Though not the type of excitement one would hope for, this day was full of excitement and a quaint reminder that God is in charge..
Rainy days never make a good travel day, so we packed up the muddy equipment, double checked all points of packing, and left Davison. There were four events that stuck out as extraordinary.
1) After 30 minutes of travel through terrible Flint roads, another driver stopped us. We had been dragging our sewer hose. The hose was hanging on by the last hook from the cylinder that housed it during travel. The hose and the clear 90 degree connection were totally in-tact!
2) Another few miles down the road, we realized our coffee was not in the truck. Mark stopped again and checked inside. The full coffee mugwas still sitting on top of the counter! After the roads we just traveled, we thought for sure we'd have quite a mess in there!
3) Upon arriving to our 'resort' we found out that we could only park on grass sites. It had just rained, and most spots were only 15amp, so we preferred one where we could utilize our solar for power. We found a site in the sun, checked it out and it seemed good enough. However, once Mark began backing up, the camper sunk VERY quick and he couldn't pull back out of it. We were stuck good! Within minutes, 5 guys from around the park came over to help. They had done this 3 other times this week, so they knew what to do. They hooked up 2 more trucks in front of ours, and easily pulled us out. Whew! No harm done, just muddy tires and a very rutted lawn.
4) The campground host told us to park on one of the seasonal sites with a cement pad. Upon parking at the last one available, we found out the 50a electric outlet was only running on 20a. Mark almost plugged in the camper directly, but just felt weird about it so he used the EMS power supply. Thank goodness, because the low power could have hurt our electrical system or the solar system.
By the time we settled into our camper after setup, we thanked God for His protection. We don't know what we'll do in this mosquito-infested area, but we do know that we are very Blessed to have had several people help us out in our time of need, and not have anything serious happen on this journey.
Experiences aren't always fun, but they are experiences. How we handle them makes all the difference in the world. :-)
Stay Details: Heartland Woods Family RV Resort; Stockbridge, MI
* Note: This is a location that is a nice little get-away with a few ammenities, but is more geared to family weekend campers. The larger sites are 30a with water, and some of the outer sites even have cement pads. However, they save the padded sites for longer term residents, so they ask travelers to use the inside grassy sites. However, as you see, the inner grassy sites are not good for rainy days. Be cautious of where you park.
There is a playground, putt putt course and swimming pool, along with tennis court, horse shoes, and a fishing pond. Most of these were not usable because of the rain, but provides some fun options for the kids when it's not raining. There is also an activity/game room that is pretty large.
Cumberland Point Campground is an Army Corps of Engineers campground. We have been wanting to stay at this place for quite some time, and it did NOT disappoint!
I must warn anyone who wants to book this place. BOTH the loop campground and the dead-end sites are very steep, with a sharp grade from road to site; which means you might have trouble with a 5th wheel hitting the truck. Use caution, and I would not recommend bringing any rig over 35' to any of these sites without knowing it will be a challenge to park.
With that said, we booked site #11 because I learned online that it was the best one with the lake view. Online, the site fits 40' rigs (we are 35'). Upon arriving, we were told that he didn't think we would be able to turn around at the end of the dead-end. So, we walked down, checked it out, and decided to give it a try.
Mark and I have been doing very good with communication on parking, so we had this! He turned wide, I watched his angles and limits, and radio'd findings. He took it slow, got the truck & camper at a little more than a 90 degree angle, and was clear to make the turn. The front corner barely touched our soft toneau roll. He straightened it back up the hill, then backed in with ease. Within 10 minutes, we had the rig unhooked, leveled and slides out.
In the meantime.... Upon arriving, two guys came out of the woodwork looking at the size of our camper. I think they made fun of us even thinking of trying it. Once we got in to try it, they told us "we haven't looked at all the sites yet", and continued on down the hill to where we were going. Like every RVer, we all watch the newbies coming in to see how things are done. Perhaps we silenty wait for that 'oopsie' to happen while feeling proud we would 'never' make that mistake! LOL!!
Anyway, as we were making that turn, they watched in awe, as they had previously told us that we would NEVER be able to make the turn. Mark and I worked in precision without their help, as we made the turn in one try, then backed in one try. I just smiled at them and said "See, you can do anything if you remain positive about it".. I think they left with their tails between their legs. Ha!
So here we are, on an absolute perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold. Very little breeze, and an awesome lake view and the sounds of waves gently hitting the shores below. Mark rode up to buy wood, and was told by the park manager that we could forage whatever we wanted! Wait, what???? When do we ever hear that? So Mark went to work foraging, and he had a 3' tall pile of wood in no time! He even got to use his new toy (a Makita circular saw)! Before long, dinner was sizzling on the griddle, the fire was crackling, and the birds were serenading us with their song.
We would recommend this campground only if you are brave enough to park your rig from an angled road, LOVE beauty, and love the peace and quiet. There are 2 bath houses which also have showers, and are nicely kept. The entire grounds are kept clean and nice by Army Corps personnel, and I must say, this is one of the best places we've been to (barring the fear of the unknown). Yes, site #11 is the absolute best. It's own peninsula and overhang toward the water. But there are plenty of other beautiful sites here too, so no many which you choose, you cannot lose. Each site also comes with 50amp and water hookups, with a dump station at the exit.
On the 2nd night entering a beautiful, quiet evening, we suddenly had neighbors. We don't mind neighbors, and most of the time even get to be friends with them. However, we cut our night short when the mom kept yelling at her kid all night, so loud that I think the entire campground could hear her. Nightie night. An early departure sounds promising at this point. Ha!
Told by the park secretary about the must-see elk herd in the nearby Cataloochee Valley, we headed out first thing in the morning in hopes to see a LOT of these promised elk.
After an 7-hour day of driving and touring the paved and unpaved curvy roads of the Smokies, we did not see any elk, but we did see some beautiful scenery, historical locations, and learned a lot about the area's history.
Here are some of the area highlights:
- Cataloochee Valley: 10 miles of steep curvy roads with beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Most of this area is unpaved, but the roads were relatively cared for and in good condition. I passed over 3 old one-lane bridges, and saw several old homesteads that were built in the 1800's. Sorry, no elk on our trip, even though we heard they are often seen eating along the roadside.
- Gatlinburg: Drove the narrow northern road up to Gatlinburg. We didn't make the stop here because we had Pica, but we will definitely be back to enjoy the shopping and sites. Some of the super cool things in the area are the sky bridge (via chair lifts) & Anakeesta Mountain Park. The downtown shops are amazing for those who like browsing, and there are tons of food options in the area too.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: Just outside of Gatlingburg, this one-way car trail is a definite must-do when you're in the area. Several 1800's homesteads remain in the area and are fully open for people to browse through. There are 2 picnic areas near the river, and there are many walking trails ranging from ADA short to strenuous 8 mile trails and more! Many of these trails take you to beautiful waterfalls.
Overall, just get out and see this beautiful nature! The trip through the Smoky Mountain NP was pretty short itself, but you can always add adventures on your trip to fit your dreams.
This trip and MANY more out west were much more educational due to the JUST AHEAD app. This app follows along on your journey, and tells you about the area, the history and what's expected. We just LOVE this app!
Stay Details: Pride Resort, Waynesville, NC
Note: This is a small campground resort that is nestled on the banks of the Pigeon River. It is small, pretty tight together, and have a few small ammenities like a pool (not currently open), putt putt and community center. They have benches beside the water which we really loved
We didn't post much for April because we had a good amount of down time at Myrtle Beach. Mark gave the truck a break job and tune-up, so she's ready to cross the mountains. The rig got a cleaning overhaul and some new carpets & kitchen upgrades.
God has really Blessed us at Briarcliffe with the friendship of an older couple. Mark dug right in and helped work on their tv. They ended up going to Best Buy together the next day and buying a new one. WOW, the difference in the new 43" 4k TV compared to their old 17" tube TV was an amazing transformation, and made Richard VERY happy! We spent most of the day teaching them how to use the new technology, including email! It was almost like adopting parents, and they told us they were going to adopt us as their kids. Ok! :-) They are even going to take a 2 hour drive to the next place we're staying (their home park), so visit with us for the day. :-)
Through our converstaions at the parks, we have decided to get involved with ROAM, a Christian RV ministry that is 'there where you need them". Like the SOWERS ministry we joined, ROAM also helps camps with needed projects, but they are also involved with disaster relief, which is something we both have a passion for being involved in. Stay tuned on more details with this.
- As many know, Myrtle Beach is a HUGE beach party destination. Since we don't party, it ended up being pretty boring. However, there is a LOT of tourist attractions around if you'd like to catch some dinner shows, aquariums, Ripley's museums and parks. We saw Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage, and it was spectacular!
- For bike riding enthusiasts, Myrtle Beach was not the destination to go. There were very few bike trails, and most of those were mostly on main road sidewalks. There were no trails paralelling the ocean.
- For dog owners. Myrtle Beach is a dog-owners paradise. From October-April, dogs are allowed on all the beaches, so you AND your pooch can enjoy the awesome beach and beautiful sunrises. From May - September, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9am and after 5pm.
Stay Details: Briarcliffe RV Resort - Myrtle Beach, SC
* This park is part of the Coast to Coast resort parks that we joined last year. It was a good destination, being it was close to the beach, close to stores, and had some amenities for visitors. The park also accepted some mail delivery for us, which was really nice. We enjoyed walking to the pond just about every night and sitting with the ducks.
Our final stay at Bee's Resort this year was with our friends Bill & Marilou.. After being together since California, we have met up several times during our travels, and will now be parting ways for a while. It was a bittersweet stay, as we really enjoyed spending time with them, but we also had to say our "See Ya Later's".
A visit to Silver Springs did not disappoint. It is the world's largest fresh water springs, and several movies were shot here, including the original "Tarzan" movie series and "I Spy" just to name a few. We would highly recommend a visit here. They have glass bottom boat tours, kayak rentals, and many trails you can bike and hike. We finished the visit with a surprise view of the Starlink launch which was 90 miles away!
Stay Details: Bee's Resort; Clermont, FL
* This time, they allowed us to stay in a regular campsite which was very pretty and across from our friends. Bee's is a nice resort, with a swimming pool that was open (and warm), a walking trail and shuffleboard.
Maria reserved this campground for the last 2 days on her spring break. It had 50a and water at all sites, was mostly waterfront sites, and absolutely beautiful!
The next day, Maria's friend gave her tickets to Seaworld for all of us, so we enjoyed the day there! It was extremely busy, but we all had a great time.
Stay Details: Trimble Park, Mt. Dora, FL
* This campground is an absolute beautiful campground that has mostly large waterfront sites, and a beautiful serene environment. The bath house was clean, and the playground was small yet very nice. It was a little tight getting around with a bigger rig, but we made it with no problem. We will definitely stay longer next time we come here.
During our stay at Long Pine Key, we met up with Maria, Steve & the kids. It was great to see them after a year of traveling!
After resting and working on her camper for a day, we visited Wooten's Airboat tours. We bought the package which included the airboat ride, swamp buggy ride andgator park. The airboat ride was phenomenal!! Buggy ride.. Not so much. It was still fun being all together though.
The next day we all went to Key West. Visited John Pennekamp State Park and took a kayak tour and small hike. Mark had to work on his class halfway to Key West, so we found good cell signal, and the kids went on their way. They went shopping in downtown, then we met up again to get our pictures taken at the Southernmost Buoy.
We visited the beach, the kids swam in the ocean, and we found a spectacular sunset! After that we satisfied our hunger at a Mexican Restaurant.
Stay Details: Long Pine Key Campground; Homestead, FL:
* This is a beautiful campground nestled inside the Everglades State Park. The sites are dry camping only (no hookups), and are spaced pretty far apart. The kids parked oposite of us, and we were close enough to comfortably share the picnic table and refrigerator. We were also right next to the bath-house, so it was convenient for everyone.
* We walked the Anhinga Trail in the morning, and we saw a large alligator, and many Anhinga's along the way. It was a nice short trail for the kids.
* The only problem we had was some other campers were screaming at eat other until 2am, but the rangers were quick to take care of the problem in the morning.
Well what do you do when you suddenly find out that the Starlink Falcon9 is scheduled to launch in the morning? Well drive to the coast and wait 9 hours for the launch, that's what!
That's exactly what we did when Mark suddenly found out that Starlink postponed their recent flight and it was now scheduled for the morning! On a whim, we decided to head 2 hours east, find any location we could, and to wait until the launch at 3:13am. We planned out a dark park location which we later got kicked out of, then moved to the roadside location where we walked down next to the water and enjoyed each others company while we waited; about 15 miles straight west from the launch pad. We did manage to get a few hours of sleep during the night, and Pica was very well behaved during this crazy night.
The launch itself was spectacular! The SpaceX live broadcast playing in the background; the rumbling of the boosters; the ground shaking from the mighty thrusters that were lifting 60 more satelites into space.. It was just awe-inspiring and emotional to say the least. I don't know why it got to us that way, but maybe it had something to do with the meaning of the mission.
Twenty-four years ago, we took our honeymoon trip to Orlando. We watch a Space Shuttle launch then too! Now after these many years, Shuttles no longer fly. Instead, reusable rocket boosters send up satelites that promise to bring world-wide Internet and communications; our future. This launch was the 76th safe landing return of the first stage booster Falcon9.
Everyone should try to see a rocket launch some time in their lives, but this night was was absolutely spectacular. Watch the 3-minute video to see the entire thing. It gets blurry, but straightens up around the 1:10 minute mark.
We left our previous location early so we could tour the area and park closer to the beach. Most of Florida State Parks are full this time of year, so we used a new resource called "WanderingLabs" which search campgrounds for openings due to cancelations. So, I put in my request for 3 different campgrounds around the Panama City area, and within an hour we had an opening at this park! I had 15 minutes to reserve it, and we were in!
During our stay here, we rode our bikes on the trails, visited the beach, and enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. This is a definitely a park that you should put on your ToDo list if you are in the area. It is absolutely gorgeous and well kept!
Stay Details: Topsail Hill Preserve Campground - Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Site #35. Our site had a broken cement pad, so it was difficult to get the camper up there without hurting any tires. We did a great job as a team once again, and we were situated in no time! Before heading out on the bikes, Mark worked on some class work. Before long, he was ready to relax and ride the trails.
Before dinner, we left Pica in the rig and went to the beach. We arrived shortly before sunset, and were able to get some awesome photos!
There are NO bad sites at this park from what we can see, and this park is very well maintained and clean. We highly recommend this campground if you are in the area. The walk to the beach was .9 miles, and the pool was closed due to Covid.
We reserved Hueco Tanks over a month ago, and we were excited about this visit because of the petroglyphs in the area and many remnants of the native american people that once lived here. It is also a dark sky area, and rich with wildlife.
This site was named from the many huecos ("whey-coes") that form in natural rock basins within the mountain. There is a lot of imagery left by the ancient people, and even a good amount of small hikes that are rich with history. There is even a hike that requires hanging on to a chain in order to get to the top!
The campground itself houses 20 campers, both small and large. We have a beautiful spot, but site 15 is probably the prettiest, with trees and a shaded picnic area.
If you book this area, make sure you book a guided tour well in advance, as they were all sold out when I called to reserve our campsite. If you need to wait in line to get in for a pass, arrive early, as they are only handing out 70 per day right now.
The Hike: The next day, we were in line for another hiking pass at 7:30am. Had breakfast, then headed out to the hardest hike first called the chain hike. We had to use chain to climb about 250ft onto North Mountain. We took it slow, used the chain, and explored some awesome mountains, huecos and rock caves.
After lunch and a quick rest, we took off to the other hikes in the afternoon and found a REALLY beautiful in-rock cave that accended through many more slot canyons and climbs. Mark explored this a lot more, and the walk was awesome!
We returned home tired and sore, but full of beautiful memories.. :-)
Site Details: Hueco Tanks Campground; Site # 001. (31.918863, -106.036933)