First off I would like to thank all the people who reached out to me publicly and privately to tell me my latest post either spoke to them, or to give me encouragement. I heard from people who I didn’t even know were reading the blog and it was so nice to hear back from people, especially on a post that really opened up about my insecurities. It gives me courage to not censor myself but keep telling my truth..so thanks again. It even surprised Lee, which was interesting. I mean, he lives with me so I thought he would have known, but apparently I am a better faker than I gave myself credit for. Plus it sparked some great conversation between Lee and I which is always a good thing. While I was gone on one of my work trips, Lee added this amazing lettering to our rig with the blog address, and part of the lyrics from our favorite song “The Way” which has become our anthem. Made me so very very happy, I truly have the best husband ever. (It’s true, she really does. – Lee)
This week we also finally finished the process of becoming State of Florida residents. I sent my Letter of Domicile to the voting board and received a letter back that I was all set to vote, so that was good. We also worked with this absolutely amazing woman Cheryl (at the DMV in Green Cove Springs) and she was a life saver. The truck title came in quickly, but the RV title took a really long time (Bank of America really needs to get their act together) so Cheryl said we could fill out all the paperwork and she would process and mail us the tags when the title came in. Talk about going above and beyond, and this allowed us to leave on our scheduled day of Sunday. Came down to the wire (we were filling out papers Friday at 4:30pm) but we made it. I was so grateful when Cheryl called on Monday and said the title had come in and everything was processed that I sent her some flowers to thank her. Yes I know that’s a little weird, but people should be thanked for going above and beyond. Here’s a picture of the bouquet I sent below. I called to make sure she got it and it made her day. (This was way more hassle than it should have been, by they way. In this day and age, documents should be electronic and easily transferred from anywhere to anywhere. We were able to prove Tracy’s identity to the state of Florida using her passport, a birth certificate, and, get this, a W-2 from 1989 that just happened to be in the bottom of an old taxes envelope that we thought was empty, and used to carry all the docs to the DMV to keep them all together. I’m not sure what we would have done to prove her SSN if it hadn’t been for that ancient W-2. But! Bank of America needed three weeks to get a certificate of title from Jacksonville to St. Augustine. On the plus side, Cheryl was the best, and it’s always fun to give someone flowers. – Lee)
Sunday we finally left Florida and I will say we were both happy to see it go. We loved Florida in January and February but the weather kept getting hotter and muggier and we were both more than a little uncomfortable towards the end. (Technically I’m always a little uncomfortable, but the heat and humidity made it worse. – Lee) Plus it was incredibly congested with spring break season and although we really liked Anastasia State Park Campground (see review below) we were both very excited about heading back up north to the Outer Banks (OBX). We did get to have an up close and personal experience with Rascal, our resident raccoon, before we left. I know they don’t generally come out in the daytime but he didn’t appear sick; just really curious. Both Lee and I got some great pictures before he decided we were not that interesting after all and wandered off. (This little guy definitely has a route that he follows. The first night we were there, Trace and I were just hanging out outside under the awning by the light of our Tiki torches and Tiki pots, and we heard a little rustling in the bushes, and he just strolled out. He seemed surprised to see us there, and scampered away. He came back several times, but on the second to last day we were there, he decided to try his luck during the day. – Lee)
Because we had scheduled our route to stop in Ebenezer Park near my sister Wendy we had about 6 hours of driving ahead of us. Normally we would try to split that into two days, but decided to try to knock it all out on Sunday. Turns out that was not the best decision, because of crazy heavy traffic it ended up taking us a full 10 hours to drive and the roads were extremely congested which made it much more stressful for Lee. Since he drives the truck and rig (and I follow in my company car), he sets the pace and it really is not the same driving a truck and fifth wheel as driving a car. You need to go slower for one thing (Lee tries to drive between 60 and 64 to help conserve fuel and maintain better control) and you are limited in what roads you can take due to a need for high overhead clearance. Well I won’t dwell but those who have done it know what it’s like and suffice it to say when we rolled into the campground at 6:30pm we were both tired and a bit on edge. (I’m happy to do a little dwelling. It’s been two days and I’m still annoyed at those people who caused a 6 hour day to be a 10 hour day. Yeah, a little “on edge”. So here’s a pro tip, for all you assholes that don’t know how to drive (present company excluded, of course): when you see a sign that says “Lane Ends 1 Mile Ahead”, go on ahead and get the hell over while everything is flowing smoothly. Waiting until the last possible second so you can have a little more time without a car in front of you DOESN’T WORK. We sat in stop and go traffic for over an hour and a half at the Georgia-Florida line and again outside Columbia S.C., because: people. They’re the worst. – Lee)
What happens next proves to me that God has a sense of humor. After writing about how comfortable I was in my little home and how the claustrophobia was practically a non issue, one of our slide outs refused to slide out. Let me say we’ve been having some minor issues with our desk slide out for a while and finally it decided enough was enough. This is the first truly major issue we have had with the Open Range since we bought it and it’s interesting it is a slide because that was one of our biggest concerns when we bought the rig. The Open Range is significantly less expensive than the same Montana and has a motor/gear/pulley system slide out versus the more traditional types on most rigs. The company passes those savings along to its consumers and we saved more than $10K on almost the same rig as the Montana. Lee likes the slide out system because it’s open to inspection and has a back up manual option to bring slide outs in with a hand drill and a tool they provide if the motor fails or there’s no electricity. In this case though, the gearbox is the problem, so the drill solution would not work. (I’m actually a big fan of this type of slide mechanism, because the workings are easily accessible, and you can visually inspect the entire system any time. And the parts are not that complicated, and relatively easily replaced. (Stay tune for more detailed information on that, which should include rare photos of me laying on top of the slide out box.) However, there really should be an option to bypass the gearbox, and manually bring in/out the slide. – Lee) Luckily it was stuck in the “in” position though because we could in theory live with this issue indefinitely. Lee called Open Range and described the problem over the phone and the gear box definitely needs replaced. He’s working with them to coordinate service when we are in OBX. I will say here that this situation really didn’t upset us too much. Everyone we know has had a major issue at some point or another and truly it’s a question of the levels of difficulty they cause, and if can you function while you are waiting to get it fixed. Since we have a two-year manufacturers warranty and another five years extended warranty on top of that, we know we are covered, it’s just a matter of getting the parts and the labor to do it. Since Lee is a certified tech they are going to send him the part so he can do the repair himself. I am just thankful it’s not a “stop everything” emergency. I am working at the kitchen table for the time being…hooray for laptops… and I will definitely be spending more time outside which is why I said God had a sense of humor. (As an added bonus, since she’s at the kitchen table, I get to use the desk, because I have no claustrophobic tendencies, which will come in handy when I’m crammed between the slide out and the ceiling. Anyway, the desk is where the computer is, so I get to actually use the computer in the daytime, so that’s something. If she didn’t know better, she might wonder if I had somehow sabotaged the gearbox on purpose. And it would be a shame if it took weeks and weeks for the part to get here and she had to continue working from the kitchen table. – Lee)
We went over to see Wendy Monday night and I couldn’t believe how much Abram (the child she is in the process of adopting) has grown. He didn’t remember us at first, which was a bit sad, but warmed up quickly and we got to watch him do all kinds of cool things. He is an active crawler now, sits easily, and eats real food with a ferocious appetite. Seriously, that boy can eat, and we had a lovely time catching up with Wendy, Josh, and the kids. She made us dinner and if I haven’t mentioned it before Wendy and her husband Josh met in cooking school and wow, can they cook. She made homemade chicken pot pie from a rotisserie chicken which was to die for. She tried to explain the steps but I glazed over at some point and she said “You know, like when you make a regular pie.” She looked a bit horrified when I admitted I have never made a pie in my life. One great piece of budget advice she gave that I wanted to pass along to my friends on a budget is she looks for the sale day for rotisserie chicken and buys the maximum of 2 when they are $4.99. She then cuts them up and uses them all week in other recipes like chicken enchiladas, etc. Really smart, and as she said, that price for well cooked chicken is cheaper than the non cooked price per pound. My sister is super smart and I’ll be trying that tip out next time I see those chickens on sale. Wish I could post some pics of Abram but because of the adoption process we have to be careful. Lee crawling on the floor with him was absolutely adorable. (In addition to being ruggedly handsome, I am also adorable. It’s a hard balance to maintain, but I manage. – Lee) So here’s aside shot of us and Abram and a picture of Wendy’s chicken pot pie. Just looking at the picture of the pie makes my mouth water. (For scale, that stone dish is like 14″ across. That’s a big damn pot pit. And Abram ate the whole thing all by himself. – Lee)
We left early Tuesday morning and drove a few hours to Raleigh which was the halfway point between OBX and Rock Hill. We are getting pretty good at packing up and rolling out with minimal fuss and the traffic wasn’t too bad along the way. There wasn’t much in the way of campgrounds in and immediately surrounding Raleigh available, so we stopped at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. It’s not really a campground in the traditional sense, it’s basically a large field with a hundred or so full hookups that the vendors stay in during fair ground events. It’s open to the public, but there are no amenities at all, and they don’t take reservations, and they only take cash. Currently it was almost filled by people working on a new power plant and the state employee who let us in was very nice. It’s $25 a night though (way overpriced for what you get) and cash only, which is always a pain. I wouldn’t stay here again unless I didn’t have any other choice since it really had no redeeming qualities other than a strong ATT signal. (I completely disagree here. I would rather stay in a place like this for a half day/overnight, because it was cheap, had full hookups, was easy to get in and out of, and close to the interstate without being within earshot of it. – Lee)
Again, got up early the next morning and drove to the Ocean Waves Campground in the Outer Banks. I have never been here and I was so impressed by the wildness of it. After the carefully coiffed beaches of Florida it was cool to see the wild and untamed dunes. Our campground is absolutely amazing with its own little patch of dunes and beach less than 100 yards away. We checked in and quickly got set up for our month-long stay. So glad we won’t be moving for a while! I enjoy staying in one place and there is so much to do here, I can’t wait for the weekend to do some exploring. We are spending the month here with our friends Jo and Craig, Kelly and Bill, and Cori and Greg. And then later Sue and Guy, Eileen and Gene, and Red and Pam may drop in as well. I’m excited about being with RV-Dreams folks again and looking forward to catching up with everyone and exploring this beautiful place.
St. John RV Park and Flea Market 2493 State Rd St. Augustine 3 out of 5 pine cones
The site was well maintained with full hookups and with the Passport America discount only $17 a night, unlimited. The people that worked there were extremely friendly and helpful and they had strong and free WiFi. I liked having the flea market next door as it was very large and fun to walk around on the weekend. It also had easy access to the freeway (the road to the entrance is literally next to the interstate ramp) and wasn’t that far from St. Augustine proper. The only problem with the campground is there were quite a few permanent trailers that look really trashy because they are just not well maintained. It’s a shame, because it has a lot of potential and I vacillated between a 2 and 3 but finally gave it a 3 because it was quiet, I felt very safe there, and the price was so good.
Anastasia State Park Campground 300 Anastasia Park Road St. Augustine 5 out of 5 pine cones
Deep, well wooded sites with 30 AMP electric and water. The facilities in each loop are extremely clean and the park has a huge beach, walking trails, and bike paths for those who stay there. Getting on and off the island can be a bit time consuming if you use the Bridge of Lions. We recommend using Rte 312 instead. It’s the same distance from the park entrance. The amphitheater next door played some particularly loud music one night, but overall it was a great experience. They have no WiFi and ATT cell service was a little low but strong enough to work. There is a free boat launching area and a vendor that rents boats if you don’t have your own. If you have a large rig be careful about what sites you reserve. There are not very manage that can handle the really big rigs. We stayed in #72 which was a bit tight width wise but very deep. Definitely a must try if you are in the St. Augustine area for any length of time, but book in advance because they fill up quickly and it’s tough to get a spot.
North Carolina State Fair Campgrounds 1025 Blue Ridge Blvd, Raleigh NC 2 out of 5 pine cones (+1/2)
Large field where vendors stay. The fair grounds are not in the best neighborhood and it was a little hard to find the actual campsites. Cash only and $25 a night for full hookups which is high for a field. The website says free WiFi but it doesn’t actually connect to the internet and although the area is gate controlled and protected by state employees I didn’t feel super safe, not unsafe exactly just not very comfortable. The sites were full of construction workers working on the nearby power plant. There was a noisy train that ran close by and even though it was for one night not a place I would return to. In a pinch you can make it work but I wouldn’t recommend it. (Pay no attention to her, she drinks. This is a perfectly serviceable overnight spot. – Lee)
Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Search Amazon.com here