Oh my my my….

We had planned on writing a fun and exciting blog about our safe and relatively uneventful trip from Virginia to Florida. Sort of like our blogging friend, Ingrid’s post. But, “oh my my my,” to quote our favorite detective, Lt. Joe Kenda!

It was just one of those journeys. We were fleeing the cold of Virginia, heading south to Florida to start our winter wanderings. Our destination was 858 miles (1380.82 kilometers), or a little over 13 hours if you drove the speed limit and made no stops (in a car, not a motor home 😁). We decided to stop overnight at two campgrounds on the way. While we needed to get to Florida to help my mom, we were also in a hurry to get to warmer weather.

But we will not travel foolishly and we always hope take little time enjoy the journey. First stop was Florence, South Carolina, which is a tad farther than we prefer at about 337 miles (542.349 km). The second stop was in St. Mary’s, Georgia, approximately 263 miles (423.257 km) and our final leg to Avon Park, Florida at just over 260 miles (418.429 km). As most full-time RVers will say, we prefer to only go 150-250 miles a day. Periodically, we make an exception. And every morning, we do have prayer time and ask for travel mercies on our journey (along with a few other requests)! So here is how the trip went:

Monday, January 4 We are starting 2016 with our RV odometer at 24,633 and our car at 38,837. (As an aside, we bought both in May 2015. Both are used. The RV reading was 21,958 and our car was 23,000. So in seven months, it’s easy to see we’ve about gone 2,675 miles in the RV and 15,837 in the car, which included a trip to Illinois and back to Sebring without the RV.)

Remembering we only bought the RV seven months ago, not driving it or tearing it down the six weeks we were in Virginia meant we were a bit rusty.  Thankfully, on January 1, we had a “shake down” trip. We had to drive it to “The Tire Shop” at a Flying J Travel Center in Ruther Glen, VA. It was not too far away and we had to figure out why one tire was going flat. It was a valve stem issue. They also checked the air pressure on all tires, inflating them evenly at 110 pounds and confirmed all looked fine. In fact, every time we have it in for service, we ask for opinions on the tires since they were five years old. We also decided to get weighed on the CAT scales. We actually weighed less than the original owner, who only used it for recreation. These scales don’t weigh each axle, so that is something we hope to do in the future at one of the rally’s where it is offered.

This “dry” run to the tire store helped our confidence on starting the journey and tearing down camp. Now we just had to remember how to hook the car up. Note: it was very cold at 34 degrees as we were hooking it up. We realized we were leaving just in time as it had been a mild winter up until this week and was to get down to 16 that night. We just had weather in the low 70s.

Long story short, Bill was behind the RV waiting for me to pull the car up. I drove as close to him as he directed me – for the tow arms to reach the car. I was waiting for him to tell me to pull closer or back up a bit. It looked like it was ready for him to hook it up. So I jumped into the passenger seat to do something. But not realizing I was on a slight decline, I put the car in neutral (that’s how we get it ready to “flat tow.” Can you guess what happened next? The car began to roll into Bill! Poor guy thinks I am driving it into him (my my my)…and then he sees me jump out from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat to put the brakes on! Not a good start to our journey. Was this a sign of things to come?

We arrived at the Swamp Fox Campground in Florence, SC in about five hours and 40 minutes! Hardly any traffic, so an uneventful trip so far.  The weather was much colder than we had hoped for, but we were ready. We now have a heater hose attached to our water hose in freezing weather and we took other precautions for a possible freeze.  We didn’t unhook the car, which is a real time saver.  We were both exhausted and it was just too muddy and cold out to take a walk. That is never good for me, Debbie. I need my daily walks!

Tuesday, January 5 The next morning, as we broke down camp, we started the car to warm up for at least 5 minutes as the directions say.  And off we went. We are really praising God as we moved down the road as the traffic was minimal both days. And what a surprise, it was still so cold! And sadly, we had agreed to accept a 30 amp site as we didn’t think it would be so cold. That means we have to watch running too many things at the same time, like an electric heater, Keurig and toaster!

Since we stayed two nights, Bill unhooked the car at the office check-in area. And guess what, the car battery was dead! Not to name names, but  the person who started the car said he had trouble turning it off. It’s a keyless start ignition….AND we always turn everything OFF whenever we stop it, radio, heater/ac, whatever. Once he got it charged up (which turned out to not be an easy task as there was no 110 power close by for his battery charger), the wipers and radio were both on! Strange…

So we begin setting up. We needed to run an electric heater as we began carefully preparing dinner. We then ate and took  a walk! Soon after coming back inside, the circuit blew. We thought we misjudged the amperage. We began using more caution as we proceeded to move around inside.  Then the circuit blew again. Bill went outside only to learn the entire camp was dark. There was a campground wide problem, but we all were told it would be fixed within the hour. Brrrr, it was so cold and we were grateful we could run our generator. And in an hour, all power was restored and off to sleep we went.

Wednesday, January 6 Our day off from traveling. Bill lived in Jacksonville, Florida before we were married. He loved Florida, after relocating from Pennsylvania for the warm weather. He has many fond memories there, so whenever we get the chance to stop there, we do. So our plan was to go have lunch at the Metro Diner, visited by Guy  Fieri. Bill saw that show and knew he had to try it. We visited it soon after. We had to go back….well, he had to go back. We are not foodies but I am less than he is….and he is on the hunt for the world’s best hamburger. He didn’t try one the last time there, so this time, he did. His opinion?  He said if only the bun had been grilled, otherwise, one of the best ever.

Sadly, the weather was not conducive for a walk on the beach at Little Talbot Island. We have walked on it when it was cold and when it was windy. We just weren’t in the mood to do it again on this day. So we searched for a place inland, with no success. We did know we could get a decent walk in around the campground, so we returned home and took a good walk. We just ran out of daylight! So this was a relatively mild day with a great meal out. And there was time to hook the car up, so it would be ready for the morning.

Thursday, January 7 The weather wasn’t bad, so we managed to start off without incident. We ran the car and were careful to warm it up, put it in neutral and turn it off properly. Traffic was not bad again. Since we had driven to Jacksonville the day before, we knew the better route to take to avoid construction. We hate traveling exclusively on interstates, but to make time, we had to on this journey south. We have traveled on I-4, around Orlando, many times. We knew we had to be on it in midday to avoid any type of “rush hour.” We did pretty well, but the road construction seemed extra annoying this time. The road was so torn up with “detours” around patch work. And going 60 mph while not getting blown off the highway by the big rig trucks who manage to go much faster!

They day was still very overcast but we were starting to feel warmer. We had worn our winter coats at the last rest stop. We made it off I-4 and onto US Highway 27/98 for the last leg of the journey. The sun actually started to burn off the clouds. We are actually “cruising,” just enjoying how smooth the actual driving was going. No real traffic issues!  I’m on social media and posted this picture, saying how great the trip was going:

And then it happened:  BANG! Bill hollers, “what happened?” Then, “I can hardly keep the RV on the road!” And I’m praying out loud, ‘Lord, help us!” My ears are ringing, it sounded like a shotgun went off right at my head.  Oh my my my….

Blow out!

Our tire….Blow out!

Bill was driving 60 mph on this north/south rural highway which is heavily traveled by tractor trailers. But they seem to come in groups. We were approaching an overpass and by now we realize a tire blew. I am so serious, we need divine intervention as Bill is hanging on to the steering wheel for dear life.  There is nowhere to safely to pull off the road – if he could even pull off and the fear of stopping right over a blind spot is terrifying.  But over the overpass we go and he’s still on the road. And miraculously, there is a turn lane!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let us count the miracles this day: This happened on an open stretch of road. The traffic seemed to clear off the road for us. Bill kept the rig on the road. We didn’t fall off the overpass. We weren’t on I-4 or I-95 for that matter! A professional driver on his day off saw us and came to offer assistance. He checked our rig over and said we only needed a new tire. We should be good to go – at least to our destination which was about 20 miles away. The damage was minor. The weather was beautiful!

I had read Genesis chapters 22-24 on this morning. One story really stuck with me, about Abraham when the Lord told him he would have to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The Lord was really just testing him to see if he would obey him completely. When the Lord stopped him at the last minute and provided a ram, “Abraham bowed down and worshiped the Lord.” And this scenario was repeated. Every time the Lord answered his prayers, Abraham bowed down and worshiped the Lord. That was about all we could do….

For tips on how to handle a blowout, check out this site which has links to a few videos:


PS  Our car looked fine after the incident. The next morning when we came out to get in it, the windshield was cracked!

Anyone else every live through a blowout? I actually had one in a van.  That was an interesting story, but later….

This isn’t how we prefer to travel….

Our current spacious site

We already wrote about our “ideal travel day“. Since we recently traveled a few days that weren’t our ideal, we thought we would share about it.

Life on the road as a full time RVer is exciting, addicting, full of adventure, just a great way to live and be active everyday. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But life still goes on and then we got one of those dreaded phone calls….

On March 22, 2015, we were in our seventh Florida State Park, Little Talbot Island, Jacksonville. While we’ve visited here a few other times (and Bill lived in Jacksonville before marriage), we never camped on the island.  We imagined four action packed and full days, but the weather didn’t cooperate. So we slowed down and just enjoyed the beach with long walks, dressed warmly and dreamed about our next adventure.

That plan was to finally visit Wilmington, NC. It has many beaches there and we wonder if it might be THE place we would eventually settle in.  And then on that date, Debbie received that dreaded phone call, Cancer. Oh no, another loved one afflicted. We’ve both lost our dads to cancer.  What is it with this disease? We hated the phone call, and now we had a bit of a dilemma. When we left our daughter’s home in early January, we promised her we would return on April 1, which was just a week and a few days away. What could we do back home we wondered? We were praying, but what else could we do?

As the day to head north came, March 25, we still didn’t know where to stay in Wilmington, and now we see for a reason….We decided to head back down south. As it turned out, we actually were needed….please pray for our family as we begin another dreaded cancer journey.

After being with Debbie’s family for that week, it was time to head back to our daughter’s home.  She understandably knew we couldn’t keep the April 1 date, but she was anxious for our arrival (she always has repairs/remodeling things for her dad). And we were both compelled to get there as soon as possible because it had been a full three months since we had seen our only grandchild. And he is the reason we started our adventure travels, so we at least have to come see him every few months!

As former work-a-holics, we are really trying to take life slow and easy. And that means, our ideal travel day is around 250 miles and we like to keep it to around four to five hours driving time. While we prefer to stay any one place a week, we could only get in most of the Florida State Parks four days since we made last minute reservations.  It was also the month of “Spring Breaks” for every school district and college in Florida and within a state or two of Florida!

On March 31, we sadly headed back up north, and decided to break our “rules” of travel. We decided to travel as fast as we could and get there by April 2, just a day late. We guess us work-a-holics are also compulsive promise keepers.  So that meant, we would stay one night at two different campgrounds for the 870 plus miles and 14 hours of driving time. As members of Passport America, we could find inexpensive campgrounds near I-95. Little did we realize March 31, a Tuesday, was probably one of the biggest travel days in Florida as all the snowbirds are heading north.

Our first stop was 287 miles and it should have been about a five hour drive. With all the traffic, it was a six hour trip. We decided to try Walkabout Camp & RV Park, just seven miles north of the Georgia/Florida State line. We had actually tried to stay here one other time and I (Debbie) was glad they were fully booked due to a “rally” of some sort. It was unimpressive…at least that day. But  now it was really an ideal location and we ended up being very pleased. For me, Debbie, being able to actually walk about and get in a two mile walk is my ideal. Guess now we know where the name came from. It looked small and uninviting the first time we stopped in. It was actually a little bigger and it has some nature trails. So we couldn’t manage 2 miles, we got close. What also really helps any campground is that initial friendly and welcoming check in! And this park is managed by the owner who was happy to oblige! Click here for our review which includes pictures.

The next leg of our trip included a bit of a traffic nightmare. Bill likes to calculate our travel by using the 250 mile rule, which would be around Florence, SC. There was bridge repair work being done on I-95 north bound for about 45 days, which meant the already narrow two lane highway would merge into one lane near the bridge repairs. And this was a minimum of an hour delay, or the detour which was 30 miles and would add at least an hour to the trip.  Bill wanted to stop before the detour, but Debbie really wanted to press on.  But since Bill was the driver and Debbie likes to maintain a peaceful relationship :-}, she bit her tongue and tried to make the best of it.

We had stayed here once before, the Swamp Fox Campground, Florence, SC for one night, 1/7-8/2015. This was the day of the great polar vortex, or was it the second or third one. No matter how many, our pipes did freeze, but fortunately, no damage was done. We really didn’t spend any time there as we had traveled 353 miles (and over seven hours) from Fredericksburg.  But this time, we only drove a little over 250 miles in about four hours. That’s an ideal drive!  We arrived early enough to do laundry and Debbie managed to get in a 1.3 mile walk. To read about this campground, click here for our review, which also includes pictures.

As it turned out, on April 2, 2015, a Thursday, there was no traffic delay since there was no construction! It appears to us, the best travel day is on Thursdays and this date proved it. We had an aggressive drive, 342 miles and over five hours, BUT we made fantastic time! We arrived at 2:00 pm.

We were nervous about the campground, R & D Family Campground in Milford, VA, but our concerns were unfounded. Our campsite was level and we were hooked up and ready to go pick our grandson up from daycare in record time! We had a grand reunion with him and he even spent the night with us….he revived us after a long but smooth day of travel. Click here for our review of this campground.

Colin catching us up on the past three months!

 So even though this was not the ideal way to travel, the reward at the end of the push was well worth it! He gave us both a big smile, tight hug and kissed our cheeks!