We’ve seen really cool travel maps from other’s blog sites (here’s my favorite one from a couple we are following) but when we tried to make ours, it looked confusing. It’s at the bottom of this page, so we’re going to break our trips down with a summary of our time spent on each road trip up until we became full timers. We haven’t been able to blog about each location as initially hoped. We can blame it on poor internet connectivity and poor time management – having too much fun to find time to blog – but then we need the blog to help us remember what we’ve done!
Let’s break this down to our first two trips:
Dates 9/5-7/2013 & 9/17-21/2013
We bought our Keystone Cougar X-lite RV on September 4, 2013 at Camping World, Tampa, FL. We had looked at Class A motor homes for about 3 years, but when it came to buy one, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. But we needed an RV for our upcoming month long stay near our new grandson. I’ve blogged about that journey here. We about gave up on buying anything when we stopped at “just one more” RV show. This time Bill said let’s look in everything. We parked at the same time next to a brand new Ford F-150 Ecoboost. The new proud owner said he was there to look at 5th wheels to tow. We were shocked you could tow one, so we headed to the first 5th wheel we saw. We stepped inside and were so impressed. Then a man came in and said randomly, “Can you believe, you can tow this with a Ford F-150 Ecoboost?” We were hooked and long story short, we bought ours the next day! And it was the end of the year sales on the Ford Trucks, so what a great time to buy a new 2013 truck! The RV salesman gave us two free nights to stay just a mile from the store at Tampa East RV Resort. Even thought it poured down rain our first night, we felt we were at “home.”
So we went home and began to plan our “maiden voyage” to Port St. Lucie RV Resort. We lived about smack dab in the middle of these two resorts, so around a two hour drive to our home. Again, we were so comfortable, we couldn’t wait to make our first trip up to Fredericksburg, Virginia to spend a month with our first grandson.
OUR THIRD ROAD TRIP:
10/4-12/1/2013 (56 nights)
Our daughter had to return to work when her baby was 2 months old. So we suggested coming up for a month to watch him so he wouldn’t start day care until he was 3 months old. What a blessing that was! We were excited to get there, but to also begin some fun adventures in our new RV. So we stopped at Jekyll Island, South Carolina (#2 on map) for our first stop on the way up the coast. There was great history (we did a self guided walking tour as well as the tram tour) and fabulous beaches. A very serene island! We enjoyed church at the friendly and historic Baptist Church. What a great time and we vowed we would return one day! But so far, we haven’t….By the way, we love the beach, which was one thing we had in common when we first met!
Bill researched and discovered the closest RV parks that were right on the beach were in Myrtle Beach. While it sounded good, I (Debbie) was a bit concerned about all the sand getting into our moving parts, our slides! But my fears were alleviated when I saw we were actually on the other side of dunes and on a concrete slab. So we stayed in Ocean Lakes Campground (#3 on map) and discovered Myrtle Beach is the best beach for a long walk! We vowed we would return and we have!
After staying on the beach, it was time to go learn how to be grand parents. So off we were to the Fredericksburg/Washington DC KOA Campground (#4 on map), just a few miles from our daughter’s home. This resort is very nice, but I don’t know how bigger RV’s make it down the narrow and winding road. It is very convenient from I-95 but far enough away that you don’t hear the road noise. We stayed here for 40 nights and loved every second we had with our precious grand baby. If not for the fun so far in our RV, I may have put my foot down and said we need to move back to Fredericksburg….but that would have not gone over very well with Bill since he vowed he would never move back there due to the traffic! But I digress.
Bill has a knack for finding interesting places to visit. So after some research, he selected Forest Lake RV (#5 on map), Advance, North Carolina. We didn’t blog about this stay, but we had a blast. However, this campground was a bit lacking in ambience, but it had all the amenities we needed (full hook ups). And the bonus was that since I post on Facebook where we are, we were able to meet up with a long lost cousin and had a great time touring the Billy Graham Library and Museum with them. We also had some great hiking (Boone’s Cave, Lexington, NC) as we discovered in 2003 how much we love to hike in the mountains. We both love history, so finding interesting places to visit, coupled with either mountains or beaches makes for a lot of fun and adventure for us.
Speaking of history, our next stop was in Milledgeville, Georgia, the first state capital of Georgia. The campground name was very deceiving but the history we stumbled on made up for the basic campground, Scenic Mountain RV Resort (#6 on map). Good parts about the “resort” (a term that doesn’t really do it justice) was that it was conveniently located to the wonderful history, the price was excellent (Passport America), laundry room was nice, and the NEW staff was super friendly and helpful. The downside was that most of people in the resort were full time residents. That tends to change the “ambiance” of a park. What we loved about Milledgeville was that it is a small college town and the historic area has been fabulously preserved. We visited several mansions, but our favorite was the Old Capital Museum. The Docent or tour guide was a college student studying history. What a bonus and it was our favorite historical tour to date. We enjoyed church at Covenant Presbyterian Church – same name as our church in Sebring. As for hiking, we couldn’t find that scenic mountain! But one mansion we toured had a great self-guided walking tour of the grounds, a good one mile walk.
And the final location, Panama City Beach RV Resort (#7 on map). You get what you pay for! This was our most expensive resort to date, but it was absolutely fabulous! I’m not good at keeping track of how much we spend, but it was around $45 and they did give Good Sam Club discount. We actually met friends here (they camped in a pop-up tent in the Saint Andrews State Park, within walking distance) there for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The bad news was that it was the coldest week ever! The water was turned off one night due to the freezing temperatures. But hanging out with friends made it OK. We enjoyed an evening at their campsite with a campfire cooked dinner (yummy!) and they came to our camper for a warm Thanksgiving dinner inside (it was so cold outside). We each prepared part of the meal so it was no burden for anyone. We had planned to cook a turkey in our new stove…what a shock when we finally looked inside it. You can only cook a pan of brownies in it! So we did cheat and let Publix cook the turkey for us. Now the best lesson we learned here was when to travel. The absolutely worst day to try and drive, especially when it was a normally 7 hour trip, is the Sunday after a holiday. It took us 11 hours to get home. NOT FUN towing a 5th wheel. What is so sad is that since we are retired, there was no rush to get home and we wished we had stayed another day or found a place to stop about 1/2 home. So we vowed we will limit our travel days and actually learned the best days to travel are Tuesdays and Thursdays for some reason. And we absolutely loved the long journey and the 56 nights!
FOURTH ROAD TRIP
12/18/2013-1/7/2014 (23 nights)
We learned how to be flexible this time out. Our grandson became ill and couldn’t be in day care. I can pack a suitcase in about 30 minutes, so I flew up as fast as I could get to the airport. We had planned to return for Christmas, but not sure if the weather would allow it. We had two weeks to decide. Bill joined me about two weeks later, towing the RV! So he made his first trip by himself, traveling to Jolly Time Acres, St. George, SC. It was a Passport America campground, basic, but the friendly staff made it pleasant. Bill learned he can hook up and unhook the 5th wheel by himself as well as do all the setting up. Then he headed back to the Fredericksburg/Washington DC KOA campground again, for our second stay. That was over 800 miles in two days! But since he traveled mid-week, traffic wasn’t bad. We had a fantastic Christmas, having a grandbaby made it so special. My sister and her husband live about 2 hours away from our daughter, so it was great that they came up for the day and we meet again a few days later.
Our trip home was back to the beach, Myrtle Beach, but this time, PirateLand. It was next door virtually to Ocean Lakes. We ended up preferring PirateLand because they give the Good Sam Club discount. Both are equally good, although Ocean Lakes may have a bit more ambiance! This winter was unusual, so we were told, so it was a bit cold. In fact, the day we left it was 19 degrees! As Bill unhooked the water, some dripped as usual, but it froze the minute it hit the concrete pad! Thanks again to FaceBook, we got up with an old prayer partner from our first church in New Jersey. So we hung out with him some, had dinner together, visited his home and learned more about the area. Our final leg of the trip home was to stay in the Jacksonville North/St. Mary’s KOA. We joined KOA so earned enough points for a free night! This KOA is very convenient to I-95. The staff is outstanding and of course, there are all the normal amenities. Plus it has a nice layout that we could get in a two mile walk at night. By now, we have spend a total of 87 nights in our RV and towed it 4,627 miles. We are beginning to dream about going full-time!
FIFTH ROAD TRIP and last before we become full-timers!
3/22-5/20/2014 (55 nights)
Time for our spring visit to our daughter to celebrate her birthday and our anniversary (in the same month, so we make a big deal for both every year). Might as well see as much as possible as we have the luxury of time for this road trip. We stayed at 9 resorts and this time decided to add the mountains to our return trip. But was you may begin to notice, we are returning to some of our favorite places, if nothing else, they are convenient for our trek between Florida and Virginia.
First stop is back to the Jacksonville North/St. Mary’s KOA. It had been about 10 weeks since we were out in the RV. It was in the shop nearly the whole time getting a bunch of warranty repairs taken care of. We also began to sell off our rental properties as we now have the vision to go full time. So Bill had to do a lot of labor (worked 7 days a week for three weeks – but took time off for Church) as he prepared some of the houses for sale. We are learning as we age, we need to take our time doing things (like packing) so we had a great list of everything we knew we needed as we planned for nearly two months on the road. But of course, we forgot the wonderful lunch we had packed for our arrival to the KOA (it’s only about 4 hours from home), rain gear, shower soap, and dish soap. Thank goodness for Walmart for the little things, but guess we’ll get wet if it rains (main thing is to use while Bill may empty our tanks in the rain).
We initially planned to go to Cedar Creek, NC from here, but when we woke up, we heard Myrtle Beach calling us! What a draw it has on us. We stayed back in PirateLand. This time we toured historic Georgetown. We arrived in summer clothes, but quickly had to bundle up! We loved the history of the rice plantations. We didn’t know that this area was the rice capital of the US until after the Civil War. We only stayed here 3 days as we needed to get to our daughter’s to help them get their townhome ready to sell.
Who would have known we’d be trying to sell our homes at the same time as our daughter. But it helped that Bill is a good painter and really can do about any work needed around a house. So that was how he kept himself occupied while I took care of our grandson, who had a cold. Then Bill got sick as a dog with the flu! He was down and out for about 5 days. I ended up with strep throat, but caught it right away so I only missed one day. So without going into great detail, we needed a week off, so we headed down to Cedar Point, NC for 4 days. We had a great time, discovered Emerald Isle; met up with our family’s Marine who gave us a tour of Camp LaJune and had dinner with his family (he and his wife have a son and twin girls); toured Fort Macon and learned more civil war history, and found a few places for some good walks. It was a really full four days! Then back to Fredericksburg to work and find time to celebrate our anniversary and our daughter’s birthday.
Sadly, it was time to leave our grandson. We never knew a baby boy could change our lives like he did! But then, there was another Baby Boy who changed the world! We are looking forward to celebrating His Birthday this CHRISTmas!
So off we were to return to Florida via the mountains, after all, it was now spring time. We decided we wanted to travel on the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. We did make the entire Skyline Drive and it was pleasant enough, just a bit too slow since we were meeting friends. So much to see and so little time! We actually thought about returning and possibly boon docking on the parkway, but decided we’re addicted to the luxury of full hook ups!
We stayed at the entrance of the Skyline Drive to get us oriented (and pay $10 for a week of on and off the parkway). I blogged about our stay at North Fork Resort in Front Royal, Virginia. Let’s just say we loved the mountains but we probably won’t return to this particular resort! It was definitely the worst one so far (and as I write this after 39 stays, it is still the worst one). Why? The way they treated us! It had the basics we needed, full hook up, but the initial phone call for the reservation should have been a clue they don’t like “strangers.” And it went downhill from there….
Our next stop at the Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA had to be better and it was like night and day! WOW, they made us feel so welcome and couldn’t do enough to make sure our stay was the best. And this one ranks up there as one of the best! We were asked if we’d like to back up to the lake for one thing. Awesome! The “neighbors” who watched were a hoot and very friendly! We loved this place alone and will return one day! Sadly, we haven’t had time to blog about it, but I’m inserting a photo gallery to capture the essence!
No blog for the next two stops, either. Next, was a short drive so we stopped over night and had a full day to see the sights. We stayed at Yogi Bear’s Jelly Stone Camp Resort at Natural Bridge, Virginia. What a nice campground and beautiful sight this was. We didn’t stay longer because we had a deadline to meet up with our friends. We want to return and spend more time here and especially see the night time Natural Bridge Light show, which tells the story of creation.
Our next stop was Mount Airy where we stayed at the Mayberry Campground. This was a love at first sight experience! From the initial greeting at the office, to the site, the sights around town and the hiking, we vowed to return and we have! We stayed three days and they were three of the most relaxing days of all! No wonder Andy Griffith was such a charming and sweet man! This town raises them that way!
Our next stop was our driving force to get us finally to Ashland, NC. We had wanted to visit here for the 10 years we lived in Fredericksburg but just never made the time. This is one of our best experiences, really enjoyed the church we found, had great hiking and camping with friends – the same friends we spent Thanksgiving with at Panama City Beach. Thankfully, I managed to find time to blog about this GREAT time with our dear friends! Not sure if I ever mentioned, they were the ones who encouraged us to try the mountains for a vacation.
It was now time to get back along the coast, to I-95 to bee-line our way home to Sebring. But first, we spend a fabulous 6 days in Charleston, NC. I was able to blog about this great historical city. The campground was very basic, full hooks ups and a decent enough laundry room. The location was good as we drove both south and north to see all the sights. We tried to see everything so we wouldn’t have to return. We think we succeeded this time. I guess I didn’t mention that part of the reason we are in North Carolina so much is to see if there is a location we would eventually want to settle down in – since Bill doesn’t want to live in Fredericksburg again. I’m OK with that, but my only request is that we live only about 5 hours from our grandson. So far, nothing has really hit us. But Myrtle Beach is the biggest draw, but we don’t think we could live in a resort town again. We lived in Virginia Beach for 7 years. It is also beyond my mandatory 5 hour drive! LOL!
Our journey is about to come to an end on May 20, 2014, with another overnight stay at the Jacksonville/St. Mary KOA. We’re so glad these excursions ended on such a positive note. We’re now ready to make the plunge. Miraculously, all of our rental homes sold in the depressed market and didn’t kill us too badly (we had a lot of solid equity). So now for the last one to sell – our own home, as well as Bill’s motorcycle (sold the day we “listed it” to someone who had expressed an interest). And to get rid of everything! So in the midst of all this, our daughter’s home sold and they bought a much larger home. So praise God, we’ll gave her a lot of our furniture! We love how things just manage to work out.
But we had no idea how busy our June was about to become because we also have a date to travel to Illinois to spend 10 days with Bill’s mom (June 26-July 8, 2014). We were approaching six weeks of not seeing our grandson – and it’s my birthday and Father’s Day mid-June. So we decided to just drive our car up and stay in a hotel for a “quick trip” from June 12-June 21. We could help our daughter move out of her house along with the celebrations. And wouldn’t you know it, we listed our house right before we left and it sold on June 15 with a closing date of July 15! Talk about adventures! What a whirlwind June and July became! We blogged about it here, where we ended up becoming Full Time RVers – on July 15, 2014!
Map of our first five travels “live”