Trap Pond State Park, Delaware

Though we have been exploring more military campgrounds this year, that has mainly been as a cost control measure.  Our preferred camping experience involves being surrounded by nature to a greater degree than most military or private parks provide.  As such we have an affinity for state and county parks, finding that they strike the right balance between services and environment.  Since we would only be in Delaware for four days, we decided that a state park would be the right choice, but which one?

We had wanted to stay in the Brandywine Valley area, which we had heard great things about and was much less out of the way for follow on trip north, but the state park there did not have any RV camping.  We considered going even further out of the way towards Rehobath Beach, but the popularity of the place, particularly on a weekend, just didn’t quite appeal, so after some research we selected Trap Pond over a couple of other also well reviewed options.

So we concluded our four day stay in Annapolis late Friday morning and headed south east across the bay to Delaware.  Now that’s the sort of ride between sites we like: less than two hours, only 82 miles, on mostly good quality highways, in good weather and with limited traffic.

Early afternoon we checked in at the ranger station and headed for the site I had selected close to the water in the C loop.  Unfortunately, just as we found at Oscar Scherer and a couple of others, the utilities were poorly positioned, and though I could string together 75 feet of water hose, there was no way to connect electricity with my 25 feet of shore power.  I called up the ranger station and per my request they moved us to the next site over.

Though a touch further from the water, it was still a great site.  Heck they all seemed like great sites.  The park contains four loops containing 142 sites (130 with power and water) under the canopy of a tall loblolly pine forest.  There are several connect ponds, and miles of bike, horse, and hiking trails.  The wildlife was abundant, particularly the active squirrels and water fowl.  The there is no sewage connection, there is a standard dump station, and a decent shower/toilet house.

We had glorious weather our first full day, and enjoyed the nearby areas of the park as well as driving through the nearby towns.  During the middle two days or our stay we experienced, unfortunately, near continuous rain and drizzle.  We hunkered down and watched recorded videos for much of hat time, but eventually we braved the wet roads for a day trip to the two large farmers/flea markets in the area.  We incorporated some fresh fruit and spices from one of them into our next couple of meals.

We also found a very welcoming moose lodge 20 minutes away in Seaford.  We liked the ambiance enough that we made two visits during our four day stay.  Like a lot of lodges, they don’t seem to get a lot of out of towners, and members are eager to hear what brings us by.  This often involves a free drink, so there is that.  A big thanks to Moose Lodge 1728 for the welcome.

The weather cleared on our last day, allowing a bit of day hiking, exploration, and the bagging of handful of geocaches within the park.  During that process I jumped a guard rail and nearly landed on top of this guy, which though he has a head and body shape similar to the viperid family of venomous snakes, is more likely just an Eastern Hognose.  Feel free to chime in if you disagree.

We are really happy with our choice for Delaware, and hope the rest of our one stop states provide as much enjoyment.
 

On to Annapolis to visit old shipmates

We left Shenandoah National Park a day early in order to catch Hans, a shipmate from my time on USS Carney, and his wife Rachel before he headed out of town on business.  Since he is now residing in Burke, VA, which is just a bit west of D.C., this placed him right on our path to our next destination, Annapolis.  After a bit of quick research using the Big Meadows Lodge’s WiFi, we found a Moose Lodge in Fairfax, just up the road from Burke. There were few other options in the way of legit RV campgrounds in the area that could accommodate a rig our size, so after a call to the Moose to confirm we could overnight camp behind their building, we headed up the Sky Line drive the 22 miles to Thornton Gap, the next park exit point.

In addition to another exciting drive through twisting mountain roads with periodic fog, the trip also entailed going through the Mary’s Rock Tunnel, which has a height restriction of 12’8″.  I was quite confident we were under this limit, but we pulled over at that stop just south of the tunnel to climb atop Serenity and verify that the 12’3″ height listed in our manual was accurate.   They seem to put a bit of slop in that measurement; I found our highest point to be a closer to 12′ even.

We continued through to the pass and then east down the mountain range towards D.C., arriving at the Centreville Moose Lodge in the mid afternoon, and set up camp in their nearly empty back lot, save for one other long parked RV.  We stepped in for a drink or two and to socialize, making sure the bartenders and patrons knew we were members and that it was our rig parked out back, rather than a portable meth lab.

Once evening rolled around we headed over to Hans and Rachel’s house for dinner, to meet their kids, and catch up on everything.  Many sea stories were (re)told, much wine was drunk, and we were entertained by the imagination of their children, Josiah, Annika, and William, particularly Annika’s personally created and fully realized manga-style graphic novels.  The problem with visiting friends that are still employed is that they have this annoying interference with their lives called “work.”  In deference to that, we made it an early night and headed back to our home for our one night stay.

The next morning it was on to Annapolis.  We had attempted to secure a site at the small Navy owned campground just across the Severn River from the Naval Academy, but they could only accommodate us for three of the four nights we needed.  Since it was the latter three, we needed another one night spot nearby, and bit of research revealed that the Annapolis Moose Lodge was one of the rare one’s with official RV parking including electrical hookups.  Our  call to them confirmed the situation, so we were pretty pleased with the way things were turning out.

Unfortunately, the official RV parking sots with electrical hook ups were almost impossibly positioned in the grass area hemmed in between trees and a hedge line, and the one readily accessible spot was already taken.  We gave it a go, spending about an hour carefully backing and filling to work our way in, only to find that we could not reach the electrical connection without completely overrunning a group of landscaping bushes.   Frustrated, we worked out way out and back to the parking lot, and got permission to drycamp there for one night before moving on to a real site at the Naval Academy.

During our four day stay we managed to continue our USS Carney mini-reunion, meeting up with the Hoffmans and Robertsons at Davis’, a great little restaurant grill just a couple of walking blocks from Derek and Sarah’s.  Since we were in Maryland, we had the mandatory crab cakes, improved from their already great condition by the addition of a local craft IPA.  Lubricated by such fare, the sea stories, ranging from exaggerated to purely apocryphal, flowed like rivers of B.S. combining with our tears of laughter.  Having been five years since we had seen them, it was fantastic to catch up with them and the four fantastic kids, Max, Charlie, Holly, and Sean.

Later that week we were able to meet up with Derek and Sarah again, attending a cub scout meeting for which Derek is, masochistically, the Troop Leader.  I was introduced as the guest judge for a rain gutter boat race contest.  We very much look forward to seeing Chris and Krissy again, in Annapolis or wherever they end up next, and visiting the Robertsons in Dublin following their impending move there.

Beyond the visit with friends, Annapolis was all about dining out, something we try to limit in most of our towns, but this one called for a bit of splurging.  So in addition to our meal at Davis’ we also had a set of drinks at Pussars Dockside Bar and a great happy hour dinner at the very hip Preserve, the highlight of which was the Sangria and a fantastic hot goat cheese and garlic bowl with soft bread.  Budget-wise we knew the three outings in four days would require us to crank down a bit during out next few stops, but since we planned to be in a state park in Delaware and a Navy campground in New Jersey, we were confident that the temptation would be significantly reduced.

Thus we left Annapolis and Maryland, heading 80 miles south east to or next destination.

Our First National Park of the year: Shenandoah

Though Stewart Campground on the Navy’s Northwest Annex in Chesapeake worked out pretty well for our short visit to Norfolk area, it’s southern position meant driving through the downtown area and the bay bridge tunnel to intersect I-64, at least if we wanted the shortest route by time.  And considering that I had planned an aggressive 230 mile run up and over to Shenandoah National Park, we definitely wanted the shortest.

Through the bay bridge tunnel

We find that two hours is a great drive, three is OK, but four begins to push the comfort level. Yeah, that may sound a bit weak, but driving a connected rig measuring 50′ feet with the tow vehicle, and nearly 30 thousand pounds gross weight is simply more stressful, particularly when you have either city traffic or winding mountain roads.  And of course, this day we would have both.

The trip had been mostly unremarkable until the last hour wen we encountered both drizzle and road work on US-33.  They had a lane closed down and had positioned the traffic cones so far over that we were driving partly in the oncoming traffic lane along the winding road up to the skyline parkway.  With trucks barreling at us from the other direction, it made for some tense driving, but once we turned onto the park entry road things calmed down considerably.  We paid for our $80 annual national park pass at the guard station, knowing that though we would probably not see 21 national parks like we did in 2015, we would be visiting enough to justify the expenditure rather than pay for individual entry fees.

There are three big rig accessible campgrounds in the Shenandoah National Park, and after careful research we selected Big Meadows for our stay.  It would be the shortest route not involving back tracking, had the best reviews (though only by a touch), access to some great day hiking trails, and had a robust camp store and lodge should we need a bit of civilization. We were taking a bit of a chance by not making reservations because there were no online reservable sites available for our full three or four day stay.  Instead we relied on the two large loops designated for walk up reservations.

This worked out just fine; upon arrival the ranger provided us a list of a dozen or so site options and let us explore them, set up camp, and come back later in our tow vehicle to fill out the paperwork.  We drove through the “C” loop, selected our top pick there, but continued on to the “I” loop just in case.  We liked the spacing and old growth trees all over the I loop much better than the slightly more compressed and open aspect of the C loop, but the available sites were heavily rutted and laughably unlevel, and I didn’t want to spend the weekend heavily canted back and to the left.

Once settled in we took a spin up to the lodge to use the WiFi and make a few phone calls since there was no cell service within the campground at all.  But considering our arduous drive we made no attempt to do any hiking or other exploration until day two.  By then we were recharged enough to make the two mile moderate hike down to Lewis Falls, a beautiful 81 foot waterfall northwest of the campground.

That little hike was a warm up for our last day, when we did the somewhat more arduous and longer Rose River Loop Trail to see the Rose River and the Dark Hallow Falls.  We prepared much better for this run, having packed more water, snacks, and a meal.  In addition to a beautiful walk along brisk running streams, we had the luck of seeing three black bear, a mother and two yearlings, a couple of hundred feet off the trail just as we were leaving Dark Hallow.  We neared the completion of our hike just as the cold drizzle started, making it to the warmth of our trusty Geo Tracker only a bit wet.

We cut our original four day stay down to three once we learned that our great friends Hans and Rachel were living in Burke, VA, along the way to our next stop in Annapolis. and Sunday would be the best day to stop by for a visit.  More on Burke, Annapolis, and a couple of Moose Lodge parking lot camping nights next post.

A quick stop in Chesapeake,Virginia, and finding a campground missing from several of the big databases.

First I want to point out that in my last post I called the Preakness right, with Exaggerator finally beating Nyquist on a muddy track.  Too bad I didn’t bother to put any money on it. After leaving Wilmington we mostly avoided interstate travel and instead chose state roads and the like for our run up to Chesapeake, VA.  I attempted to find a place to park the RV for free like we had in Wilmington, but the navy facilities I called either didn’t return the call or didn’t have availability.  Fortunately my discussion with one of the helpful representatives at, I believe, the Virginia Beach Naval Station’s recreation office led me to a campground in Chesapeake that isn’t even in the All Stays, Campendium, or RV Park Reviews databases.

Pad Kee Meow assists with the navigation into the campground.

The navy maintains Stewart Campground, a small, 14 site place on their NorthWest Annex. It has power, even 50 amp, but water and the sewage dump are a central location rather than each site.   It is located off an easily handled gravel road in a clearing amidst a small wooded area.  The facility is no frills and what I will call “standard Navy quality” (as contrasted with the usually top notch recreation areas managed by the air force.  As the old joke goes, when the Air Force gets funding for a base, they build the golf course first, knowing that it will be a lot easier to get Congress to pony up additional money to finish the runways than it would be for the links.)  At $18 a night for partial hook ups in an attractive setting, though, the place was just short of ideal for us.  We spent the first night there after arrival, but for the next two days it was just an elaborate storage lot since we stayed with Linda and Jayson in their townhouse.

A view of the campground, communal dining area on the left, Serenity in the distance on the right.

While there we assisted a bit with the renovation and prep work Jayson has undertaken on their new place, a single family style home just down the street.  He has done a rather lot of remodeling in preparation for their impending move in, and though my quality or craftsmanship was not quite up to his standards, my labor rate was tough to beat, and I did a bit of caulking around the ceiling moldings and baseboards.

On the way to Linda and Jayson’s for the rest of our stay.

Pad Kee Meow loves visiting  with Linda and Jayson since she has the run of the house and she and their dog Precious get along well enough.  We were gone after a short two day visit, on our way to Shenandoah National Park, though we will see them again next month in Maine when a lot of Rosemarie’s family will gather for cousin JuneJune’s wedding.   Next up, our first National Park of the year.

Our perfect timing continues: Wilmington, NC for Mothers Day

Our timing this year has been damn near perfect, at least once we modified our original schedule to accommodate a wedding event in Maine that has accelerated our run up the east coast.  As a result of that change we managed to run through Gainesville just in time for my daughters birthday and stumbled into a free flight from Allegiant Airlines on tax day when we worked in a trip to Indiana to see my dad and stepmom.  The latest fortuitous timing: we managed to arrive at my Mom and Stepdad’s in Wilmington for Mother’s Day weekend and Tim’s birthday as well.

Having done all we could in Charleston, we left the Joint Base, crossing into NC almost immediately and cruised 180 miles up the coast to Wilmington.  The four hour drive is about the maximum run I prefer in the big rig, but we are finding it easier to manage such trips in Serenity than in The Big Kahuna, even with Loki under tow.  With the old bus, whatever estimate we got from google maps we had to add at least 25%.  With Serenity, we actually manage to be pretty close to the time of arrivals.

The one big concern for our Wilmington visit was where we would be stashing the RV while we stayed with Mom and Tim.  Their house lacks a front driveway, and the back entrance would involve mangling an iron gate and possibly knocking over at least part of a brick wall to manage the turn.  Thankfully Wilmington RV Sales & Rentals, the place from which we bought The Big Kahuna, allowed us to drop off Serenity into their back lot for the duration.

Our past Wilmington trips have involved more than a few great meals out in local restaurants, especially along the river front, but this trip was all about dining in.  Tim and I combined resources to create a few good dinners on his beloved Big Green Egg.  We had beef and chicken tacos for Cinco de Mayo, grilled burgers for the sixth of May, then salmon steaks, and finally a delicious meal of lamb for our final night.  And of course, breakfast in the garden the next morning with leftovers from the previous night made into omelettes, especially for our great Mother’s Day brunch.

We dropped by the riverfront farmers market, picking up fresh mint just in time for me to make mint juleps before the afternoon running of the Kentucky Derby.  We all picked horses to cheer for (other than the odds on favorite) and I am only a touch disappointed to report that my selection, Exaggerator (selected to match my story telling style) finished second, a bit behind Nyquist after a huge push down the final turn and stretch.  I still think he has a strong chance to spoil another triple crown hopeful in the Preakness.

Lastly, I spent an hour or two crawling around a couple of wrecked Geo Trackers in a pick and pull salvage yard trying to get replacements for the half dozen broken plastic brackets that secure the convertible rag top to the rear of the vehicle.  It is apparently very common for seven of these cheap plastic pieces to break and shatter to the point of uselessness.  Five of ours are indeed in bad shape.  I didn’t find any perfect replacements, but for $5 I found one rear bracket less damaged than our current one, and a totally broken piece that I think I can repair to install where we are completely missing a piece.  Victory!

Another state down in our sprint north.  Next up, the first of two stops in Virginia.

A working port in Charleston to check up on The Big Kahuna

In the navy we tended to classify port visits to places other than our home station into two categories: liberty ports or working ports.  Pretty self explanatory, but that never stopped me from doing so:  Liberty ports involved maximum time off the ship for the crew, working ports meant you might get off the ship for a few hours late in the day.  Most of our stops in Serenity have been liberty ports this year; aside from basic must do tasks that take up a portion of each day, we have had the luxury of being able to just explore or just lounge for a good portion of each stop.  Not so Charleston.

As we have written, The Big Kahuna remains in North Charleston awaiting the rebuilt transmission.  When we switched to Serenity, we transferred most but not all of our stuff from the old bus to the new rig.  So our four day stop here was intended to check on the bus, do some cleaning, transfer all of the remaining items to Serenity, and then have a bit of time left over to explore Charleston. Turns out there was a lot more work to do than we anticipated.

After research on AllStays.com we secured a spot at Joint Base Charleston, an Air Force dominated facility co-located with the Charleston International Airport.  Aside from the great price for a full hook up site, it is located only a few miles from The Big Kahuna’s current repair shop.  Less than half of the 45 or so RV sites are available for short term use; all of the nice back in spots in the heavily treed loop are set aside for monthly rentals, and they were all full with a waiting list.  In the short term loop there were a still a handful of sites open.

Having arrived on a Sunday after the recreation office closed, it took some exploring and the assistance of an off duty employee who happened by before we could figure out the after hours procedure and find the on duty camp host, but before long we were manuevering toward one the long pull through spots.  As we pulled up to a pair of sites we were surprised to see a distinctive big turtle decal on the back of a motorhome right next to one of our options.  What are the odds that the motorhome we parked next to in the Savannah visitor center would be at our very next campground?  It was a pleasant surprise and we enjoyed chatting with our temporary neighbors about their RV experiences.

The next morning we headed to General Diesel to check on The Big Kahuna, and were pleased to see he was as beautiful as we remembered, far cleaner than we hoped, and though obviously broken down, look to have suffered nothing from the months sitting in the yard.  That was the good news.  The bad was that we had a lot more stuff still in his storage bins than we remembered, which meant that getting it all into Serenity would be a challenge.  At least we found a good number of forgotten supplies stashed in the various cubby holes, so our shopping bill for the next few months would be a tiny bit smaller.

The next few days saw us doing a complete empty, sort, and re-stowage of every single one of Serenity’s compartments, inside and out.  The significant number of tools, car/truck care items, fishing poles, and biggest of all, our inflatable boat took up a lot of extra space. On the inside Rosemarie was dealing with the addition of a lot of arts and crafts supplies as well as more than a few glass and kitchenware items.  A kind description of our site during his process would be that it looked like a poorly organized yard sale, and I made apologies and promises to the neighbors and camp host that it would be all back to normal in a day or two.

It was a productive and necessary process, forcing us both to reassess how much stuff we had and needed, reorganize it for accessibility, and set aside a group of items to sell or donate.  By the time we left Charleston we had already sold $75 of stuff and activated half a dozen Craigslist ads at our next stop in Wilmington.  It took pretty much our entire stay there to get organized; we only managed one outing down town to a disappointing bar restaurant at fleet landing.  Perhaps next time we are in Charleston we will be able to make it a liberty port.

As for The Big Kahuna, our latest update from the transmission repair facility was no update at all, essentially the same status as a few weeks ago, i.e., they are only a few weeks from completion…

16 Months Fulltiming, April 2016 Report

We are finally out of Florida and on our way to Maine as part of our 2016 counterclockwise exploration of the east half of the US plus a bit of southern Canada as well.

The Distance: 795 miles, which shows that we are really starting to pick up the pace as this is more than we did in January through March combined.  Our total for the year so far: 1586 miles.  We expect to see even greater mileage in May.

The Places:  Eight locations for this month, nine if you count the unexpected hotel stay due to a flight cancellation in Indianapolis.  We started with a visit to Gloria and Bill’s in Venice that stretched from two to three days due to a bit of illness on my part, then we backtracked south to Sanibel for a five day stay in our favorite Gulf Coast park before finally turning north for a full week stay at Trimble County Park in Mount Dora.  We stopped for one night on Uncle Bob’s property in Geneva before catching our flight to Indiana to see Dad and Marcia, and after returning from that visit we headed north to Gainesville to visit my daughter and cousins.  Finally, we headed east to the Atlantic coast for a stay Gamble Rogers State Park before crossing into Georgia for a two night stay in Savannah.

We had full or partial hook ups for 16 days, dry camped for one, stayed in relative’s homes for ten, and in hotels for three.  Looked at another way: we stayed at private RV resorts for six days, in public campgrounds for ten (7 state, 3 county), in relatives driveways, houses, or other property for eleven, and, as already stated, in hotels for three.

The Budget:   We scraped by this month, finishing nearly 4% under budget, though only because of a few sales from Rosemarie’s jewelry, a bit of Craigslisting, and the refund check from our Active Advantage membership experiment.  We managed this despite having to pay an (admittedly small) income tax bill and having to shell out an unexpected $240 for a new RV tire.  In addition to some extra money from sales and refunds, what saved us this month was the 14 days spent with relatives or in free hotels (courtesy of Allegiant Air and a credit card sign up offer.)  Not paying any campground fees for half the month more than offset the six days spent at high end private RV resorts.  We are three out of four months under budget this year!

The Drama:  We had to replace another tire on Serenity, which is really just confirmation that all of them are at the end of their appropriate life cycle.  We will have to bite the bullet and do the remaining four pretty soon I think.

The Improvements:  Once again, nothing significant to report.  We have plans for improvements,  such as new tires, a tire pressure monitoring system, a better work/crafting area, storage improvements, etc, but right now it just isn’t in the budget.

All of our monthly reports, as well as our first full year report, 2015 in Review, are linked below.

2016 Reports:

2015 in Review

Allegiant Air Update: They came through for us

A few posts back we reported on our mixed experience flying the discount airline Allegiant. We had been quite lucky; learning during our flight to Indianapolis that our’s was one of three flights that day on which every passenger would get there full itinerary costs refunded as a tax day gift from the airline. Fantastic!  Unfortunately on our return trip we waited in the airport for five hours as he flight experienced delay after delay before finally cancelling.  Allegiant rescheduled everyone to the next morning, stated they would reimburse anyone needing a hotel for the night up to a certain amount, and promised to issue $100 vouchers as compensation for the difficulty.

We are happy to report that Allegiant came through on all fronts.  We received our vouchers via email, and the hotel reimbursement check has been cut as well.  While a cancelled flight is always a pain, Allegiant has done right by all of us effected, and we are quite happy with the outcome.

Returning to Savannah: Putting Serenity at the visitor center overnight RV parking but staying in the Andaz hotel for free

So after a mere 5 1/2 weeks of meandering through the state we have finally left Florida, signalling that we will be picking up the pace of northward travel until we reach Maine.  After leaving Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park we intersected I-95 and headed three hours north to the top of coastal Georgia.  One of the more lesser known good deals about visiting Savannah in an RV is that you can park your rig right downtown in the visitor center for up to 48 hours at only $7 per night.  We first learned of this deal when we transported The Big Kahuna from Wilmington to Florida two years ago.  Sure, its parking lot drycamping, but you are blocks from the River Street area and right in the middle of historic Savannah.   City driving in a big RV is always a touch intimidating, but the route to the visitor center was not that bad at all, and only the backing into the designated RV spots is a touch tricky.

We pulled in beside a 37 footer with a distinctive large turtle decal on the back, but unlike our new neighbors, we weren’t actually going to stay in the RV for the night.  Due to a credit card sign up offer from last year I had two free nights at any Hyatt hotel that I needed to use before expiration, and Savannah was the perfect opportunity.  We booked at the Andaz Hotel, a high end property even closer to the River Street area.  We took advantage of yet another not so well known deal from the Savannah Visitor Center and purchased a 48 hour parking pass for Loki.  At $7 per day this allowed us use not only the visitor center lot, but any municipally owned parking area throughout the city.  This saved us a good chunk of change during our stay; the hotel wanted $16 per night just for their lot!

While in Savannah Fred and Donna, friends and neighbors from our mutual time in Miami Beach, drove over from Statesboro to visit us and show us around town.  After obligatory cocktails in our hotel, we took to the streets in search of food and entertainment.  Donna pulled us towards The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant in town.  It was an affordable, country style buffet focusing on fried chicken and comfort food.  Though skeptical at first, we ended up stuffing ourselves pretty thoroughly.  We didn’t even have room for the included deserts, but they boxed it up for us and we had it the next morning, regretting only that we did not get to enjoy it warm and gooey as intended.

After dinner we headed out on the town, soon encountering a great classic rock band performing outdoors in one of the small parks surrounded by restaurants and boutique stores.  We watched and listened to a good portion of their set before calling it a night.

The next morning Fred and Donna picked us up and took us to the historic Bonaventure Cemetery, a beautiful oak and spanish moss dominated former plantation south of the city and next to the river.  Afterwards we found a well reviewed restaurant, Te Crystal Beer Parlor, with a great selection of local craft brews and an excellent lunch menu.  They were a bit understaffed and struggling to get us even drinks in a timely manner, but the manager came by to apologize and provided a desert on the house for the four of us to split.

We ended the weekend by strolling the River Street waterfront area, finally getting back to the honey shop we had enjoyed so thoroughly our last visit.  Mid afternoon we said our goodbyes to Fred and Donna before retiring to the hotel for a bit of luxury, TV, and free high speed internet, things no RVer should take for granted.

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park: Our Last days in Florida until Winter

After leaving Gainesville we headed nearly due east to the Atlantic Coast, having secured three days in one of Gamble Rogers’s limited number of ocean facing sites big enough for our rig.  We first stayed at Gamble Rogers two years ago when we first brought The Big Kahuna down to Florida from North Carolina.  Back then we secured a last minute night on a same day cancellation.  We loved it so much we vowed to come back, but we never managed to get back; either our schedule or mechanical issues interfered.

But now we were on our way with nothing to stop us.  Reservations secured and just a two hour drive to our last Florida stop on our way north.  It’s never that easy, of course, and as we cruised slowly through the town of Palatka we heard a loud thump and a metallic ping, that sounded a bit like we had lost a hubcap.  We pulled over immediately and spotted another flat tire, the outside left rear, the partner to the tire we replaced in the keys a couple of months back.

OK, could be worse, its the outside tire, so easier to replace, we are in a town big enough to have several repair shops, and we have cell phone service.  We pulled over as far as we could and I began the phone an internet search for a nearby place with an appropriate tier while also working the insurance in case we needed road side assistance.  But after consultation with the mechanic at Palatka Truck Center, the third place we called and the only one that had the right size tire in stock, we decided that we could drive Serenity the three miles back to them on the remaining good tire on that side.

We had no problems, and Palatka Truck Repair was able to get us back on the road withing thirty minutes at a cost of only $240, all in, for our new tire, and they even balanced the inside wheel from our previous roadside repair for free.  During out backtrack to their facility, I spotted a Moose Lodge one block from them, so after the repair, and needing lunch anyway, we made a pit stop in their large parking lot for a cheap meal and a beer.  In addition to nice staff and friendly members, this one was particularly cool in that it is the first Moose Lodge we have been to that had designated RV parking with electrical connections!  At a suggested donation of $10 a night, we will definitely be keeping them in mind as we pass through the area in the future.

After a quick lunch and a tour from some of the lodge members, we got back on the road for the short remaining trip to Gamble Rogers.  We checked in at the ranger station before crossing the road to the beach section of the park, and pulled in head first instead of backing in.  This allowed us to have a nearly unobstructed view of the ocean from our expansive front windows, but it required careful positioning in order to connect power and water since they were now located on the other side of he rig.  We managed to get deep enough into the spot and far enough to the right side, from our perspective, to cross the electrical shore power cable and water hose under the bus and make the connection with but a foot to spare.

Having spent the last three stops visiting a plethora of family and friends, it was nice to have this one with no obligations.  We spent the days under our awning, exploring the trails, walking on the beach, taking a few short dips in the ocean, watching the shore and seabirds, and of course doing a bit of geocaching.

Since the weather involved very light breezes for some of our stay, we were lucky enough to watch a pair of powered paragliders making low altitude runs along the sparsely populated beach.  Man that looks like so much fun! And apparently not that expensive or regulated either.

After three great days we packed it up and headed north to Georgia, having taken five weeks to get out of Florida once we finally left Key West.  From here on things will move a bit faster, with on average about four days per state all the way to Maine.