The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun
Monday, December 2, 2019: Well, today was to be our departure day…however there’s a large winter storm bearing down on us from the west, so we’re wisely staying put!
… and it’s still snowing! Even the “Old Pine Codger”, standing guard in our backyard…
…looked a bit perplexed.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019: Woke at 0430 and immediately checked various weather and road condition websites…it looks to be reasonably safe for our travel out of the neighborhood and toward points south.
While loading up the truck and camper with last minute items, a neighbor braved the cold to come out and bid us farewell, and another neighbor stopped as he was driving by to do the same…thanks Kim and Jeff!
Underway at 0520 with a light snow falling and a temperature of 19 degrees. Kit and I wound our way through the quiet neighborhood where the roads were a bit greasy. Yep, greasy, that’s a Maine term meaning hard packed snow and ice…I guess the town’s Public Works Department was taking a well-deserved break from plowing over the long storm. On the main road out of town the conditions improved immensely. And once we hit the Interstate, they were clear and dry…thanks’ Maine state snowplow folks!
Made our customary stop at the I-95 Kennebunk Service Plaza to take a bathroom break and conduct a safety check, part of which is to check the campers tire, brake and wheel temperatures with a laser pointed infrared temperature meter.
Fortunately, 80.2 degrees is within specifications! I conduct these measurements, along with tire wear patterns and lug nut torque, to minimize any issues that may leave us stranded.
Speaking of being stranded, you may recall our trailer malfunction during last winter’s trip…if not it was extensively chronicled in 2019’s final journal which can be found at: https://bilnkit.com/2019/06/16/bill-and-kits-2019-excellent-adventure-journal-16/.
I mention this as over the summer, in order to limit and future problems, I had all running gear components replaced. Axels, brakes, springs, shocks, shackles and bolts…all new!
Just as Kit and I were leaving the service plaza, the sun peered over the eastern horizon.
It appears we will enjoy a great travel day!
Our preferred route out of New England and through New York has been well documented over the past 12 years of these winter RV trips so I won’t go into detail here, other than to mention we still prefer utilizing I-84…
… to cross the Hudson River via the Hamilton Fish-Newburg Beacon bridge, way north of the big city.
For stats monkeys such as I, here are the border crossing times: 0725 New Hampshire, 0743 Massachusetts, 1045 Connecticut, 1234 New York, and at 1409 hours we crossed into Pennsylvania and merged onto I-81, the infamous Truckers Route and our main conduit south toward warmer weather.
So many long-haul truckers use I-81 that some decide to travel it in reverse to make it more exciting…
…as this Freightliner jockey is doing in front of us!
The temperature has risen to 37 degrees, but the overnight temps will be in the 20’s…
… that, and the fact there are no convenient campgrounds open this time of the year, led Kit to suggest we stop and overnight at the Fairfield Inn in Hazelton, PA.
We usually attempt to get further south on day one, but with the late departure coupled with the waning daylight, this was to be our decision…according to Kit, a very wise woman!
Following a great meal at Damon’s Grill located right next door, it was time to put day #1 to sleep…Goodnight!
Thursday, December 5, 2019: Following a great motel provided breakfast, we got underway at 0930 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 31 degrees. Back on I-81 South and, within 10 minutes, we were in a snow squall!?!? Reducing speed and hunkering down behind a FedEx truck we plodded along looking for a safe place to exit to wait it out when, as quickly the squall began, it abruptly ended…weird! Then within an hour the sun shone through and the temperatures rose into the mid 40-degrees!
Shortly after noon, we crossed the Maryland border, and 30 minutes later found us in West Virginia. Another 30 minutes passed before crossing into the State of Virginia where the grass was green and the temperatures nudged 50 degrees…Yay, shorts and t-shirt weather!
At 1435 hours, with 246 miles on the road, we pulled into Shenandoah Valley Campground for the evening.
Kit and I have developed this time vs distance decree we call “The 300 Rule”. On travel days we limit our driving time to 300 miles or stop by 3:00PM…whichever comes first. That allows for a relatively easy travel day while still making some forward progress toward or ultimate destination, which in this case is Christmas in Las Vegas with our daughter Suzie and her family.
Speaking of family, since these annual journal’s only cover the winter RV’ing half our lives, and as such chronicle’s visits with family and friends we see along the way, I traditionally mention our Maine borne family in the initial issue.
A few weeks ago, we held our annual Thanksmas family celebration where Christmas and Thanksgiving are combined into an enjoyable day of togetherness.
Left to right, we have Joe, Ann, Katie, Finny, Kim, Whitney, Joe B, Kit, and I. Grandson Chris, who is away at college, couldn’t make it this year…however Kit and I were able to see him a few days later when he visited home.
Chris, is a second-year student at a university in Rhode Island and is seeing a delightful young lady by the name of Shileigh…
… a fellow student and an accomplished race car driver.
Granddaughter Katie is living and working in New York City in the world of high finance for a large international bank and financial services company. She and her partner Branden, …
…who is finishing up an internship with Major League Baseball, live the exciting life of a young professional couple.
Our oldest grandson and his partner Whitney are holding down the fort in our Maine home while we galivant around the country.
Whitney is finishing up her college degree while Joe has recently started his own construction business…
… and is booked out for most of next year, much to the chagrin of his grandfather who is waiting patiently in Joe’s work queue.
And the four-legged member of our family is Great Grand-dog, Finny.
The resident BMOC (Big Mutt on Cul-de-sac), Finny is friendly, playful and a joy to have around.
And, then there are the two youngest grands, Tucker and Jack…
…more about them in a few weeks. With that its back to our travels!
Friday, December 6, 2019: Departed Shenandoah Valley Campground following our first camping opportunity this trip. It dropped to the low 30-degree mark, but with our well insulated camper and robust heater Kit and I spent a very comfortable and restful evening.
Enjoyed an uneventful transit further south on I-81, stopping every few hours for food, fuel, or some walking around time before crossing into the State of Tennessee. With 296 miles under our belt it was time to seek out a suitable campground…not too far off the interstate, not too fancy (expensive), and with at least electric availability. Kit, using the AllStay App found Rocky Top Campground in Blountville, Tennessee.
Saturday, December 7, 2019: Back on the road at 1024 hours following a restful night. Once again, wound our way to I-81 where we continued the trek south under sunny skies and a temperature of 48 degrees.
At 1130 we merged onto I-40 West, then an hour later intersected I-75 continuing south while crossing the Tennessee River a few minutes later. Pulling into an interstate rest area for some rest and leg stretching the temperature had risen to 62 degrees and we shed our jackets for the first time this trip…yay, getting warmer!
By 1300 hours we were back underway and within minutes merged onto I-59 West nipping the northwest corner of Georgia before looping back into Tennessee near Chattanooga and entering the Central Time Zone, thereby gaining an hour. At that point, we only had 232 miles for the day, but were within striking distance of a favorite overnight stop of ours…Marion County Park in Jasper Tennessee. So, we pulled into their sparsely populated riverside campground for the evening.
Dinner, an adult beverage or two followed by a stroll about the park brought us to bedtime…goodnight!
Saturday, December 7, 2019-Marion County Campground, Jasper, TN: This morning, greeted by a spectacular sunrise…
…Kit and I decided to stay put and declare a goof off day, so we extended our departure until tomorrow morning. We have been on the road for four solid days, covering 1,243 miles (that’s 310 miles per day for those seeing if we are adhering to our 300 rule) and we needed a break!
A leisurely breakfast, some photo editing and journal writing followed by some kite flying for Bill…
…and some knitting, reading, and napping by Kit filled the bill in the goof off ledger.
Monday, December 9, 2019: Departed Marion County Park at 1009 hours under cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 50’s and found our way back to I-59 South.
Crossed into Alabama an hour later, and two hours further south we moved over to I-459 which merged with I-20 West a few minutes later. A few fuel and rest stops were accomplished before crossing the Mississippi state line where the temperature had climbed to 71 degrees. Approaching the hour of 1600, and after amassing a rule breaking 360 miles, we stopped for the evening at Roosevelt State Park, in Morton, MS.
Oh, as a side note, if there appears to be an inordinate number of camper photos, it’s because we use these journals as a log of past camping locations for future consideration. You may also have noticed the fresh Maine wreath affixed to our campers’ rear ladder.
This is a tradition of ours on these winter RV trips, to spread holiday cheer, and as a test to see how long an authentic Maine wreath can survive a trip to the American Desert Southwest…time will tell! I should note that this year our wreath was provided by our neighbor Henry, the result of a Midcoast Youth Hockey fundraiser.
Roosevelt State Park is located in a beautiful wooded area on a pristine fishing lake…
…and was sparsely populated at this time of the year so we enjoyed complete quiet and solitude.
Tuesday, December, 10, 2019: Overnight a large rain storm inundated the area, and it looked as if we would be driving in it most of the day, so we decided to break camp early and get on the road in case there was any low areas that had accumulated standing water where we need to wait it out.
Made it out of the campground unscathed, and within the hour were on I-55 South, and at 1116 crossed into Louisiana and continued south toward the Gulf Coast.
In route, Kit noticed that we would be passing very near to Amite, LA…the childhood home of friend Betty, so we decided to pull off and have a look about.
It was still raining pretty hard so most of our sightseeing was from the comfort of our truck, but from what we could tell, Amite appeared to be a wonderful and quaint small southern town.
Back on I-55 South, we soon came to I-12 which parallels the north shore of Lake Ponchatrain and headed west. Thirty minutes later we intersected I-10, our traditional conduit to the western United States…at least this time of the year. Any farther north and the threat of tornados, thunderstorms, snow and ice are a concern. US-90 is an alternative, and one we have taken a few times in the past. It meanders through many small towns and is far more picturesque but a lot slower, adding a few days to our travel toward the left coast.
It’s still raining, and the traffic is heavy, but fortunately most everyone has slowed down and appears to be driving very cautiously. Well, that’s until we started across the 18-mile-long Atchafalaya Swamp, where we were delayed by two separate crashes on the narrow causeway.
Finally clearing the wrecks Kit found us a nice campground in the town of Egan, Louisiana so at 1540 hours we pulled in for the evening.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019: Woke to sunny skies, a temperature of 45 degrees, and a strong northwest wind. Driving a high-profile vehicle such as our rig is a challenge in winds over 20MPH, but it’s predicted to stay below that threshold for today’s travels, so we decided to motor on.
Before pulling out, Stephanie the owner of Hidden Pines Campground stopped by to see how our stay was.
She and her husband purchased the formerly closed and run-down campground 18 months ago and have done a remarkable job in bringing it up to quality standards…we highly recommend anyone traveling through this part of Louisiana to patronize this fine park!
At 0949 hour’s we made our way back to I-10 and continued West.
Traveling along our nation’s byways, we often come across some humorous and attention-grabbing road signs, such as…
…which is cleverly advertising a towing service in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
As we near western Louisiana there are more and more oil refineries along the interstate.
However, even though it’s only a few yards to the local gas station, the price of fuel remains the same!?!?
At around 1100 hours we crossed the Sabine River and entered the State of Texas!
Where tradition has it that northerners don traditional Texas headgear, such as the dork below is sporting…
…and pick up a supply of the Official Texas State Nectar of the Gods…
…ah, the good life of a “Winter Texan”!
One of the challenges of traveling I-10 West is passing through Houston. This metropolis of over two million folks can be quite congested, however we try and time it for midafternoon, so the traffic isn’t too bad.
However, I was glad I had the extra set of eyes of my delightful and every observant traveling companion!
Well…she’s delightful anyway! However, she was alert when it was time to end todays travel as we neared the town of Brookshire, Texas. Using AllStays, Kit guided us to a great campground!
Another pleasant facility with a very nice laundry. Important, as after eight days on the road, we had a pile of dirty laundry! Also, there was a lovely fishpond…
… with resident ducks sunbathing on the shoreline.
Using the Dave W. technique of “continuously snapping photos as you sneak up on wildlife before they detect your presence” worked, except…
…I got the timing off a bit. However, I was able to capture an acceptable photo of this group showcasing diversity in nature.
Time to fold clothes, enjoy a nice meal, and call it a night!
Thursday, December 12, 2019: Up, broke camp and hit the road by 1030 hours under sunny skies and a very pleasant temperature of 71 degrees!
As we neared San Antonio, we decided to leave the interstate and spend some time on country roads heading for the winter stomping grounds of some Maine friends.
Kit and I really enjoy traveling the backroads of America but sticking to the interstate system is necessary to make better time and ensure there are diesel stops that can accommodate our rig. However, although slower, backroads are far more interesting as they pass through small quaint towns such as Kingsbury, Texas.
Where the town’s pastime appears to be decorating the numerous oil well pumps with nursery rhyme caricatures.
Piecing together a variety of farm roads and state highways we pulled into Canyon Trails RV Park in San Marcos, Texas by midafternoon for a few days off the road…
…and visiting with great friends.
Stay tuned for the further adventures of Bill and Kit!
Kit’s Bit’s: Despite leaving a couple days late, we’ve made good time and haven’t had any issues with either truck or trailer. I think we’ve discovered that, at our age, we really need to stick to the 300 miles a day and stopping at 1500 for the day. We also need to take a day off here and there to recharge. Also, of all the places to doze off, why Houston? The busiest traffic (for a couple hours) of all the places we’ve been???? Good thing Bill doesn’t doze off while driving!