chickamauga National Battlefield, than we were west bound. We had a destination and nothing was stopping us! We made it to Holly Springs, Mississippi with a couple days to spare before the wedding. What an adventure, but it wasn’t half over.

After going that far, we weren’t content with just attending the wedding. We wanted to see some more sights. We spent a day in Memphis and Graceland was nice, but outside of that most of the city was a bit ghetto.

The day came for us to scoot on, and we had our sights set on Vicksburg. Living close to Gettysburg for so long, we had heard of Vicksburg and we had wanted to see it for some time; so what was another 3.5 hour drive west going to hurt? The closest campground we could find with availabilities was about 15 minutes east of town, Askew’s Landing.

We had been on the road over two weeks at this point. Our tanks were getting emptied regularly. We had made stops at other campgrounds along the way. We even found out that some county/city public works would allow dumping for free. I really wanted to give them a good cleaning though. So I ran a hose in to the toilet and let it do its thing.

Due to neuropathy problems, the doctors had me on Lyrica for a few years. The stuff ruined my short term memory. So, Amanda says, let’s take Savannah and our dog, Traveler, for a walk. Fifteen minutes later we return to an RV with water spouting out the front door. The water was still running into the toilet, and now throughout the rest of the RV. I do recall saying, “Someday we are going to look back at this and laugh”. As I write this, there is almost a smile, so maybe that day will come soon…

About our third day in Vicksburg I struck up a conversation with a police officer. I asked him if he knew of a place we could boondock in town. He pointed out the parking spots right there on the river front. He told me to just move it to a new spot once a day and nobody will bother us. Vicksburg City Public works gave us a place to dump and fill our tanks every other day, so we were happy we could take our time sightseeing.

The refrigerator problem was taking its toll though. We were lucky to find a free National Park campground on the Natchez Trace 15 minutes south of Vicksburg. We figured we could hold up there till I received my next pension check from the police department, then we could carry on.

The campground host volunteers there were some wonderful people. They spoke to the police officer that patrolled the campground for us and he stopped by and told us not to worry about the 14 day stay limit. We only needed a few extra days for payday anyway. The hosts also let us pull around and dump our tanks at their site every few days.

Still a bit green behind the ears, but quickly becoming camping pros, we befriended the neighboring camper. He asked if I had been leveling the RV. Now, growing up I had done some camping with my dad, and I do recall him saying the camper had to be leveled after every set up. But the guy at McGeorge’s RV that sold us the RV told us motorhomes didn’t need to be leveled unless it was pretty steep grade. So we took some time to make sure it was perfectly level, cut the power to the fridge, and viola we were back in business.

We had no intention of ending up in Baton Rouge, or New Orleans when we initially left Maryland. But now our problems were solved and we had time to spare before we were due back to Maryland for a friend’s wedding. Hearing that Baton Rouge was this big city, I expected a Baltimore like setting. It was nothing of the sort. Even the “rush hour traffic” was nothing compared the late evening traffic I was accustomed to. Granted, New Orleans was a different story as far as traffic goes.

Having a few different Walmart’s, and Cracker Barrels, we boondocked our stay in Baton Rouge, although our favorite was the little Green Walmart Grocers. It was in a nice section of town just a few blocks from the college dorms. I’ve never seen such a clean beautiful city. It was quite the contrast from New Orleans.

We arrived in New Orleans the night before Halloween. Our first glimpse of Bourbon Street the night before Halloween made us decide to arrive earlier in the evening on Halloween. We figured maybe it wouldn’t be quite as crazy. Apparently, it’s just always crazy. We didn’t stay very long; we didn’t feel it was an appropriate place for Savannah, or the dog…

The first night in NOLA, we stayed on the Walmart parking lot on Tchoupitoulas. The adjacent lot was a repair facility for the NOLA Police Department. The next day, speaking with the Sergeant, he said we were welcome to stay on their lot as long as we liked.

We decided daytime would be the best time to see the sights of NOLA. So around 11am one morning, middle of the week, we found us a parking spot just off Bourbon Street. I step out of the car to see someone urinating on the tire of a car parked across the street. I was wearing my new shirt from Chickamauga National Battlefield and another guy approached me and asked about it. He was barely holding himself up as he slurred, “Whhat war is that?” I answered, “A battle from the Civil War”. “Wwhhoo won that war? He asked, “…The north” I told him. He says, “Yer lyin’! Where you from!?” I told him, “Maryland”. He says, “Oh… Maybe yer not lyin’.”

We found a state park about 20 minutes away to make runs for dumping and filling our tanks. We hung around for about two weeks, but started feeling a bit uncomfortable after hearing gun shots around the corner.

The trip back to Maryland is a bit of a blur. We didn’t do nearly as much sightseeing. It was smooth sailing till we hit Montgomery, Alabama. When we bought the RV, I specifically asked the salesman how the tires were. He told me they were practically new (avoid McGeorge’s RV). We had a blow out on I85, with barely a shoulder to park on, and a few miles to the next exit. Did I mention it was almost 10pm?

An hour later and we were back on the road. We stopped back by my cousin’s place for a couple days and returned his ice chest. It was a real relief to get that big thing out of the way. From there, we parked the RV on my cousin's empty lot where his new home was to be built and made a bee line for Maryland in the car.

You’d think we’d quit after that, but we’re not easily deterred. We knew there was a way to make it work. Volunteering was the answer, which we fell into on our next adventure.

Our First Adventure

October 14th, 2014

Our First Adventure

We bought our first (new to us) RV in 2009. It was a 10+ year old 27’ Winnebago Itasca we figured was in just in need of a little face lift. We were in for a lot of surprises!

We picked it up just a few weeks before my brother-in-law’s graduation from the Marine Corp, and we were anxious for our first road trip to Paris Island. We had spent those first few weeks cleaning and making small changes to make life on the road comfortable. Neither of us had much experience camping; we were ready to wing it!

The trip down was a blast! I had never driven anything bigger than a pick-up truck. I’ll never forget navigating what I thought was a beast through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Those narrow lanes and oncoming tractor trailers were nerve racking!

Even though it was November and our first campground greeted us with cold rain. White Lake in Elizabethtown was a beautiful place, even though it was out of season and we were about the only fools in the place.

Our next stop was Myrtle Beach State Park. Not as chilly there, and I witnessed my first sunrise on the beach. I wish I had a good camera, and knew what I was doing with it at the time. The attached sunrise was taken with the phone I had at the time. Broadway at the Beach had just put up their Christmas décor, and I remember it felt a bit odd seeing Christmas decorations wearing just a hoodie.

We continued beyond Paris Island and on to Savannah, Ga to spend several days sightseeing before the graduation day. We fell in love with that city, and also named our daughter Savannah. In fact, we are now scheduled to camp host at Skidaway Island at the end of this month (10/2014).

To this point, all was well. We enjoyed the sights, and the graduation, then set our sights on heading back home to Maryland for Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving morning, and the trip back was uneventful until we hit Alexandria, VA. Did I mention we had just found out my wife was pregnant?

The engine started overheating and we took the first exit, which was not a great (nor camper friendly) neighborhood. It is also pretty close to impossible to get a tow truck big enough for an RV on Thanksgiving Day. It was about 11am, and we were still an hour away from our destination and a nice Thanksgiving dinner. It was also around this time that I found out the hood of the RV had locks, and the RV company we bought from had not supplied us with a key. I had no way of finding out what was going on under the hood.

The tow finally arrived! …around 11pm. Eating at the Chinese restaurant was reminiscent of watching The Christmas Story. We were never more thankful than the minute we walked through the door of my parents’ house. We opted to ride in the RV as it was being towed. It was quite bumpy, so my wife was most thankful for the sink where she promptly tossed her Chinese.

So that’s it! Even though our first adventure ended on a sour note, we were bitten by the travel bug and we continued to push onward. Stay tuned to find out how our adventure to the Mississippi wedding went!

Reverse Psychology Gone Awry

September 12th, 2014

Reverse Psychology Gone Awry

Just a short dinner related entry today regarding a reverse psychology ploy that went awry. We have all been there; dinner's on the table and your child has no interest on what's on their plate.

My wife, Amanda made a shrimp fried rice dish tonight. Our daughter, Savannah of course had no interest. So I poked a piece of shrimp with the fork, put it in front of her face and said in a silly voice, “don't eat this, I want to eat it”. Of course she took the bait, but chewed so slowly with an almost horrified look on her face. I loaded the fork again with the same message and set it on her plate. Her lip curled and she looked as though she was about to burst into tears, “But I wanna grooow!” Although I felt a bit bad I suppose it worked. She cleaned her plate, but I was really hoping for more of a silly response. Maybe like Randy and his plate of mashed potatoes on The Christmas Story.

Duty Calls

September 10th, 2014

Duty Calls

Some volunteer friends here at Sesquicentennial State Park have gone away for the week for work related business. We have offered to watch their dog Cocoa in their absence. She's a very sweet, lovable boxer; and she gets along with our dog Traveler quite nicely. All was going well until 5am this morning.

I'll have to back up a little here to explain the sleeping arrangement. Cocoa has quite the fondness for my wife, Amanda. So to avoid the discomfort of having two dogs in the bed with us, Amanda has opted to turn the event into s slumber party with Cocoa and our daughter, Savannah at the front of the RV. Savannah is of course thrilled at the idea. We're on day three, and thus far all has been well.

So, 5am this morning, me and our dog, Traveler are in our bed. The bedroom door was shut. Traveler's rear was right next to my face when I awoke to the nastiest smell. I thought she had passed gas in my face. The smell got worse to the point that I had to get up and open the door for air. Then it hit me... It assaulted my sinus cavity with the force of 100 atomic bombs. I was sure there was poop somewhere, but my first find was the large puddle of pee under my feet. I turned on the lights and began the hunt. Amanda woke up and looked at me like I was crazy, "What are you doing!?" I replied, "I smell p..." "Oh god smell it!", she exclaimed. We search high and low, but with the pull out bed open, our search was limited. I took them both out this morning, and Cocoa squatted about 5 times. I heard Amanda inside, "OHH!" So I knew a discovery had been made... In her shoe, Savannah's shoe and on 2 dog toys, across the carpet, and down the steps.

...duty calls.

Ganby Park, South Carolina

September 6th, 2014

Ganby Park, South Carolina

I've decided to do some blogging about my shoots and travels, and I suppose Ganby Park is a good place to start. Ganby Park is located on the Congaree River near downtown Columbia, South Carolina. After seeing the beautifully kept Riverfront Park, just down the road, I expected to get some nice golden hours shots there.

I hate to start blogging on a bad note, but Ganby Park was a bit disappointing. The sidewalk appeared as though they had not been leaf blown in a week and there was trash along the trail that appeared to have been there a few days. There were few places to get a good enough view of the river to take nice photos. Every bench or overlook had an outstanding view of foliage... The attached photo is a great example. I chose not to add it to my gallery due to the bushes blocking the bridge. There were no other vantage points to shoot from.

So my plan is to give it another go if we are still in the area when the trees start going bare, hopefully the views will be better then. We are relocating to Savannah, Georgia the last week of October. Being this far south, I may not get the opportunity to try again.