3/27/22 - 3/29/22
When we woke up about 7ish, we couldn't even get a cup of coffee cooked up because we had very little battery power available. Not for something that heats up as fast as the coffeepot, it draws a lot of energy right off the bat and it just wasn't happening this morning. We've looked at putting some solar panels on top, which would help us out if we were doing this camping without power at the site. But so far, we haven't actually been "boondocking" very much so it hasn't been at the top of our priority list. I really could have easily made pour-over coffee if we wanted it badly enough. The stove runs on propane, so it's easy to get that going. But we decided to just get ready to take off and pick up some coffee in Hopkinsville, which was big enough to have more than 1 coffee shop. But on the way there, I remembered it was Sunday, and the town was pretty well shut down. So we got some gas station coffee and sweet stuff to tide us over. All morning we joked about the sugar in the cookies, mini donuts and orange juice we had gobbled up!
We spent most of the day driving westward. We crossed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and then found ourselves in Missouri. We decided to see if we could stay at St. Francois State Park, not too far off our path. It's sometimes hard to tell which campgrounds are open at this time of year. We look at our camping apps to get as much information as possible, and from what we could see, the campground was open and the electricity was on but the water was off due to the cold.
We did find the campground after driving a roller coaster road for about 10 miles! Lots of hills and valleys, twists and turns. Thankfully not much traffic to dodge! This turned out to be a nice quiet wooded campground near a small river. We did some walking to get the joints moving again, and found the water. We also noticed that there were some very large trees near the river, really huge trunks that were covered with dark bark near the ground but the upper branches were whitened. They didn't have any leaves yet, so were kind of mystical looking with those branches exposed looking like bones! We found out they are sycamore trees.
Bob grilled hamburgers tonight and cooked tater tots in the air fryer. I was a little leery of bringing that big appliance along, but we've had some good use out of it and made a spot to store it. Everything that comes into the trailer has to be evaluated for the size, weight and usefulness. The air fryer made the cut! Its size is the biggest downfall.
After eating, we decided to try out watching a new series that we have on DVD, and we may be the last people in the country to see this -- Game of Thrones. So we watched an episode, but were not enthralled enough to watch a second episode. We'll have to try it again another time.
On Monday, we did have our own coffee and simple breakfast before hitting the road again. We drove north with the temp in the 30's and some sunshine. This is a hilly area of farming, but no work in the fields yet. We crossed into Iowa and continued north to near Cedar Rapids. We drove to Pleasant Creek State Park and found a spot, with electricity, for the night. Very few other people here. As we did our usual walk around the park, we could see that a lot of tree removal was underway. Really big trees. The campground must have been a nice shady spot before, but now just has small trees. Many big stumps remaining along with piles of logs and branches. Many trees broken off everywhere we looked. We guessed that this must have been the area hit by the Derecho winds in August, 2020.
On Tuesday morning we didn't take long to get going because we knew we were headed to Mom's house for the night! Our trip is winding down, which is a good thing and a bad thing. The drive was easy and we had the wind at our back. It was so nice to pull into mom's place and have some home-cooked goodness! Mom is 92 and going strong, and follows our trips closely on her maps. Good to know she's looking out for us! She has traveled many miles in her life, and often has been to some of the places we have been. There's a little video about her camping adventures below...
We made the final leg of the trip, about 3.5 hours, to home, sweet home on Wednesday morning. So nice to be back in our space again!
Today (Thursday) we directed the truck further north, near Charlotte, NC. This was the home of our daughter, son-in-law and 3 amazing grandsons for a few years, so we feel some familiarity with the area. We have even camped at tonight's spot once before, McDowell Nature Preserve on the southwesterly corner of the suburbs. We remembered that when we came here before, the builders of the campground did not own a level, causing almost every campsite to be on an incline in one way or maybe two ways! Things have not changed! But we did get situated and ready to take a drive to Belmont. Our son-in-law's family lives there, and we had been in touch to set up this time to re-connect. It was great to see the group again. Now that we don't have our own kids in Charlotte we don't see each other nearly as often. We talked, walked, ate, played with the dogs and had a good evening. So glad we were able to do this.
Friday morning we waited a bit for traffic to subside and then started our move west. We were passing Asheville, which could be a destination itself, but I was only interested in the quilt shop I had stopped at once before. So we made a stop at the Asheville Cotton Co. for fabric therapy and lunch! We were traveling on I-40, something we don't do often, and after several miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I remember why! We stayed the night at Cove Lake State Park in Caryville TN.
On Saturday we headed for Kentucky. It's steadily getting colder, and we're asking ourselves if it might not be smarter to drive south instead of north! A few trees are blossoming, but mostly just showing leaf buds. A windy day, so Bob really feels that when pulling the trailer, especially with a side wind. This looks like a farming area and horse farms, too. The only field work we see happening is horse powered plowing, so that explains why the roads have a much wider shoulder. The Amish families can drive their horse and buggy on the side of the main road. Tonight we had a fun camping/parking spot at Casey Jones Distillery near Hopkinsville. It's a Harvest Host location, so we don't pay for the spot but we do sample their product and take some home, too. This place has been family owned and operated since prohibition times. They have quite a few moonshine and bourbon products and we didn't feel the need to sample them all, but we did have a few tastes and then got a tour of the place. Casey Jones invented a rectangular still (instead of round) and they still use that with some modern touches added. Supposedly, the rectangular shape and the handles added to the sides were an advantage when the revenuers came looking for a still. It was easier to pick up the still and place it into the back of a truck or wagon to get away with it. Enterprising businessmen, right?!
Tonight merited an extra blanket on the bed!
OK, I'm bunching up some dates here so I can move along in the journal! These are the days that we spent at a spot further north but still in Georgia. It's another Corps of Engineers campground on the Strom Thurmond Reservoir.
Our new campsite is in a pretty spot on the lakeshore, surrounded by very tall trees, mostly evergreens. Trees that are shedding a lot of pollen right now, showing up yellow all over! I saw a couple of people out on this paddle sailboat, I didn't even know that was a thing!
There are quite a few roads and loops around the campground, which makes for good walking and biking. We heard there was a pond that housed an alligator at times, so we stopped to look for that. Sure enough, that gator was on the short span of grass between the pond and the road. He quickly stopped sunbathing, made a big splash and hightailed it across the pond! And we never saw him again!
There are some spring flowers blooming, too, along with the pollen-shedding clusters.
We usually are not early-to-rise, we enjoy a slow start to the day with a cup of coffee. One of these mornings, I was up just before sunrise so I got outside to photograph a sunrise for once! It cast a very subtle glow at first, then really bright when it rose over the trees.
On the 23rd we celebrated grandson Jack's birthday! He's 8 now and a terrific little guy. He's the one that wanted to learn how to sew on my featherweight machine. I'll maybe introduce him to one of the big boy machines during his next visit! We talked and sang to him, it was a happy day!
We drove to Augusta, about 20 miles away, to visit their Art Museum. We had a good self-guided tour, looking at the changes in style and subject matter over time. It covered mostly art of that area from colonial times up to recent times. This was our salute to Jack, the birthday boy and artistically inclined guy. His other grandma, Mary, is an artist and helped him out along the way.
Also, while driving out of August to go home, we went past the Augusta National Golf Course where the Master's Tournament will be played soon. It didn't look like we were invited in, so we had to be satisfied to just say we were on the other side of the fence!
We used our WeBoost antenna in this location to improve our cell signal, and were able to join the regularly scheduled family zoom call without problems. As we were setting up the antenna, we tried to film it so we could share that as a YouTube video. It takes a lot of rehearsal to get it into something that makes sense and is logical! Most all of my YouTube channel is just me doing the talking, but this time, I got to hold the camera and Bob did the talking! I'll share that when it's ready.
We drove about 4 miles into the Okefenokee Swamp to reach the marina and visitor center area. The high winds of last night's storm had ripped off the canvas roof of the boat we were slated to travel in, so we helped Jenny, our guide, remove the remnants. We were the first tour of the day. They use flat-bottom boats for this, carrying up to 8 passengers at a time (we only had 4 on our boat, and the missing canvas roof made it easier to spot things in the trees). The water gets very shallow in places, depending on the rain or lack thereof.
This tour was a great way to see and learn all about the swamp life. Jenny was very knowledgable and friendly, explaining the history of the canals and logging and early settlers. For the price of $30/person on a 90 minute tour, it was worthwhile. I took a lot of pictures!
There are locations for paddlers (canoes and kayaks) to camp overnight in the swamp on an elevated platform, something I would like to do if we get back here again.
We did a loop drive and a short hike. On the loop, we visited a "homestead" like the people who lived here used back in the day. Complete with outbuildings for several things, including a syrup-making shed, a smokehouse, pigpen and grape arbors. The house wasn't open at the time we were there, but they do offer tours twice a day.
We walked the boardwalk trail to the observation tower. It was a very scenic and safe way to walk through the swamp and see some plants and animals up close.
A drive day for us today. Driving north on highway 27 leaving the hub-bub of the big amusement attractions behind. Passing more orange groves and then the state line of Georgia. We are staying at Okefenokee Pastimes campground, directly outside the eastern entrance to the swamp, a National Wildlife Refuge. Very soon after we got parked and unhitched and hooked up, a strong storm came through. We had been watching the storm clouds on the drive, betting on whether or not the storm would beat us to the campground.
I don't think we have ever been to Georgia before. Possibly have driven through it, but not stayed here. Now we can add it to our sticker map!
We visited with out neighbors, a couple who live and travel full-time in their rig. Very nice folks, and they highly recommend taking a boat tour in the swamp. After talking, I investigated the possibilities and scheduled us for a guided boat tour in the morning. I hope this one is a go! We spent some time walking around the campground, a privately owned establishment. They have an area for tent sites in addition to the usual RV parking area, and working to expand in the forested area. A lot of hard work for small business owners. I am learning that running a campground is not a dream of mine!
I'm a happy girl today! I found out about a quilting and sewing event in nearby Lakeland FL through a Facebook group for RV Quilters. It has been 2 years since I have been able to go to this kind of event, so I snapped up a ticket and Bob drove me to the auditorium for the show. I felt like a kid going to a birthday party!
This was actually not entirely a quilt show, more about textile arts in general. There were workshops and classes, presentations and displays. And booths for vendors to grab your attention and credit card! I wandered around the auditorium, enjoying the time spent with women who share the same interests as I do.
I liked some of these small quilts in an exhibit by the Modern Quilt Guild.
I poked around all of the vendor booths, looking for anything new and unique to me. I picked up a couple small things and ordered one to be mailed to me. I did not feel any need to buy fabric, since soon I will be back home and my stash there will look like new again!
While I was doing my thing, Bob was at a park nearby where he could walk, read and, likely nap! It was a good day all around!
This is our last night in the state of Florida, we are starting to head north and west towards Minnesota. Our impressions of Florida: very nice temperatures and mostly good humidity, so many people, so much building, excellent white sand beaches, an extreme difference between low and high income, loved the keys and Everglades, diverse nature. And we really like Key Lime Pie!
This morning we woke up to dense fog, even some occasional sprinkles. Today was a travel day with lots of other people to share the road with! We drove past miles of orange groves and other unidentifiable orchards. We were driving to southwest Orlando to a KOA campground. Quite heavy traffic (for us), probably many headed for Disney and Universal Studios. We've never been to Universal, but doubt we'll be going on this trip. Last time we went to Disneyworld was March 2020, just before it and everything shut down for quarantine. We had no clue what was going to happen. And I look at those pictures and it now looks strange that we weren't wearing masks!
This van in the traffic ahead of us gave me a laugh, even though I was behind the wheel making my way through way too many people! Just trying to keep the truck and trailer out of contact with anyone else! It was a relief to finally get to the park.
I had ordered a renewal of a prescription through Walgreen's to be picked up this afternoon, so I had plenty of time to take care of that. Meanwhile, back at camp, Bob was wading through our ample laundry at the campground facility. We had stored up quite a bit, especially during the hot, sweaty days to the south. It is oh so nice to have clean sheets! If only they could be hung outside to dry, that would be heaven! If I was very wealthy, I would hire someone to change my sheets every day, using only sheets dried outdoors! I'm a woman of simple desires! Tonight was a simple meal of chips and guacamole, followed by a walk at dusk, watching the moon rise.
We've been talking about how much our lives have changed in the 4 years since we bought the trailer. At that time, we were both still working at jobs. Plans for retirement had been so far off for so long that we didn't really have a plan. For me, I was anticipating a time when I could reclaim my life for myself, not employed, even if I loved my job. But when would that be? It was like a dream, where you wake up and it's all misty and nothing clearcut. For Bob, he had never been a long term planner, and didn't really own up to feeling like he would like life without work.
It was a gradual realization for both of us that we both missed our times of camping and trips to other places. We didn't really have much time to be gone for more than a few days. I was starting to know that I wanted more time to see and do my own thing. We looked into buying something for camping and travel, and ended up with the trailer. I had been daydreaming about trailer camping for at least a year and researching many topics online. So our purchase was very well thought out, at least for myself!
We did the usual things for first-timers, staying at places not real far from home and learning the ropes of trailer stuff. It was a steep learning curve! We figured out what we needed to make our trips better, and more importantly, what we did not need. After about a year of that, and upgrading our truck, we were ready to take the trailer on the road. But first, I needed to cut the ties to my job, which was very sad. Within a few months, Bob also joined the ranks of unemployed, happily.
Since then, we've been working out when we want to be home and when we want to be away. We're not ready to say goodbye to our home and use the trailer as our permanent address! That will be the next step, and it might happen, might not!
And today was all about feeling retired! Sleeping late, working online, making future reservations, a non-strenuous bike ride, reading, sewing and leftovers for supper so no time was wasted on meal prep! Many nights we simply have a warmed baguette, or popcorn, or chips and guac or salsa. We know how to keep it simple!
Not at all related to my rambling thoughts, but I think I might need to decorate my bike like this! Why not?!
Nothing special happening today, so we spent our time biking, reading and stitching on my little hexagons. And we went to LaBelle Brewing Company tonight. A successful family business, which is always great to see.
I've enjoyed snapping some pics of some of the flowers I've seen like these...
Amazingly, the temp was 50 when we got up! Hitching up went quicker than usual! We drove north through a lot of agricultural area, including some sugar cane that was being harvested. And there are some orchards and truck farms, but we didn't take the time to stop, and a lot were closed since it's Sunday.
We're staying at a place called Ortona South, an Army Corps of Engineers (COE) property on the Caloosahatchee Canal. There's a lock and dam here, so we have seen a few boats passing through. The canal starts on the SW corner of Lake Okechobee and runs over to Fort Meyers and into the gulf. The canal system was built by the COE and is maintained by them, along with a campground here and there. We are near the town of LaBelle. After walking around the park, we found out we could get on wifi, and that was good to catch up on a few things. Like catching up on this blog after 6 days away, which really puts me behind. But Bob keeps some brief notes every day, and I use those and the pictures to remember what to write! And it's good to reflect back on what has been happening. We can also catch up on news from all over, which is bittersweet.
I've been trying out a new-to-me textile art. I'm block printing small designs onto fabric. I carve my own stamps, which are quite rudimentary at this stage! Then I ink the stamp and put it on the fabric. Just trying out something different to see what I can do with it and whether it's even something I like! Sometimes, I get an idea of using other designs and I might like it or might not. That's what my grandson Jack says! Ask him if it's going to snow today and he will say "Might, might not". A true weatherman!
I think this stamping needs more testing before I can say "might not".
Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the time you have taken to look for and read my story. I hope you find something that you like!
Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!