Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 27 to April 28 - Beaufort, SC - Okefenokee Swamp - Ochlockonee FL

Hunting Island Lighthouse was a bit of a disappointment after all the Maine lighthouses over the years. It's small but perfectly preserved. The nature center next to it was good with a lot of history of the island. It was a hunting preserve for a rich family who eventually donated it to the state. Again a lot of beautiful land saved from development.

The moss and live oak trees dominate the roadway. Our Maine friend told us he'd learned that the Spanish Moss is actually a relative to the pineapple!

Leaving Beaufort, we crossed by Parris Island and thought of all those Marine recruits who've trained there. Thanks to all of them for serving our country. We'd planned on hopping on Route 95 for a short while but fortunately the Georgia Tourist Welcome Center told us of the President's visit to Fort Stewart. She suggested to not try to go that way as long delays were possible. We did our usual 62 mph down I-95 to Route 84 waving at quite a few truck campers as we went.

I'd always wanted to take a boat ride through the Okefenokee Swamp to see alligators. Georgia's Laura Walker State Park had an opening but we were warned it wasn't very level. Most state parks are full and some have wait lists. So far we've been lucky in getting in. Joe used all our leveling blocks and got us nice and level. I was thankful for the extra foot stool or I'd never have reached the camper stairs. Chatted a long time with a group of folks who had gathered for a geocache rally. The people across the way gifted us with fresh Vidalia onions. They had a big 5th wheel and were pulling a BBQ smoker rig which was putting out some great odors. We actually saw several big rigs hauling smokers.

Unfortunately there wasn't a boat that went way out into the swamp and we settled for a train ride. We don't usually do the real tourist things but it turned out to be fairly interesting. Pioneers who lived in the swamp to cut cypress, make turpentine and skin gators lived a very hard life.

Don't think I want to go swimming in a swamp

April 28 - Ochlockonee Florida
Up and out early for a provisions stop and to see if we could find a place to overnight in Florida. We know that the Florida state parks fill up when reservations open first of the year but hoped for a cancellation. The Cracker Barrels and Walmarts are okay for passing through but it's so much more enjoyable to find a camp where you can enjoy the land around you. Lucked out and got a place in the Ochlockonee State Park on a river. 85F but very dry and a nice breeze so the bugs were minor.
Ranger took us for a short walk into the saw grass/pine areas and explained how Florida is trying to restore the natural rhythm of fire in the parks. Spring thunderstorms start fires, the saw grass dies back, re seeds itself and creates a short under story. The pines are just about fire resistant once they get above grass height. There were long paths through these areas and we had a hot but interesting walk.

We'd hoped to find good seafood and a place to stay in the Apalachicola or Destin area but bet everything is full. Joe's old boss at his last job lives near Pensacola so we can camp there if needed. Wish we had some Truck Camper friends along on this trek. Neither of us had camped in Georgia or Florida and we still have Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to go!

April 25 to 26 Myrtle Beach to Beaufort, SC
April 25 - Myrtle Beach

So good to have the truck serviced and know that nothing is wrong with it. Main concern always with a camper are brakes and tires and all were well within limits. Beach Ford in Myrtle Beach was very welcoming, professional and fast. Since the camper was off we decided to take a ride down along the small beach towns south of Myrtle Beach. Locals know the trick of turning left off of main roads into side roads. It was rather daunting to first timers but we eventually figured it out without injury to us or locals.

Surfside Beach is supposed to be one of the oldest planned resort communities. Lots of new pods of buildings, all in bright colors and up on stilts - way up on stilts, almost tall enough to put a truck camper under. I kept wondering even up that high, how many of those cottages would survive a
major hurricane.

The landscaping is lush and well cared for. We stopped and watched a crew installing 20' tall palm trees down a center divider. Cranes lifted the trees which had the smallest root ball I've ever seen. The roots looked about the same size as the trunk. Someone later told us they are extra heavy trees due to the water they hold and the weight alone is enough to keep them upright in storms. We've seen dozens of varieties of palms from tall to ground huggers. The smells from the flowers in bloom especially the Confederate jasmine is always around.

Managed to once again get back on Route 17 without injury and continued down to Murrells Inlet looking for seafood for lunch. "River Ratz" was excellent, a local hang out with fresh local seafood. We split a plate of oysters, shrimp and drum with hush puppies and had some left over. I'd remembered the normal size portions of southern food so glad we split a plate. After, we took a long walk down the river boardwalk, enjoying seabirds including pelicans and the rafts of huge pleasure boats.

Back at MB State Park, we relaxed and talked with a retired Army man who gave us a lot of local tips for our trip across the Florida pan handle. Like any good camper, he gave us his phone number and address in case we had any trouble along the way. Campers are good people. I kept my feet up on the picnic table the whole time we talked having just seen a sign up the camp office to beware of copperhead snakes. !!

April 26 Beaufort, SC
Route 17 is under construction - a lot of construction all the way from Georgetown to the south side of Charleston. It is being widened to two lanes both ways. Slow going but it gave us a chance to really enjoy the forest views along the way. Charleston has exploded with new malls, traffic stops, and lots and lots of traffic. Since we have been many times, we skipped going into old Charleston this time in favor of heading on to Beaufort. Our goal in coming here was to visit a Maine friend who has moved to Beaufort and to camp on Hunting Island. We met him in the Beaufort Waterfront Park and walked along with him as he gave us a guided tour of some of the hidden gems of the city. Four big tour buses had just pulled in and rather than fight for a place at one of the waterfront cafes, we walked back to a new farm stand/bistro in the library complex.

We're currently at Hunting Island State Park. First person we talked to while setting up was another truck camper owner and Truck Camper Warehouse customer with a Arctic Fox 1140. We are tucked into a camp site 100 yards from the ocean, behind a dune and under some of the tallest palm trees. Here's what it looks like out our back camper window. We lucked out on a walk in site and got a really good one.

It's been fascinating to see the long line of pelicans fly back and forth. Here's the view out of our dinette window. Hard to take, feet up resting from trekking, strong wind to keep the bugs away and an endless supply of iced tea.

Tomorrow we'll drive over to the Hunting light house for a visit and then head south. Don't know where but south.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 23 - 24 Hatteras to Myrtle Beach, SC

April 23 - 24 Hatteras to Myrtle Beach, SC

Monday, April 23
After a very soggy night at Frisco Woods CG at the tip of OBX, we boarded the ferry to Ocracoke Island. It was soggy because of the amount of rain they have received. Most of the sites were under water. We now understand why all the truck camper fishermen like this campground. You can get right out on the sand and fish from your rear door.

As we left harbor, we passed a Coast Guard Life Boat Station with two patrol boats used for rescue. Later saw them at full speed heading out to sea. I cross my fingers every time we see them go out and thank them for serving. Joe spent 20+ years in the Coast Guard but never on that small a boat.

It wasn't a smooth crossing to Ocracoke but fascinating to stand on the stern and watch all the sea birds. They come out to the ferries from the smaller barrier islands and follow along. We even saw pelicans which are not exactly a Maine bird.

It must be both  awesome and terrifying to be on Ocracoke during a big sea storm. This is the road from the ferry into town.

We stopped and walked the beach for a couple of hours with the result of aching legs later. The beach just makes you go on and on to see more. Since the tide was coming in, we finally left and went on into town for lunch.

Fresh drum sandwiches with hush puppies!!  Hard to get more southern than that plus the unending iced tea. The ferry ride over to Cedar Island wasn't as rough but lots longer. Route 12 inland is a very narrow two lane road with marshes on both sides. Since there was a high wind, the drive down to Croatan National Forest just north of Emerald Isle to a campsite wasn't easy or fun.

Tuesday, April 24
Skirting Jacksonville but staying on Route 17 after that, we wended down to Myrtle Beach. Joe was raised in Old Orchard Beach, Maine which is a tourist town in summer and ghost town in winter. Myrtle Beach is like OOB on steroids with more tourist "Places" than I've ever seen. It stretches for miles and miles with traffic lights every few blocks. We were glad to arrive at Myrtle Beach State Park which is a 300+ acre oasis of trees, trails, sand, beach and very nice campsites. We did more beach walking to see a lot of dead jelly fish and very hard packed sand. I kept thinking Truck Campers would love to get out on this beach!

Tomorrow we get the truck serviced and then head south - or west - or anywhere but north again at this point.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April to Who Knows - On the Road in 2012

April 2012 - We're on the road again

Starting from Maine, headed to Assateague National Seashore, then an annual rally of truck campers at Tall Pines in Sanford, VA., Hatteras and onward.
Our adventure started by heading over to Truck Camper Warehouse in W. Chesterfield, NH to have a crack in our Chalet camper's bath ceiling fixed. The wire chase as designed was so wide it was bending and breaking the vinyl ceiling cover. Bill Penny cleaned it, put in a thin wooden floor and foamed the wide opening. Worked perfect and the vinyl is holding well with no flexing. We also had a Max Air cover put on the bath fan so it can stay open in the rain.

April 13-17
Half way down from NH to VA we stopped in the Delaware Water Gap and camped at Dingman's Ferry at a National Park campsite. Love that Golden Age pass half rate. Clean, wide sites with power. Skirting Philadelphia and only getting on I-95 briefly, we kept southward to Assateague National Seashore. A local told us about The Southern Grille so we stopped for lunch. If you are ever near Ellendale, stop! They serve southern food like my grandmothers used to cook.

Had reservations for Monday and Tuesday night at Assateague on the Bayside C loop where it isn't as windy as the ocean. We lucked out and got the same site for Saturday and Sunday. What a wonder this National Park is. Roaming herds of wild horses, baby turtles and huge terrapins, shore birds, and endless miles of walking trails to explore. Even the boardwalks out into the marshes have horse dung as the horses go everywhere. Toni/Ron from MA, Bob/Carol Ann from NY, and Rob/Jennie from MA were also camped there. Lots of chat about places to go and see and sharing of food and drink with us TCers and a tent couple who were there also. After even a mild winter in Maine, it was such a delight to walk the warm beaches, pick up shells and then, feet up, sit and knit in the sun.

The last night there we were all thinking tornado? These clouds were awesome but stayed where clouds should - up in the air.

April 18-22

Time to gather at the Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally at Tall Pines Campground in Sanford, VA. Campers gather from the far west to Canada to spend days visiting, attending seminars, a band with line dancing, pot lucks, rodeos and a good bye breakfast. Michelle and Ron Humphress do a great job organizing this much enjoyed rally.

As usual the North East group gathered for drinks and a buffet at Mike's tent.

The weather held until Sunday morning when the deluge bagan. We travelled across the Bay Bridge Tunnel and were very glad to see the land appear through the rain. As usual we made a wrong turn in Norfolk to head south but at least were able to stop and turn the propane back on.
OBX is a real mix of tourist commercial, bare beaches, national land and sea birds. The folks who live out here continually live with washed out roads and drifting sand with deep puddles on the roads.

Huge flocks of seabirds land on the bare sand at low tides. We don't get these sands in Maine and they are a hard but interesting walk.

Diesel was $4.03 near Assateague, $4.18 in Norfolk, and a whopping $4.38 at the end of OBX. It's got to get here somehow so the price goes up. We'll diesel up tomorrow after we get off the ferry at Cedar Island. We'll head on down the NC coast with the eventual goal of Florida Panhandle and Arizona? Who knows?