I re-read the blog last night, from front to end. I wanted to make sure I had corrected typos and the like, but in doing so, I realized how fluid my plans are, even as I’m trying to plan with meticulous detail. I’ve made several changes to my original itinerary and what I intended to bring along for the ride.
Here’s the current itinerary. I intend to update this page as things firm up.
June 1, 2015 – June 15, 2015
Georgia Veterans State Park
Georgia Veterans State Park is about 5 hours from Charleston if you drive straight through … I’ll probably make it in 6! It’s on Lake Blackshear. It looked like a nice place to start off the journey and was about halfway between my starting point and the Florida panhandle. Reservations are made, deposit is paid. If I buy their annual Senior’s pass for $25, I save 20% on the campsite and they waive the $5 entry fee. (I think I’ll add a resource page, outlining what different states offer in the way of camping discounts). My site offers water and electricity. They sell firewood. Cost after discount – $20/night.
I plan on taking in the lake, do a little bit of hiking, and decompress. This will be a nice place to sit, ponder and come to the realization of the life change I’ve made.
June 15, 2015 – June 29, 2015
Big Lagoon State Park
Spanish Fort, AL
If you read my earlier posts, you know that my intention was to stay on the Florida panhandle. But that changed when I discovered their State Park system requires full payment in advance. (I’ve since discovered that Texas does pretty much the same thing … and while I’d like to say “Screw you,” to them as well, that’s just not in the cards. Oh well.)
Instead, I wound up making a reservation here. It’ll be just a wee bit longer drive than the drive out of Charleston, and I only added about 20 minutes when I decided on this park instead of the one near Pensacola that was originally selected. Reservations are made (without requiring any deposit, I might add). Alabama offers a 15% discount to seniors over 62, except for Friday and Saturday nights. My site offers water and electricity. Average cost after discount – $18.93/night.
They have a special place where Frank will be able to swim. The website makes mention of the fact that alligators also reside there – we have the same warning at the local dog park in Charleston, too. The Ranger I spoke with said that no dog’s been “et” (gotta love the South, right?) since he’s been there and Frank had a look of relief when I relayed that to him. As long as he’s on a leash elsewhere in the park, he pretty much can go anywhere. I intend to spend some time on their fishing pier, hopefully to catch some dinner. I’ve been using a couple of review sites to check out potential places to stay, mostly Trip Advisor and RV Park Reviews … one of the reviews mentioned “spectacular sunset views” from this park. I’m hoping the sun won’t have much of an impact during the day since it’ll only be the end of June. Knock on wood.
June 29, 2015 – June 30, 2015
Frank and I will be back in a regular bed tonight as we’re going to stay in a motel. My goal is to spend no more than 5-6 hours of drive time (excluding stops) as I go from place to place. This is a lifestyle, not a vacation, and I’m not going to “hurry up and get there”. I can remember going somewhere with my grandfather once when visiting him down in Knoxville, TN. I think I was about 10. Some guy with New York plates came roaring up behind us on a two lane road and recklessly passed us on a curve. After a few moments passed, he quietly said, “He’s probably going to rush to where he’s going and just sit down!” I don’t know why that stayed with me … I don’t think I got it at the time. But as I look back at how I’ve lived my life though, I wish I had “gotten it” a bit more. Maybe I’m finally getting it now. Sorry, another digression.
Anyhow, today’s drive will be about 4 hours, and the plan right now is to stay in the booming metropolis of Scott, LA, about an hour due west of Baton Rouge, LA. I have a place picked out but haven’t made reservations yet. I’ll get that done by the end of the week and will update this itinerary then.
June 30 2015 – July 14, 2015
South Toledo Bend Reservoir State Park
My first wife’s father had a place on Toledo Bend Reservoir and I used to enjoy going down there for bass fishing. The only thing is that this time, I’ll be on the Louisiana side of the lake instead of the Texas side. Frank and I will be in the car for about 5 hours today, traveling the back roads through the Louisiana bayous, “dough’n chew no!” (I am enthralled by Cajun accents!)
The park doesn’t offer any discounts of their own … instead, they honor the “America the Beautiful” Seniors Pass issued by the Feds but only if your state of residence does the same thing. Translation? No discount. I’ve reserved campsite #C1041, an end location right on the lake, again with water and electricity. Firewood is free (they evidently still have a lot of wood left over from the cleanup after Hurricane Rita years ago). Since it’s a premium site, it’s a bit more expensive than the first two parks. Cost (no discount) – $28.43 / night and the reservation’s been made.
Not much to do here except fish … and I plan to spend a lot of time looking out over a fishing rod at the lake. Hopefully by this point, I’ll have gotten back into walking more with Frank as well, and be able to do some more hiking. According to the website, it’s a “nesting ground for bald eagles” Hey Frank! Stay close … you don’t want to be dinner!
July 14 2015 – July 21, 2015
Somewhere in Texas
This week is up in the air right now. I have to spend a couple days in Livingston, only a couple of hours due west of Toledo Bend. For good reason. First off, I need to establish residency in Texas (as mentioned earlier). The attorney I’m working with is there, and he will have prepared some legal declarations of my intent. And secondly, a company named “Escapees” is headquartered there. Escapees was set up to primarily serve the RV community, specifically RVers who have decided to do essentially what I’m doing – leave everything behind and hit the road, without any home to go back to (the only difference is that they’re doing it in style and at 2 miles per gallon). But they also offer services to vagabonds like me as well … the primary one of which is their mail forwarding service. For about $100/year, they’ll act as my legal mailing address, notify me via email when something arrives and forward items to wherever I designate. They’ll even open the mail and read it to me over the phone if I ask them. The simple truth is that I don’t get much mail – all my bills are paid online – I’ve requested that all my statements be sent to me via email, and 99.9% of the rest is junk mail. I expect that this is going to be the easiest $100 they’re going to earn all year! One other thing … the attorney said that the Polk county DMV is used to dealing with the folks being sent over from Escapees and that I’d probably have less questions addressed to me about claiming them as my “home”. So that’s that. Frank and I will motel it again – there’s a Best Western in Cleveland, TX not far away – the AARP rate, with tax is about $70 night. For the record, that will be the most I’ll pay this year for living quarters once I’m on the road! (in the middle of east Texas! Go figger!)
From there, I was planning on spending another three days in Dallas with the hope of connecting with some
old long time friends from high school. (The strikeout is in deference to those friends who may not consider themselves old. Me? I felt old at 25!) There are a few people I’d like to see, but it would be hard to see all of them unless we get together at one of the places Tommy Lucas uses to set up the “Class of ’71” luncheons. Once I get closer to letting everyone know about my plans, I’ll throw that out there. As far as accommodations, I found a couple in Dallas who offer out their back-yard cottage for overnight stays via a hostels website … cost right now is about $47/night. I’ll make reservations before the end of the week.
The last two days / nights will be on the road again, on my way to the Rockies. Again, I’m not in a hurry, so I plan on stopping two nights along the way. The plan is to spend night #1 about 20 minutes west of Childress … night #2 will be in Colorado City. I’ve got a bit longer drive to Colorado City. I left a little more time to get out of Big D, just in case I wanted to have breakfast with some friends (plus, there’s nothing reasonably priced once you go too far past Childress, and I didn’t want to drive all the way to Amarillo). Besides, even if Frank and I leave at 9am and stop for lunch, we’ll still be in Colorado City by around 4pm! The hotels I picked out will each cost about $60 a night.
I have to digress again to tell you all a little story …
The last time I was on this road was over 35 years ago, in 1979, when I was moving back to Dallas after a couple of years in Denver. My brother Andy flew up to help me drive the U-haul. Pretty uneventful trip, unless you count the run-in Andy had with the roof of a Dairy Queen in Chillicothe as I was asleep in the passenger seat. Not understanding the concept of “clearance”, he tried to use the drive-thru and sheared off about 25 feet of their overhang. I’m jostled awake as my brother sharply turns across traffic into the parking lot. I come full awake to a loud crunching sound as metal meets wood. And then the next thing I hear … from my brother … is “Shit. I didn’t bring my driver’s license.” My immediate response was “You flew up to help me drive a f**king truck for 14 hours, and you didn’t bring your driver’s license???”
The only roofer … and the only cop … in town were both eathing in the Dairy Queen. They come out while I’m yelling at my brother. After we make restitution arrangements with the DQ owner, the cop tells my brother, “Son, I’m not gonna give you a ticket – your brother sounds like he’s gonna put you through hell the rest of the way to Dallas and I think that will be enough punishment for ya.”
I never thought I’d see Chillicothe again in this lifetime. Andy, if you’re reading this, I’ll give a little wave to the DQ as I drive by!
July 21, 2015 – August 13, 2015
Pleasant Valley RV Park and Campground
Frank and I have about a two hour drive this day. A half-hour on I-25 up to Pueblo and then about 90 minutes due west to Howard. When I called these folks to ask about their facilities, I found out they didn’t offer electricity in their tent sites. I asked about using my generator overnight, to power my c-pap machine. She said it would probably be okay, but they’d put me at the furthest campsite so I wouldn’t disturb anyone else. I called back a week later to make reservations and reminded her about the c-pap conversation, as a way of helping her remember who she was speaking with. She said, “Okay … yeah … I told my husband and he said, ‘he’s not gonna disturb anybody, just let him have any damn site he wants!'” (I’m going to really enjoy dealing with reasonable folk especially after some of the clients I’ve had!)
She told me she’d give me the monthly rate. The type of guy that I am, I said, “Just to be clear, I’m going to be there about 6 days short of a month,” and she told me not to worry about it. Very cool. I’ll be right next to the Arkansas River (take a look at the photo) and it looks like it’ll be a great place to chill, do some fishing and relaxing. Cost at the monthly rate – $16.14 / night and the reservation has been made. I’m thinking about going down to the local Charleston Angler shop – I’ve always wanted to learn fly fishing (having focused mostly on bass when it comes to fresh water). They have a 6-hour class on February 21st and I think that would be a good use of a Saturday afternoon. Lord knows I’m going to have plenty of time now to practice!
Oh yeah, I’m planning on exercising my legal Colorado rights while I’m there, too. The first time in 23 years I’ve indulged. I’ll probably stick to edibles so as not to disturb any of the families there. I checked it out – there’s a retail outlet about 15 minutes away, in Salida. I’ll stop by there at some point my first week.
If things go according to plan … and I fill the TBD’s with the places I’ve penciled in … my camping / motel fees will be a little over $24 a day. Get this, though – that’ll drop to less than $11 a day for the following 6 1/2 months! But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Tomorrow, I’ll fill in the details on the rest of the plan through October.