Well, here we are in our new camp … but it’s not where we originally intended. More on that towards the end of this post, along with another wonderful act of human kindness. Also, a special request for Frank comes at the end. But first, here’s what’s happened since our last post on the 12th.
Frank and I started breaking camp in Georgia on Sunday afternoon. It was actually easier than expected. I started pulling stuff out of the tent a little after noon. Once the storage boxes were out on the picnic table, I re-organized everything … I was even able to find room in the boxes for some items that had just been thrown into the car when we departed Charleston. By 6pm, everything was in (or on top of) the car except for the canopy, the airbed, the tent and the two tarps (the one inside and the one under the tent). Oh yeah, the spacebag stuff was all vacuumed and sealed, but since they ride in the roofbag, I left them in the tent until everything else was in. The canopy came down once the sun started setting.
I had wanted to get out of the park by 9am. We didn’t quite make it – I started a load of wash before finishing the breakdown and wound up having to wait for the dryer to finish (mostly because I was too tired to walk the football field to change it over from the washer in the midst of all the other work). But by 9 oclock, I had everything broken down and in the car ready to go. As an aside – for any of you novice campers out there, one of the best “little” things you can do is lay down a tarp inside the tent – one that matches the tent’s footprint. By grabbing the tarp at each corner and then carefully pulling it out, you take any grass, leaves, twigs and other crap out along with it. No need to sweep down the tent floor when you take that approach. (If I’m telling you something you already know, my apologies.)
Anyhow, once that was all done, Frank and I drove over to the bathhouse (Frank’s a wonderful manager, by the way – he closely inspected everything as it was being done. Like most managers, it only added about 20% to the time it would have taken to actually complete the task if he had managed from a distance. But he kept as close to me as possible throughout the entire process.) I changed everything over to the dryer … while we were waiting for that to finish, I secured the roofbag with the tie-down straps (much thanks to the guy at the Charleston Home Depot for suggesting that approach instead of the rope and carabiners I was planning on using) and got a shower. We headed out of the park at 9:45am. With stops, I figured a 6 1/2 hour trip, with breaks to stretch our legs (one of the longest I had planned for the first leg of our travels). That would put us arriving around 4:15.
As we’re driving, I’m thinking ahead and contemplating setting up camp around 5pm when I looked at the Garmin. It had us arriving at 2:45. Huh? I’m thinking, “Okay, well, it’s not taking pit stops into account.” But that’s when it hit me – we were gaining an hour by moving into Central Time! HOO-RAH! I turned to Frank to ask him why HE didn’t let me know that … I mean after all, he’s the chief navigator on this little trip of ours. But Frank had decided that since we bought the Garmin, his navigating skills weren’t going to be quite as necessary as originally planned, so he was zonked out in his bed. All that management of his must’ve tuckered him out!
We wound up taking a few more stops on the road, the longest being at a McDonalds just across the Alabama state line where we sat in the parking lot enjoying lunch, a couple of McDoubles for me, while Frank had his standard McDonalds fare – a plain hamburger and small fries (he begrudgingly shared his fries). That put us arriving at Meaher State Park around 3:45pm. It took a little longer to check in because the state had installed an entirely new reservation system after I had made our reservations back in January and our booking had been kept separately. That worked to our benefit as you’ll see in a minute.
The gal at the entrance booth gave us our map of the park and directed us to where the tent site was. When we got there, I was stunned – to call the tent area a “debacle” would be an insult to debacles everywhere! Ten sites that were more run down than an abandoned ghost town. The sites were surrounded by grass that was almost knee high. The sites themselves had huge rocks instead of fine gravel where you were supposed to set up your tents. And most of the picnic tables were rotted out.
We drove around the loop three times (it was easy to understand why there weren’t any other tent campers) and then sat in the car. To repeat, I was stunned, but I knew there was no way we could stay here for one night, let alone two weeks.
I pulled out the phone and did a quick google search for “campsites mobile al” and called the first one that came up. They only offered RV camping. I asked the fellow if he knew of any tent campsites in the area that would be nice. “The only one I know that’s nice is Chickasabougue Park,” he said. “Gesundheit!” was the only thing I could think of saying, and after we both laughed, he spelled it for me. After thanking him for the suggestion, I found a website with a description of the park along with their phone number. When I called, a Mr. Gadsen answered the phone.
“Mr. Gadsen, I’m sitting here at Meaher State Park. I made reservations to camp here for two weeks and now that I’m here, there’s no way I can stay. It’s in horrible shape.”
“Oh, Lordy! I know what they have over there. Son, you can’t stay there! You needs to get yourself over here to Chickasabougue Park. Trust me, you’ll be very happy with what we’s got.”
He said the park was about 20 minutes away from Meaher. “I’ll try to be there in about 45 minutes … I need to make arrangements to get a refund.” Mr. Gadsen said he’d see me when I arrived.
When I went back out to the gate and told them how unhappy I was with the campsites and that I wanted a refund, the gal told me, “You know, it’s our policy not to give refunds.”
I told her, “Well, MY policy is to get refunds whenever I arrive at a place and find it’s been misrepresented as to quality and condition. There’s no way I’m staying, and I’m not willing to donate money for you to fix the place up for someone else!”
She had to make two phone calls, but she finally got someone to agree to give me a full refund.
Frank and I met Mr. Gadsen at 5:10pm. He ushered me into the office, but not before I read the “Hours” sign on the door, which said they closed at 5pm.
“Mr. Gadsen, it’s after 5 o’clock … did you stay here on my account?”
“Yes sir. You told me you were coming, so I waited. That was the right thing to do!”
Stunned again … but this time, for a good reason. All I could think of saying was, “God bless you, sir.”
“God bless us all,” was the reply. “Now, I’m not gonna do a full checkin. Give me $20 to hold as a deposit. We don’t take credit cards, so tomorrow morning, you gets you some cash and come back by the office before noon. I’ll do a full checkin then. I’m gonna put you in campsite 3, which is right across the road from the facilities.”
Not only was this guy a saint, he was a mind-reader too! No football field trek to the loo this time!
Frank and I did a partial setup. I got the tent up, the tarp and tent carpet in and the airbed inflated. I was so tired, it was all I could do to make the peanut butter sandwich I had for dinner (and while it wasn’t quite the same as a McDonald’s burger, Frank ate his kibble and gravy once he realized that was all he was going to get!)
So there you have it. Another day, another act of human kindness. This one was huge. I feel like it was an act of Divine providence to have found this place. Oh yeah … $125 for two weeks, less than half what Meaher State Park was going to cost. WOW!
I’ll stop here – I’ll include a description of the place, along with some photos, in our next post. Frank and I are headed down to the gulf coast to visit a dog beach down there. I want him to enjoy himself today. Tomorrow is when he has to go in to the vet’s office for his immiticide shot. He’ll be there all day – from 8am to 5pm. They’ll give him the shot in the morning and then have to keep him for observation. I guess it’s a pretty serious injection and there’s some risk involved.
I would appreciate your prayers and good wishes for Frank, please. I don’t know what I’d do if something were to happen to him.