The journey south for this winter season has featured a great deal of clouds, inclement weather and technical problems but an opportunity to meet some great new people and experience some new places. The overall plan was to enjoy a stay in the Myrtle Beach area during November and December, fly home for Christmas for a couple of weeks, then head to Pensacola, Florida for the month of January, followed by a trip west on Route 10 beginning on February 1st and make our way across the US on the Southern route heading back East across the US on Route 40 getting back to Connecticut in late May. This is an ambitious plan putting us on the road for over four months with some small concern about weather issues especially in February.
The itinerary calls for stopping in some interesting places such as New Orleans, Austin, San Antonio, Tucson, and Memphis as well as some national parks in California, Arizona, Utah and Tennessee. The trip includes the possibility of seeing some friends we have made in our travels, as well as a visit to Tiffin, Ohio, the town where I lived from the age of six months to six years old.
As is our newly established custom, we traveled east to our favorite campground Fishermen’s Memorial State Park in Pt Judith, Rhode Island before beginning the journey South. We were greeted at the gate with the news that the truck registration had elapsed. How did I miss that? I guess this the danger of living in your RV and counting on getting your mail occasionally as needed. The park attendant informed us that we would have to get the truck registered within two days or leave the park. Needless to say, job one after getting settled was to take care of the registration, which I did online.
Every day in Rhode Island featured either rain, wind or cold. Our first night the temperature got down to the high thirties. I was awakened by the cold at about 3:30 am. I knew right away that the propane tank was empty. Unfortunately, after going out into the cold morning, I realized that both tanks were empty. We had no choice but to run the electric space heater and the fireplace. They took the edge off the cold but did not provide complete relief. I had neglected the cardinal rule of managing the propane tanks. When you turn it over to a second tank, you fill the first tank right away to ensure you always have one full tank. I learned my lesson about neglecting that task ever again.
The only real bright spot in our stay in Rhode Island, aside from being in our favorite spot, was a day visit from our good friend Kathy and her grandson Joshua. We went to Galilee and had lunch at one of the many seafood spots. By mid-October many of the restaurants are on limited schedules. We went to check out the beaches and the area lighthouse to get some pictures. Joshua seemed to enjoy himself exploring the area despite the cold and windy weather.
We left Rhode Island and made the fairly long trip to Paradise Stream Family Campground in Loysville, Pa. The original plan was to stop somewhere in the Gettysburg area but apparently that area is very popular in October. We were forced to find a place a little further west. Loysville it was. We traveled at least an hour on some remote back roads after leaving the interstate and finally made our way through a farm road to find the campground. It was a nicely-kept family campground with spacious gravel sites. There was literally nothing around the campground but farm land for miles.
While in Loysville our refrigerator decided that it wanted to act up. The compressor made the sound of starting over and over again but would not. We thought the worst. After playing with the electrical for a while we realized that the refrigerator would run off the batteries through the inverter. We figured out that the electrical connection at this site must not have been wired correctly. I have a fifty-amp surge protector/tester pigtail that I often neglect to use when we are only pulling into some place for a day or two. It is very difficult to detach from the fifty-amp cord when leaving. I now have decided to just leave it attached and use it all the time.
With a working refrigerator, and great relief, we left Pennsylvania on our way to Virginia and Shenandoah National Park. The closest campground to the park entrance was Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort. It is clear that this is a family resort and during the warmer months the plentiful activities, including a massive water slide, are packed with families and kids. We were able enjoy a nice site without the chaos of those families and kids.
The Giant Water Slide at Yogi Bear’s Jelly Stone Park Resort
The benefit of the resort was its proximity to Shenandoah National Park. I waited until we got here to take advantage of a great deal by purchasing a senior pass to the National Parks. Buying the pass in person saved money. The twenty-dollar pass allows us to enter any national park for free as well as many other national monuments and attractions.
We decided to take the ride up Skyline Drive which runs along the mountain ridge through the whole park and for 105 miles total to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We drove about ten miles of the road through the park which afforded several opportunities to enjoy the majestic vistas overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. We stopped to enjoy a moderate hike to Stoney Man Overlook. Once we reached the overlook point, we stood on the apron of the rock which was as close as I wanted to be to the edge. We were still able to enjoy the magnificent view into the valley.
Images from Skyline Drive and the hike to Stoney Man Overlook
As close as I will get to the edge of Stoney Man Overlook
We wished that we had put more time into our schedule to enjoy this beautiful park. Sadly, we had to move on to our next stop in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The good news is that we can easily get to the Shenandoah Valley area again in the future, which I am sure will happen. We had scheduled a one-night stay at a KOA in Rocky Mount/Enfield. KOAs are usually a good bet for a one-night stay. They are virtually omnipresent. Often, they are very close to the highway and have a similar and familiar format. They are often over-priced depending on the area, but the convenience overrides the cost in some cases. This KOA was not one of their best spots but it was convenient. When we pulled in, we found out that they had somewhat rugged sites right in front of the office. Easy in-easy out. That worked for us.
We had settled next to a couple from Vermont who were also on their way to Myrtle Beach and were very friendly – in some ways too friendly. When the gentlemen, who was a plumber by trade, found out that we had not hooked up the ice and water on our refrigerator because we could not find an illusive second valve, he saw this as a personal challenge to locate it. I did mention more than once, that after our own frustrating search back in Rhode Island, we had decided not to bother because we read about the potential troubles associated with the ice and water lines. Our new friend either did not hear this or chose to ignore it in the face of an exciting new challenge. After more than an hour of taking apart sections of the RV I had never been into before, we finally gave up the search.
Our new friend’s wife had been talking with Eileen for some time and provided a very detailed road map of what we should do as full-time RVers. It seemed to make no difference that we had done most of the things. What they had done was the “right way ” to do them and we should look into that. Eileen listened politely and steered the conversation to family and grandkids.
We established that we were headed to North Myrtle Beach and shared what RV park we were headed to. They shared that they were staying in North Myrtle Beach for a month and then headed to their usual RV park in Myrtle Beach. There was a comment that a person was likely to be shot in North Myrtle Beach. We didn’t know what to make of that remark. We shared information and talked about the possibility of getting together at some point.
Shortly after we plugged into the electricity our refrigerator started to do what it had done in Pennsylvania. I checked the tester and there was a problem with the wiring. Two sites in three campgrounds with electrical problems. Eileen went to the office to report it. I decided to take a shower When I came out, she said the guy had come and tested the line and claimed there was no problem. I was too tired to argue. It was only one night.
Later, as we were settling in for the night our neighbor come over to tell us that she had just looked up our RV park in the Good Sam catalog and she had bad news. She pointed out that the write-up said that they did not allow RVs with slide-outs. This was very odd and we doubted that it could be true. Our understanding was that the park was new and was prepared for larger units. Nevertheless, this new information did plant a seed of doubt and created a little bit of apprehension.
We hit the road the next day not knowing what we would find when we arrived. With plans to stay for November and December at this park, and no alternative plan, the stakes were fairly high. A few hours later we got off route 17 and began to make our way through an eclectic neighborhood area to the park. We came across some nice houses with well-kept property and several double-wide trailers with property containing vast collections of junk. On the corner of our last turn an old single trailer sat with open doors and windows, It had clearly been abandoned for many years. We could still see clothes hanging inside. The only possible inhabitants would be a family of racoons and a couple of odd possum. Our apprehension rose a couple of ticks.
When we made our way to the end of the road, we were somewhat shocked. Laid out in front of us, for as far as we could see, was a large and beautiful, brand new RV park. It was well-organized with palm trees lining the roads and large, spacious, well-manicured concrete sites lined by grassy areas. What a pleasant surprise and relief. There were several large motorhomes and fifth-wheels all with large slide-outs. Our slight fears were assuaged.
When checking in the young clerk shared that the gentleman who made the reservation originally no longer worked at the park and that we were fortunate to be assigned our site because an error had been made. We later found out that they saved the larger pull-through sites closer to the pool and marina for transient visitors and pushed the long-term visitors further away. The daily rate is much higher for transient visitors so they made more money on these sites on weekends and special times of year.
Our site at North Myrtle Beach RV Resort
Two days after we arrived it rained fairly hard. We found out that our beautiful site was not really that special. The spacious, grassy area in front of the camper was a small pond making much of it unusable and unpassable. Thankfully, there was a large concrete patio attached to the site that allowed for the picnic table and a couple of chairs. Without it we would have been confined to the RV or the common areas of the park.
The new park, North Myrtle Beach RV Resort and Dry-Dock Marina, really lives up to its name. The newly constructed RV park that just opened in January 2019 not only has over 150 beautiful sites, but also has a beautiful pool area with a slide and lots of seating, a small area with a common gas fire pit with large comfortable rocking chairs, a small restaurant and bar area with covered seating that serves pub food, and an area close by for live entertainment. Speakers throughout the common areas pipe in music until 6 pm at which time the music ends and the sound of crickets begins until 10 pm and quiet time.
Images of North Myrtle Beach RV Resort
All of this is fronted by a walkway that moves along the dock and boat slips that sit along the Intercoastal Waterway. You can sit in the area by the pool and fire pit, or along the walkway, and watch the boats of many sizes and styles make their way South through the waterway.
Images of the dock and boat slips at North Myrtle Beach RV Resort
There is a large store that sells many food items and a large collection of beer as well camping, RV and boating necessities. The store also has an ice cream bar.
Attached to all of this is a very large dry-dock storage facility the size of indoor football facility. This is the original part of the property. Soon after we arrived work began to clear a large area adjacent to the park to prepare for the addition of sixty new sites as well as a water pad for the kids and a community building.
When we planned to spend the two months in the area, a little research showed that we should be looking at daytime temperatures in the 60s and overnight temperatures in the mid to high 40s. Whether it was being preceded by hurricane Florence, or some other factor, that was not the weather pattern we enjoyed. There were a few warm and sunny days but they were few a far between. What we got a lot of was rain. And when it rained, which was almost every weekend, it poured. On more than one occasion I thought another hour of rain would cause an evacuation.
One of the things that we do when we are in an area for more than a week is to try to find a good gym. We were fortunate that the city of North Myrtle Beach has a city-operated fitness center. The facility is about ten years old. It has two pools, a large gym with a walking/running balcony, racquetball courts, multipurpose rooms and a very large fitness center with a wealth of machines and free weight stations. We visited the fitness center almost daily.
When we first arrived there seemed to be a lack of formal or planned opportunities for people to socialize. We had met a few people in the park and decided to organize a little gathering for some of the people we had met. Each couple brought some snacks and we sat around the fire pit and had a great time.
When we arrived, we decided that since we were parked for two months that we should take care of few nagging issues with the RV while it was still under warranty. Since we were on Prince Edward Island we had dealt with an electrical issue with the refrigerator plug and the wall outlet next to the refrigerator. Since then we had been without the wall outlet which necessitated running a small extension cord each morning to use the Keurig.
This was not an earth-shaking issue but annoying in a brand-new RV. I called Jayco and actually got someone in the warranty department that seemed somewhat concerned about our issues and authorized me to have a mobile RV tech come out and work on them. This was remarkable given that the last two people from this department that I had dealt with since embarking on this adventure actually had me contemplating driving to Middlebury, Indiana, finding each, and choking them with my bare hands.
The RV tech came out twice to try to solve this issue and determined that we had an open neutral somewhere in the electrical system and narrowed it down to the inverter. For the unindoctrinated, the inverter is used to transform DC power from the batteries to AC power when the RV is not hooked to AC power. The inverter makes it possible to run the refrigerator while on the road or dry camping, which for us would only happen in an emergency. He did not want to get into the inverter, which would necessitate tearing apart the basement. We were back to square one.
The woman from Jayco suggested I call the local Jayco dealer in Myrtle Beach to try and set something up. I asked her to call knowing the drill. Unfortunately, I had been through it a few times. You call a dealer. The first question is always,”Did you buy it here?” When they hear no, they immediately tell you that they could not possibly see you for two or three months because they are so busy. Translated, that means I do not want to do warranty work for someone who did not buy the unit here because I am going to get fifty cents on the dollar for the work. I told her that I would be willing to drop the RV off on December 15th as we were flying out of Myrtle Beach on the 16th. I could pick it back up on the 28th when we returned. She called me back and said that he had agreed to look at it and to call him.
I called Tom at Camper Country in Myrtle Beach. I reiterated the proposed plan. He tried his best to throw a monkey wrench in the works by indicating that he could do the work, but he could not keep the unit until the 28th as they were closed for a week after Christmas. The new challenge was to find someone who could pick the RV up when the work was completed and tow it back to our site. I was able to find a person in our park who lived on one of the boats docked at the marina. The cost was $125. I made plans to drop it off. We were now in for a night in a hotel and a towing charge.
Meanwhile the park organized a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner for those who would be in the park. They provided the turkeys and some desserts and the attendees brought a variety of side dishes and desserts. They set up the dinner inside the marina with picnic tables and heaters. We had dinner with some new friends, Charlie and Clint, that we had met in the park. Clint was someone we had just met that day while he was walking his dogs. We had met Charlie when he and his wife Marianne had joined us at the fire pit one night. They were not full-timers, or in the park long term, but came to the park often since it had opened. The food was great and the company was better.
Thanksgiving dinner in the Dry Dock Marina
The following evening Charlie and Marianne graciously invited us to accompany them to local place, Fat Harold’s, that was a very popular scene for their favorite pastime, Shag dancing. We had heard about their love of Shag dancing when we met them the first time and Eileen looked it up on YouTube to see what it was all about. It is very entertaining to watch and a lot of fun to do I am sure. Acknowledging that I am not doing it justice, it is a cross between swing dancing, ball room dancing and a tango.
What we did not know, until we were invited to enjoy it in person, was that North Myrtle Beach is the Shag dancing capital of the world! Shag dancing is very popular in the South especially in the Carolinas and North Myrtle Beach is where many of the big tournaments are held. People belong to clubs that have teams that compete as well. We joined Charlie and Marianne at Fat Harold’s and enjoyed watching the couples put on a show. There were a few younger couples, but the majority of the couples were middle-aged or older.
That weekend the park filled up because Saturday was the annual Christmas boat parade and the parade passes right along the waterway in front of the park. The park had planned entertainment and free popcorn and hot chocolate. The very heavy rain that came Friday and into Saturday morning seemed to have passed us by late morning so the festivities would commence as planned.
We had planned to run a few errands that afternoon and then enjoy the parade. My phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but I answered. It was the woman we had met in Rocky Mount. We had not heard from the couple since we had arrived in North Myrtle Beach. We had kept ourselves pretty busy and had not thought to be in touch. She said that they were in the area and were thinking of stopping by. And then she asked if the park had plans for the boat parade. I told her they did, but it probably did not start until 7 pm or so. I had a sneaky feeling that she knew that already. They decided that they would stop by to say hello anyway since they were in the area. She told me she knew where we were because they had already been through the park with some friends the week before.
She and her husband arrived and we visited for a little while. We had to excuse ourselves to run our errands and they said that they would head over to the beach for a while and then return to join us for the parade. We did think that the timing of their call, especially since they had already been to the park before this day, was interesting. When we returned from our errands, we called them and they had already returned and taken our chairs and theirs and staked out a spot on the walkway. We enjoyed the parade which was a bit lacking, maybe held back by the weather. We went back to the RV for a spell and then our visitors left to return to their RV park. We did not hear from them again.
Eileen and I watching the boat parade
We enjoyed the remainder of our time before we left for Christmas going to the gym and doing small day trips. I had a chance to get a little golf in around the rain.
A couple of days before the 15th I packed up as much as I could. Some new friends from Connecticut that we had met in the park, Gail and Jeff from Tolland, had agreed to let us leave some stuff packed up under their RV. They had driven home for Christmas about a week before, and were not returning until February 1st.
On December 15th we dropped the RV off at Camper Country. I had written all of the pertinent information down on paper along with every phone number he would need. I went over everything on the paper with him before we left.
On Sunday morning we flew out to Connecticut. While home we were the guests of our good friends Ellen and John. We had decided that it was too hectic to try to stay in East Hartford with our daughter Maura and son Billy and were going to stay in a hotel. John and Ellen offered us the comfort of their spacious and beautiful house and we accepted. They could not have been any more hospitable or made us feel any more at home. We had coffee and breakfast every morning and had dinner together on many nights. And we were the beneficiaries of being around one of the best bakers at holiday time – a sugarholic’s dream. We could not be more thankful and appreciative.
We enjoyed the holidays and catching up with the kids and grand kids. The boys were so excited about Santa coming and all of the trappings of Christmas. Besides the big gifts from Grandma and Grandpa, Eileen had found an idea on Pinterest that she decided to try. She created three snowmen out of different sized boxes. Each box was filled with tons of gifts, many small like crayons and playdough and some bigger like books. Each section was covered and decorated. The boys had a great time tearing them apart and seeing all the gifts. It was a bit overwhelming.
Images of Mason, Cooper and Declan enjoying the Christmas season
Mason making reindeer with Grandma. Grandpa and Cooper were busy eating the materials
Making a gingerbread house at Ellen’s
While we were home Tom from Camper Country called to let me know that they had fixed everything and the RV was ready to be picked up. The RV was picked up on time and returned to our site safely.
On our last night in Connecticut we enjoyed a great dinner at J.Gilbert’s steakhouse celebrating Ellen’s birthday with her husband John and our other friends Kathy and Dave.
We were a bit sad to leave our family and friends but also anxious to get back to our winter adventure. We had a little scare almost missing our connecting flight in Charlotte but arrived back in South Carolina around noon. In two days we were heading out to our next stop in Pensacola, Florida.
We returned to our RV which had been returned to the site. We started to unpack. I then thought to try the outlet next to the refrigerator. It still had no power. I went ballistic. All of the trouble we had gone through to drop it off, pay to stay in a hotel for a night, pay to have it picked up and dragged back to North Myrtle Beach, and the impetus for requesting the repairs in the first place, still did not work! I assumed that the inverter was now wired correctly. How could I know for sure? And to add insult to injury they had neglected to return my 50-amp to 30-amp adapter pigtail back to the basement. That is a $30 item. It is perhaps a good thing that they were still closed for the holiday. I am not sure how well that conversation would have gone if I had been able to contact Tom at that time.
There was nothing we could do at this time but suck it up and move on until we were settled in Pensacola. The Keurig was back to the extension cord. We would later find out that not only had the technician not connected the wall outlet but had left a hot wire just sitting there in the wall waiting to burn the RV to the ground and possibly us with it.
On Sunday morning we left the friendly confines of North Myrtle Beach RV Park on the slow roll to Pensacola. Maybe we will return next year hoping for better weather. Maybe not.