Before departing Ohio Joe and I purchased an add on sunroom for the coach. We could hardly wait until we put it up. The sunroom attaches to the awning and increases living space. Our sunroom has clear plastic windows to keep rain out, screens to let the breeze in and privacy panels when needed. With the sunroom we could sit outside and watch TV or read without fear of mosquitoes and whatever other wildlife might threaten us. Finally, it was time to put up our sunroom for the first time. We unpacked the parts and made sure we had everything we needed. Step one was to attach a zipper strip to the channel in the roller bar of the awning. You have to understand that Joe is left handed and I am right handed. Our brains work very differently also. We are extremely challenged when it comes to putting anything together, especially when we are both working on the project. After three tries we managed to slide the zipper into the channel without it being upside down or backwards. Step two: attach the front panels by zipping the top of the panel to the zipper strip. By this time it was getting dark so we had to stop for the night. The next day we hung the front panels. There was a long panel, a door panel, and a shorter strip for an extra long awning extension. The clear plastic windows had to be on the outside. The zipper had to be at the top. A decision had to be made as to which end of the coach we wanted the door. Joe climbed the ladder, I handed up panels. Joe zipped them in place. We were exhausted and had to quit for the day. On day three we were ready to attach the side panels. To do this a rod had to run from the top of the awning to the roller bar of the awning. I read the directions and held on to the ladder while Joe climbed up and fit the bar in place. I handed up the side panels to be attached. Joe strapped the side panels into place…the bar fell. We detached the side panels. Joe climbed to the top of the ladder. The side panels were attached. They stayed in place! On to the opposite end to repeat the process. The side panels were attached, just as the other side fell down. It was time to quit for the day. After three days of futile attempts to keep the side bars from falling we finally got the side panels attached. It only took a roll of duct tape. The next step was to stake all of the panels down. Everything went well until we staked the sides – the bars fell. Things were looking pretty bleak. Usually by this time we would have called our son-in-law or a friend, but they weren’t likely to travel to Florida from Ohio to help. This time we used duct tape and industrial strength Velcro strips. The side walls held when we staked them. Now we had been working on this “easy to install” sunroom for almost a week. I’m sure the rest of the camp was placing bets on whether or not we would ever have it completed. Joe and I were encouraged because it was almost finished and we had figured it out all by ourselves! We attached the panel to the bottom of the coach wall. I was entrusted with the job of cutting around the steps. Thank goodness I cut correctly on the first try! Last of all we put the rug down. We carried in our lounge chairs and collapsed. We love our sunroom. It isn’t perfectly installed but it is a great place to relax. Abby and Lexie enjoy resting on their pillows and we don’t have to worry about them getting loose outside. Of course, when we leave Florida we have to take the whole thing down and somehow get it packed back in that little bag. Then when we get back to Ohio we have to put it back up again. But, I’m sure we can find someone to help us! Be ready Kevin and Tony.
The first thing I noticed after we left the interstate for smaller roads was a sign – Bear Crossing Next 33 Miles. I watched carefully but no bears appeared. We turned off the highway onto a narrow county road and then again onto a white sand road with towering live oaks on both sides. The road stretched ahead of us as far as we could see – so did the forest. At the end of this road, we arrived at Black Bear Resort.
All around the campground were more towering live oaks with Spanish moss dripping from the limbs. We also saw palm trees and tropical looking bushes. The sandy ground was covered with brown leaves. Later we discovered that even though the trees are green, the leaves die and fall continuously. Because the sites do not have cement pads we had to be careful to level the coach adequately. This involved putting two boards under each front side wheel. The coach was level, but now the steps were so high that I couldn’t get in. My creative husband visited Walmart and purchased the perfect step.
We were finally ready to settle into our winter home.
The last leg of our journey was the shortest, but in many ways the most stressful. It rained all night and was still downpouring when we got up the next morning. This meant it took longer to unhook and get ready for the road. Finally we dragged our soaking wet selves into the truck and set off. Fortunately, it stopped raining after several miles. Soon we were in Florida. We crossed a long bridge over a bay – it reminded me of the Mackinac Bridge. Then the rain started pouring down again. It was one of those rains that makes one mile seem like ten. Vehicles were pulling over because the visibility was next to nothing. Not us though. We barreled along as though the coach wasn’t hydroplaning on the road behind us. Finally it was decided that we would stop at the next roadside rest. I was relieved because my leg was getting tired of pushing on the imaginary brake! The rain got worse and the roadside rest wasn’t in sight so we pulled into a truck stop. Big camping rigs have to park in the back with the semis. Instead of hiking through the rain to the building we decided to use the restroom in the coach. First things first, the dogs need walked. The dogs were excited to be out of the truck and didn’t seem to mind the rain. By the time we got them back in we were thoroughly soaked again. We opened the coach door and heard “beep, beep, beep.” When the refrigerator door is opened too long it beeps. Someone (could it have been me?) had forgotten to tape and tie the refrigerator doors shut. The freezer door was open and everything from the refrigerator was on the floor. The tomato juice was running in a river toward the carpet, the pickled eggs, milk and orange juice added to the interesting colors. There was a short delay in our trip while we cleaned up the mess. After taping and tying the door, we were ready to be on our way. I maintain that this was not my fault. Who puts a refrigerator without a lock in an RV? By this time the truck smelled strongly of two wet dogs, but we bravely climbed in to finish our journey.
After an overnight stay at Cornersville, Tennessee (home of the world’s best rice at Sarge’s Diner) we traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama for three days. I was looking forward to this part of the trip as I love the ocean. Okay, it is technically the Gulf, but close enough to the ocean for me!
We visited Tacky Jack’s. a colorful restaurant on the waterway. The restaurant has three stories and a walkway along the water. A sign by the waterway warned boaters to watch out for manatees, but we weren’t fortunate to see these creatures. We were introduced to Rum Bushwhackers. Before we departed, we left our mark.
The beach was beautiful with pristine white sand, dunes, and sea oats. It was much larger than the Atlantic Ocean beaches we were used to. We were told that the city of Gulf Shores limits the high rise hotels. This left a view of miles and miles of beach in each direction. The houses along the beach road are a rainbow of colors. Gulf Shores was definitely a place where we could stay for a long time. Sadly, we only had one day left so we did those necessary things like laundry (why is there always laundry?) and preparing for the next phase of our journey – Tallahassee, Florida.
Our first stop was Woods and Waters Campground in beautiful rural Indiana. The name is very descriptive as this campground was full of tall trees just beginning to turn colors and drop their leaves. It is a beautiful site, but a little nerve wracking when you are trying to pull into a campsite and avoid taking down a tree! On opening the camper we discovered that the refrigerator door was ajar. Items were resting right on the edge but hadn’t fallen out. One day of safe travel down and only eight to go. After food and a good night’s rest we were ready to go exploring. Woods and Waters is located near Columbus, Indiana which is near “Little Nashville.” This is a wonderful community full of quaint little shops. There are also music events but those weren’t in our plans this time. A day of shopping found us ready for a good meal. Our friends suggested that we go into Columbus, eat at Steak and Shake and do some more shopping at the Rural King there. Dusk was falling and it was time to return to our campsite – if only we could remember how to get back. Directions were punched into the Garmon and we set out with confidence in our technology. After half an hour and passing through the same little town twice, we decided that the address must have been typed in incorrectly. The directions were retyped and we set out again. We were hopeful because we were traveling different roads. It was getting darker and darker. The roads turned from double lane paved, to single lane paved, to gravel. The Garmon instructed us to turn right onto County Road 390. Suddenly we were on a narrow gravel and dirt path in the middle of a huge forest. It reminded Joe and I of the old Werewolf Lane. But the Garmon said to follow County Road 390 so on we went. We went up a steep hill, over the top and down the hill only to come to a gate and a dead end. Finally we decided that maybe the Garmon was confused. We turned around and headed back through the forest. Just as we hit pavement again we were lucky enough to see a man getting his newspaper out of the mailbox. Turns out we were only about 20 miles out of our way. Safely arriving back at the campground we wondered if we were capable of traveling 700 more miles without getting lost! Next time we will go old school and use a map!
When Joe and I made the decision to spend our retirement years in full time RV living we knew we would have to downsize. We downsized, then downsized again, and then downsized once more. Little did we realize that we would have to downsize yet again in order to travel. There is only so much that you can fit into the basement (the underbelly of a fifth wheel) and the bed of a pick up truck that is filled with a fifth wheel hitch. It took weeks but finally we felt we were down to the bare minimum. After all,we couldn’t be gone for 5 months without our televisions, outdoor lounge chairs, outdoor table, etc. Now it was time to look at the inside. This would be the first time we would travel with our fifth wheel. We had no idea if our cupboards would stay shut, what would ride well and what needed to be taken down off the walls. We erred on the side of safety and removed everything from walls and counters. We packed breakables in totes and stored them on the living room couch. Televisions and other items were stored in the bedroom closet. When the slides are put in the only accessible space is the hallway. So everything from the bunk room and kitchen counters had to be moved to the hallway. Finally the day of departure came and we felt we were ready. Out came the checklist- water and electricity disconnected and hoses and cords put away, gas turned off, legs up, refrigerator switched to battery, slides in, door locked. Tearful good-byes were made to our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons. We load our dogs, Lexie and Abby into the back seat and climb in. The keys are locked in the fifth wheel. So out we climb to retrieve the keys. Good-byes are said again and we are ready for the great adventure of pulling a 43 foot fifth wheel out of the campground. It would be wonderful if roads in campgrounds were straight, but they aren’t. They wind around through the campground. Joe did a wonderful job and before we knew it we were on the road to our first stop. Did things stay in the cupboards and refrigerator? Find out in the next episode of Ten Wheels on the Road!