We were up before the crack of dawn, and guess what? Yes, the Trend people had already left, so we never did get to talk to them.
We had a long drive ahead of us—372 miles—so we took I-10 most of the way because we were going to see our niece, Natalie, and her husband, Chris, today. The scenic route would have added several hours to our trip, and we wanted to maximize our time with Natalie and Chris. The only highlight on I-10 was crossing the Mississippi River.
We arrived at the KOA in Montgomery in mid-afternoon. Soon after, Natalie and Chris pulled into our campsite. They brought chips, the best spicy hot salsa we ever tasted, and a couple of specialty beers just for us.
The four of us had a great time talking and catching up, then we took the dogs for a short walk. The campground was still very soggy from the recent heavy rains, so we avoided the grass for the most part.
As often happens when visiting with family, time passed much too quickly. We bid Natalie and Chris goodbye with the hope of seeing them again soon.
We bought firewood when we checked in—5 sticks for $7—but we were so tired we just started the fire and stayed inside. We didn’t miss much—the wood was wet and smoky, and the bugs were hungry for blood.
Rick spent the rest of the evening updating our travel log, then it was off to bed. Another early day tomorrow, and another long drive, this time to Abilene.
Although we are almost a thousand miles into our journey, we won’t feel that our sightseeing adventure has begun until we reach New Mexico. That will be on Tuesday.
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DAYS 2 and 3
We got an early start and soon had Florida in our rear-view mirror. We decided to take I-10 to New Orleans and arrive around noon, to avoid Friday afternoon traffic.
The drive was uneventful except for an odd occurrence in Alabama. We were zipping along when we saw a large electronic traffic control device on the right side of the road. Instead of a message it just had symbols—two large dots that became one large dot, indicating that the two lanes were merging into one lane ahead of us. We were aware of construction in several places on I-10, so we thought we were entering a construction zone. Both lanes of traffic quickly slowed to a stop, then it was stop and go for about a mile. At that point we could see something blocking the left lane ahead, so everyone in the left lane began merging into the right lane. We came upon an accident that had to have happened only minutes earlier. An SUV was smashed and overturned in the left lane. Several people had stopped to help, and it looked like everyone was okay so we kept going (and our RV would have only added to the jam if we had stopped, too). Here is the weird part—no emergency vehicles were on the scene yet. We saw the first one coming in the opposite direction as we were getting back up to speed. We saw no construction vehicles or evidence of road construction anywhere—so what was the purpose of that electronic road sign about a mile before the accident, alerting that there was only one lane ahead? No idea who put it there or why. Strange! But glad that the people involved didn’t appear to be hurt, despite their SUV clearly being totaled.
As we drove into New Orleans we were surprised and saddened to see how much devastation still remained years after Hurricane Katrina. Scores of abandoned, heavily damaged houses and buildings dotted both sides of I-10, many with blue tarps still blowing in the wind. It was a sobering sight.
After a 230 mile drive from Holt, Florida, we found the French Quarter RV park without difficulty. We had heard the surrounding neighborhood was somewhat “rough,” but we were still amazed by the degree of security at the RV park. There was one entrance/exit for vehicle traffic that was gated, and a gate barring pedestrian traffic from all except registered guests who had the gate code. A tall stone wall topped by razor-sharp spikes surrounded the entire park. Welcome to New Orleans!
The inside of the park was quite nice. We were assigned a level site near the office. As we were hooking up, we saw a Winnebago Trend parked nearby. The Trend is the Winnebago version of our Itasca Viva (manufactured in the same plant), and it was the same floor plan as ours. After we were settled, Rick went over to see if the people were there, but they weren’t.
With map in hand, Linda took off for the French Quarter in early afternoon while Rick stayed behind with the dogs. She went all the way to the wharf and Jackson Square, and came back with New Orleans’ style red beans and rice for lunch. Then it was Rick’s turn to venture out.
Rick can do many, many things, but following a map while walking is not one of them. He took several wrong turns and ended up going about a half mile the opposite direction. He was able to find his way back to the RV park (surprise!), and Linda gently advised him of his mistakes and sent him out again. He made it to the French Quarter on his second attempt, and found it to be somewhat reminiscent of Key West.
We checked the Trend several times on Friday but we never did see anyone outside. We wanted to compare notes and see if they liked their Trend as much as we like our Viva. Their string of patio lights were on when we went to bed, so we thought we would catch them the next day.
Brimming with the confidence that he now knew the French Quarter like the back of his hand, Rick set out for a 4 mile run early Saturday morning. He didn’t have a measured route, so he was judging distance by his time—he’s very accurate because of all the years he’s been a runner.
After running through the French Quarter to the wharf, he joined a group of runners who were running a private 5K race as part of a corporate challenge. Most of the runners were half his age yet twice as slow. He joked with one of the race organizers that he was going to get a job with the company and win the race next year.
Rick showered while Linda set out for the City Market to get something for lunch. She arrived too early, and the deli (veggies only for us) counter hadn’t opened yet. She went through Louis Armstrong Park on the way back to the Viva, then both of us went back to the park with the dogs to give them some exercise. Louis Armstrong Park is a lovely place.
We took the dogs on several streets in the French Quarter and they drew a lot of attention, as they always do. And as always, it went straight to their heads.
Rick set out in the early afternoon to tour St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, which was just across the street from the RV park. Rick is fascinated by old cemeteries—in fact, the historic Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville is the setting for the first chapter of his second novel. Despite the boiling sun, he spent nearly two hours walking in somber silence around the ancient above-ground resting place of thousands of New Orleans citizens from bygone eras.
We looked for the Trend people multiple times later in the day, but we never saw any signs of activity. Their string of patio lights weren’t on the second night.
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After months of planning, routing, dreaming, scheming, making reservations, canceling reservations, making new reservations, and buying and/or packing everything we think we will need (and forgetting some things that will come to mind somewhere down the road), the big day finally arrived!
We wanted to depart at 8:00 a.m., but we actually got away 15 minutes early--which is a first for us when it comes to traveling. But before we put the Viva in gear, our neighbors, JP and Lois, serenaded us with an appropriate song—“Happy Trails To You.” Linda even joined in as a background singer. What a great send-off!
Although some days we will need to get to our next destination in a hurry and will have no choice but to use interstate highways, as often as possible we want to travel along scenic byways. That is what we did today: 395 miles of mostly back-country Florida. We went through Dixie County, we crossed over the Suwannee River--how we loved it, how we loved it--and we encountered an intense thunderstorm that forced us to pull over for about 45 minutes.
We spent Night 1 at Eagle’s Landing RV Park in Holt, Florida. It was a no-frills little campground which was fine because we just wanted a clean, level site to park and get some sleep, and it certainly provided that. It did have a huge area to exercise the dogs. The owners were nice, and we recommend this campground as a good spot to stop on a long journey.
We drove 395 miles today.
Just three photos…
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with Bob & Shirley Davis of Boshi Standard Poodles, Zoe’s “birth parents.”
We approached this visit to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area as a dry (and wet!) run in preparation for our upcoming 70 day western trip. Except for additional clothing and food, we wanted to pack nearly all that we will be taking with us when we head out in a little over 3 weeks. Of course, we forgot some things, which stressed the importance of compiling a comprehensive list in the days ahead.
We reserved site 015 this time, which is one of our favorite spots. There’s a nice view of the ocean, the dog walk area is nearby, and we’re steps away from the walkway to the beach.
Our neighbors the first night were, uh, interesting. There were three people camping on our left, two men and a woman. They had a teardrop trailer—that’s so small you can’t stand up in it—plus a jeep and an open air canopy. As soon as it became dark, the loud music and disco lights started and went on for several hours. It didn’t bother us, but we suspect the campers across from them weren’t happy. The two men had lights on their hats, like a miner’s light, and whenever they turned their heads the lights would sweep over their campsite. We have no idea what their sleeping arrangements were…and perhaps we don’t want to know. The Jeep was too small, and the open air canopy would not have kept out bugs or creepy-crawlies. If all three slept in the teardrop trailer, it would have been cozy to say the least. And perhaps the less said, the better!
To our right was a guy who apparently wanted to compete for the world’s largest bonfire. That would have been okay except that his fire ring was on the border of our sites, meaning very close to us, and the wind was fierce. We cranked in our awning before he could catch it on fire, and we expected the mat on the ground to burst into flames at any moment. But the fire eventually died down and all was well.
Both neighbors broke camp Monday morning so there would be no repeat of the night before. Rick went for a 4 mile run followed by a 4 mile bike ride and the dogs got their twice daily walks. The winds were too strong again on Monday night for us to start our own campfire.
We both went for walks on the beach on Tuesday. We go separately so one of us is always with the dogs. We’re working on getting to the point we can leave them in the Viva for short periods of time, but we’re not ready to try it yet. Linda found shells on her walk, and Rick came upon a large sea turtle that sadly was dead. In late afternoon we took the dogs and walked to High Tides at Snack Jack’s for dinner. They make a tasty veggie burger, and the patio is dog-friendly and overlooks the beach. The winds died down so we were finally able to have a campfire, but just as Linda started to roast our vegan marshmallows it started to sprinkle. We were forced to go inside for a few minutes, but the campfire survived the rain and we were able to go back outside and enjoy it again. Sometime during the night the rains came again, soaking our screen room and chairs.
Wednesday was a wonderful day. Bob and Shirley Davis of Boshi Standard Poodles stopped by for their first reunion with Zoe. Linda and I interact regularly with Shirley on Facebook—she has a Facebook group consisting solely of people who have Boshi Poodles—but it was our first opportunity to meet Bob. He’s a great guy, and after a few minutes it was like four long-time friends talking. They brought toys to both dogs, which was so thoughtful, and Zoe wouldn’t leave them alone—she clearly remembered them from her puppy days.
We later walked to High Tides at Snack Jack’s for drinks and snacks, then went down to the beach. There was no one around, so Tybee and Zoe could run free on the beach and play in the surf. Both of them went charging into the ocean, and it was hard to believe Tybee is 13 years-old by the way he was racing around. It was so much fun watching them.
We walked back to the campsite and said goodbye to Bob and Shirley. We had a great time with them, and made plans to camp together here this fall. We also invited them to come to Mount Dora for a boat ride and a tour of the Dora Canal.
Standard poodles are wonderful dogs. If anyone reading this would like to add a beautiful standard poodle puppy to your family, I couldn’t recommend Shirley and Bob Davis of Boshi Poodles any higher. Here is a link to their website: Boshi Standard Poodles
The dogs were worn out from all the fun on the beach and went right to sleep. We followed soon after. We packed the Viva for the trip home on Thursday morning, but then stayed until checkout time to enjoy the ocean view as long as possible. Time always flies by quickly here.
Next up: our 70 day western trip, starting later this month!
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