Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hagerstown KOA, MD

Hagerstown/Antietam Battlefield KOA, MD
Saturday, 31 March 2018

In Lewes before I left this morning, I saw a sign for “Tootsie Poop Service.”  I swear.
lAlong the roadways in Delaware, I saw sometimes whole fields of a purple groundcover I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Lots of it.  It was really pretty.

After I was just past Washington DC the road started climbing – an actual mountain.  Well, the east coast version of one.  A sign said South Mountain 1200’.  And I saw a few more in the distance.  It was nice to see some elevation again.

This park is a little odd.  Nice people, as all KOAs seem to have.  But the roadways are incredibly muddy.  I’m sure they had some weather event, probably last night, but I’d think they’d have planned for that.  Many of these RVs are really big and heavy.  I walked the dogs around the park (Gracie nearly came unglued because some kids were playing with a ball) and had to work really hard to find a non-deep section of mud to walk through in some places.  Not going to be a nice walk during the dark.  Maybe I should wear my rubber boots.

Those of us who do lots of crossword puzzles have heard of Edy’s ice cream, even if we’ve never lived where it’s available, as I haven’t.  So I thought to look for it in the last grocery store and they had it.  It’s actually really good ice cream.

Now that my bed’s remade and the time is here, I’m excited about what this trip will be like.  I’ve already figured out I can’t see everything I want to see, not having either the time or the money for it.  Did you know it costs $25 to take a tour of the Crayola factory?  I’m not going to pay it, but too bad.  But there’ll still be lots to see I’ve never seen, and I’m looking forward to talking with residents to see what they think’s special about their state.

It’ll be interesting no matter what.

Cape Helopen State Park III

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE 
Saturday, 31 March 2018

I had been looking forward to today.  I thought we’d be able to have a pleasant drive through Delaware and Maryland to our next campground in Maryland’s western panhandle.

But this morning, for the 2nd morning in a row, Roscoe – the one of the four that doesn’t cause me any trouble – peed on my bed.  For the Second Morning in a Row I had to unmake my entire bed and scrounge up enough quarters and take everything down to the washers.  Today I thought it could have been worse because yesterday he’d also pooped and vomited on the bed.  It was ghastly.  But when I got back to the RV, I found while I was gone he’d vomited on my unprotected mattress.  FOR THE SECOND MORNING IN A ROW.

Making that bed is an actual project because I have only the 3’ space at the bottom right corner where I can get to the bed; the rest of the bed is fenced in by wall or frig.  And I still have that to look forward to after the mattress has had a chance to air out.

Yesterday I decided to make the best of a bad situation by cleaning everything else, since I had to wash ALL the bedclothes – the mattress pad and both sheets and blanket and comforter and extra blanket and pillow cases.  He really did make a mess.  But I got a clean bed and all my clothes got clean and I got clean – and I cut my hair, which was badly overdue – so I figured we were all set for the next step of the adventure, i.e. Pennsylvania.


Today I was right back where I was yesterday.  I was furious and said so as loudly as I thought I could get away with in the close quarters of a public campground.  It was too loud for poor Gracie who tried desperately to find some place to hide.  She apparently believes a person yelling means she’s going to get hit.  So I had to stop yelling and tell her in a very calm voice that she was safe several times.

Meanwhile, Jasper was hollering at me that he thinks it’s time for breakfast and Dexter’s right beside me trying to make me feel better but getting in the way and Roscoe finally tried to hide on the bed above the cab, and peered out at me from behind the TV.  So I escaped to the laundry room.  I’m sure Roscoe’s back up on the bed now.  But it’ll be a very long time before he does that with my knowledge.

Yesterday afternoon I took both dogs together for a walk around the campground and the problem turned out not to be my dogs but somebody else’s, that jumped out of their truck and raced across the road and attacked Gracie and got a real grip on the back of her neck and wouldn’t let go.  The owner finally got his dog loose but got a serious cut on his hand doing it.  Fortunately, Gracie’s got a thick coat, and I’m not sure how serious that dog was because I couldn’t see that he broke the skin - Gracie showed no signs of pain or sensitivity when I was examining that area.  She wanted to go right back to our RV, but I’ve learned with her PTSD symptoms it’s usually better to keep on going rather than burrow and hide.  And sure enough, she was fine after a few minutes.

This campground has really filled up.  I imagine it’s packed during the summer.

I spent quite a few hours yesterday (when I wasn’t cleaning something up) making reservations for where we’ll stay in PA.  It turns out that no version of my carefully thought out sightseeing schedule will work because even many of the southern state campgrounds – even KOA - are closed until mid-April.  I’ve replanned a route based almost entirely on where I can find lodging when.  But I’ve got a definite plan now, so we’ll see how it goes.

I’d intended to do the same thing for New York and the New England states, because it’ll be tourist season up there and it’s that season that’ll be the bar to finding a campsite, not nature’s seasons.  But I ran out of time with PA taking much longer than I’d expected.  I’ll figure out some way to deal with it.

Sorry this post is so whiny, but I am feeling both sorry for myself and peeved that I brought all this on myself.  Bad combination.  Dryers are done.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cape Henlopen St Pk, DE II

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE
Thursday, 29 March 2018

On our early morning walk, we followed my ears toward the beach. I could hear the ocean increasingly well as we went down the road, but after much walking still hadn’t come to any access. Later I clocked it, and we’d walked nearly a mile out (and a mile back), and it turned out there isn’t any beach access down that road, so it’s just as well we turned back.

Because the forecast for today was sunny and for tomorrow probable rain, I decided we’d better do the beach hunting today. I finally had to ask at the park office. From the state park there’re a couple of access points. They don’t seem to like vehicles on Delaware beaches because all over I found parking areas next to or near beaches.

I suppose because it’s the middle of the week and still fairly chilly that there was almost nobody on the beach we walked to. It was beautiful.

Just as they did at Myrtle Beach, Gracie and Dexter had a knock-down-drag-out play time. My role is to hang on to the leashes and try not to get wrapped up in them. Their role is to have fun - they seem to love playing in the sand. It’s great to watch them.

Gracie now has something new she’s afraid of. As many dogs are, she’s afraid of loud noises, but while we were on the beach, an especially big wave came in and made that boom they do sometimes, and it seriously spooked her, and after that all the waves spooked her. Poor damaged little thing. Her PTSD doesn’t seem to be easing off, even after 3 years with me, because new things keep happening to upset her.

On a happier note, Delaware protects their dunes by making designated walkways through them to the beach. I hope these photos show how pretty it is.

I’d forgotten Joe Biden is from Delaware – there’s a nature center here at the park named for him.

I drove into very nearby Lewes (pronounced Lewis) and was charmed. When I spend my month in Delaware, I’ll look forward to spending a lot more time in Lewes. Historic buildings, several beach access points, a drawbridge next to a fishing boat harbor, a school smack next to a large cemetery (huh?) – the cemetery had a historic marker on it which I’ll read when I come back.

Last night, there were very few campers here. Today, there are quite a few moving in. I’m guessing lots will be here for the Easter weekend – there are many “campsite reserved” signs around the park. I decided to grab a photo quick while the sun was shining. Gracie’s so dark it’s hard to see her but they’re both there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE I

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE
Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The propane learning experience continued for quite a while today. I did call the RV place not too far from the state park and they said sure they could propane me up. Unfortunately, when I got there about 10:00 they told me that, just a few minutes earlier, the guy who pumped the propane had to leave to pick up RVs from a trade show that ended the previous Sunday where they still hadn’t retrieved a whole bunch of their wares.

I’ve found that most of these places that sell propane have one and only one person who does the pumping. Maybe they have to pass some federal test or something.

Anyway, this guy wouldn’t be back for many hours, they said, so I decided to keep going down the road. While I’m driving I don’t care so much about the lack of propane. The only thing that would be using it is the frig/freezer and as cold as the weather was, I figured nothing would be going bad right away.

To get to the next town where several RV/propane deliverers were, I took a road that AAA said was a scenic one. And I’m sure it is during a season other than winter. As things stood, it was a nice ordinary Delaware country road.

At a closed roadside produce stand the other day I saw a sign that said “Spring delayed. Winter closure still in effect.” With this continuing very cold weather, spring has definitely been delayed in this part of the country. I saw some japonica blooming. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were waddling off to find a place to build a nest back at our last campground (in his desire to check them out – or worse - Dexter could barely contain himself – actually, he couldn’t contain himself and I had to work really hard to do the containing). I’ve seen a few tulip trees blooming and some jonquils. But most other signs of spring aren’t here. It seems odd when I think of all the signs of life I saw in other states. I’m guessing it’s the result of all the nor’easters that have come through this part of the country this winter.

Back to the propane quest, I drove to yet another place I’d found on the internet and it was there that somebody figured out why I hadn’t been able to get any propane before. Apparently my intake nozzle is supposed to have a gasket on it, which was missing. The guys here guessed it had stuck to the hose end the last time I’d been filled up in Jacksonville. Luckily they sold the same RVs that I have so they went to one of those units and took the gasket, so I wouldn’t have to keep hanging around while they tried to get an order filled by the supplier.  And they didn't even charge me for it.  Really nice of them, and now it’s really nice to have propane. The forecast is for 37° again tonight, and I’d rather do it with some heat this time.

So now I know why I couldn’t get filled up anywhere else, and I know to check my equipment for gaskets after getting filled up in the future.

This new park appears to be near the ocean, but I can’t tell by the map just how near. One of their trails is a dunes trail, which is suggestive. There’s sand at all the campsites. Lots of it. We’ll be here 3 days so I expect we’ll explore a bit.

Oddly, I get a phone signal and an internet signal but only a few junky TV stations – none of the major networks. I say oddly because lots of people come to this part of the state. I guess everybody has cable.

Trap Pond State Park, DE II

Trap Pond State Park, DE
Tuesday, 27 March 2018

On the weather report this morning, I swear the guy said that a front coming through Atlanta "breaks through like Sherman."

Every place I've stayed has had some kind of alcohol policy, usually of the don't stick it in anybody's face and we won't bother you variety.  But there was one park, I think it was in North Carolina, that said alcohol was absolutely prohibited, including the possession of it.  I kept wondering if one of the rangers routinely went around to RVs insisting on being allowed to inspect the contents for alcohol possession.  Anyway, nobody did while I was there.

Canada geese on Trap Pond
There's a flock of Canada geese hanging out at the pond and making a lot of noise  I don't know if you can see them in this photo - they're on the opposite side of the pond - but I thought I'd try.  The small colorful objects in the trees are fishing lures.

The geese seemed huge to me, and the bird book says I'm right - the eastern species is the largest and the western (that I'm used to seeing) is often the smallest.

This campground has what most of them do: a lot of spaces for RVs, about 18 for tents, and cabins that can be rented.  What surprised me is that they also have 2 yurts for rent, and I've never seen anything quite like these.  I hope this one shows up in the photo.  They're perched beside Trap Pond.
cabin and yurt for rent
Can you see the dogs?

I'm much better at parking than at first.  I've learned there's no shame in getting out and looking at my progress - even several times - and that makes a huge difference in my parking success.

I am currently receiving yet another lesson in planning ahead.  Despite using the heater far more often than I had been, due to really cold temps (it got down to 27° last night), I didn't think to check the propane level until this afternoon.  Which is when I discovered that the tank was nearly empty.  Not so great with another cold night (only 37° but still) and needing my propane stove to make coffee in the morning.  One of the rangers told me a gas station about 4 miles away sold propane, and I decided it was worth the hassle of unplugging and driving down the road just to be sure we'd stay warm tonight.  Not so simple.

The place 4 miles away does sell propane but couldn't get a good seal on the propane hose.  They directed me to a station 7 miles away so off I went.  That guy tried hard but his hose just couldn't get a good enough attachment.  He directed me to another station a mile back the way I'd come.  This third place said they only sold it in bottles, so sorry, but suggested I go back to a truck stop back down toward the park.  At the truck stop, they said they didn't sell propane but they got on the internet and on the phone and found a Trucking Supply store b-a-c-k down the road I'd already been down several times.  I went to the TS store and that guy tried several times but just couldn't make a good seal.  By then it was after 5:00 and most places were closing up.  I decided to tough it out for one night and deal with the coffee situation in the morning.

I drove nearly 50 miles doing all this and wound up with a still almost empty propane tank.

During the last drive, I decided what I need is an RV dealer.  They're in the business of taking care of RVs, including their propane tanks.  The RV place that did my repair in Jacksonville is the last place I got my tank filled, which is why I thought of it.

So since this very nice state park allows me to get wi-fi, I looked up RV dealers in Delaware.  And this being a very small state, they're all pretty easy to get to.  In fact, there's one back down the road I drove up and down and up and down this afternoon.  This time I think I'll call first.

But I'm bound to find somebody in the state of Delaware who can fill up my propane tank.  If I had a separate removable tank, lots of people could have filled it up, but since mine's part of my RV, the nozzle has to be configured differently.  The last guy explained this to me.

Every single person I came in contact with was as nice and helpful as anyone could wish to meet.  I now have a very high opinion of the people of Delaware.

Addendum Wednesday morning

We are indeed cold.  I had an easier time than the critters because I could - and did - add extra clothes and a sleeping bag and a heating pad to keep warm during the night.  I tried to cover up my kids but found they'd all tossed off the covers by morning.  My previous batch of pets used to love covers but none of this crew does.  I tried.

Because I have electric power, I have use of the frig and microwave.  So for coffee this morning I used the microwave to heat up leftover coffee I'd stored in the frig, and ditto for water to make instant miso soup to go with a PBJ sandwich.  Maybe not a standard breakfast but covers several of the major food groups and is filling.  I'd peel a couple of mandarins if I were warmer.  Maybe for lunch.

My next campground is only about an hour away, so I have plenty of time to find propane and a grocery store.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Trap Pond State Park, DE I

Trap Pond State Park, DE
Monday, 26 March 2018

As I was driving away from the campground this morning, I'm sure I saw bluebirds.  The sun was on their backs as they flew away from me and they were absolutely gorgeous.  I know why they're called the bluebirds of happiness, because their beauty made me feel happy.

At one of the Quantico exits, I saw a sign directing people to the National Museum of the Marine Corps.  Not having heard of it, I looked it up and learned that it's not that old but is now one of the primary attractions in Virginia.

I saw an incredible number of plastic bags caught in trees and lining the roadway beginning in northern Virginia.  Really makes you appreciate Austin's ban on plastic bags when you remember that's what Austin used to look like, too.

I was caught off guard both by the toll I had to pay just before crossing the Bay Bridge ($4.00) and by the length of the bridge (4 1/3 miles I discovered later).  Since I refuse to pay tolls in Texas for roads we've already paid for, I'm not used to tolls.  But this part of the country's full of them so I'd better adjust.

As soon as I left the major freeways (so to speak) in Maryland, I started seeing what can only be described as bucolic farms.  Fields and fields of green from the new crops or of dead stalks from the last crops.  One field of solar panels.  One cattle feedlot - is that what they're called? - where a bunch of cows eat a lot and the smell lasts a long way down the road.

I saw quite a bit of snow in shaded places all along the highway once I left Virginia for Maryland.  I took a photo to demonstrate that nobody's been making up reports of snow.

This was one of many such piles in a WalMart parking lot where we stopped for a lunch break.  The air temp was certainly above freezing but the breeze brought down the apparent temp and those chunks of snow weren't melting very fast.  Still, I'm sure it used to be quite large.

Here at the park, the ranger said yesterday they suddenly had about 45 minutes of hail and rain and terrible winds, and then it all stopped.  No sign of it today.

I couldn't have been more wrong about this little park.  I've got several TV channels, and I've got a wi-fi signal, and I've got a phone signal.  All the comforts of home.  Although, when I checked in they suggested I move from the area I had reserved to another one because they hadn't turned on the water yet in the reserved area.  I figured water might be a good thing, so I switched.  Maybe it's because it's Monday or maybe it's the weather, but there's almost nobody in this park.  

Nice little park on a nice little lake they call a pond.  I'll get photos tomorrow.

I'm re-reading Steinbeck's Travels With Charlie for the first time in about 50 years.  Because of signs I've been seeing on the road, I was reminded of something in the book that I read yesterday: "Those states with the shortest histories and the least world-shaking events have the most historical markers."  I'll be interested to see how that plays out as I move westward, but in this part of the country, there's a lot of history.  History being defined as the story written by the winners.

Fredericksburg VA KOA II

Fredericksburg (VA) KOA
Sunday, 25 March 2018 

I'm actually writing this Monday morning.  By the time I got back from doing my laundry yesterday afternoon, the critters were all looking very reproachful, and after I fed them I was hungry, and I just forgot I hadn't written.

I don't want to wait until tonight because I'm a little afraid I won't be able to get a wi-fi signal at my next campground, which appears to be in the wilds of Delaware.  If it's possible to get away from it all in a state as small as Delaware, Trap Pond State Park looks like that's where to do it.

I'm staying there because it looked nice and because it's only $20/night, which is the cheapest within 4 states.  I spent much of yesterday looking.  But I think there may also be no phone service and no TV reception, so I decided to stay there only 2 nights.  Then I'm moving to the somewhat more expensive ($35 but still less than anywhere else) Cape Henlopen State Park, which is just north of Rehoboth Beach on Delaware's Atlantic coast.  Not knowing what services to expect there, I decided to stay my last night before Pennsylvania at a KOA, where they always have most services.

I got a little nervous about this plan yesterday, when a couple pulled up to the office here to register, and they had a noticeable amount of snow on the roof of their camper and PA plates.  So I asked the man where they'd gotten it and he said York, PA - they'd gotten 18" the other day and they'd barely made it out of town.  But he assured me it'd all be gone by next week.

That's the second Pennsylvanian to assure me the snow will melt quickly, but since they've experienced an unprecedented 4th nor'easter this year, why is everybody ruling out a 5th?  But hope on, hope ever.  Or, as the South Carolina state motto says (translated from the Latin): While I breathe, I hope.

It doesn't look like I'm going all that many actual miles today, but a good chunk of them are dealing with the DC area.  It's called traffic.

Google decided the best route was straight through town.  And then I looked at a map and realized it was looking at mileage only.  The Beltway (talked about frequently by DC commentators) adds only a few miles but is SURELY going to be less congested than going straight through.

I ran into this same thing in Jacksonville.  Google told me to go straight through town instead of taking a ring road.  It's one of the only traffic jams I've been caught in this entire trip.  Google doesn't seem to take human beings into account.  Silly it.  Or silly whoever wrote the algorithms for it.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fredericksburg KOA, VA I

Fredericksburg VA/Washington DC South
Saturday, 24 March 2018

Remember the old "Blue Moon" version from the early '60s?  Bobbetabob abobabobbob dangetadang dangadangdang dingadongding Blue Moon?  The guy next door is playing that and lots of other music from that era and I swear he's not over 45.  I got a good look at him because he's a real talker and wanted to tell me all about his former dogs.  He now has a rooster because they don't need so much care.  I swear that's what he said.  He's at Fort Bragg, though, so maybe that explains something.

The KOA people here say it's expected to get down to 30° tonight but no snow is predicted.  They had a couple feet last week, they say, but the next day it got up into the 70s and all the snow melted.  I'm hoping I missed the snow.

It was an easy drive.  160 miles took me from Medoc Mountain to 2/3 of the way across Virginia.  I'm about 50 miles from DC now.  The radio warned us earlier that traffic was really clogged and even stop-and-go from Fredericksburg to DC because of the March for Life.  Meaning it was clogged for 50 miles?  Fortunately I turned off before that.

This KOA is down in a valley and the only way to get a TV signal is with cable, which I'd have to pay extra for, so I decided to forego TV since I have internet.  If it's not one thing it's another.

To get here I had to go down several country lanes.  The folks here tell me all the white stuff on the roads isn't sand, as I'd thought, but salt.  I had to go down a pretty steep grade on one of those roads and I kept telling myself the temp had been well above freezing since morning so not to worry, but that was my first steep hill in this RV and I took it cautiously.  I do understand I have many more hills in my future, but there's a first time for everything.

There were two spots along the highway where an amazing number of daffodils were growing - and blooming.  Pretty.  Would the highway department plant daffodil bulbs?

I saw a billboard that said "End the NRA" and was paid for by Mad Dog PAC.  Have you heard about this group?  Apparently they also want to get the president impeached, which I think is a terrible idea, not least because he's far preferable to our current vice president, who is much more conservative and much better liked by most conservatives and, therefore, far more likely to get his agenda accomplished and be reelected.  Why aren't people talking about this logical outcome of impeachment?

I was astounded at the amount of traffic on the highway, it being a Saturday and all.  But now that I think about it, there was always that much traffic on I-5 south of Seattle on a Saturday, so I guess being on the way to many major metropolitan areas as I-95 is there'd be traffic.  I just didn't expect it.  Now I see that it'll be a part of my life till I get away from this arterial.  License plates from every New England state.  In Texas we rarely see plates from Vermont or New Hampshire; common over here.  Even Maine and Rhode Island were represented.

Medoc Mountain St Pk II

Medoc Mountain State Park, NC
Friday, 23 March 2018

So of course I was hoping to see a mountain when I came here but, too bad. According to park literature, the “mountain” peak is 325’ above sea level, and since we’re nowhere near the sea, that means it’s not very high. Turns out to be a relic of the Paleozoic Age (350 million years ago) and is all that’s left of an eroded mountain range. It’s on land that was used to grow grapes in the early 1800s and was named Medoc after the grape-growing region in Bordeaux. In the early 1900s, the timber was cut, and then molybdenum was mined. The state is now reforesting the land and restoring it as much as possible.

Who knew so much could go on in one small section of the US?

The wind died down enough this morning for me to see the news and weather on TV, so I decided not to bother to go find a wi-fi signal. Besides, for some reason, I started feeling kind of punk yesterday, and even more so today, so it seemed best to stay in one spot and act like a semi-invalid for a day, i.e. chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate for lunch.

The weather forecast shows the storm system that’s dumping snow in the mid-west right now will bring snow to this exact area late Saturday or Sunday. Saturday is tomorrow, so I need to make tracks. Oddly, it looks like where the storm isn’t going to go is up north, so that’s where I’m going to head. I’m planning to stop in Roanoke Rapids (next town up the road) in the morning and spend some time on the internet checking out available places to stay and weather forecasts there.

I decided to not worry about not having an advance reservation somewhere for the next few nights, even though it’s a weekend. The weather’s been so crummy none of the places I’ve been staying lately has been even half full, so I figure I’ll be able to find something somewhere to tide me over. This time with a wi-fi signal. KOA can provide one, Virginia state parks are seriously expensive – more than double other states – but there’ll be something.

I don’t mind the cold so much – the propane heater for the RV works fairly well, the critters seem to be able to stay warm enough, and I’ve got plenty of warm clothes and blankets. And hot chocolate. I just don’t want to be dealing with snow, which is what I’m trying to dodge by moving north.

But the sun’s been out since mid-morning and I’ve had the dogs on long leashes outside all day so they’re okay. I looked out several times and saw them basking in the sun. I stayed inside and watched “Die Hard.” Except for the hair styles (clearly 1980s), it never grows old. I’m sorry Alan Rickman died, what a talent.

Medoc Mountain St Pk I

Medoc Mountain State Park, NC
Thursday, 22 March 2018

I spent some time driving around Lumberton this morning, grocery shopping and going to the post office to mail a letter. The KOA thoughtfully provided a fairly detailed street map of the main area, and the internet thoughtfully provided the locations of grocery stores. Pretty little town.

I had been thinking maybe Lumberton was named for a history of logging or something like that, but today I crossed the Lumber River several times so I’m guessing that’s where the name came from. It’s designated a Natural and Scenic River and, in fact, was quite pretty.

A car passed me on the highway with the license plate BYTHEC.

I drove less than 200 miles today, including driving around Lumberton and getting lost trying to find this park, and I still drove almost completely across the state of North Carolina. Granted it’s not the very widest spot, but it still doesn’t take long to get somewhere in this part of the country. Going to take some getting used to.

Once again I’m in a park without wi-fi. What’s different about this park is that I can’t get much of a TV reception either so I can’t see the weather report. Well, the TV claims it can get 20-something channels but it’s lying. I can only get about half that and the picture breaks up constantly and there’s often no sound, so I can really get only ½ a channel. Probably because of the wind but disconcerting nonetheless.

I have a reservation here for 2 nights and, without a wi-fi signal, I’m going to have trouble finding a place to stay for Saturday and beyond. And without the weather report, I can’t figure out which direction to head to avoid the oncoming weather system (to the extent possible).

I hate to do it, but I think tomorrow I may have to drive into a town somewhere (not that I saw one anywhere near here) so my hot spot will work. I really need to get a clearer idea of that weather system they say will be moving into this area this weekend.

Fortunately, the prediction I saw this morning showed it completely missing both Pennsylvania and Maryland, so they have a chance to shovel out from under the snow that got dumped on them. Unfortunately, it looked like it was going to blanket all of Virginia and I’m really close to the border.

Everybody keeps saying the temps are 10° to 20° below normal, so instead of late March I’m getting stuck with early March. How could I be so lucky? It may get down into the upper 20s here tonight and I’ve pulled out my warmer clothes I thought I wouldn’t be needing for a while.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Little Pee Dee State Park, SC III

Tuesday, 20 March 2018
Little Pee Dee State Park, SC

A sign at the ranger station said the park is named after the Little Pee Dee River which, in turn, is named after the Pee Dee Indians who used to live in this area. Nice park.

petrified wood information
Not many people are staying here this week and the few dogs are mostly geriatric with sedentary owners, so today I’ve decided to risk walking both dogs together each walk. And it’s turned out well. They’re both enjoying being together and now and then do some roughhousing, which is good for them. A little hard for me to hang on to their leashes but still good fun.

We’ve been taking various parts of a nature trail they have here during the walks today. Never mind that the trail is big enough to drive a Mini down in some places, it’s actually been blazed. Sometimes there are arrows painted on tree trunks in blue paint and at others there are small blue metal squares nailed to trees. The squares are quite visible and there are usually 2 in sight ahead of each one we passed. I figured the rangers were tired of people who could still get lost and that’s why they put up the blazing, but then I found a couple of benches with little plaques saying they’re part of a guy’s Eagle Scout project so I figured the blazing probably was part of it too. The trail makes for a nice walk in the woods.

the blazed trail
Good thing I can still get TV reception because I’ve been watching the weather reports. They correctly predicted the rain we got early this morning, so I believed the prediction that we’d right now be starting to get lots of rain and hail and straight-line winds. We’re not getting any of that, but the clouds are moving in so maybe it’s just late.

The news broadcasts said a 4th nor’easter is moving through and dumping yet more snow in Pennsylvania. Discouraging since I’m intending to be there in a week and a half. But this afternoon when I had the dogs out, we were passed by a couple of college-age girls in a car with PA plates, so I stopped them to ask about the weather. The driver said she lives in the southwest and her mom just texted her that they have 9’ of snow right now. So I explained why that wasn’t such good news for me and she said oh, don’t worry, weather in PA can be really weird. One day there can be a bunch of snow on the ground and the next it warms up to 75° and it all melts. Her friend from California said yes, she’d seen it and it’s really weird how it happens. So maybe in 12 days, I’ll be able to drive at least in the southern half of the state no problem.

The last couple of nights at dusk I’ve been hearing what I thought were birds getting settled to roost – you know how raucous they can be – and then I found it was actually a raucous bunch of frogs. The non-lake must still have water in it somewhere because there are a whole lot of frogs still living here, and they carry on like crazy at dusk and dawn. It’s nice.

I’ve been enjoying watching the Big and Little Dippers climb higher in the sky as I get farther north. In Austin they’re only a little way above the horizon but here they’re much higher. I remember when I lived in Juneau they were nearly overhead, so I’m looking forward to seeing them move up. This park is only a few miles from the border between North and South Carolinas which I wouldn’t have exactly called the far north – it’s just farther north than Austin.

Speaking of Austin, the news is full of those ghastly bombs some maniac is setting up. Today it was the FedEx office in Schertz where the package blew up. How can someone treat random innocent people like this? A specific grudge I can sorta see (though bombs are never necessary), but not this random leave it on someone’s doorstep, set up a trip wire, send it through Fed Ex.

The guy should go for nature walks in parks with blooming dogwood and forsythia and pine needles everywhere. Very calming.

Little Pee Dee State Park, SC II

Monday, 19 March 2018
Little Pee Dee State Park, SC

The park ranger told me the park doesn’t have a wi-fi signal and it only gets AT&T and Verizon reliably. My little hot spot uses T-Mobile, which he says is spotty at best here and which I’m not, in fact, receiving. That means no high-tech during this visit.

But let’s hear it for low-tech! I’m vindicated for my preference for paper maps and paper notes! Instead of having to leave the park and go into a town to find a signal, I sat outside at my campsite’s picnic table enjoying the sunshine and working on my route in Pennsylvania. For a little while, a mockingbird serenaded us. It was great.

My campsite sits right next to what I thought was a large meadow area of natural grasses. Just below my site at the edge of the meadow is a park bench. The surprise is that it’s not a meadow – it’s a lake. It just doesn’t happen to have any water in it at the moment, one of the zillion casualties of Hurricane Maria. The storm caused the dam that created the lake to breach and now there’s nothing but a little tiny pond next to a couple of boat ramps that are totally unneeded at the moment. The ranger told me the dam’s just about reconstructed and, in the meantime, the lake bed has reverted to its natural state. I like it the way it is, but you can’t do much fishing or boating on a meadow. When I come back through in 4 years, I doubt if I’ll even recognize the place. Glad I took photos to remember it by.
bench for looking at the lake

my non-lakeside campsite

I go to my next campground on Wednesday and it’s only a couple of hours away. I’ll plan to leave here with enough time to stop in whatever largish town is between here and there to use a wi-fi signal and buy groceries. And for now, I’m just enjoying the peace and quiet.

Little Pee Dee State Park, SC

Sunday, 18 March 2018
Little Pee Dee State Park, SC

When I was walking the dogs in Myrtle Beach this morning, I saw a sign on the door of the Dixie Beverage Store that said:

All liquor stores close at 7 PM in South Carolina.
* Yes we know it’s a stupid law.
* Yes the store across the street is closed also.
* Yes the whole state.
* Yes we know in your state and many others you can stay open later. We can’t.
* No this didn’t just start. It has been this way for over 20 years.
* If it’s after 7PM and you are reading this sign, we’ll see you in the morning.

You think they get asked this a lot?

The beach was only about 4 blocks from the KOA so I took the dogs down there. I’m pleased to report that the Atlantic Ocean is still rolling along as usual. It seemed to be a nice beach, hard to tell though because it was only 5:30 and very dark. (I’m not a fan of daylight savings time.) Fortunately nobody else seems to go to the beach at that hour so the dogs could roughhouse for a bit – the first time in a while for them and they loved it. Rolling around in the sand and all.

While I was here, I tried out some pork ribs in my crock pot. I learned a month ago that the outlets near the kitchen sink don’t work very well – when I try to charge up the phone or the camera battery, they only get partly charged while saying they’re fully charged. So I wasn’t able to just stick the crock pot in the sink, as I had hoped, but instead had to put it on the table and use the plug down by Gracie’s bed underneath. That actually worked well, but the potential for real trouble came when I left Dexter behind while I was walking Gracie. There’s absolutely no way I could trust him with such access to those ribs. He can and does jump up on the table – actually, he can and does jump up on the bed, and that’s a standing 3½’ jump. He’s very athletic. Also very willing to ignore the heated crock pot in search of pork ribs. I unplugged it and moved it to the back of the stove while we were gone, and that worked fine. I just cooked them a while longer than I would have. The moral of that story is: people who can’t be flexible have no business full-timing it in a 24’ RV with 2 largish dogs and 2 cats.

Before I left the KOA I took a photo of that trampoline/hot air bouncy thing. You can see a little kid on it – that thing is huge.

As I was going through the last town before getting to this park, I passed North Mullins Primary School. Apparently they don’t have elementary schools in South Carolina.

Not many people are staying in the park right now, which is nice considering Dexter barks when I take Gracie for a walk without him – not as many people to disturb. The roads and the campsites are entirely of sand, which seems odd since we’re a ways from the beach. Like about a 100 miles away. Trucked in or left over from when this was covered by the ocean a million years ago?

I can’t pick up a wi-fi signal at my campsite. I have to go back to the ranger station at 4:00 to sign in so I’ll see if there’s a signal there. Odd because I’ve got 2 bars on my phone, and my hot spot usually gets a signal even when my phone doesn’t. Some parks I’ve been in the signal comes and goes. Maybe here too.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

KOA Myrtle Beach

Saturday, 17 March 2018
KOA Myrtle Beach, SC

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Apparently, North Myrtle Beach has a very large celebration of the big day with parade and Irish music and crafts and stuff.  And there’s some kind of car show this weekend.  That part I saw a bit of because the car owners have been staying here at the campground.

Or Kampground, as we say at KOA.  They have kabins and kampsites.  That’s actually the worst thing I know about them because otherwise they run a very slick operation at all locations.  Here they cover several city blocks (they’re right in Myrtle Beach) and they’ve crammed in 258 campsites – some for tents only and some for us peon RV owners and some for very posh RV owners (those sites have large poured concrete patios and propane barbecue pits and fancy hammocks).  But the many employees keep the whole place very clean and are very welcoming.  This place offers a huge trampoline, except it’s not on springs but instead inflated, and it can hold maybe a dozen kids at once safely.  Quite the business plan KOA has.

our campsite
The drive here from the last campground was absolutely the scenic route.  I got the directions online and they’re clearly intended for cars, not RVs.  In this case, that means the roads were really rough, probably because very heavy trucks use them and they’re just 2-lane county highways and don’t have shoulders so the trucks are tearing up the edges of the lane.  Rough roads in an RV filled with critters and household stuff are a different matter than in a passenger car.  I’m still glad I went that route, though, because I got to see lots of little towns and some very nice scenery.  Wisteria and dogwood blooming like crazy.

I wasn’t expecting it when the road crossed the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and it looks from the map like I’ll cross it again tomorrow when I go back to the interior.

We stopped for walks and bathroom breaks in Georgetown and parked in a side street next to South Carolina’s 2nd oldest Jewish cemetery.  I know that because a historical marker told me so.

It turns out Micky Spillane made his home and did much of his writing just down the road from here - in Murrells Inlet by Georgetown, and they got the state legislature to designate the Micky Spillane Waterfront 17 Highway.  Amazing what you can learn just by reading the signs along the road.

I’ll miss these southern accents when I go north.  I enjoy the various northern accents but they don’t have the same lilt the southern ones do.

I’ve spent time today working on my route in Pennsylvania.  It only just hit me that I’ve still got most of 2 weeks before my state-a-month starts, and I don’t have all that much distance to cover to get there.  I’ve been thinking in terms of the number of states between here and Pennsylvania and forgetting about how everything’s so much closer together here in the East than in the West.  That gives me time to slow down a bit, run some errands, read the owner’s manual to figure how to maintain the various parts of the RV, like that.  What a concept.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Givhans Ferry II

Thursday, 15 March 2018
Givhans Ferry State Park, SC

The Ides of March.  But apparently hazardous only to Caesar, because we had a pretty good day.  Lots of sun and, out of the wind, it felt really warm.

Edisto R. from a cliff
Tall tall pines and a CCC-built picnic hall
This state park was built, as are so many others in the US, by the CCC in the ‘30s.  Running alongside the park is the Edisto River which, according to a sign, is the longest free-flowing blackwater river on the continent.  The park is built on limestone cliffs, which another sign says is a rare geological formation – although I thought that’s what we have outside Austin. Maybe Austin's are rare too.

 Today is the beginning of my second month in the RV, so I tried to figure out what the first month had cost me.  Despite my habit of saving every receipt I’m given (thanks to being married for 10 years to a self-employed fisherman), I know I’m missing some receipts, so these totals aren’t complete.

It looks like campgrounds up north are more expensive than down south so I’m going to be more careful about saving next month’s receipts to get a clearer idea of what I’m going to be able to afford.

Anyway, for the period 2-15-18 to 3-14-18, to the extent I know, I spent the following: $756.50 gasoline  (averaging 7-9 mpg)
                 459.15 food/supplies
                 475.00 park fees
                   32.93 propane (I’m certain I’m missing a propane receipt)
             $1,721.89 total

The most I paid for gasoline was $2.75/gallon, and I feel pretty sure that’s going to go up during the next 4 years, so this is probably the least I’ll spend.  As I said, the park fees will go up, and I’ve been lucky this last month to have generous relatives to stay with.  But I expect I’ll be seeing some more Walmart parking lots just to keep the cost down.  I could reduce the food/supplies amount but I almost never ate out so I can’t cut that down.  I hope to spend less on propane now that I've turned off the water heater.  I’ll see what this next month brings.

I’ve definitely decided to spend April in Pennsylvania, and wait until May to  -move on to New York.  Quite a few of the PA state parks are already open and more will open in the middle of the month, whereas in New York many won’t open until May.  So I’ll be there in May.

I’m staying the next 2 nights at the Myrtle Beach KOA and will spend time trying to plan an itinerary so I can make reservations.  I have a feeling that when the parks do open - especially in New England - they’ll be hard to get into.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Givhan's Ferry SC

Wednesday, 14 March 2018
Givhan’s Ferry State Park, SC

Both Gracie and Dexter have discovered something about Beauty Bark (that decorative used around bushes and trees in landscaping) that tastes irresistible. Walmart landscapers use Beauty Bark extensively, and they have extensive areas to use it in. The dogs were happy as clams munching away on the stuff until I finally figured out what they were doing and started dragging them away at the slightest sniff. I kept thinking they were finding food that someone had discarded, because they’d do that often at shopping centers in Austin. Especially when there were as many nearby restaurants as we had at that shopping center where Walmart was. But it wasn’t food. I thought Beauty Bark was made from tree bark. Apparently not because neither of the dogs has shown the slightest interest in tree bark at any other time, except as something to rub their backs against.

Speaking of Walmart landscapers, they start work extremely early in the morning. Apparently, Wednesday is their day at that location. I started hearing something that sounded like a leaf blower at about 3:30 AM, and assumed it couldn’t possibly be a leaf blower, that it must be something else. But it kept on and on, and then I started to hear another engine driving around and around. I finally got up (who could sleep?) and took the dogs out for a walk and discovered that my ears had told me right. I knew the parking lot lights seemed as bright as day to me, and they must seem that way to the landscapers because they were all over that shopping center with leaf blowers and trimmers and so forth. And that engine driving around was a small water tanker that was driving up and down and all around all the medians to spray all the grass and trees and bushes with water. Around and around and around, spraying all the time, spraying everything several times because they must have been driving about 15 mph, which is pretty fast for what they were doing. Did you know shopping center parking lots lead active night lives?

Yesterday I wrote something about drydocking and I should have said boondocking, which is what it seems to be called when an RV spends time not plugged into anything. I see online that many people live that way and I can spend time like that. But none of my plugs works unless I run the generator, and I can’t charge any of my gadgets, so I don’t want to do it for too many nights.

The drive to this South Carolina park was an easy one except for severe crosswinds almost the entire way. I found myself steering as if I were driving on ice (turn into the skid), especially when semis would drive by – they carry their own wind patterns with them. I felt a little lucky to have made it here safely after all that.

Did you know a highway sign says there’s a place in Georgia called Horse Stomp? Definitely somewhere I want to see when I come back through.

The Georgia highway has signs to memorialize almost everything. The Somebody Memorial Highway, followed a few miles later by a sign saying The Somebody Else Memorial Highway. Not to be confused with The Another Somebody Memorial Interchange and The Yet Another Somebody Memorial Bridge. I should have counted them. The stretch of I-95 that goes through Georgia isn’t all that many miles and there must have been at least a dozen of these designations along there.

When it reaches South Carolina, I-95 becomes 2 lanes on each side with quite a few trees in the grassy median, blocking a lot of the view of the opposite side. More peaceful and cozy that way (to the extent driving with crosswinds and many semis can be peaceful and cozy). But there were stretches where the highway folks had recently cut down long stretches of those trees and graded out the grass, leaving just dirt – not at all an inspiring view. I hate to think what it’ll look like in 4 years when I come back.

Givhan's Ferry is a nice little park. Definitely not overdeveloped, since the roads aren’t paved and the ranger’s office is open only from 11:00 to noon and they don’t have any kind of printed material for handouts and it's hard to find a wi-fi signal. The RV campground only has 25 spaces, and there’s a separate campground for tents that you have to hike to. But lots of trees and quiet. Except for Dexter, who I hope won’t get us kicked out by barking when I leave to walk with Gracie.

I’m really beginning to believe I’m doing Dexter a disservice by having him on this trip. I’m not at all sure he’s well suited for this kind of life. He’s a high energy dog and I’m not allowed to let me off a leash to run around. I walk him several times a day, but for a dog like him, that barely scratches the surface. It turns out he’s got serious tracking skills – natural ones that nobody’s trained him for. I’m betting he could be a great search-and-rescue dog with some training. And he’s easily trainable because he’ll do anything for food and he’s very affectionate so is happy to do things if he likes you. I really like his personality and he’s good company for me and for Gracie, but he’s only 2½ and I think his talents are being wasted on us. If anybody can think of someone who might give him a better home than I am, let me know.

I’ll be here 2 nights and then have reservations at the Myrtle Beach KOA for 2 nights. I don’t much like KOAs – way way too structured and civilized for me – but it gives my brother someplace to send my mail, and I’m certain they’ll have washers and showers. Sometime in the next few days I’ll be figuring out what I’m going to do in April.