Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 19-25: Great visit with Dave & Sandy

September 25, 2013
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

We continued our trip south and had a great (and somewhat overdue) visit with our friends Dave and Sandy at their place in New Smyrna Beach. Or “NSB” for those “in the know”.

Things got off to a good start and then we hit our first “speed bump” before we even got there. As always, we have to be prepared for times when “life happens” (or “stuff” happens). In this case, it was a medical emergency of the canine kind, and of the first order.

We had an uneventful trip for most of the day, retracing our route back US-278 from Hilton Head Island to I-95, traversing Georgia with a stop right before entering Florida for (cheaper) fuel. We made our lunch stop at the Florida Welcome Center and continued south, making a rest stop about an hour north of NSB.

As the pups were getting back in the coach, Merlin started to get sick, and within minutes had made a mess (“both ends”, if you know what I mean) from the front of the coach to the back. I was able to find him under the bed almost unconscious. He couldn’t hold his head up, his eyes were rolling, his tongue was lolling, and his breathing was very erratic. At two points, we thought we lost him right then and there.

While Geri wrapped him in towels and held him on a pillow, I started a search for veterinary help. Not seeing anything close to where we were, I called Dave, which turned out to be the smartest decision I could have made. They were lifesavers. He and Sandy sprung into action, contacting their vet, assessing options, and arranging for us to get in right before closing. We met them at their vet’s office in a local shopping plaza (fortunately, there was enough room for us to park) and we were whisked right in.

After some quick blood tests and x-rays, Dr. Cox was able to report our first good news: it was pretty clear that Merlin was in the throes of a bout of pancreatitis. Why and how? We’ll never know. But, the path forward was clear: they took Maya Lynn while we parked the RV at our selected campground (it was close to the vet) and transferred Merlin to the best animal hospital in Daytona Beach for medication and IV fluids overnight.

It was after 8:00 PM by the time we got back to Dave and Sandy’s, and they had dinner waiting for us. Not exactly the way we wanted to start our visit, but at least we had a cautiously optimistic outlook.

We’d planned to stay at their house during our visit to ease logistics, but decided to spend the first night at the coach since we needed to be up at oh-dark-thirty to pick Merlin up around 7:00 AM. Friday morning, we accomplished that, brought him back to Dr. Cox for more IV fluids and observation during the day, and were back at the campground right after the office opened to pay up and officially check in. We had arrived after hours, so our site information was taped to the door.

We headed over to Dave and Sandy’s, and were finally able to catch our breath. We managed to shoot back to the coach, do some cleaning, eradicate a small ant infestation we’d picked up in the jungles of Hilton Head, pack a couple of bags, and pick Merlin up around 3:00 PM. He was still quite wobbly but definitely on the mend. We put him on a bland diet and monitored him closely, and he got stronger each day. By the end of our visit, he was back to 70-80% of his normal self.


Whew. By Saturday, things started to settle down. We were able to relax a bit. Dave and Sandy have moved since we last visited them in Florida, with their “new” house being on the western side of the Intracoastal Waterway (“ICW), right on the water. It’s a great location, close to the Yacht Club (for some reason, Dave is not “Commodore” yet), and positioned for great sunrises (for the early risers) and moonrises when the weather cooperates. And nice flowers!

In the afternoon, we headed over to the Flagler Avenue shopping district (the kind of place I’d call artsy-fartsy) for lunch and some poking around, followed by a Daytona-area tradition: a drive on the beach.

We decided on Sunday that Merlin was feeling well enough, and the weather seemed good enough, for a boat ride. Dave called the marina to ready the boat, and off we went. After venturing out into the ocean for quite a ways, heading north toward Daytona, we returned to the calmer ICW. We had lunch at Inlet Harbor, a dockside restaurant and made a stop at the “Disappearing Island”, which I incorrectly called “disappearing beach” on Facebook. Yikes!

We are all actually happier than we seem to be in this shot...

Ready to explore the "Disappearing Island"

We headed back as we started to see some storm clouds on the horizon, typical for Florida I suppose. Much of the ICW in this area is a “Manatee Zone” which requires slow speeds, but we made it back to the marina before the rains. Dave has his boat stored inside, which you might think is a complicated process. Not when they have an 80-ton forklift on premises! The operator dropped the forks into the water, Dave pulled the boat back over them, and the extraction was done in less than two minutes. After a quick wash, it was ready to be stored on inside racks about 35 feet in the air. Always use the right tool for the job, I say!

"Power tools; Yeah"!
And, speaking of tools, we got to use a few over the next few days. They are having substantial renovations done to the main living areas of the house starting next week (new kitchen cabinets and island, new tile throughout, new stairway to the second floor), so I was able to help Dave with some of the preparation that was better done with two people. We removed some of the backsplash on the existing counters, placed some of the heavy furniture in its temporary location out of the way, and dismantled the fireplace fa├žade. (Get it? Dis-“mantled”?) This last one was interesting to say the least, and the whole brick face just slid out into the room and we were able to break it up brick by brick.

Tonight (Wednesday), we all went out to dinner at the Riverview Grille, having a great meal and a nice wine while watching a beautiful sunset. It was a fitting way to close out our visit! After dinner, we headed back to the coach and completed what little travel prep was required. We’ll be heading out in the morning.

As always, we had a great time visiting good friends. We don’t get to do it but every few years, so it’s a special treat for us!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 12-18: Hilton Head Island

September 18, 2013
Hilton Head Motorcoach Resort
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

We continued our trip south, moving from the northern end of the South Carolina Coast to the southern. We’re definitely heading south too early.

Our travel route was pretty easy: follow US-17 south along coastal South Carolina, swing inland to pick up I-95 for a short stretch, then take US-278 right to the Island. It was an easy driving day, logging 203 miles in about 4½ hours. Plus, as an added bonus, we were able to do our part in keeping the population of “Love Bugs” in check, as the front of the coach was covered with them at the end of the day!

I’d been to Hilton Head Island years ago, let’s say early 1990s, for a work conference. I thought it would be a nice place to stop on our route this year. I was disappointed. Unless you have excess discretionary income, new golf clubs, and a good exterminator, take a pass.

To begin with, everything on the island is highly regulated as to the look and feel of the place. Essentially they are trying to eradicate most vestiges of the plantation lifestyle that made the place a success in the first place (it’s still divided up into six or so “plantation districts” on the map) and turn it into a jungle like you’d see on “Survivor”.

The whole place is covered in vegetation, mostly mossy Live Oaks and palms of various kinds. All the buildings are designed and colored to blend in with the vegetation. Commercial signage is severely limited to the point where, if you don’t know where something is, you’re not likely to find it on the first try.

Now, I suppose that if we had gotten out more we might have found more interesting parts of the community. It’s just that it was very hard to be outside at all with the heat and humidity, even in the abundant shade.

The RV park I selected was also a disappointment. It was one of the first upscale “Outdoor Resorts” (a now-defunct organization) properties, and it’s showing its age.  Relatively small and narrow sites, more overgrown vegetation, failing concrete slabs and roadways, and bugs galore; this place was a real challenge.

But, we made the most of our time. We relaxed and read. We ate well, even if mostly from the supplies we had on board. We ventured out, off the Island, to the outlet malls for some things Geri needed (and didn’t overspend in the process!). I cleaned (most of) the Love Bugs from the windshield and the front of the RV. We walked the pups early and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to sit out around Happy Hour. We survived it.

And now we’re ready to move on, probably more ready than we’ve been in a while. We’ll do our routine night-before travel preparations and be ready for tomorrow’s travel to Florida.

Feel free to click on any image above to enlarge it...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 4-11: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

September 11, 2013
Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

“Where would you like to go”?

“What part of ‘the beach’ don’t you understand”?

This is an exchange that Geri and I have whenever the topic of planning our RV travels comes up. So, when we decided to do the East Coast this fall, there had to be a beach stop involved. When we found out that Pat and Al were planning a week’s vacation with their friends near Myrtle Beach over Labor Day, we started zeroing in. When I figured out how to make the dates work out, a plan was born.

Fully deployed...
The crew was already here when we arrived. It was a relatively long driving day, at least by our standards these days. We got an early start before 8:00 AM, but bad planning on my part had us on I-495 around Washington during the morning rush. We toughed it out and were soon on I-95 headed south. After looping around Richmond, we were soon in North Carolina and eventually South Carolina. After a quick fuel stop, we headed east on SC-38 to US-501 then SC-544, which delivered us right to our campground on the beach.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground is a huge place, with well over 3,000 sites. “Only” 800-900 or so are for us “transients”; the rest are annual lease lots that could have anything from a small camper to a huge multi-story house on them. We’ve been here before, although this time we stayed further away from the beach, saving over $200 in the process. Of course, we then traded the savings for a week’s rental on a golf cart. Hmmm…

Turtles enjoying the fountain immediately behind our site

So, we developed a routine. Relax in the morning, beach in the afternoon, dinner, cruise the park with the pups until dark. Plus or minus, this was our week. Pat and Al and Lynne and Mike headed back to Connecticut on Saturday, so we had a nice dinner at their golf club on Friday night. We tried one of the local seafood places on Wednesday, giving us the opportunity to get ready for tomorrow’s travel day.

Geri and Pat negotiating the waves

"Now I'm happy"!

Drinks before dinner at The Club

We have realized that we’re a bit early in our meandering southward. It’s been hot and humid and we’ve had the air conditioning running more or less nonstop since Washington, even while we were driving (using the generator). Bugs haven’t been too bad, and we’ve been able to sit out several evenings. Now, we’re just hoping that autumn catches up with us!

As always, feel free to click on any image to enlarge...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

August 30-September 3: Washington, D.C.

September 3, 2013
Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Maryland

As always, please click on any picture to enlarge...

We had a nice start to our trek southward, and spent a few days in the Washington, D.C., area. We even shaved a few miles off the route in the process. Leaving Watkins Glen, we headed south on US-15, eventually to be I-99. (This is an anomaly in the Interstate numbering rules, but I guess they ran out of room, or numbers.) Passing Williamsport (home of Little League), we picked up US-11 then US-22/US-322 into Harrisburg. Along the way, we found a truck stop for a fuel stop. This cut 35-40 miles off our route, as I’d planned to swing slightly east to fuel up along I-81. Saving 6-7 gallons of diesel at $4+ per gallon is always a good thing!

I was a little worried about going through Harrisburg after we were caught in a huge traffic jam there on our way north in May. I knew that the I-81/US-22 interchange was closed for several days at that time after a truck overturned and burned, but couldn’t get much current information from the DOT sites in August. But, things worked out fine, even though there was still some construction going on, and we were able to make the transition to I-81 and then I-83 easily. We followed I-83 south to Baltimore, then I-695 to I-95. Soon, we were exiting, just before the I-95/I-495 split northwest of Washington, D.C.

We’ve been to Cherry Hill Park before, several times in fact. That didn’t stop them from losing our reservation, which wasn’t a huge issue since they weren’t full. I did get a little indignant when they claimed to have no record of my deposit, though. A little searching got that straightened out, and we were soon heading to our pull-thru site. I should have asked for a back-in, because these sites were narrow, but we were fine as it was, especially when the RV next to us left a few days later.

Once we got settled, a Facebook suggestion was made that the Mets were in town to play the Nationals, so I made the buy on StubHub for Saturday night. We enjoyed the game and Nationals Park is a decent venue, although they need to upgrade their concessions (us being foodies, and all).

On Sunday, I ventured into DC to visit the National Mall. No shopping here, just monuments. There is way too much walking involved here for Geri, so she relaxed at the coach. I decided to drive to the Metro station (I took the bus to the train the last time and it was a project), but the Greenbelt station was closed (track work) with – you guessed it – shuttle busses! I decided to pass on that and let Siri guide me to the next Metro station.

I wanted to visit some of the newer memorials and things I’ve missed before, so I Crossed the Mall, passing the Washington Monument (under repair from earthquake damage, of all things), and the World War II Memorial. Across to the Tidal Basin, I found the new Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial. Smaller than most, it’s nicely done and was quite crowded a few days after the 50th anniversary of the “Dream” speech.

Continuing along the Tidal Basin, I came upon the FDR Memorial. This one is tucked out of the way and much less known. I was at the wrong time of day for pictures, with harsh shadows everywhere, so this one will be checked off for a future visit.

Continuing on, I finally made it to the Jefferson Memorial. In all the times I’ve been here, I’ve always missed this one, probably because of its location off the mainstream part of the Mall. We were supposed to stop here on my Eighth Grade Class Trip but there were protests going on and that part of the visit was summarily cancelled. I’m glad I finally made it.

Heading back to the Metro, I decided to make a quick stop at the Museum of American History. It was interesting to see various parts of Americana, from Julia’s Kitchen from PBS to the Greensboro Lunch Counter, in a museum setting. They also had a separate exhibit noting the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner. They even have the original flag that inspired the song, but for some reason photography isn’t allowed in that exhibit.

Overall, it was a nice stop on our trip south this fall. Of course, it’s still summer and the temperatures are still high, but we’re hoping for some moderation as we go. Tomorrow, we’re back on the road again…