Tag Archives: travel

Awful Hurricane Michael

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It took me some time to work up to writing about this.

Our GPS wanted to take us to Panacea Florida via Bainbridge and Tallahassee. I hate driving in cities and so with some effort we reprogrammed our trip through Marianna. It was so lovely to hit Florida and stop in at the welcome centre and get our free cup of citrus juice.

We had deliberately decided to not to travel along the coast because of Hurricane Michael. I had no desire to see the wreckage the monster storm had left, especially so soon after the trauma of an EF4 tornado traveling through Alonsa. Michael was a category 4 hurricane and so that meant EF4 tornado damage for miles and miles. I not only didn’t want that reminder, I didn’t want to be a tourist sightseeing through the wreckage of people’s life. Somehow, even though I knew the hurricane had hit Marianna, it hadn’t actually registered in my brain that this route meant we were going into some of the worst damage that Michael wrought.

My husband took pictures. I felt awful watching him doing it. Miles and miles and miles of people’s lives in wreckage. The blue tarps on house after house over horrific damage. Trees shattered and ruined for three hours of our drive. It made the misery of our EF4 tornado seem small and unimportant by comparison and yet I knew the fear, pain and horror we experienced in Alonsa was real and all the people whose houses we were passing had simply shared the same thing with us.

I am so very very sorry. I wish it were possible to gather up everyone who suffered, both in Florida and Alonsa and give them a big hug and then wave a magic wand and make the damage go away. My heart aches for you.

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I will say this though. Everywhere I looked people were rebuilding. The place was crawling with clean up crews, and signs of recovery. Hurricanes and tornados can smash up things but in the end humanity prevails and we carry on. Looking around as people were putting things back together I felt a great warmth and affection for my fellow human beings. I also thought again that this is why the USA will never be defeated by an external enemy like Al Qaeda. Mother Nature gives Americans a healthy dose of reality on such a regular basis that they are always prepared and after the wind is gone, they are out cleaning up and rebuilding. I found myself humming that old Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty song.

God bless America again.

You see all the troubles that she’s in

Wash her pretty face, dry her eyes and then

God bless America again

 

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Migration South Day 22-24 – Blue Springs State Park Alabama

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Our last stop before our Florida destination was Blue Springs State Park Mississippi. I was not so happy with this state park. The trip did not begin well. They had only one full service site left and in the process of trying to back up we nearly ended up putting the truck in a huge drainage hole. The roads into the campground were really narrow, so narrow that it was impossible to turn a corner or back in without going off the road. Both sides of the assorted roads also had many heavy duty old fashioned cement lined ditches and culverts. Everything was covered with a thick layer of leaves and pine needles so that I was unable to see that hole until I almost drove into it. it could have been a total disaster and it was only that the truck felt like it was on something strange that made me stop and pull forward while the one tire was still partly supported that saved me. Afterward, viewing this huge square hole with a two metre drop left me shook up thinking of what could have happened. I suspect this near miss coloured my view of the park.

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The other thing about the campground was it was really really dark. No sun could get through a solid canopy of trees overhead. This was probably really nice in 100F weather but on a cool day, it left me feeling claustrophobic. After the near miss with the truck, we were able to find an electric/water site with some openness and sunshine. We thought it was a full service site because it had a sewer outlet. When we went to pay the lady told us in a horrified voice that was not a sewer outlet and we could not dump in it. Fortunately we had dumped just before leaving our last place and I had only opened the grey water outlet so we had done no damage. Later walking the park I could see almost all the sites had what appeared to be a sewer outlet that was not a sewer outlet. We also saw that much of the old cement plumbing was being torn out and replaced with something more modern. The over all effect was to leave us feeling this place was dark and dingy. At least the washrooms were clean and the shower water was hot.

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The park has two beautiful springs for which it is named. There is a parklike area around them and they empty into two huge pools. The water is a constant 68F (20C) but it felt too cool to swim when the temperature was below that. The water was clear and lovely. The pools were full of small fish. The springs empty into a small river/large creek that meanders off to encircle the campground in a rather pretty way. This redeemed the place but I doubt we will be back.

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Migration South Day 20-22 – Miller’s Ferry Campground, Camden, MS

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We made another decision to enjoy the journey instead of racing to get to the destination so we decided our next stop would be Miller’s Ferry Campground, yet another Army Corps of Engineers campground near Camden, Alabama. It was only 107 miles closer to our eventual destination but it is such a nice place we had to stop. We had a leisurely breakfast, packed up slow and easy, and drove at a nice easy pace on quiet back country roads. We made a stop at a lumber yard to pick up some replacement wood planks for parking our trailer on if the ground is soggy. (The ones we had were splitting.) Plus I needed to get some new connectors for that overheating melted connection.

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Misty practicing loose leash and sit-stay under some Spanish Moss.

Everyone I know in the RVing community has been robbed or cheated at least once. So far we have been very lucky and it hasn’t happened to us. We have been told criminals tend to target Canadians because they know we are unlikely to be carrying guns. I credit the alert dogs we always have with us. We nearly got robbed again and again, the dog saved the day. We were in the back of the lumber yard chatting with the nice young man who was cutting our 12 foot board for us and I had foolishly left the truck window down half way with my purse in plain view. Suddenly, I heard our Misty giving her alarm bark. It’s a very impressive big booming “Rowr! Rowr! Rowr!” Though she’s gentle as a kitten she has a set of big white teeth many alligators would be intimidated by. I looked up just in time to see a man pulling his arm, hand empty, out of the truck and then watching him run off as if a demon were chasing him. Misty was really angry and she wouldn’t calm down as quickly as she usual does. I gave her the command that all was well now, praised her up for the alert, and she finally put her hackles down and laid down again in back. I wonder if that apparent would be purse thief got himself a bad start when this 70 pound black dog rose up from where she had been sleeping in the back to give her big booming alert bark. I hope he soiled himself! He sure pissed our Misty off. Misty was madder at him than she was at those herons.

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The dock at our campsite.

We arrived at Miller’s Creek just after 1:00pm and then settled in to a lovely spot. We even had our own private dock! My first job was fixing that loose connection. Again, birds, open space, wonderful scenery, flowing stream. This park is very popular and so even for winter it was about one quarter full. We have several lovely long walks. The sun was shining all day. The temperatures were not quite at T shirt level but a sweet pleasure.We stayed two nights. They had a nice laundry for only $1/load so we got caught up on that chore. We met a nice couple who showed off their fancy Bigfoot trailer and shared lots of advice to consider for our next travel trailer.

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We found we were back in Spanish moss territory. We also found a whole lot of bamboo. Bamboo may not be native to North American but it has to be the nicest grass there is.

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Overall it was a wonderful stay and I’m so glad we decided to travel only 107 miles that stage of our trip to take the time to enjoy Miller’s Creek. Life is too short to miss such wonderful pleasures. That stop for the sheer pleasure of it completed, we continued on our way towards the Florida PanHandle.

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Migration South Day 20-22 – Twiltley Branch Campground, Collinsville, MS

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Our camper in the distance. We had the whole place to ourselves.

On our way out from Minden to Collinsville we saw a gas station selling propane tank refills. I don’t mean the exchanges, I mean refilling your tank for you. $12 for our tank. We got an empty tank refilled and we topped up the gas tank. About 300 kilometres later, we pulled into a store to stock up on a few things. Just as we turned into the parking lot there was a terrific clunk and a funny noise and we stopped in a safe place and got out. One of our sway bars had come loose and was dragging on the ground. We had not put the pin that holds the lifter part of the sway bar set up back in properly so it fell out. To get to our propane tank you have to lift the tank away from the pin. We had not even lost the pin. It was still hanging there. Some angel was watching over us that day. If that had gone on the main highway in interstate traffic with big rigs all around at 55mph who knows what might have happened. As it was we were going about 10mph and just slowing to park. Lesson learned. An inspection showed us no real damage. Thank you to that guardian angel.

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View outside the other window.

Twiltley Branch Campground was yet another exceptionally lovely Army Corp of Engineer’s campground. Because my husband is an American citizen, he has a senior Passport America and so the fee for us was a mere $9.50(US) a night. This was a much larger facility that Caney Lake. It had three different campground sections in it, each one holding three times more camp sites than Caney. We got a site in “loblolly” section and we had the whole place to ourselves for three days we stayed. We arrived to lovely warm sunny weather and went for a nice long walk.

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By evening it had clouded over and overnight it rained and rained. To the south were some violent thunderstorms that reached severe level but not where we were. We awoke to soggy ground and wet everything but by midafternoon the sun was out and we took another nice long walk. The following morning yet another storm system was coming through (actually the back end of the one that had just passed us over to the south) so we walked down to the campground office and paid for another night. The rain started up again about half way back so we got back to our trailer feeling wet and cold. A change of clothes, a cup of hot tea and we were ready to face the world again.

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View outside my window.

We had one amusing little incident with Misty. Misty is only nineteen months old and so we are still doing a lot of obedience training with her. One of our first professional dog trainers we worked with told us if you have the dog with you all the time and they see all kinds of people doing all kinds of things and if you take every opportunity to socialize them, you get a smart dog who knows what’s normal. They won’t react to normal things, only to people acting weird, in trouble or up to no good. That advice has certainly fit our experience. So we had Misty with us and while my husband was inside paying I put Misty through her sit, stay, lie down, stay, and stand stay paces. She mostly has it though stand is one she’s still working on. She does need a fair bit of reminders and she can be distracted. Anyway, she was standing beside me when the fellow in front of us came out and she looked at him. I gave her a verbal reminder to “stay” as she was shifting her body weight to go say hi. She froze. She did a perfect stand stay. She smiled her big toothy grin at him. The man stopped in his tracks. He gave me a sick smile, and then instead of passing on front of us, he went back around the office and went to his truck the long way. He was afraid of our sweet Misty even though Misty was perfectly behaved and had done nothing but look at him and give him a doggy smile. Some people find a well trained dog far scarier than an untrained one. My husband says it’s because you just never know what else a well trained dog might be trained to do. Misty is trained to alert bark at anything she thinks is weird or out of the ordinary, not attack. We have trained all our dogs that way and it has served us well. We have never had one of our dogs bite anyone.

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While we had no human neighbours the lovely bays on two sides of our site had plenty of interesting feathered neighbours. We had some snowy white egrets, two great blue herons, yellow warblers, and innumerable ducks of assorted types and some western grebes in view all the time. We also had a huge osprey catch fish right outside our campsite. The Osprey carried the fish up to a tree in our campground and proceeded to gut it and fillet it right there. Of course the Osprey didn’t discard the gutted part. That was a wonderful pleasure, seeing such a magnificent bird of prey so close.

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Misty seemed to think the great blue herons were some sort of vicious enemy that must be driven away. She barked and barked but they just ignored her. We kept telling her “off bird”. We expect Misty to bark a warning at strange things but we also expect her to shut up when we have investigated the cause of her alarm back and told her to ignore it. For some reason she just wouldn’t quit about the herons. We’d tell her “off bird” and she’d look at us like we were stupid. Perhaps the way they ignored her bugged her. If she barks at the other birds they would move away. The herons would just give her a dirty look and carry on. Random barking for no good reason is not something we tolerate. It meant she could not spend her usual long stretches sitting outside watching the world go by. Eventually my husband figured out that to Misty “bird” means one of those little tweeters. When he started telling her “off heron” and pointing at the heron she finally got it. We were telling her “off bird” but that great blue heron was no bird in her books. We were telling her not to worry about birds while she was telling us about the pterodactyl fishing outside the door. No wonder she thought we were being stupid!

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We had another of those little RVing mishaps at Twitchley that make life interesting. After my husband showered the morning we were set to leave I smelled that ominous order that says electric short. After tracking down I discovered one of the connections to the hot water heater was hot to touch and the plastic was partially melted. Diagnosis was a loose connection. Bumping up and down in an RV going down the highway, if it can come loose, it will come loose. We needed to stop at a hardware store and to get more connectors of a larger type and better quality. Meantime the hot water heater had to stay off. That could have been very bad if it had progressed to the point of causing a fire. Life in an RV means always being aware of and following up on any little thing that seem out of order. You just never know when paying attention to a funny noise, or a weird smell, or a clunk means you prevent a disaster. He was with us again.IMG_4628

Migration South Day 18-20 – Beaver Lake/Caney Lake Campground – Louisiana

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The trip from Bonham to our destination in Louisiana was unusually nice. We stuck to secondary highways in Texas and they were lovely and well maintained and traffic was light. We enjoyed the trip right up until we got to Louisiana and immediately hit bumps and thumps and potholes. While we stopped at a gas station the attendant complained about how they pay a road tax on every gallon of gas they buy but it never seems to get spend on fixing the roads. I agree. Of every state in the lower forty eight I have been in Louisianna has the absolute worst possible roads. Fortunately we didn’t have long to get to our National Forest Campground. We were aiming for Beaver Dam Campground, 194 Caney Lake Park Rd, near Minden. (If you ask the locals where Beaver Dam Campground is you’ll get blank looks so ask for Caney Lake Campground.) With my husband’s senior status and Passport America we were charged on $9.50/night. It is one of the few very nice National Forest campgrounds in the area and so we did not have the place to ourselves. There were several other campers including slow moving snowbirds like us heading south.

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The campground is absolutely lovely. The individual sites are huge and long. There’s lots of spaces in between. They almost all look out over the lake. We took #12 which was high up on a bend with lake on two sides. We shared our campsite with Juncos and Chickadees. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the filtered light through the trees was lovely. There was only one drawback. Verizon coverage was spotty so sometimes we were able to log into internet but other times it didn’t work at all. Even when it did work it was very slow. We walked the campground loop several times including once at night in the deep dark with Misty wearing her lighted harness. Misty loved the place. Of course Misty loves just about any place full of new smells and sights.

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There are two dams making Caney Lake so there is an upper lake and a lower lake. There is a lovely walk from the upper lake boat launch to the upper dam spillway. The spillway has a little pedestrian bridge and that connects to the dike of the upper dam. We have been here twice before and for some reason we never got to walk the upper dike. One of the locals had told us on our last trip that the alligators like to come up onto the upper dike and sun themselves. I wanted to get back and see this. This time we finally did it. We walked the upper dike. I kept Misty on a short leash and did not let her swim or even stick her head into the big culverts with shallow streams. If there’s water, you have to count on a dog eating gator. I watched the water carefully, especially on the upper lake side which was only six feet to water. The air was too cold for gators to be out sunning and it was cloudy anyway. We saw nothing but lovely egrets and fish jumping.

We had originally thought to stay longer at Caney Lake but the forecast was for more rain and thunderstorms so the second morning we woke up and packed and, with regret, left the lovely Caney Lake. I hope we get to come back again soon. It is one of the nicest National Forest campgrounds we’ve been in. One word of warning. The only shower there is barely lukewarm. Don’t plan on showering there unless you find cold showers refreshing. It was my first experience taking a cool shower in cold air and while it was interesting, and refreshing, I don’t think I want to do it again.

 

Migration South Day 13-18 – Bonham State Park – Texas

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The weather has been particularly nasty this trip. Either that or I am growing old and can’t be bothered to deal with it. We left Fort Cobbs State Park in Oklahoma with our grey water valve frozen open and a forecast for snow for the area. (We dumped before we left and put the cap on so we weren’t dripping all the way.) It wasn’t just the snow. It was warnings about a massive low pressure system with the threat of freezing rain, flooding, thunderstorms, sleet and cold, in addition to snow. Examining the forecast, it was clear we had three options. First, we could race east as fast as possible and hope to stay one step ahead of this mess. Second, we could just wing it and take the weather as it came. Third, we could do what we did when faced with the nasty blizzard in Nebraska/Kansas only a couple of weeks ago and find a good spot to sit it out and let it pass us by. We checked the map and noticed a really nice state park we had stayed at before that was sitting pretty outside the worst of the rain/thunderstorm region of the big storm but below the freeze/snow line. It was a very reasonable four hours of driving. We made for Bonham State Park in north east Texas.

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I had been really surprised on my trip through eastern Texas last year. Until I saw eastern Texas, I thought all of Texas was open desert, bleak, windy, dry and hot. Eastern Texas is lovely, treed, green, and has abundant lakes and streams and even low rolling hills. It was a pleasure to be back. This state park itself is small. There are live in rangers/staff so it’s well run. Its main feature is a little jewel of a lake with a road that circles it. It has abundant woods with some really old trees and the place is criss crossed with trails. It is very close to the town of Bonhom and it gets a lot of day use by the locals. It is a favourite spot for local dog owners to bring their dogs and walk the 4 km (2.5 mi) perimeter road. It has a park feel, not a wild place feel. Normally, I prefer the wild place feel, but after just spending a lot of time in the wild places of Oklahoma I was ready for a little park experience. I was concerned because the main road into the park had warning signs about it having a bad habit of flooding. The ranger assured us it was not a worry because he knew the back roads and if the main road was blocked, he would personally lead us out along the higher back roads. We decided to sit this storm system out in a safe comfortable place. Given the forecast, that meant five nights.We pulled in and paid the $160 in assorted fees to stay five nights on a full service site with marginal but useable internet. ($24/night for the site and $4 a day each for park use fees.)

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The first afternoon after we arrived was really nice. We took a nice walk. We enjoyed the pretty park. The second day the forecast was for rain to begin at noon so we got going early and had a second lovely long walk with Misty on the 27ft lunge line. The rain began promptly at noon as forecast. We had a quiet day of writing, napping and watching old reruns on the TV stations that come over the air. Daytime, the internet did not work but in the evening, once the staff went home, the internet worked well enough we could even watch a show on Netflix before bed.

The second day we had another pause in the rain and hubby dearest had an online seminar so Misty and I went for another walk around the lake. There had been a lot of rain overnight. A meandering wee little stream by the roadside we had enjoyed yesterday was now a metre wide (about a yard) torrent about 30cm (a foot) deep. We let Misty go for a swim, the last lake swim she’ll have for a while since we knew we’d be in gator country soon. The rain began again shortly after noon and it rained and rained and rained all night long. The thunderstorms and severe stuff went south. There were soon flash flood warnings everywhere and it was nice to be sitting in a pretty and sheltered spot safe above it all. The campground was no longer empty as other travellers soon joined us.

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The third day was rain again, rain, rain, rain. I’ve seen prairie monsoons before but this one was one for the books. Steady drizzle interspersed with heavy downpours. Water was running everywhere and the NOAA weather map covered in bright green. It was a very good day to not be driving anywhere. Finally, as we curled up in bed, the rain slowly gave up and quit. We woke to a brilliant and very welcome morning sunshine and blue Texas skies. The other campers who had arrived in the rain packed up and left. We aren’t in a hurry and our next planned campground stop is in Louisiana under a flood advisory so we decided to stay one more day and enjoy the sunshine, the lovely state park, and de-mud the trailer. I spent the day baking bread, doing the laundry, cleaning the trailer. Work aside we took another long walk in the afternoon and then settled in for the night to get ready to move again.

As we were getting into bed one of those unexpected events that happens while you are RVing hit us. The power went out. Thinking we were facing simple breaker issue I went outside and found smoking pouring out of the power outlet. I disconnected our rig and waited. The smoke slowed. I then got a lamp out and used it to check the other outlets. Our entire row was disconnected. At this point there was only one other camper in a different row and they had power. It was late Sunday night and we just didn’t want to deal with it. We put our landlines away and turned the propane on and went to bed. We left a note for the ranger about the outlet and went to bed. We woke up at six in the morning and we packed up and left for Louisiana.

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Migration South Day 13-15 – Fort Cobbs State Park, Oklahoma

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Geese. Hundreds of geese, no thousands of Canada Geese plus hundreds of white pelicans and in among those birds, ducks, cormorants, and a few chickadees and blackbirds. The park was lovely, next to a busy golf course. We found a lot of yellow golf balls near the driving range. We had only one other occupant in the entire campground. There was a big private dock that was busy with people and boats. It was delightful.

We followed our usual rule of travel one day rest one day. The first day was nice and warm so we walked and walked and enjoyed our arrival day. The site was lovely, great view and full service. Full service campsites in state parks are few and far between. The next day was cold and windy so we went for one walk with Misty and otherwise huddled in our trailer writing. I made a lovely beef stew in the slow cooker.

One big drawback to this spot was it was full of those little grass seed balls with the sticky spikes all over. This meant we spent a lot of time picking stickers out of everything from Misty’s feet to our bed sheets as the nasty little things traveled everywhere. Even so the sight of all these geese was so magnificent and so uplifting I really didn’t care about the stickers. Every so often for no reason we could understand all of them would take to the air and circle above in a great roar of wings and calls. Misty spent hours literally sitting outside watching the geese. Unfortunately the weather changed and snow was forecast and so we left for Bonham State Park Texas which promised to be warmer though it could hardly be any finer.

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