Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Steve!

In honor of Steve's birthday today, I want to show a bit of wifely appreciation. These past few months have provided us a real crash course in RV ownership, and we've definitely had to take the good with the bad. Not everything can be rosy when you're taking on a new car-sized loan, dealing with mechanical glitches and trying to figure out the best way to maneuver a 26-foot trailer through a narrow, construction-ridden highway. Fortunately for us though, Steve keeps his head on straight.

He's a pretty happy guy
So I'm going to take a walk down memory lane (thank God I blogged about most of these things so the remembering part isn't too hard) and catalog the top six (started with five and came up with six) most impressive RV-related achievements Steve can lay claim to:
1) Figuring out how to rig up a standalone air conditioner in our hot-as-hell trailer when we discovered the central air wasn't working the first day of our Holly Shores vacation
2) Safely getting us through the Beltway in both directions, even though the lanes were narrow, there was ongoing construction everywhere and we ended up in a high-capacity carpool lane that sent us into downtown DC
3) Becoming a complete pro at hooking up...now it officially takes me longer to unpack our clothing/necessities than it does for Steve to get all hitched up. Not so long ago, I had to stand by and yell out directions while Steve put the car into reverse and tried to edge the car into the perfect hitch position. Now, my services are no longer needed, as apparently my inability to tell left from right was more of a hindrance than anything.
4) Always being game to dump the tanks and alert me to almost-full gray water tanks. Thank God Steve knows his way around those pipes, and the dump station is a breeze.
5) Installing the Hensley hitch entirely by himself (I handed him parts and read out instructions) after our RV shop mechanics expressed reluctance at carrying out the job. Only took about five or so hours on a blustery March day, and yeah, afterwards we set off for the hour-and-a-half-long journey home without having the slightest idea whether we'd done it correctly. But we're still alive, so clearly he did something right.
6) Learning how to back into campsites, haul a 26-footer up and down steep hills, and generally drive that thing like it's no big deal. Sometimes, I forget we're even pulling it.

It's been a great year, and I have my awesome husband to thank. Happy birthday Steve, I love you!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Road Warriors

God, I love the South
 By the time we set off for home, we felt like pros. Hitching up, clearing off the tables and couch and dumping our tanks -- no biggie, at least anymore. Before we left, we also got one last visit in with Joey, this time on River Street in Savannah's tourist district (my fave!).

Right before we left
I wasn't super excited about the drive home, but at least I had South of the Border to look forward to. The last time we were there was in late 2006 on our last GA trip, so I was hoping things had cleaned up there somewhat. As a child, a SOB visit was the highlight of any I-95 trip -- everything just seemed brighter, happier and more exciting (kinda like Disney World) in that tiny stretch off the highway. I must've romanticized the crap out of it because when I returned five years ago, it was like an eerie pallor of gloom had settled over the place. The colors and decor were still as bright and in-your-face as I remembered, but they only made the contrast to the lack of visitors and activity that much more striking.

I took a pic of pretty much every sign on the way home...but I'm sparing you the rest!
I remember us sitting down to eat a quick meal of enchiladas or tostadas or something we ended up regretting later, browsing through the near-empty stores, hoping to find a cute knickknack or two to bring home but instead deciding the dust-covered items on the shelves were a little bit too sad, outdated or expensive even for my tastes. (This coming from someone who once had a spoon collection. Oh, and a sugar packet collection too- don't ask.)

So I was hoping there was a bit more spirit, life, vitality at South of the Border this time around.

Well, there's certainly a lot of statues to pose on!
 The verdict: Well, it's still a bit of a ghost town, and I still wasn't willing to fork over money for the selection of souvenirs that I swear haven't been updated since the last time. But we had a delicious meal at the Sombrero Restaurant, shockingly enough. If you read the reviews people write about SOB in general, you'd expect to see roaches crawling out of your chimichanga. That wasn't the case with us (and if there were roaches, they were safely hidden from view). So if you go there, I recommend the Sombrero Restaurant. You won't be putting your digestive system at risk!
The pilot gets a much-deserved break
I won't give up on this place no matter what, dammit!
Thoroughly sated, we took a few minutes to walk around and snap some photos.

On the overlook bridge
I'm imitating the growling bear if you can't tell
Should I regret not buying this?
We returned to our trailer, which we'd left parked in the convention center lot, seeing as there didn't seem to be any other designated trailer/truck parking. Pretty weird for a tourist destination. I guess they think that if you have a trailer, you'll be staying in their campground anyway. In any case, nobody got mad at us for leaving the car/trailer there (we were only gone for 45 minutes at the most).

In no man's land
We got back on the road pretty quickly and driver-of-the-year Steve got us into Virginia by a little after midnight. This time we boondocked at the Pilot Travel Center in Colonial Heights, VA. (From my research it appears Pilot and Flying J have merged, so we were expecting the same standard in quality.) Our stay was nice and very quiet, actually- considering we were parked right by the gas pumps, so you'd think we'd be disturbed by the constant in-and-out of travelers. But, nope. We settled in from some snacks from the travel center and went to sleep.
The view from our sleeping quarters
 The next morning came the hair-raising part. My dad had given us directions for an alternate route through 301 (the old 95, I think) so we wouldn't have to brave the Beltway again. Ah, the scenic route - now we'd finally get to see what exists BEYOND 95 (well, from what we saw of Richmond, it wasn't pretty). The only problem was that there were traffic lights pretty much every five feet. Speeding up only to have to downshift quickly for a red light equaled a jerky, unpleasant ride. So with much consternation, we decided to tough it out for the Beltway.

Ahh! Abort mission!
All was going well at first. Somehow we came upon a high-capacity commuter lane, which apparently nobody else knew about because we were sailing through there, not a care in the world. Well, there's a reason nobody else was on it. It ended up taking us through downtown D.C., which, lovely place but you couldn't pay me enough to drive in that. So THAT was fun. Beltway, you win again.

That sums up the trip, I think...aside from those few hours we had to battle the Beltway, it was a complete success. Especially 'cause we don't feel like such newbies anymore! I-95 turned us into a couple of road warriors.

Now for the ratings:
Pros: beautiful scenery, spacious and private campsite, gorgeous trails and plenty of areas to explore
Cons: no dumping station on our site (but let's be honest, that's a bit of a luxury), the 30-minute drive to Savannah was a little inconvenient

All in all, our best trip so far! And it's only gonna get better, and easier. Thanks for reading -- we appreciate it so much!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Georgia's still on my mind a month later (I'm a slow blogger, sorry)...

Georgia, come back to meeeee
WOW, so sorry about the lack of posts! When Steve starts getting on my case about my apparent blog neglect, you know there's a problem. I guess it's just hard to get into that whole vacation-mindset when you've been back in the land of the real world/work for so long. Plus, the days have been gray and rainy for a century, so it's really hard to conjure up thoughts of palm trees and sticky-sweet humidity when you're stuck in this drab mess.

Summer is over, of course (*sob*) but we're still trying to plan one last trip of the season. It would be a short one, an overnighter just so we could dump our tanks. We'd like to get it done before it gets too cold, and also a lot of campgrounds around here close after October anyway. It's just a matter of picking the right weekend so hopefully we can squeeze one in before the end of this month.

That being said, I still have some ground left to cover from our Savannah trip, so to avoid another Steve-freakout ("You're NEVER gonna update the blog again!"), I'll get right to it.

Yay! Visitors!
We had, as I've mentioned before, the absolute nicest campsite ever. So we were thrilled when one of Steve's friends from Savannah, Joey, came over to join us for a barbecue. He lives about 15 minutes away from Skidaway and had no idea the place even existed. And because he's awesome, he brought his own charcoal grill, not to mention some crazy-huge Georgia sausages, a couple bottles of wine and some fancy lights to brighten up the place.

The whole mess of BBQ stuff
We couldn't be real fancy with the light-rigging
Joey and Steve tending to the fire
 It's always so fun to get visitors because I don't think people really grasp what it's like to travel in a trailer if they've never done it before. Even people who don't like camping, I think, would be surprised how enjoyable it is. Heck, I spent a large portion of my teenage years hating the great outdoors (well, mostly bugs, and I still hate those) and now I'm writing a blog about RVing. I'm a changed woman!

Nature walks
At home when I take Lola for walks, I might worry about her freaking out over the occasional dog or squirrel. Here, the danger was a bit more ominous. What would she do if she was faced with a gator? We were (sort of) hoping to find out, because how often can you say you've encountered a real gator in the wild? Skidaway's teeming with trails and marshy areas, so it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility.

Nice view, eh?
Awkward shot of me #2,938
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), no gators crossed our path during any of our walks. We did, however, spot some neat stuff near the marshes:

Swampy swamp
He blends in, but he's the little brownish-green fiddler crab on the right
Cool looking bird in the distance (can you tell I'm a real avian expert?)
And this thing wasn't so cool 

Our trip was pretty much wrapped up at this point, so we just had a lovely 13 hours of driving to look forward to. And per Steve's promise, a stop at South of the Border along the way. Woohoo! I can taste the quesadillas right now (you'd be surprised how good they were...). I swear I'll get to that part tomorrow, you can hold me to it!