Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Still Wandering.... no we did not fall off the face of the earth.

I haven't thought I had much to tell of late, but now getting started I guess there is more report than I thought.  We haven't done as much this year as in the past so I was waiting for some fun and exciting things to blog about, but we have done more relaxing than anything else.

This year has had different feel than the others, we were planning to go home for Christmas and I think that has caused us to feel like we were in a holding pattern before our return to Canada.  We've sat at Willow Tree RV Resort for 45 days which is our longest stop we've had in our winter travels thus far.  This is a nice resort about 30-40mins from Myrtle Beach, out in the quiet countryside with plenty of flora and fauna to look at.

While much of M.B. is closed for the season, there is enough going on to keep the contented traveller occupied if you feel the need to get out of your chair. 

The X-mas season was in full bloom here and we went to watch the annual Little River Christmas Light Regatta on the inter-coastal waterway.


Even Elvis showed up!
"Nights of a Thousand Candles" is an annual Brookgreen Gardens festival featuring an amazing light show throughout the beautiful grounds of the park.  Sprinkled around the park are bands, choirs and other X-mas themed displays.  The real star of the show are the thousands of lights and candles in and around the many statues and gardens. As you walk the grounds taking in the spectacle, you can't imagine the amount of effort they put into transforming this into a glowing wonderland.
Aunt Cheryl and Detra  

We went with Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Fred, enjoying the music, delicious hot apple cider and a fine southern meal in the food tent. 

The waiting mode was finally over when we ran home for Christmas enjoying the festivities we had missed last year.  We met up with friends and family over a few days before heading back to M.B.

New Years day signaled it was time to move and we were ready to start rolling.  We knew we were heading south to either Savannah or Charleston, we didn't know which until we were on the road.  These places we've been to before but felt we hadn't spent enough time in either.  Once we started rolling we hit Charleston and decided it was to soon to stop for the day, so on to Savannah it is!

This is the first time our aversion to planning and booking in advance has caused us problems.  We wanted to stay at Skidaway Island State Park but when we got there it was booked solid for the night.  So we thought OK, we'll just head off to another campground just a couple miles away, sure enough it was full also.  Mmmmm, maybe we'll call around, we called every park in the area, not one spot was available big enough to accommodate our fifth wheel. 

Well, this is when we came to the realisation that our only option was......WALLYDOCKING!!!!!

For the people who havn't heard of this, you have probably noticed RV's parked in Wal-Marts from time to time.  This is a win-win situation for the company and the traveller.  A free nights stay in the parking lot for the RV'er and Wal-Mart receives the business and much goodwill from the RV community.  Not all Wal-Marts allow this, and there are plenty of ways to find out which ones do.  Our RV GPS has all the info you need programed into it from the factory.  Generally as a courtesy you go in and ask the manager for permission and he/she will tell you to park at the back of the lot and that's about it.

When we started this new lifestyle of ours Detra told me she would do it on certain conditions, one of them being that she never had to camp in a Wal-Mart parking lot.   We are now on our third winter of snowbirding and I have finally worn her down enough to give up on what ever standard of living she was hoping to cling to.  Heading to the nearest Wal-Mart.  We pulled into the lot in a neighbourhood that shall we say was past it's prime nor did it give us a feeling of safety. 

Detra  "I'm not staying here."

Me      "It's not that bad"  (while looking for escape routes)

Detra  "There are no other RV'ers here"

Me      "It's not that bad"  ( thinking "Why are there no other RV'ers here?")

Detra  "I'm not getting out of the truck"

Me      "Let's look around and take Abby for a walk"  (sure that Abby will scare anybody off)

Detra  "Nope, see you if you get back"

Me      "Alright fine, we're out of here"

There was another store just a few miles away, it was getting dark and we were getting desperate.  Pulling into the second Wal-Mart was a completely different feel.  There were four or five RV's  already parked in the well lit area at the back.  We settled in and watched as more RV'ers slowly trickled in.  It seemed we weren't the only ones caught out without a place to stay here in Savannah.  By the time they stopped rolling in, there were at least a dozen of us staying here courtesy of the Walton's.  Most were in travel mode and stopped for a quick night's rest and back on the road at first light. 

This is all common practice for many RV'ers but this was our first time and it was good.  Sure in the beginning we were scared, we fumbled a bit, we knew others were doing it, it was exciting and in the morning we felt a little dirty, but that soon passed.  Wallydocking is a great way to save some money and in a bind we'll do it again.
 Wallydocking, the arrow points to the future.
 now known as "WallyWalking"

We did find parks for the rest of our stay here in Savannah, one night at Skidaway and two at Red Gate Campground.  Red Gate's camping is around an open field but what stands out here are the grounds. Around the park are ponds, farm animals, trails and just a nice country feel but still close to Savannah.

We just love Savannah's downtown.  It is one of the prettiest, walkable and historic cities you could spend the rest of your life in.  There are endless beautifully restored homes, a water front for a relaxing stroll, tons of restaurants and 24 squares with grass, trees, historic markers and benches to just sit and take it all in.  We just roamed around on warm sunny days soaking in the glory that Savannah provides.

 Strolling through a square.
Tree lined streets.

 We were heading south to Florida and a visit with Detra's mother Donna.  Along the way we stopped to checkout The Great Outdoors RV Resort which is a huge ownership park.  They have everything from a concrete pad up to huge houses with garages big enough hold your 45ft motorhome and a few cars and toys along with it.
Cross the state to Donna's place for a couple of days of visiting.  Florida is prime snowbird country and the prices here reflect that.  With the high cost resorts here and low Canadian dollar we needed a more economical place to stay.  Fuel prices are so low ($1.84/gal for diesel) we decided to run for the hills, Texas Hill Country to be exact.   With a stop in Alabama and New Orleans along the way we are going to hightail it to Texas. 
That is where we are now, we'll catch up to the present in the next installment of the Wagon, till then, we'll hitch our horse an' set awhile.
Homesteading in the Hills,

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Satisfiying Summer Sitting and Winter Wandering Wishes

Our first summer spent working at the Barrie KOA has come to an end and it has been a successful first year!  Detra and I both enjoyed our summer working with a great group of people here, it is a fun place and the owners and managers treat us very well.  I've spent the time outside working on any and everything that comes up, while Detra worked in the office/ store.  No complaints with our schedule either, we worked the same hours except for a few days here and there.  Two or three days a week is just the right amount of work to keep it fun and make a little money too.

On the living here side of things, it is just as good.  The park has two sections, in the front is the regular nice KOA campground with all the family and child activities you would expect from a nice place.  What sets Barrie KOA apart from most parks in Ontario is the section we are in, "Cedarwood" which is an adult only area with very nice sites (concrete pads, lighting, gardens).  While you can find this type of park in the warmer areas of the States that are used year round, it is not common in Canada where the season is only 6 or 7 months.  The people are a mix of retired and working weekenders and some are fulltimers like us and the whole feel is one of quiet and friendly relaxation.  We are very comfortable here and it already has us feeling like we are home.

The City of Barrie area has been a happening place with a different event/festival seemingly every weekend to keep us entertained.  We keep our boat handy and can be on the water in twenty minutes whether on Kempenfelt Bay and cruising into town for lunch or out on Lake Couchiching to catch a three foot long Northern Pike.

That's a fish!

Pulling into the free docks in downtown Barrie.

We've spent time with family and friends, but as usual not enough of it.  The drive to Oshawa and the old stomping grounds is just a little too long to make it convenient. 

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

These two quotes pretty much some up our plans and philosophy this year, we know we are heading south and have a couple of stops planned, Washington DC, Myrtle Beach, Florida at some point and then maybe over to New Orleans before heading back home through Chicago again.

I really enjoy the idea of not knowing where we could end up or what we will see along the way.  The unexpected sights and experiences along the way are the best memories we carry with us.  Having the ability to go anywhere at any time is a feeling of freedom that opens your mind to the here and now and the possibilities that tomorrow can bring.

We kicked off leaving from my mother's and headed towards Washington DC.  We stopped for our first night in PA. at the Cozy Creek Family Campground one of the few places that are open year round in northern Pennsylvania.  The owner and his son opened the office to check us in and they could not have been friendlier or more accommodating.  It was about twenty miles off I-81 through dense forest and that is how we encountered our first scare on this trip.  We came around a corner in the dark to see a huge buck strolling across the road in front of us.  It wasn't real close but it was enough to get the heart rate up and my mind thinking about what if we were 2 seconds earlier. 

Washington was our first sightseeing stop for this year, staying at Cherry Hill Park that bills itself the closest park to the sights in DC.  The park is huge and is a nice enough place to spend time but that's not what you come here for.  The public transit picks you up inside the park and drops you at the subway for an easy commute into the middle of the city.  We found it easy to drive to the subway, about ten minutes away, and you don't spend as much time waiting for the bus to show up.  The park is busy even this time of year and I imagine you would need a reservation in the summer. 

Being a Canadian, living and growing up next to the U.S., watching American TV networks and movies, we absorb the historic moments that make America what it is, almost as much as we know our own Canadian history.  Washington is full of history and museums that tell the stories of how the 'States became what it is. 

We had decided on a four night stay to see the area this time around and that is not remotely enough time to see it all or even scratch the surface.  We will be through here again at some point to see more but we did hit what, for us, was the must see spots for this trip.  Most things are centered around the National Mall, a huge park in the center of DC.  If you come here be prepared to walk, the buildings are huge, the space between them and the monuments along the mall is even bigger.

The Smithsonian Institute has always been on my list of things to see at some point in our travels and it does not disappoint.  Made up of 19 museums and another 30 research centers or programs across the world, it is the largest of it's kind.  Most of the buildings are free to visit and are full of interest for just about anyone's tastes.

We visited the Air and Space and American History Museums, both with famous exhibits and many other interesting things to see and learn about. 

American History Museum;

The first car to drive across the states.  We followed the wheel tracks last year.
Lincoln's top hat he wore to the Ford's Theatre.
The very first video game console.
Edith and Archie Bunker's chairs.

Air and Space Museum;
 The original Wright Flyer, amazing to stand beside this piece of history! 

Plenty to see and all have a part of history to tell.
1930's Hughes H-1, it just screams SPEED! Beautiful.
Wright Flyer to this in thirty years is incredible.
We took a stroll over to the White House to visit the President, but it turns out you need an appointment to see him.  We walked around outside the grounds with the other tourists and the ever present protests going on.  The land of free speech is on display with four different protests happening while we were here, all under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service.  It was strange I had never thought about this aspect before we walked into it, but it struck me as a very American scene. 
The White House.
Washington is a very impressive place and you could spend weeks here and not run out of things to see or do but it was getting cold and wet so time for us to move south!
Carolina Crossroads in Roanoke Rapids, NC is an easy drive from DC and an good place to spend a night or longer if you want spend some time in the area.  We were just passing through.
Rolling into Myrtle Beach for the first time you are struck by the shear number of restaurants and shops that line NC 17 highway, it goes on forever!  This is the down season here and some are closed for the winter but there is still plenty to see and do.  The weather swings between beautiful warm, sunny days and cold grey ones but most of the time it is good.
Myrtle Beach State Park is right on the water and our first stop while we look for a place to spend a month here.  Plenty of trees in this small park and there are limited sites that we could fit in but we did have a choice of 4 or 5 on a busy weekend.  They offer a great deal for snowbirds of half price for a thirty day stay DEC-FEB, you could do worse.
Socializing is high on the agenda while we are here.  My Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Fred are long time owners of a vacation home here and we had never been there in the 20yrs they've owned the place.  We had a nice visit and a walk along Murrell's Inlet boardwalk lined with restaurants and bars. 
Cheryl and Fred's for a yummy meal and the first dinner on their new stove!
We also met up with Frank and Joyce, long time friends of ours who spend time golfing here every fall.  We always have fun together and this was no exception.
Good food and Good times.
We are now in Willow Tree RV Resort for the next month.  This is a very nice park with huge sites, a lake you can fish and is well kept.  This park is about a half hour from the center of Myrtle Beach but it is worth the drive if you want to be out of the hustle and bustle and tiny sites offered in MB.
So that's the start of a new season of travel,
Let the wagon roll!
On a special note;
We have a dear friend, Amanda, who is battling cancer and we want her to know she is always on our minds and in our prayers.  Get Well, see you when we get back!