We have traveled over 3,500 miles from California to the east coast and it's time to share.
Here’s some unsolicited advice for those of you considering buying or renting an RV. When traveling in an RV, you have to budget for unplanned expenses and be flexible because your plans will often change. You have to embrce surprises and expect the unexpected. Don’t get too attached to your schedule and try to make reservations in places that allow you to cancel or be willing to forgo some paid deposits. Considered it sunken costs that are part of the adventure.
So far, we’ve changed our plans several times to avoid the terrible storms that battered Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and to meet friends in places we hadn't originally planned to go. We had to get our levelers fixed in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and are dealing with a cranky fuel tank hose that makes filling up a pain because we have to do it slowly or the pump stops.
We've outrun storms but not all of them. Our first night in Flamingo Lake, I lay awake all night while thunder and lightning shook our trailer. I was terrified and have found that most RV parks don’t provide enough safety information in case of inclement weather or other emergencies, so you have to learn on your own. I always ask about escape plans and safe shelters when I arrive at a campground, making Jose mad, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Our first night at Easterlin Park in Oakland Park, Florida, we were not able to get into the campground because a road closure was blocking the entrance to the park. We had to go through barricades only to find the gate closed and we had no code to get in. Luckily, a Good Samaritan took pity and let us into the park. And now, we’re unable to find gas in North Carolina because of the Colonial Pipeline closure.
But enough of the horror stories, not all surprises were nasty, and despite a few hiccups, the trip has been delightful, and we still love RVing. Where else can you step out your front door one morning to beautiful green fields of flower, the ocean the next, and a breathtaking lake the following day? Or, have an ice cream truck or auto repair service come to you? Or experience a tasty home-cooked meal while watching a magnificent sunset from the comfort of your patio? Or meet lots of friendly people who love to share their RV experiences along with a glass of wine? Or get close and personal with wildlife and native plants?
I’ve seen so many beautiful flowers, sunsets and little critters, like turtles, cranes, owls, seagulls, ducks, iguanas, squirrels, and geese to last me a lifetime. We saw Canadian geese caring for their young ones in Flamingo Lake in Florida and in Luther Britt Park in Lumberton, North Carolina. Don’t get too close to them because they are very protective and will attack. Lastly, we saw Gopher Tortoises nesting in Crooked River State Park in Georgia.
We spotted an Osprey nest with the mother and two babies in Fort Walton Beach, and the Blue Angels flew over our campground in Oakland Park. We visited Henderson Beach State Park and learned about coastal dune lakes that I had never heard of; they are only found in Madagascar, New Zealand, and Florida. The coastal dune lakes are freshwater lakes from streams and rivers and have an incredible population of carnivorous plant species. Very cool stuff. We were close enough to touch a magnificent Texas Longhorn bull at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City, Texas. But, of course, we didn't touch him.
I love finding hidden gems in our travels, and thanks to some good friends, we discovered Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and it has changed my view of “swamps” forever. We lived only an hour from it for years and never knew of this 630 square miles haven in southeast Georgia. The natives called it the “Land of the Trembling Earth” because grasses and flowers float along the slow-moving, mirror-like black water, attaching themselves to peat brought to the surface by methane eruptions. These floating platforms in time become tree islands known as houses because of their shape. The Okefenokee feeds two rivers, St. Mary’s flowing east to the Atlantic and the Suwanee River south to the Gulf of Mexico. Fires have shaped this bog for thousands of years, and in 2007 a fire devastated a significant portion of the swamp, so we got to see the new growth as well as a section untouched by the fire with giant cypress trees decorated with Spanish moss. I learned that tiny flowers grow on the moss and saw the inside of a carnivorous plant. My favorite sighting was the prairies filled with water lilies, Neverwet plants, and Bladderworts, a carnivorous flowering plant. We saw a bunch of alligators that thankfully absolutely ignored us, red shoulder hawks feeding a snake to their babies, lots of soft-shell turtles, and a yellow belly turtle sunning itself.
This portion of our trip has been filled with visits with family and friends and seeing, hugging, and spending time with them has been the best and most memorable part of the whole adventure. We have visited them in their homes or have met in restaurants, but we have also been able entertain some of them in our RV just like if we were home. That makes our portable home the best type of travel experience there is. Now on to the next leg of the trip from Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Acadia National Park in Maine.