Our Viva!

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park / Gregory E Moore RV Resort • Santa Rosa Beach, FL • MAY 22 - 24, 2016

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As we have mentioned multiple times when writing about our RV trips, we prefer to take the road less traveled. Well, it's not always less traveled—sometimes it's bumper to bumper—but it's not hours of bland scenery on the interstate. We took the slow, scenic route from Mayo to Santa Rosa Beach. For a good part of the trip the Gulf was just to our left. We saw countless houses on stilts that looked like they would be washed away in the storm surge the next time a hurricane hits. Nothing like rolling the dice and playing the odds. We would be willing to live next to the Gulf (or, preferably, the Atlantic Ocean), but only on heavily reinforced concrete risers.

The road less traveled involved some lengthy delays today. A train was stopped in Panama City just before the bridge over the bay, blocking all lanes of traffic for about 20 minutes. A four hour trip via interstate took about six-and-a-half hours by the scenic route.

We (especially Rick) loved Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground, and we weren't expecting it to be surpassed at our very next stop--but it was (at least until the trees mature at the Suwannee River campground). We had never heard of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park • Gregory E. Moore RV Resort, but soon after arriving it rocketed to the top three or four of our favorite parks, with the potential to climb higher. We loved our site—111—as it was a completely level, gravel pad with full hookup, including cable, which is unheard of for a Florida State Park. We later learned this state park was previously a privately-owned park that the state park system acquired, which explains the full hookup. The sites are nestled in trees, but not carved into the woods like Anastasia State Park. It was clean, well-maintained, and the beach was a 15 minute walk or 5 minutes by bicycle. Campers who don't want to walk or bike can catch a free tram to the beach that runs throughout the day.

A downside that was not unexpected--dogs aren't allowed on the beach here. When we walked over to the Gulf, Rick stayed with the dogs while Linda walked across the boardwalk to check out the beach. Rick's turn will come the next day. Sunday night was the perfect night to sit outside before bed--the temperature and humidity were just right, and the slight breeze kept away any annoying bugs.

Linda went to the beach Monday morning while Rick stayed with the dogs and worked on his book. Linda took some great photos before strolling in the small waves to cool off. When it was Rick's turn, he took photos as well before spending about 45 minutes in the water, waiting for that perfect small wave that never came. He is the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Body Surfer," a crown he achieved for his prowess in the waves on New Smyrna Beach. Unfortunately for the beach-goers here, they did not realize they were in the presence of body surfing royalty. Note: although Linda often disagrees with Rick's many self-proclamations, she actually does agree, based upon years of observation not only of Rick but other pretenders to the throne, that Rick truly is the World's Greatest Body Surfer.

Monday was another perfect night to sit outside and soak in the wonders of this campground

Rick took a hike on the trails Tuesday morning. He was surrounded by lush Florida flora, and didn't see anyone for several miles. The trail was primitive with only occasional trail markers, and as usually happens, Rick took a wrong turn and ended up at the back border of the state park. It was about that moment that Linda called him on his cell phone. Tybee, who is 14 and has Cushing's Disease along with other problems, was having a medical emergency. He couldn't stand or move his back legs. While Rick hurried back to the Viva, Linda called and found a nearby animal hospital that would see Tybee on short notice. We rushed him there and he was given IV fluids and a battery of tests. $648 later, he was stable and able to walk again. However, we decided to cut our trip short by two days and head home in the morning so Tybee could be seen by our regular vet around noon tomorrow. After losing Rick's dad in April and having to make the trip to Ohio in the Viva, this was almost more than we could take. Fortunately, Tybee seemed to be okay for now.

We got up early on Wednesday as a long day of driving lay ahead—we no longer had the luxury of stopping about midway for another night at Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground. As Rick was disconnecting the Viva, he was visited by a biting fly who more than lived up to its name. Rick often has a bad reaction to bites and stings, and his left foot started swelling immediately. It would be two days before it was back to normal.

We drove straight to the vet instead of swinging by the house first. Our vet is Dr. Gregory Merritt of the Animal Wellness Center. He and his staff are terrific. He checked Tybee and discussed several treatment options. It's comforting to know that Tybee is in such good hands.

This trip didn't turn out as expected, but that is one of the perils of RV life on the road. Once Tybee has adjusted to his medication and we're sure he's okay to travel, we'll set out for more adventures.

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Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground • Mayo, FL • MAY 21, 2016

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Our last trip was not one that we wanted to take, and we were physically and emotionally drained when we returned home to Florida. The grieving process is a slow one, and for several weeks we didn't do much of anything. We finally decided that it might be good for us to hit the road again in the Viva. Gamble Rogers SRA was booked, so we chose to head to the panhandle and the Gulf. Linda did some research and was able to book four nights at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park / Gregory E Moore RV Resort in Santa Rosa Beach. It was farther than we wanted to drive in one day, so she found a campground along the way where we would stay both on the trip up and the trip home.

In recent days we had the Viva's oil changed and tires rotated, plus we washed and cleaned her inside and out. She still looks as good as the day we picked her up, despite being almost two years old now.

Our goal for departure was 11:00 a.m. We actually pulled away fifteen minutes early, which was very unusual for us. We were in no hurry, so we avoided I-75 and meandered through Florida backcountry, which is always scenic and interesting in so many ways…and not always good ones. Suffice it to say that the Confederate flag is alive and well in rural Florida.

We had no trouble finding the Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort And Campground, but we grew a bit apprehensive when the entrance lane leading to the campground turned from paved to dirt, with several signs requesting that campers drive slowly and not kick up dust. We wondered if we had made a poor choice for our first stop.

We soon realized that we made not a poor choice, but an excellent one. What a great campground! The owners (a married couple just a few years younger than we are) were on-site and very friendly, which is always a plus. It was the woman's 60th birthday, and she invited all the campers to her birthday party near the office.

Our site was level and there was plenty of room. The trees were still young so there wasn't much shade, but that will change over the years. The back part of the resort, where the cabins were located, was heavily shaded by mature trees. There was a beautiful springs behind the office that flowed into the Suwannee River, which was a rock's throw from the springs. Gorgeous. The swimming pool was large and inviting. There were two spas, one that was fairly typical as spas go. The other was semi-circular and more the size of a small pool than a spa. There were corn hole games, a volleyball court, a ping-pong table, kayak and canoe rentals at inexpensive rates, and more. The dog park was one of the nicest the dogs have ever visited. It was expansive and well maintained—the grass was short and free of weeds. For perhaps only the first or second time in all of our travels, we didn't find any "deposits" that other dog parents failed to pick up.

We had arrived just as a large fifth wheel was pulling in next to us. After leveling and securing all the connections, we started talking with our neighbors, Terry and Janet from Tallahassee. They were the nicest, friendliest couple. It was their very first day camping, as they had only recently purchased their beautiful fifth wheel and new pickup truck. They were going through the same fears and anxieties that all new campers go through, when everything is unfamiliar. Rick offered a little bit of advice, but for being newbies, they were doing very well.

We were entertained by a songbird that perched in a tree between our rigs. It chirped—loudly—well into the evening, which we ended by sitting around our campfire with Terry and Janet, talking and watching the full moon rise against a backdrop of distant lightning.

We awoke early the next morning to the chirping of the bird that had serenaded us the day before. Rick took Zoe to the dog park to burn off some of her energy while Tybee stayed behind awaiting breakfast. Then it was time to disconnect and hit the road. We gave Terry and Janet our contact information, including the URL for this blog, and told them if their travels ever led them to our part of Florida we would give them a boat ride on the Dora Canal. We said goodbye with the hope our paths cross again.

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Tifton KOA • Tifton, GA • MAY 5, 2016

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We were glad to be heading out of Nashville on I-24 instead of heading into town. There was a massive traffic jam, with vehicles backed up for miles. We later learned that a fatigued FedEx truck driver caused a multiple vehicle accident with one car bursting into flames. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

We wanted the shortest, quickest route home, so we stayed on interstate highways. We stopped for the day in Tifton, Georgia, at the Tifton KOA.

This was a very nice campground. There was plenty of room and lots of shade trees. There was a great trail for walking the dogs. The staff was extremely friendly. But mostly we were just looking for a place to sleep. We packed a lot of miles and a lot of emotion into the 10 days of this trip.

We headed out early the next morning, and the trip home was uneventful. Despite some great scenery, some nice campgrounds, and the chance to visit with Pat again, this will always be the saddest RV trip we will ever take. It was good to get home and put this one behind us.

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Two Rivers Campground • Nashville, TN • MAY 3 - 4, 2016

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It was a short drive of 80 miles from Cave City to Nashville, so we took back roads and also took our time.

We lived in Nashville many years ago, from 1978 to 1980, when Rick and his first songwriting partner, George Jeffrey, were trying to break into country music as songwriters. They had some success, and were close to much bigger success several times. They wrote a number of good songs, but Nashville is a town overflowing many songwriters with good songs. The competition is fierce.

George died in 1993, but we still keep in touch with his widow, Pat. Linda and Pat have traveled together (Italy, California Wine Country, Hawaii, etc.) and visit each other every year, but this was Rick's first stay in Nashville since he ran the inaugural Country Music Marathon in 2000.

We booked a site in Two Rivers Campground off Briley Parkway, not far from Pat's residence. It was a nice park for people visiting Music City, but the sites were tight. There was a nice dog park for Tybee and Zoe.

Pat came out to pick up Linda and bring a great supper to Rick—thanks, Pat!

Linda stayed with Pat for two nights (above is a great photo of Pat and Sophie) while Rick remained at the campground in the Viva with the dogs. He spent his time working on his book of lyrics, poetry and short stories.

Rick is a huge Alice Cooper fan and missed Alice's concert in Nashville by one night. As a consolation, he has 3rd row tickets for Alice's show in Orlando in August.

Also, John Schwab, another of Rick's songwriting partners, was in town recording his new album. Rick posted on John's Facebook wall to let John know that we were in Nashville, too, but John didn't see the post until he was back in Ohio.

When Pat dropped off Linda the morning we were to depart, she brought her precious little furry rescue, Sophie, a cute little dog that Rick got to see for the first time. To see her is to love her!

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Singing Hills RV Park • Cave City, KY • MAY 1 - 2, 2016

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On our way south we passed the site of the Carrollton bus crash that occurred on May 14, 1988. A drunk driver driving the wrong way on I-71 hit a church school bus loaded with kids returning from an outing at Kings Island Amusement Park. The bus immediately burst into flames, killing 27 of the 67 people on the bus. A sign was erected at the site of the accident, and Rick drove past it many times on trips from Ohio to Nashville. It was eerie seeing it again after so many years.

We really liked Singing Hills RV Park in Cave City, Kentucky. We were looking for a quiet, peaceful place to camp, and this was it. The owner was very friendly, which is always a plus. We had a nice site with a picnic table and fire ring, and the office sold firewood for only $3 a bundle—the lowest price we've ever paid.

Neither of us had ever been to nearby Mammoth Cave National Park. Rick bought his National Park pass (and reluctantly adds that he is now old enough for a lifetime Senior Pass). We parked the Viva in the RV section of the parking lot, and Rick took a tour while Linda, Tybee and Zoe waited in the Viva. We returned on Monday so Linda could take a tour, too. Rick was going to take a second, different tour, but it was raining when Linda finished her tour so we headed back to Singing Hills. We walked the dogs when it stopped raining. and the next morning before heading out we filled our propane tank. Normally we use very little propane, but the cold temps resulted in our need to use the furnace overnight while in Ohio.

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