Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here I Go Again, Runnin' Down A Dream...

Here I go again, I'm runnin' down a dream. Who wouldn't wanna be me? Just me and you and a dog named Boo, just me and my Bobby McGee. With the window rolled down and the wind in my face, I'm cruisin' down the highway, singin' the roadhouse blues. Just me and you and a dog named Boo, just me and my Bobby McGee.

Beside my ramblin' man, the King of the road, I'm taking the free ride, just rockin' down the highway. On the long and winding road again, maybe this time goin' all the way to sweet home Alabama. We gotta travel on, eastbound and down, but we're takin' it easy now, cause we've been everywhere. We were born to run, even if we weren't exactly easy riders. We got our kicks on Route Sixty Six. We took a magic carpet ride on a magic bus, over the hills and far away on Thunder, Thunder Road.

Life was a highway in those days, sometimes with no particular place to go. It was road trippin' with my travelin' man, no sleep till Brooklyn. Sometimes runnin' on empty, but always singing the open road song, 'take me home country roads to the place I belong', one moonlight mile after another, hoping not to get lost on the highway to Hell.

Now, we're on a slow ride, we're midnight riders, maybe on the way to Graceland, still cruisin' on. Slow running down a dream, maybe two hundred more miles to the Promised Land, we're on the road to find out, just runnin' down a dream. Takin' the long way home, seeing America, free and easy down the road, loving this land which is my land, this land which is your land, from the New York Island, to the redwood forests, to the Gulf stream waters.

We're rollin' down the highway, headin' for the light. I can't drive 55 anymore, so its lucky there's two of us. Rolling the dice, we sing out, 'heads Carolina, tails California'. Just roll me away, Bobby, roll me away, 'cause the road's my middle name. Say good bye to Maybelline, get out the map and head towards Kansas City. So happy goin' mobile on the road again. Can't nobody say, I can't get the load out, cause honey, I get around.

Hit the road, travelin' man, 'cause its 200 more miles to Cadillac Ranch, its somewhere off Lake Shore Drive. Give 'ten four' to the convoy and a salute to the low rider as we pass by. They might laugh, but we're still born to be wild, even if we've gone mostly grey and we go a little slower now, even if we're closer to going up around the bend down the lost highway. It's God's truth and we know it, we gotta travel on.

So, lets take the road to California this time. Drive down Ventura Highway while I hang out the window singing 'cause I'm a free bird. There's plenty of time to take it easy after the travelings done, to turn that page when we come to that place in the story. For now, lets just keep cruisin', taking the long way, just following the white line, one headlight at a time.

We're still up to speed, ain't we Bobby? So, roll me away, I'm running down a dream. I'm bad, I'm nationwide. Who wouldn't wanna be me?

Maybe next time, we'll drive south, me and you and a dog named Boo. After we we go from Jersey to OC. We'll ease on down the road, heading south and down, down country roads to somewhere I forgot, somewhere I might belong. We'll go, East bound and down, six days on the road, gonna make it home that night.

I had a lot of fun with this. How many 'road' song titles can you identify in the piece? Tomorrow, the Badger comes home to Bobby McGee (Danny) and me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Purchasing and trading in RVs

What an interesting, if somewhat frustrating experience this has been.

Two Friday evenings ago, we looked at a beautiful Four Winds class a Serrano model (diesel) motor home that seemed to fit our needs and desires to increase the size of our unit from our present 24 foot Winnebago class c model and provide a bedroom with a queen bed. Danny was thrilled with the exterior storage and the automatic leveling and automatic awning and the outside flat screen TV. I was thrilled by the luxury interior appointments, bath, and the large amount of clothing storage. I was not so thrilled by the placement of the galley at the front of the unit or the fact that the windows in the bedroom could only be opened when the slide out was out. But on the whole, I was ready to buy if the terms were right. The salesman was pretty positive that we could make the deal. The trade in offer for our Winnebago was fair.

The finance man at the dealer called the following day and nixed the monthly payment I was willing to make and asked for a sixteen thousand dollar down payment instead of the ten I offered in addition to trade in. I said I'd consider it. But I knew it was too much.

So, I said to the sales man on the phone basically, sorry no can do, and was ready to walk away. He urged me to come over and talk to the finance guy in person. We did. It didn't help.

"There's another floor plan of the same motor home," said the salesman, "slightly less expensive without a bedroom slide out that might fit your needs. It's at our New York outlet, but I have pictures."

We looked at the pictures. It had all of the same luxury appointments, a kitchen in the mid coach, and a bedroom with less clothes storage but an island queen bed and windows that opened. The price and payments and terms was acceptable. I put a small deposit down to hold it and the dealer said they'd ship it down in a few days. It took a full week to arrive but when we finally saw it on the following Saturday afternoon we liked it as much as we'd hoped we might. After examining it with fine toothed theoretical combs we gave each other thumbs up, trooping happily into the finance guys office to sign all the papers.

We were ready to leave just as soon as I wrote the check for the rest of the previously agreed ten thousand down payment. "That will be $38,000," said the finance man.

"What?!!" I said in horror. "I agreed to ten."

"No can do for that," said Mr Finance man.

"Thirty eight thousand is the pay off on my present loan not the down payment," I said. "I agreed to ten."

"You agreed to $16,500.00," said the finance guy. "On the phone last week. I said could you come up with that much and you agreed. Don't you remember?"

I shook my head. "No, I said only that I'd think about it. But anyway that was when we were talking about the other floor plan that was more expensive. When I was here last weekend the amount mentioned was ten for the unit we are negotiating for now."

"Can't be done for that," he repeated.

"Then the deals off," said I, ready to walk once more. In came the dealer manager. "There's been a misunderstanding," I said.

"I really want your Winnebago," he said. "We can work it out."

More negotiations followed. In the end, the manager gave me a bigger trade in amount, came down in price a little more, I agreed to eleven thousand for down payment and agreed to fork over the rebate for unused warranty (which I didn't know I was getting back anyway). We agreed to the terms. The demo and delivery day was set for eight days later since they were prepping for a large RV show and their service guys were backed up. I agreed that we would trade in the Winnebago on that day.

I thought all was well. We went off happily, in our present RV for a week end extended family wedding at the beach. We broke down on the road on the way, but that's another story.

On Monday morning the dealership finance manager called me. He informed me my driver's licence was expired. (Untrue, it was renewed in 2009). He said I needed to provide an insurance binder on the new RV before the bank would approve the loan and asked when we were bringing the old RV in for trade. I said, "When we pick up the new one."

He tried to talk me into bringing my Winnebago to the dealer right away. "We will lock it up but we need it on the lot to finalize the deal," he said.

"I'll talk to Danny and let you know," I replied. Both Danny and the insurance rep said not to give up possession of the present RV until the new one was in our possession.

"Deals fall through at the last minute all the time," said the insurance rep. "You could end up with your current one sold out from under you and nothing to show for it."

I called the dealer manager and informed him (again) that he would get his trade in when I got my new one. He agreed. The finance guy backed off. Then followed three days and six phone calls and three emails trying to get insurance information faxed to the dealer. Finally, today, that was accomplished. I THINK all is set. I THINK we are getting the new one next Wednesday. This has been educational, but not completely in a positive way. Stay tuned to the next episode where I will tell you about our roadside break down and how Danny, a computer expert, fixed the motor home.

PS 1: Watch finance guys as if they were spiders. They are as sneaky and out for blood.

PS 2: FYI: Winnebago Views (diesel) from 2006 are in demand for resale right now. The value stays high. Buying a used one was a great choice as an entry RV.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I was reflecting this morning how much fun we had traveling in our Winnebago View in the last eighteen months. Aside from day trips to Cocoa, New Smyrna, and Flagler beaches too numerous to count, we spent Sundays in Mt Dora, visited NASA four times, enjoyed a Renaissance Faire in Lady Lake, went to Tampa and Melbourne, and the Wekiva National Forest. We spent a long holiday week end in St Mary's and another in Savannah. We drove to Destin in the Panhandle and returned via the Big Bend area. We drove to Gainesville for an adoption party and Atlanta twice to visit with Danny's family. We went to Anna Maria Island for a wedding.

And then there were the even longer trips: North Georgia at Christmas, Asheville, The Blue Ridge Parkway tour, the Shenendoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Wonderful memories of misty mountain mornings and evening aglow with the flashing of lightning bugs. Arts and crafts, wild deer and bear and groundhogs, stunning vistas, living history museums, amazing Biltmore, hikes and river rambles, Fallingwater, the RV resorts with friendly staff and fellow campers, Jefferson's Monticello, climbing the Tybee lighthouse, caves, haunted restaurants, and rocky national monuments.

Road tripping provides endless opportunity to experience the unexpected and the offbeat, like a theme park named 'Foamhenge' or seeing a goose being walked like a dog on a leash along the seashore. Stumbling across historical homes and obscure museums and mascot dogs named Opie in a Virginia orchard store. Road tripping in an RV means you can change your plans at a moments notice and meander wherever the road leads, cause after all, your home away from home is always with you. And there's nothing better than showering and changing clothes at the beach in the vehicle you drove over in!

And maybe best of all, for us it means taking the dogs with us on our travels. We really enjoyed getting to know RV ing in our first one and I am excited about the adventures we are going to have in the second. More about the process of trade in and purchase of our second bigger RV in the next post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Arrgh! It all started out as simple curiosity. Labor Day week end was upon us and we wanted to do some out of the ordinary things and go somewhere in the Parakeet but it was still too darn hot to stay anywhere overnight with the dogs, even with a/c. So, I said, "Why don't we take a little day trip over to Tampa and Lazy Days and look at the 2011 Winnebago Vias?" We'd heard, you see, that they were putting out a new model with a slide out queen bed. Danny also swore that according to what he'd read on the online forums, the actual cost would be thousands of dollars under the listed prices.

So, off we went. The kindest thing to say when we saw the Via with the bedroom slide out is that we didn't exactly hate it. Almost but not quite. In order to keep the vehicle to 25 feet and accommodate the slide out bed, Winnebago had decreased the already small bathroom and small galley until both were essentially not usable. The only good thing about the vehicle was the bed. The price was steep for what you got: aside from the galley and sub microscopic bath, the sofa was smaller and there was a teensy portable dining table.

We looked at last year's convertible twin bed plan and it was pretty nice but not nice enough to tempt us from our present 2006 View at the price. So we went home, pretty content with the Parakeet.

Several days later though, a sales brochure arrived from a local dealer. In it was advertised a 31 foot diesel RV (made by Thor/Four Winds) called a Serrano at a price lower than the Via. Well, to make the story short, we went to see it. Of course, the dealer didn't have that particular plan. The one they had was 10K more expensive than the one on sale in the mail
out. But we looked, we fell in love with Serranos, we test drove the one on the lot, we drooled, we coveted, we put a deposit down on a similar model. Which has to be shipped to FL from New York.

So, that is how, I signed my life away on a new RV even though I wasn't planning to buy another one for several years yet. Now I can't think about anything else. I look at the pictures downloaded from the internet over and over and over, like a kid waiting for Santa.

I wasn't planning to get a bigger one, either. But, life happens doesn't it? Of course, I don't have the new one yet. Things can still go wrong. In the meantime, I will stop typing. And scroll through the pictures again.

Live long and prosper. Happy trails.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Twelve days of Dog Travel

If The Mutley Crew Wrote The Song (Twelve Days Of Christmas)...

A slow squirrel near an oak tree
two grooming gloves
three garbage cans
four wingless birds
five tugging rings
six geese on a platter
seven ponds for swimming
eight trails for walking
nine cats for chasing
ten frogs a leaping
eleven balls for catching
twelve chew-bones coming
and a slow squirrel near an oak tree...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On The Blue Ridge Parkway

We decided to spend our summer vacation driving the Blue Ridge Parkway on its 75th year of operation. Starting our Parkway experience at its beginning in the Smokies would have been backtracking for us, so we entered the parkway at Asheville after spending a delightful week end in that city.

We skipped the Visitors Information Center, since I already had several guidebooks in hand. Best one was, Best Of The Blue Ridge Parkway by Nye Simmons.

Our first stop on the Parkway was the Crafts Center a few miles up the road. This is worth a stop and I highly recommend it, although if you are really intent on shopping for mountain inspired arts and crafts I've not found anything better than the galleries and shops in downtown Asheville, Biltmore Village, and my very favorite at Groveland in Grove Park above Asheville.

The Parkway was an eye opener in many ways. First of all the stunning vitas and scenery, with a pull over viewing area every so many miles. Very soon after beginning our drive we saw a Black bear ambling across the road and disappearing into the underbrush at the shoulder. Our first day we pulled over and got out to take pictures at most of the overlooks but that became very time consuming after awhile and we began to be more discriminating as the trip went on in order to make mileage.

The speed limit along the two lane winding Parkway is 45 miles an hour which is about as fast as anyone could reasonably travel on the road. Often we had to go much slower, not because of the traffic we expected in summer that was actually nonexistent, but because of road conditions. We were warned about fog and mist rolling quickly in and it did. Visibility became very limited much faster than you would imagine. There are guardrails along the drop off side of the road but they are only about a foot and a half high and are wooden and would not stop a vehicle the size of our Winnebago from plunging over the mountains. There are no wide shoulders to pull over onto aside from the planned overlooks in case of breakdowns so anyone coming around the corners would indeed plow right into you. Pretty scary thought.

Picture this: there you are, tooling along looking out over the tree tops into valleys several thousand feet below, knowing that one misstep can send you plunging over the precipice. Then the fog rolls in without warning. You can see about five feet ahead, that's it. And this happened on a pretty regular basis.

Also there are no gas stations and no restaurants along the 450 mile Parkway with only several exceptions. There are a few state campgrounds with limited facilities. So, you really do need to plan ahead.

And remember, when the guide books say that something or other is only 35 0r 40 miles out of your way that's mountain travel not as the crow flies, so it takes a lot longer to get there than you'd suppose it would. The only real option for camping or sleeping is to get off the Parkway and go into the numerous small towns near the roadway for accommodations. That's okay, since nearly every exit has something interesting to see. We opted for Linville, NC where we toured the Linville Caverns and Natural Bridge, Va where we toured the Natural Bridge and adjacent Indian Village. Both of which we really enjoyed. Other exit points of interest in NC might be Grandfather Mountain, Boone, Vale Crucis, and Mt Airy (the real Mayberry RFD).

Its impossible to see everything in a few days but we really enjoyed Mabry Mill, The Orchards at Altapass, The Peaks of Otter and the Johnson farm, the Linville Viaduct, and Mt Mitchell (highest peak east of the Mississippi). We decided to skip the last 5o miles or so due to time constraints and drove through the Shenendoah Valley to Charlottesville Virginia to see Monticello which turned out to be one of the very best days of the trip.

We had no trouble finding campgrounds to stay in but did have trouble finding real full service grocery stores. Even convenience stores were few and far between. When you get excited about finding a Food Lion, you know you've been traveling the Parkway too long! Another creepy thing was that the internet and cell phone service was all but non existent in the mountains. You really feel cut off. Staying as we do in an RV without a satellite dish, we didn't even have the option of TV for news.

If I have any disappointment to report on this trip it might be that pretty much everything closed at 5 pm. Living in Florida where everything is open until mid to late evening in summer, it was hard to get everything that we wanted to see in by five. Especially since we are not early risers by choice. We were disappointed in the Parkway stop at Moses Cone Park. The Crafts Center was mediocre compared to the others we toured and the house tours of the mansion were very limited in times. We skipped stopping at Grandfather Mountain for this and that was a mistake. Pretty much everything else was a definite thumbs up!

All for now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On The Road With Mutley Crew, report 1

One of the reasons we got the Winnebago was so that we could travel with our three dogs. We discovered on our very first week end trip to the beach that three dogs in the 24.6 foot View was not going to work since one of the pooches turned out to be territorial and food aggressive in the confines of what is basically a one room kitchen/bedroom/pantry situation. Constant crating for Chili, the bossy blue heeler, was not an attractive option so we found a boarding kennel for her that she really enjoys.

Ah, Happy Paws. With a bone shaped salt water pool, outside play groups all day, private ball and pool time, indoor glass-doored spacious air conditioned and heated individual sleeping areas at bedtime with piped in soothing music what's not to like? And don't forget the grooming. This facility is located in East Orlando, near the University of Central Florida.

Our other two dogs, Abby and Ginny, got along perfectly on the RV and showed no signs of road stress so it seemed logical to board the third when we travel.

I'd done very little traveling fro a dozen or more years prior to purchase of the RV, partially because of my reluctance to be parted from my canine family, so I have little advice regarding hotels and car trips with dogs. The few occasions I experienced were pretty smooth: we stayed at dog friendly hotels in the La Quinta chain and stopped at highway rest stations for potty breaks when necessary. La Quintas (at least the ones we tried) welcome big and little dogs equally.

Once we began to take trips in the Winnebago we checked the books that list the campgrounds and noted that many listed in the Good Sam's Campgrounds guide book state that pet restrictions exist in many private and state campgrounds. We have not (as yet anyway) experienced this personally in our rambles through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Virtually no one asked when making a reservation what sort of pets we have or how many or what breeds they are. The only 'restrictions' listed on the campground brochures are regarding excessive barking, leash use and poop bags. All very reasonable. In fact, many of the campgrounds we visited have fenced in dog play areas, dog walk areas, and one in SC even converted a putt putt course to a dog agility course!

The KOA and JellyStone parks are very pet friendly and provide multiple amenities for dogs and their humans. We also noted that a majority of campers we encountered travel with multiple dogs of various sizes and some take their cats along. I've even seen a parrot or two.

Since our RV is small, we do not tow a car for sightseeing but use the RV as our main vehicle as well as hotel. We have had some minor parking issues here and there but not often and always have to be thinking of the dogs safety when we are sightseeing, but the upside of this is that they are always nearby to check on, not left behind in the campground all day.

We had a hard time street side parking in Savannah but found that if we parked in the train station lot we could walk to the main attractions in less than ten minutes. And since Savannah is very dog friendly the pooches could go with us. Ditto parking issues in Pittsburgh where there were only three campgrounds well outside the city proper as far as we could find. St Augustine was a hassle as well. But then, it would be a hassle for cars of any type to find street parking there. There is always a solution, sometimes you have to look for it awhile.

I highly recommend the collapsible food bowls available through Camping World stores which work splendidly for travel in RVs or cars and there is a plastic no spill water bowl that gets thumbs up from me. We have a sign on the window informing folks of pets inside, extra vents and fans installed for their comfort and they always travel in harnesses and tags and have been microchipped. From experience, I also recommend bringing extra leashes, having a wet/dry vac on board, and extra towels. Don't forget a dog first aid kit, medications, and vet shot record.

All for now. Happy tails.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation and before that

Pictures: (top to bottom) a mountain meadow view along Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway, at Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC scene along the parkway, Danny happy to be on Amelia Island for Memorial Day, on Destin Beach, at Knight's Templar Spring Convent in San Destin

Wow, I can't believe that we haven't posted anything here since February...its true that the year (2010) has flashed by at warp four, but really we've been remiss. Did you hear that Dan Dan? We're supposed to be talking about our RV ing travel experiences here, right? My excuse is that I've been writing a novel about the adventures (and travels) of a dragon. What's yours? LOL

We did take some interesting jaunts in the Parakeet (the Winnebago View) since I last posted: First, we went to the Panhandle of Florida in early March for my investiture as a Dame in The Sovereign Military Order of The Knights of Jerusalem (Knights Templar). Danny is already a Knight of the Priory of Holy Rood, which encompasses Georgia and Florida and part of Alabama. (This blog is not about the Knights but should you be wondering: despite the name it is a charitable organization not military these days) The ceremony was in a lovely little church near the sugar sand beaches in Destin and it was a bit of a tricky maneuver to get formally dolled up in expansive Templar capes in a 24 foot motor home but we managed pretty well.

We stayed for several days at the beautiful Topsail State Park Campground which has wonderful paved spaces with all the amenities one expects in a top campground, great bicycling and walking paths to the ocean and close proximity to restaurants and shopping. Thumbs up for staying there. The beach was stunningly beautiful and not crowded. Of course this was before the BP Oil spill. My heart and prayers go out to the people of the Panhandle today for their economic recovery and the ecological devastation that was suffered.

We took the long way home through the "Big Bend" area that follows the coast, which is listed by Readers Digest Books as one of the most scenic drives in America. It was indeed lovely, even if it took almost nine hours to reach Orlando again. We particularly enjoyed stopping at Carabelle Beach for lunch and a dog walk. Anytime a beautiful beach welcomes dogs, it gets my thumbs up!

Our next long week end trip was to St Mary's, Georgia and Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida over Memorial Day week end. We had a sort of mini family reunion with Danny's uncle and aunt, mother, sister, and cousins and this time we stayed at the Jacksonville North KOA. We enjoyed wandering the streets of the quaint little seaside town of St Mary's: the shops, historic buildings and museums, and sampled some pretty good seafood too. I can really recommend going to Ft Clinch State Park for picnics and swimming and a quick tour of the Fort itself. The beach was pristine, the water clear, and it was not crowded. Dogs were not welcome on the beach in Ft Clinch Park but they are permitted on the beach at Fernandina and nearby St Augustine.

For us, it was an easy three and a half hour trip from Orlando. We planned to stop in St Augustine but found parking in the historic area very difficult so opted to spend a couple hours on Flagler Beach instead. 63 pound hound, Ginny, encountered a grumpy ghost crab. Ginny backed away from the crab. It was an historic moment.

We opted out of going to Cumberland Island since the only way was by a smallish ferry that operated twice daily. No cars, trucks or RVs or dogs are permitted on the island. Relatives who went weren't too impressed. They reported that bicycling was hard going on the sandy paths, the flies were biting, the wild horses wouldn't come close and the resort ran everyone off that wasn't a paying guest there. We felt we made the right choice in spending the day in St Marys instead.

Our summer vacation trip in mid July was to Asheville NC, then The Blue Ridge Parkway, into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and SW West Virginia. This trip will be detailed in near future blogs with lots more pictures. For now, I will post several of my favorite pictures so you can get an idea of how beautiful the area was.

I will mention one issue we experienced on a the technical side on this trip. It was extremely hot in Virginia (100 degrees) and we had to leave the dogs in the RV for several hours in a fairly sunny spot while we toured Monticello. We were parked facing downhill and other RVs were parked quite close to us.

Of course, we put on the generator to run the A/C while we were gone! We always crack a window or two for emergency ventilation, run plug in and battery fans in several places on the RV and we have a ceiling fan in the bath area that automatically comes on if the a/c goes off in an emergency and the temp reaches a certain level. I thought that was probably enough back up to keep the dogs safe.

When we returned to the RV we heard an alarm going inside the unit. Dashing to open the door we hardly dared imagine what we might find wrong inside. My heart wanted to stop beating in dread but the dogs were at the door with wagging tails. Danny said the Carbon Monoxide alarm was on. I opened all the windows immediately to further ventilate but even though the alarm would not shut off neither the dogs or we seemed affected.

Once we left the lot, the alarm stopped. Here's what I think happened. The weird angle of sloped mountain parking and the proximity of the RV next to us meant that either their or our propane fumes were being sucked in our vented window. Fortunately, there was enough fresh air being circulated inside and out again by the small fans, the large bathroom ceiling fan and the other cracked window over the cab on the other side to save the dogs.

We are addressing this scary problem for future trips in every way we can since the dogs are our number one priority. I welcome suggestions from other RV enthusiasts and travel veterans however. Since many of the folks we see in the campgrounds and parks travel with dogs this has got to be solvable. Since one of the reasons we got the Winnebago was so the dogs could always be with us, we do not want to leave them at home.

If you want to hear a bout how I got lost for forty minutes in a SC campground in the dark, you will have to wait for the next post. But, I will be back very soon. I promise.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

What I learned on my Christmas vacation.

Photos: Savannah Square, Tallulah Gorge overlook, Dillard House restaurant, Tallulah Gorge steps, N. Georgia Blue Ridge mountains scene, Tybee island Lighthouse, FT Pulaski looking towards Hilton head, SC.

Things I learned on our recent (winter) RV trip to Georgia:

1.Savannah is one of the prettiest and most interesting cities in America, winter, spring, summer, or fall. Taking a self guided walking tour around the historic area is a great way to see the 20 squares. We downloaded a tour app on Danny's iPhone. Don't try to park your RV in the city. We parked at the train station on the edge (MLK Blvd) and walked. Less than ten minutes to the first square on the tour. The tour trollies depart from the same parking area too, so you can get one of those if you prefer to ride. I recommend that in summer.

2.Do not hoof it down to the bottom of Tallulah Gorge without water and an energy bar, especially if you have not done any cardio workouts in awhile. Goin' down, easy. Comin' up, not easy. I almost passed out.

3. I fell in love with the family style Georgia down home cookin' at the Dillard House, especially the country fried pork chops and fried okra. The country fried pork chops and okra did not fall in love with me, however. Acid reflux medicine recommended for those folks like me with Gerd.

4. The north Georgia mountains are beautiful any time of the year.

5. Tybee Island lighthouse complex and Tybee Museum/Ft Screvin across the street are well worth a couple of hours stop. Gift shop very good. Parking good. On cold windy days, climbing the 169 steps of the lighthouse is doable but the wind at the top is harrowing.

6. Ft Pulaski, between Savannah and Tybee is very interesting. Allow several hours at least. The nature trails next to the ft make a great hiking area and the whole place is dog friendly and dog accessible. Great for picnics.

7. Our Winnebago View did just fine in 20 degree cold weather. No issues.

8. Cold weather and rain and sleet are over rated. Grey skies over Atlanta during cold, rainy, sleety weather are vastly overrated.

9. Never dry your hair in an RV bathroom standing backwards while somebody drives the vehicle at high speed down a major Atlanta highway unless you want to spend the rest of the day with motion sickness.

10. pay attention to water levels when spending most of your overnights in somebody's driveway instead of hooked up to water in a campground.

PS: Didn't post pictures of them, but we also enjoyed hiking through Sweetwater State Park in Atlanta and spending a day at Stone Mountain. I particularly recommend visiting the plantation. Lots of opportunity in Stone Mt park for dog walking, too. Big Christmas hoopla there.

Any ideas for where we should go for our summer trip welcomed. No more than two days of driving from Florida preferred. TTFN Happy trails.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cold Weather RVing

Since I had a full week off from December 25th to January 3rd, Nancy and I decided do another week-long RV adventure. Our original plan was to visit my family in Georgia, then over to Asheville, North Carolina.

To prepare for this trip, I studied cold weather RVing in general, and really focused on any information I could find with regard to our model motorhome. Luckily, these little beasts hold up very well in cold weather. The furnace will heat up the entire coach in just a few minutes. I couldn't find any information where a water-line freeze cause damage. I think this is mostly because of the size and compactness of the units, and the construction of the water utility area. I did find a bunch of cold weather tips and tricks. Here are a few things I did to prepare
  • We found a hikers foam sleeping mat, put velcro on the corners, and velcroed it to the slideout wall. This kept whoever slept next to the slideout wall from getting too cold.
  • I cut out reflextics sheets to fit in all the Windows. While this is more of a hot weather tool, it did a good enough job.
  • I lined the outside electrical and water utility areas with reflectics. At night, I kept the 12 volt light on in the water utility. Even though it dipped into the 20's, the area never froze.
  • If we were plugged in, we kept the electric hot water heater on.
  • If it was under 32 degrees outside and we were stopped for a brief tour, we kept the furnace and hot water on.

Two weeks before the trip, Asheville got heavy snowfall. The RV park where we were going to stay was inaccessible, and the roads were just too dangerous to travel. Here's a picture of some people on our Winnebago View/Navion message board. This isn't our right, but it is the same model/color/year as ours.

Just looking at the picnic table will give you and idea of just how much snow there was. Even more fell on the area after this picture. Asheville was a no-go. Biltmore will have to wait for spring or summer. Maybe a 4-day weekend.

We left Florida on Saturday Morning, and drove all day to Lithia Springs Georgia, just a bit west of Atlanta. We parked in the driveway, and got some free electricity from mom.

We visited with my mother and sister, and my brother came with his kids to visit. It was really nice to see everyone again. We also took a hike at Sweet Water Creek State Park. Abby and Ginny loved that park. The new smells were so enticing to them, it was difficult to keep them under control.

Robin went with us to Stone Mountain State Park. The mountain looked the same, but not much around it looked like I remembered. The entire park had been redone for the 1996 Olympic Games, and it was much more a sport/recreation complex now. I actually like it better this way. When I was younger, it was more of a hangout spot. We visited the Antebellum plantation, and the shopping area where the train depot used to be.

We left moms and stayed at my brother, Mark's house. At least, we stayed in his driveway. By now, I'd learned to fill our water tank up whenever possible. Tuesday morning, we set out for Athens GA. We went in a back way, so things seemed a bit different for me. As we got on campus, I realized it wasn't just me. Campus was very different. Even Athens looked different. I was at UGA for a much shorter time than I would have liked. I miss it.

Nancy and I went to Tallulah Gorge.

After that, we headed to Dillard house for some good food.

We spent New Years Day in an insane, desperate attempt to get to my Grandmothers' New Years day lunch on time. Some communication difficulties, and Google Map showing the wrong address (wound up using Bing instead, and got the right address). My family is used to living there, and forget I haven't been there in 25 years, so I don't remember or recognize any of the roads.

With the weather getting worse, and the greyish atmosphere settling in on Atlanta, we decided to head to Savannah. Driving on I-16 in the early evening with rain, mist, and fog made for some good horror movie imaginations.

We got to Tybee Island around 8:30, got an excellent spot at the Rivers End Campground, and settle in.

We found a good place to eat, then went to tour around Savannah. Little did I know how much there was to see. I downloaded a really good Savannah Tour App for my iPhone, but only got to see about 10% of it. We'll make another trip soon, and send a few days going through the full tour. I was really impressed with Savannah, and saw why so many people fall in love with it.

We decided to start our journey back, with a few stops on the way out. First we went to Tybee Island Lighthouse. The Lighthouse History is very interesting, and the Fresnel Lens was fascinating. We also toured the Battery across the street.

A few miles down the road, we stopped at Fort Pulaski. Like Nancy said, don't expect a quick-through of this historic site. There's so much to see.

From there, we got home in about 5 hours, including several stops for the dogs to walk around for awhile.