Trimble County Park, Mount Dora, FL

For our first stop in Florida we needed a place in the central part of the state to facilitate picking up a relative from the Orlando International Airport.  In this general region, I prefer the areas to the North of Orlando. We have stayed at several state parks (Blue Springs, Wekiva), in the Ocala National Forest (Alexander Springs), with relatives (Geneva) and at a private resort (Wekiva Falls.)  While we enjoyed all of them, we wanted to try something different this time, and online research led me to the tiny campground at Trimble Park in Mount Dora.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset over Lake Carlton at Trimble County Park

Set in a beautiful lakeside setting with only 15 sites, it is tough to get into on the weekends.  We made reservations for one weekday night, hoping to extend through the weekend:  Trimble County Park is one of those that maintains a “hold back” of a couple of sites specifically for walk ins.  The plan was to arrive in the early afternoon on Thursday and at that point ask for one of the walk in sites through the weekend.   Though each site has only electricity and water, there is a dump station on the grounds, and the price is right: $23 per night, $18 for seniors or country residents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our site at Trimble Country Park. Spacious, level and plenty of green.

We were fortunate that there were only two other spots occupied upon our arrival and neither of hem had asked for the walk in spots for the weekend, so we were set for a three day stay, plenty of time to do a full set up of our campsite and get to know our new RV a bit better.  We picked up Aunt Linda on the second day allowing the three of us to enjoy both Trimble County Park and the very neat town of Mount Dora.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pad Kee Meow loved this place, lots of lizards.

The park is fantastic, huge oak trees throughout, the majority of the sites directly on edge of one of the big lakes, very well maintained facilities, and plenty of space between spots.  We saw gator, raccoons, about a billion squirrels, and plenty of bird life.   It is Florida in a forested area, so biting insects had to be managed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also took a day trip over to Blue Springs, a state park at which we stayed in 2014.  The parks main claim to fame, aside from having a very large, crystal clear, fresh water spring, is that it is a major winter gathering spot for manatees.  Around 90 were present during our visit.

Mount Dora was great as well.  Any time of the year it is a nice place to visit because of all the antique and art galleries.  The town holds several very large antique shows each year, and the historic section of town is a great place to walk, window shop, and eat.  During the winter holidays, its even better, with plenty of lighted decorations and events.  Our visit was timed perfectly: we attended the Christmas in the Park evening event complete with live music and even snow sledding for the kids despite the hot Florida weather.

We took most of our meals at the campground, but we did splurge for one dinner downtown when we stumbled across a place that had lobster rolls, one of Linda and my favorites.  We had discussed that since we were already on tap to pick up Aunt Linda as well as see my son, daughter-in-law, mom and stepdad, this trip through central Florida was to be a bit low key; we did’t even tell all of our friends in the region that we were coming.  IMG_6571

At dinner we mentioned how embarrassed we would be if we ran into our friends Anthony and Anita, but having passed through the crowded Christmas celebration without seeing them, and now safely ensconced in an out of the way and tiny restaurant, there would be no real risk of that.  Doh!  No sooner had we ordered than we heard, in a distinctive New York accent, “Is that Rosie? And is that Jack?”  Sure enough, there were Anthony and Anita, with relatives on their way to the restaurant directly upstairs.  We love you guys, and will catch you and everyone else we missed in central Florida in the Spring at the latest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On our last morning, an hour or two before departure my son, mom and stepdad came by.  We had kept the news of our new RV a secret until we could at least show immediate family.  IMG_6594

This is definitely a place we would like to come back to, perhaps during our movement north this spring. IMG_6598

 

Advertisements

Our New RV, Serenity

So, as you read with no doubt growing sympathetic despair, our mechanical follies continued even after leaving Wilmington, resulting in another break down and the assessed need of yet another transmission rebuild.  And as a result of the absurd frequency, severity, and costs of our continuing mechanical problems, we have decided that we can no longer full time RV in The Big Kahuna.   The transmission rebuild is in progress, i.e. the tranny was pulled and shipped to Pioneer Transmission Services in Illinois.  Once rebuilt, shipped back to Charleston, reinstalled and op-tested, the bus will be up for sale.

We made that decision a couple of days into our extended stay in Charleston as the severity of the problems became clear.  There followed an aggressive internet search for a modern, lightly used motorhome somewhere in the southeast coastal region, ideally in South Carolina or Florida.  I looked at a hundred or more listings before finding something that looked close to ideal right in Charleston at a small used motorhome specialist, Best Pre-Owned RVs, run by brothers Josh and Chris.

We looked at the prime candidate along with the rest of their inventory, honestly liking the one that brought us in better than even the more expensive options they had.  We made the deal that day for our 2007 Four Winds Hurricane 34S with only 12,000 miles on it.  90 pictures available at that last link.  She is 35 feet long, has three slide outs, a bullet proof Ford V-10 Triton engine, automatic leveling, and all the modern comforts of a home that we never got around to installing, fixing, or upgrading on The Big Kahuna.  02

Josh has carved out a nitch in the highly competitive used RV market by focusing on complete refurbishment and readiness of his used inventor. Thus, even if we had handed him the check that day he would not let us take the RV until he had completed his full system checks and associated repairs, something that usually takes him two weeks.  We bargained it down to six days, and he turned it over to us in five.03

We bolted south, stopping for one night in Golden Isles RV Resort in south Georgia on the Passport America 50% discount rate before crossing the border into Florida and turning somewhat inland towards Mount Dora and the hidden jewel of Trimble County Park for a four day stay.

05

Don’t call Josh about this one, we already bought it.  Check the rest of his inventory and get your own.

It was a relief to drive a motorhome that started when we tuned the key and went forward when we put it in gear, plowing up hills and bridges without difficulty even with Loki dragging behind.  She will hold 70 mph up steep hills, merely dropping out of overdrive to maintain speed.  Kahuna would have been down in low gear struggling up the incline at 25 mph.  13

The biggest drawback to the new RV, Serenity, vs The Big Kahuna is how much less rugged it is.  All fiberglass and plastic panels, we have to be much more careful backing it in or making tight turns, having to pay much closer attention to branches and posts and rocks that Kahuna would have knocked out of the way with nothing more than a snicker and scracthed paint.  The new RV will crunch body panels if subjected to some of the things we did to Kahuna.  34

OK, that might not actually be the biggest drawback.  Perhaps bigger is the lack of any cool factor: no one is gonna come over to tell us how awesome our RV is, no one still stop us at gas stations to ask questions or give us the thumbs up as we drive through town.  Serenity is typical, not cool, but you can’t live in cool; we tried for a year.  31

Now, instead of cool, a bigger living space, modern conveniences, the ability to climb hills without worry, and the calm sense of serenity that comes from reliability.

A Final Straw: yet another breakdown, and time for a change.

Though Kahuna had made it 180 miles to Charleston without incident, he broke down hard within 15 miles of our departure from James Island County Park.  We were on a back road coming to an intersection when once again the bus would not downshift and subsequently stalled.  I pulled over to the side as far as possible but still blocked most of the lane.

Walking the cat, waiting to hear an update on the bus.

Walking the cat, waiting to hear an update on the bus.

I stepped outside to direct traffic around us, and within a minute a family in a large pick up pulled in front of me and offered to tow me into the gas station directly across the street.  He didn’t bat an eye at the weight of the bus, simply directed his teenage son to get the rope out of the bed, and connected me up.  I started Kahuna in the hopes of that his forward pull would prevent me from stalling, and perhaps even allow me to get it out of gear.  It worked for the former but not the latter, and within a minute I was out of the traffic flow and parked in the side lot of the gas station.IMG_3863

I set up the generator and worked with the transmission as best I could, but it seemed clear that another tow was in the works.  I called Progressive, they took all the information and worked on finding a tow that could handle us while I researched and called around for a big truck mechanic shop willing to take us on.  I stumbled across W.W. Williams almost immediately, the official Allison shop in the area.  They agreed to have us come in, and fortunately also recommended a tow company which was able to pick us up within an hour, far faster than the five hour estimate that Progressive’s initial choice could promise.

Cat loose in the lobby of one of our mechanic's shops.

Cat loose in the lobby of one of our mechanic’s shops.

SO once again we found ourselves sitting in the back parking lot of a major truck repair shop, waiting to here the verdict, holding our breathes in the hope that it would be something minor, or at least something that this shop could fix.  They weren’t able to get to us on day one, but by the middle of our second day they had checked transmission levels and researched our tranny model, coming to the conclusion that the problem, whatever it might be, was beyond their knowledge.  It was a big frustrating to have the official Allison shop turn down repairs on our Allison transmission, but they didn’t charge us for the limited work they did, and let us stay in their lot for the two nights.  So once again we were on the hunt for a mechanic.

Our partially hidden stealth camping site just outside of General Diesel's property.

Our partially hidden stealth camping site just outside of General Diesel’s property.

After a few calls I stumbled across General Diesel, just a couple of miles down the road, and they promised a more aggressive attempt at getting us fixed.  During our overnight stay at W.W. Williams, the pressure had drained off of the transmission control and I was able to start the bus and idle it in turbine.  With General Diesel only a couple of miles away, I was able to drive there in low gear, keeping our speed below 25 on the mostly back roads.

Kitty not happy when a tow truck put a broken school bus right beside us for the night.

Kitty not happy when a tow truck put a broken school bus right beside us for the night.

And there began a five day odyssey of tests and research, with the young mechanic, Robbie, giving it his best, and me finding him technical assistance from recommendations I received on the Bus Nut forum.   Dropping the pan he found what he thought to be significant clutch material.  Flushing all that out, he ran pressure tests in accordance with the process Brandon from The Ghost Bus blog recommended.  We looked at upgrading the transmission entirely to the next model, and received significant multiple phone tech assists from Gary out at Pioneer Transmission Services in Illinois.FullSizeRender

My hope of getting the bus fixed enough to nurse back to Florida where we could deal with the problems under less pressure faded.  It became clear that the transmission was going to have to be removed and shipped to an expert; Gary agreed to take it on.   This would be the second rebuild within a few months.  Hopefully we can get it done right this time, document the damage, and perhaps even get some of the money back from the place that did it this fall, though I am not holding my breath on that last account.

The Big Kahuna made it to all of these states, but just couldn't quite get us back around to Florida to end the year.

The Big Kahuna made it to all of these states, but just couldn’t quite get us back around to Florida to end the year.

So we will fix the bus, but looking at the bigger picture, this is it for us.  We can’t keep full time RVing in The Big Kahuna.   We kept telling ourselves that things would get better as we repaired system after system, and that we were still finding the gremlins from the years that the bus sat up uncared for.  But the truth is that our breakdowns are actually getting closer together, and we lack the expertise to properly get this old bus up to reliable running condition.   Even this state of affairs might be workable if it wasn’t so had to find anyone to work on all but the most basic problems.

Over the last couple of months we had resolved to just get the bus back to South Florida, and during the winter we would reassess our plans.  Now that reassessment has been pushed forward, and we have decided two things:

  1. Once repaired, The Big Kahuna goes up for sale.
  2. We are NOT done full time RVing, we just need something more reliable but still affordable.

So we spent a portion of our time in the General Diesel’s parking lot using their guest wifi to research our options, and then we took action.  The results next post.

Coming full circle: Taking the Big Kahuna back to James Island County Park, his first RV Campground

Following additional extravagantly expensive and time consuming repairs in Wilmington, we continued our journey south.  The “new” starter worked great, Kahuna roared to life with no hesitation.  Triple T readily admitted that any transmission work was beyond them, only helping to verify sufficient fluid levels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Things felt relatively solid as we began the 180 mile journey, with the transmission giving only a slight bit of hesitation on a couple of shifts before settling down into smooth operation.  Relieved, we crossed the border into South Carolina and worked our way to the coast east of Charleston.IMG_6372

We pulled into James Island Country Park, the first place we ever took Kahuna, in the mid afternoon.  The park was as beautiful as we remembered, with the added bonus of a hundred or more sponsored Christmas displays prepared along the park’s circular route as part of their Festival of Lights.  IMG_6360

Our admittedly overpriced nightly stay allowed us to avoid the $15 per vehicle charge to explore this seasonal light show.  The mosquitos were pretty aggressive, so we were only able to explore the evening light show from Loki rather than our bikes, but it was still a great stay.IMG_6373

Thanksgiving in Wilmington while The Big Kahuna gets a “new” starter

We headed back to Wilmington after our visit to Norfolk, arriving a day before my Mom’s Red Red Wine Birthday bash, a themed event based around the song of that name.  A couple dozen of Mom and Tim’s local friends attended what turned out to be a fantastic party.  In the days leading up to it Tim had recorded a background track of the UB40 version of Red Red Wine and sent out modified lyrics to all attendees. With a properly positioned microphone he recorded the entire group singing it through two takes, preserving what is no doubt a musical masterpiece.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Suitably lubricated by drink and fine food, a handful of the party goers lingered long after, enthusiastically performing a variety of hits, accompanied by Tim’s guitar and assisted by a couple of us furiously pulling up lyrics on smart phones to get everyone beyond the first verse and chorus.

The next day was not the usual after party downtime, we had a Thanksgiving feast to prep.   I had volunteered to do the turkey, having a few years of experience with doing so from Rosemarie and I hosting Thanksgiving for much of the last decade at our Miami Beach condo.IMG_6318

I follow an Alton Brown recipe learned from NPR years ago, which starts with at least a 24 hour full submersion in a cold brine made of salt, brown sugar, and spices.   A few hours before meal time I remove it from the brine and work melted butter mixed with herbs between the meat and the skin of the breasts and thighs.  Then we cut out the backbone, turn it over, break the breast bone, and splay it out on a large pan.  This process is called spatchcocking, and it cuts the cook time in half since you have a much larger surface area, and generally solves the problem of cooking the dark and light meats evenly.   Into the oven for somewhere between 80 and 120 minutes, starting at high heat for 20 or so then dropping to medium for the rest.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Add to the turkey the mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, stuffing, broccoli, gravy, and it was quite the feast.  We hope to repeat the joy of such evens many times in the coming years of travel.

The Purple Contingent out on the Wilmington Riverwalk.

The Purple Contingent out on the Wilmington Riverwalk.

 

A cat-centric view of our Norfolk pre-Thanksgiving visit

A bit anxious about yet another breakdown, tow, and pending mechanic bill, we soldiered on towards Norfolk and a three day stay with Titi Linda and Tio Primo Jayson.  Linda is Rosemarie’s aunt, though since she is actually younger the relationship is almost reversed as to who is the aunt and who is niece.  Linda’s husband, Jayson, is still in the navy, approaching the end of his long, varied, and successful career.  We visited them earlier this year in London while they were temporarily assigned there for a season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Titi Linda and Pad Kee Meow, Behind the Red Curtain.  Sucia

Because of the latest bus drama we got a much later start towards Norfolk than planned, but after nearly five hours we made it safe and sound. Pad Kee Meow spent the entire time on Rosemarie’s lap.IMG_3881

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Precious and Pad Kee getting to know each other.

While in Norfolk we hung out with Rafael and Deanna, Linda and Jayson’s close friends and the parents of their godchildren.  Pad Kee Meow got to know Precious, their wonderfully loving and tolerant dog.  The entire weekend was a food fest with lasagna, pernil, and pastelles, along with an extravagant engagement with Jayson’s collection of Scotch, Bourbon, and Irish Whiskey.IMG_3873

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After too short a time we headed back south towards Wilmington and our planned feast with my mom and stepdad.  For much of the last decade Rosemarie and I hosted Thanksgiving, having claimed that holiday for ourselves since no one else seemed keen on it.  During those years, and despite the stress of it, we had grown quite fond of the entire event, preparing a full and multi-course meal for up to 17  family and friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we are full time RVing we don’t get to host the Thanksgiving, but this year I would at least get to prep my awesome salt-brined and spatchcocked turkey for our four person intimate gathering.  More to follow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Can we make it 62 Miles to Wilmington for repairs?

So, we spent two days relaxing at Carrolwoods RV Park and the Grateful Sisters Vineyard before heading towards Wilmington, planning to drop off The Big Kahuna at the place from which we bought him.  We hoped to arrange for a mechanic to look at the starting and unusual transmission issues during the week he spent there.  I mean, so long as the bus started Friday morning we should have no problems getting him the 62 miles to a safe resting spot.  So holding our breaths, and with a bit of starter fluid sprayed into the engine to give us an edge, we turned the key and vrooom, he roared to life with no hesitation.  Whew.

So off we went, frustrated that we were still having problems we thought resolved from our numerous and expensive stays in various mechanic shops, but relieved that we would make it to Wilmington were we could safely get the latest issues examined.  That combined sense of frustration and relief lasted 22 miles before the relief part washed away.  As we approached the stop light at the Main St intersection in Shallotte, Kahuna refused to downshift, I didn’t catch it time to pull into the turn lane, and we stalled, blocking one of the two through lanes.  Damn it.IMG_3860

We had been through this drill before, and despite the stress and half blocked major thoroughfare I hoped that with a bit of cooling off and pressure relief on the transmission we could get moving again.  Alas, no. With a deputy sheriff soon on scene, we needed to fish or cut bait: get started now or call for a tow.  So once again I was on the phone with Progressive’s road side assistance subcontractor, amazed that they were still taking our calls, arranging for a tow while also furiously Googling and calling around for a big engine truck specialist that could deal with our problems.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Three hours later we were under tow towards Triple T Trucking in Wilmington.  Rosemarie followed in Loki, while I shared the ride with the tow truck driver, a talkative and enthusiastic believer in pretty much every conspiracy theory every known.  I get sucked into such conversations on a surprisingly regular basis, and I did my best to counteract some of the, er, more colorful opinions from him.  And he was, to his credit, really willing to listen and absorb contrary opinions.  At one point, after a particularly imaginative theory he tossed out at me, he stated “You probably think I’m crazy, right?”  “Not at all,” I replied, “I don’t think you’re crazy, I just disagree with pretty much everything you have said.”    IMG_3863

So we dropped off Kahuna at Triple T, signed some paperwork, and within the hour loaded up Loki for the four hour ride to Norfolk to visit or relatives Linda and Jayson for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration.

 

Carrollwoods RV Park at Grapeful Sisters Vineyard

After departing Columbia, South Carolina, we headed generally towards Wilmington.  We were, for once, ahead of schedule so we thoght we might stop at some convenient half way point.  The latest version of our ever changing plan was to drop off The Big Kahuna at Wilmington RV and continue on to Norfolk, VA in Loki, spend a couple of days with relatives, then come back to Wilmington to celebrate my Mom’s birthday and Thanksgiving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we cruised down some of the back roads we seemed to be having an unusual amount of difficulty transitioning from low gear (turbine) into second gear (direct).  Then I noticed the transmission temp rising above the comfort zone so we pulled over and cut the engine.  I did a visual inspection and checked the transmission fluid level, which looked low. Getting an accurate fluid level in these old Allison’s requires checking it within a few seconds of cutting the engine, but given our history of leaks I went with “it looks low” and added two quarts.  After waiting a bit for the temps to cool, we started up and headed off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh wait, that would be too easy.  What actually happened is we attempted to start up and head off, and we didn’t even get a click out of the engine. We had been noticing an increasing reluctance to turnover of late, something different than the problem we experienced in Nebraska.  Then the engine would turn over but just not catch.  We resolved that problem with some new fuel check valves.  The newer problem was the engine would not turnover at all, suggesting an electrical rather than a fuel or mechanical problem.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Usually, lately, this meant that it took a couple of tries to get things started.  Today however, fifty tries did nothing.   After the fourth or fifth attempt I pulled out the generator and battery charger hoping it was something as simple as dying starter batteries.  But even with the batteries registering fully charged, Kahuna just wouldn’t turn over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were on back roads, which meant no Flying J, Pilot, or Love’s was likely to be nearby, but we had at least stumbled across the one spot that had a wide pull out in an otherwise shoulderless stretch, and the lot we were in front of did not have a residence on it, so we were at least safe, secure, and unlikely to get hassled.  After a couple of hours of twiddling our thumbs, The Big Kahuna decided we had waited long enough and fired up on something like the 51st start attempt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Breathing a sigh of relief, we immediately decided two thing: we would stop for the day at the nearest affordable RV park, and we would arrange for a mechanic in Wilmington to look at the two issues we were having with the bus during the week we would be local.  While idling beside the road we checked Passport America’s website and found a great deal on a quaint RV park half an hour away.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carrollwoods RV Park is associated with the Grapeful Sisters, a family owned vineyard producing a range of wines from what we would later learn is the only actual domestic grape in the US, the muscadine.   We pulled onto their property and it was instantly rewarding, like we had arrived at close relative’s home.  The RV park is situated on a beautiful piece of property in Tabor City, NC, and has been owned by the same family for at least seven generations.  It has an inn, a tasting room, a nicely wooded RV park, a huge dog run, a duck pond, and the family’s three lovely, home schooled and always barefoot children are generally running about.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We parked, hooked up, cleaned up, and headed straight for the tasting room, where the Grapeful Sisters, Amy and Sheila, gave us one of the most educational tastings we have experienced.  While muscadine grapes are generally thought to produce only sweet wines, Amy made sure we understood that they were capable of producing the drier sorts of wines we prefer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had planned on this being just a one night stopover, but we like it so much we extended for another night, just relaxing in the comfort and safety of their park.  We will certainly consider Carrollwoods RV Park again when we head north next spring.

Congaree National Park and Sesquicentennial State Park

So we picked up our new family member in Columbia, SC while staying at Sesquicentennial State Park.  This place was a bit of a challenge for us: we generally enjoy state parks, finding them to be a great value for reasonable services in nice, uncrowded settings.  While Sesqui had all that, their road and site maintenance left a lot to be desired.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the campground itself the roads are packed dirt and gravel with lots of poorly filled potholes and at least one very tight area in the back loop between two mature trees.  The actual RV sites, though plentiful, are packed dirt with ruts, awkward approaches, significant mud, and worst off all, many of them are laughably un-level.  I mean, not only would it be impossible to level any kind of rig  on them, some would be difficult to even back into, the angle being so steep.IMG_6132

After trying out two spots that were unsuitable, we finally got some help from a ranger, who directed us further around to some of the larger sites.  Even then we had trouble, taking a pass on the one she had in mind before selecting one of the few pull through spots.  We hooked up 30 amp power and water (no sewage, though a dump station is at the front of the camp), and went to pick up our Pad Kee Meow in Loki.

Pad Kee Meow finds something interesting to abuse on her first night in the bus

Pad Kee Meow finds something interesting to abuse on her first night in the bus

Returning after dark we got our new cat settled in before noticing that the electrical power was fluctuating quite a bit, our inverter and breakers clicking, before it finally kicked off entirely.  I played around with the breakers on site and at the main panel a few spots over before giving up,  cutting our high demand breakers on the bus to prevent an overload, pulling out our adapter and plugging in to the regular 20 amp circuit.  The next morning we contacted the front office who sent out their maintenance ranger, and he had it squared away pretty quickly, replacing the 30 amp breaker.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent an afternoon at Congaree National Park down the road, exploring their visitor center, watching the park introductory movie, and doing some very light day hiking along the raised boardwalk trails and one of the regular loops.  Rosemarie was feeling a bit under the weather during our stay, and the recent heavy flooding in the Carolinas had left most of Congaree’s trails impassable, so we spent a lot less time at this NP than we would normally.   It is a beautiful place, but a challenge to see because in the summer it is damned hot and muggy, and in the fall and winter it floods regularly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the end of our Sesqui thee day stay we had a bit more drama.  Upon our initial entry we made note of the three short but steep sections on the main park road leading down towards the ranger station and campground.  I had a twinge of nervousness about how we would handle the grade when it came time to leave given how underpowered and overgeared we are.  Sure enough, as we departed Kahuna struggled mightily to get up the steepest of the three hills, our attempt aggravated by an inability to get a “run-a-go” at the grade since the roads are very curvy.  After a couple of tense moments we made it up to the top at a slow crawl.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From Columbia it was on towards Wilmington, with the plan to drop off The Big Kahuna at the the place from which we bought him for temporary storage while we took our tow vehicle, Loki, for visits with family in Norfolk, Virginia and then back to my Mom’s and Stepdad’s house in Wilmington. Things worked out a bit differently. More to follow.

 

 

Our Congaree Cat: Welcoming a new member to the Shell on Wheels adventure

Our slight southern detour towards Colombia, SC was for more than just visiting Congaree National Park, it was also to pick up our new household member, a young Siamese cat from the regional rescue center specific to this breed.  We had been working with Monique for months to find the right cat for us: young, personable, not easily spooked, affectionate, not likely to dart off as soon as a door opened.  After several misfires we finally got the green light for Pad Kee Meow, a one year old female.IMG_3855

Since Congaree NP does not allow camping other than tents, we researched and settled on Sesquicentennial State Park less than half an hour down the road.  After an unusually difficult time finding an unreserved spot large enough for the Big Kahuna, dry enough to avoid getting stuck, and level enough so as not to be irritating during our three day stay, we finally hooked up services, unhooked Loki, and headed to the Debra’s, the foster mom, to pick up our new cat.

She is exactly right for us.  Very calm, very affectionate, inquisitive but concerned enough about the outdoors that she doesn’t bolt for the door when it opens.  She is spayed, up to date on shots, litter trained, and took to a harness and leash surprisingly fast, within a few minutes we had her outside on the leash, though she absolutely will not be led or heel.IMG_3935

We had no trouble transitioning her to the motorhome space, no issues with adjusting her food to what we purchased, and so far no scratching of the furniture.  The only stress has been the noise of the bus engine freaking her out a bit.  A combination of sitting on Rosemarie’s lap or in her carrier seems to alleviate most of the stress, but she will have to get used to moving a lot with our lifestyle.IMG_3955

Her name is a slight alteration of a Thai dish, Pad Kee Mao, or drunken noodles.  I have always liked imaginative cat names with a play on words, such as Chairman Meow and Hunter S. Thomcat, so we devised our own.IMG_3973

Having a pet in the RV can limit you somewhat since a small percentage of parks are pet free, but the one example of those we like is close enough to Rosemarie’s mom who has enthusiastically agreed to cat sit during our stay.  We thought a cat would be far less limiting than a dog, particularly during any trips away from the motorhome.  Any RV cat owners have any suggestions or advice?

IMG_3969