Thursday, April 7, 2016

So Far, So Good, and Lessons Learned

We spent our first week with the RV parked 5 minutes from our condo at Lucy's Branch RV Park on the Tennessee River.  We wanted some time to get familiar with and test all the systems, plumbing, electric, etc. and everything worked fine.  The setting at Lucy's is very nice - quiet, secluded, the Tennessee River on one side, a pond in the back, and farmland everywhere with the bright yellow canola plants in full bloom this time of year.

I also spent about 3 days of that week planning and installing my own version of a fixed motorcycle chock for keeping the bike in place while rolling down the highway.  You can buy these already made and ready to go, but you have to bolt them into the floor.  I did not want to drill holes in our new floor or disrupt holding tanks, plumbing, and insulation underneath, so I built my own.  I got the general idea from a YouTube video, but then had to modify it for our particular situation.  I basically took some angle iron and bolted it to the tie-downs that were already bolted through the floor, each capable of handling 2500 lbs of pull, and built the rest of the frame up from that.  Turned out pretty good I think and it has worked just fine.

Then it was time to depart on our maiden voyage and let the rubber meet the road - destination Jacksonville to visit Rhonda's family and then back home for the grandbaby gender-reveal party in about 2 weeks.  After so many years of boating, checklists were part of our DNA and we never used them.  But we decided to be cautious with this new venture and developed about a 25-item list to be sure we did not forget anything. We were doing really well until I had pulled the RV forward out of our spot about 50 feet and the trailer brakes locked up!  First lesson learned - can't have the emergency trailer brake cable too tight or those tight turns will engage those brakes.  That was easily fixed and we were off again.

We made a couple of early stops to be sure the bike was surviving the bumps and turns of the road - check.  We planned to cover not more than 300 miles per day so our first stop was Walnut Creek RV Park in Troy, AL.  We had not anticipated grass campgrounds but it appears they are quite common.  

It was a very rural setting with a nice lake on site also.

We made good use of a couple of interstate rest areas for bathroom and lunch breaks.  Having your own bathrooms and kitchen traveling with you is kinda nice, and you have the option to crawl in bed for a nap or break if you need it.  Turns out the RV and truck together are exactly 60 feet long and take up just about all of a pull thru at a rest stop.

Our next stop was in Jasper, FL, at the Senior Living Golden RV Park at the intersection of I-10 and I-75.  It was kind of an upscale location that just seemed to have never taken off.  We chose another grass site and except for the road noise on the interstate it was a good choice.  They had a nice man-made beach and very nice facilities. 

This shot is for our granddaughter, Alexis - she loves all animals, but a fox or an elephant will always make her smile.

Next stop, Jacksonville.  We had planned to try a really nice RV park at the beach, but after unhooking the RV and checking out the sites in advance with only the truck, we found that the roads were really tight and there were too many low-hanging limbs.  So, we opted for Flamingo RV Park out on I-295 by the airport.  This is a first-class operation and we stayed for 3 days to spend some time with family.  The park has lots to do and we were thankful for participation guidelines.  These were for a huge trampoline right behind our site.  We were pretty much excluded with rule #1!

This was Rhonda's favorite - restroom guidelines.  Aside from the need for this rule, are you wondering (like me) why some of these are stenciled letters and others are handwritten???

They had orange trees too, another reminder that you are in Florida.

Anyhow, as the title of this blog entry says, so far so good.  No problems, but a few lessons learned.

1.  "Passport America" is a great organization - you can stay at RV parks for half price, but usually only for short stays.  "Good Sam" is another good organization with 10% discounts. Fifteen to twenty dollars a night is a pretty good deal - lots cheaper than marina fees.
2.  I had no idea what it felt like to be passed by every other vehicle on the interstate!  Our RV is rated to travel at 65 MPH and that should explain it.  "Every other vehicle" is probably a stretch but I am confident we only passed 4 or 5.  This has required a quick lesson in patience and contentment for me.
3.  For the first time in 39 years, Rhonda has complimented me on my driving and #2 above is primarily responsible for that.  But I am smart enough to know that towing a 19K load requires a little bit of caution!
4.  Buying fuel is a whole new experience.  You can't just look at getting into a fuel stop.  You have to be able to get out also.  We find ourselves analyzing roads, intersections, and all stops for entry and exit strategies.
5.  Regarding #4 above, Flyin' J is a wonderful thing.  They have dedicated pull thrus just for RVs and plenty of room to maneuver.
6.  Forget driving through any type of fast food stop (unless they have truck parking).  But think of all the money you save making your own sandwiches! No more Dairy Queen, but ice cream in the freezer.
7.  RV parks are much cheaper than hotels but the amount of fuel you burn towing your home will probably bring the costs close to similar numbers.  However, once we get out west, we plan to spend weeks at one spot and that may prove to be much less expensive than the car/hotel routine.  
8.  Regarding #7, our fuel burn has improved slightly from our first leg after picking up the RV.  It was 8.9 and Athens to JAX was 9.1.  I assume that is because it is generally downhill from north Alabama to Florida.  (Think about it).
9.  The overall convenience is very nice having everything in the RV and not constantly loading and unloading suitcases.
10.  It is difficult to make RV blogs interesting but we will keep trying!  Boat blogs are easy and even though we will enjoy seeing the rest of the country by RV and motorcycle, I am pretty sure it will be hard to top traveling by boat!
11.  Rhonda just said to add that RV camping is dirtier than boating - not much dirt on docks, and for those of you that know Rhonda (and her Mom and sister), she is a bit of a cleanliness fanatic.  But that is far better to being married to the other alternative!

Before leaving JAX, we spent most of our last day with Rhonda's Mom and Dad, known to everyone as "G" and "Poppa."  Poppa is a Korean War Veteran and they have chosen Jacksonville National Cemetery as their final resting place.  So, we took time to go visit, were very impressed with the beautiful layout and surroundings, as well as being reminded of so many who have served and currently serve our country.  "G" decided she wants Section 25, Row A, #18 - a top-row "penthouse" with a nice view of the water!

Next stop, Brunswick, GA for a few days, then visiting some old friends from our years in Savannah (actually Richmond Hill), and then home for the gender reveal party.  After that, looking forward to future travels to new territory out west.

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