Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pueblo, CO

We woke up around 4:30 that morning to drive to Colorado.

The drive was on mostly flat lands. But as we got closer and closer to Colorado, we started to see some of the snow covered mountains gaining distance ahead of us. Check out the picture of a huge red boot!

On this trip we also found out Suede (Pit Bull) doesn't like trains very much, and we have a lot of windmills! The route we went brought us in and out of New Mexico, before finally reaching Colorado. It was neat to go through a state in one day. ;)

By the time we arrived to our campsite, we were so thankful. The wind gusts were up to 50 mph! We definitely needed to pull over, and stop driving for the day.

At one of the rest areas, they had "Watch for Rattlesnakes" signs. It was at this rest area, I realized Honey (Boxer mix) didn't like the desert. She only wanted to pee in grass. Taking her out took a lot longer in the desert.

Because the drive was on straight, flat land, we let the dogs roam freely around the RV while we drove. Normally we have them in their kennel when we drive. I think they enjoyed themselves :) Watch the video and let me know what you think.

Here are some video clips of our drive from Amarillo, TX to Pueblo, CO. Watch Suede and Honey ride with us while we are driving, an RV passing us, super fast tumbleweed, and much more!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Amarillo, TX

One of the times we stopped for gas, Josh talked with a passerby at a gas station. He warned us that the pan handle of Texas was a very boring drive. He was so right! There were lots of railroad tracks that ran parallel with us. The scenery was bleak and flat. The sky was still as big as ever! Josh and I don't have a radio or CD/tape player in the RV, so I have started reading out loud from our Nook Color while Josh drives. This drive was the first time I had ever seen an oil derrick. 

The RV park we stayed at was next to a farm. There was a donkey and alpaca next to the fence that separated the park and farm. We walked the dogs over to the fence to see how they would react. Suede seemed to really love the donkey. Honey was more curious about the alpaca. It was cute! 

We only stayed in Amarillo for one night. We decided to try a different route to Utah that would take us through Colorado. Our alarms set for 4:30 the next morning, we went to sleep. No amount of sleep could prepare us for what happened the next day!

Here's some video clips of our drive from Wichita Falls, TX to Amarillo, TX.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wichita Falls, TX

Before Dallas, TX the only other big city we drove the RV through was Jacksonville, FL. We almost took a route around the city, but felt it would be a good experience. 

It wasn't as bad as we thought. The only hard part was making sure we were in the correct lane. We were in some areas where the interstate was 8 lanes wide going one way. Lots of lane changes!

Soon after the busy city of Dallas, we were heading north towards Wichita Falls. This was when the scenery really started to change. 

The RV park we stayed in was a state park right off the interstate. It was connected to a huge park that had Frisbee golf and miles of walking trails. We ventured out and went on a three mile walk to the Wichita Falls. It was beautiful!

We stayed at the Wichita Falls RV Park. It was very close to a park with tons of trails including on that lead to the Wichita Falls. We took the dogs to go see it. We thought it was so cute that Honey (Boxer Mix) wanted to jump in the water but Suede (Pit Bull) "scolded" her. They are always looking out for each other. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Canton, TX

We drove to the Wagon Train RV Park in Canton, TX. It was a very nice park. The couple who owns the park and lives there have really put a lot of work and heart into it. The sky looked so big in Texas. I'll never get over that :) We ended up staying here for a couple of nights because the wind speed was too fast. Being in a high profile vehicle, it was something we had to pay attention to. We don't drive if the wind is over 15 mph for most of the day.

Here is a clip of our trip from West Monroe, LA to Canton, TX. We passed Shreveport, LA along the way. That is the big city you see in the video.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

West Monroe, LA

Photos of the drive from Jackson, MS to West Monroe, LA - where Duck Dynasty is filmed!

Me and the girls seeing the Mississippi River for the 1st time! 

After sight-seeing and driving all day, we were exhausted! We didn't take many pictures at the campsite. It was cool to see Duck Dynasty stuff everywhere in West Monroe. They even have their own restaurant! Josh installed a new lock on our RV door that evening. It was a great day!

Here is a quick video of our travels from Jackson, MS to West Monroe, LA

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jackson, MS

We left Meridian, MS looking forward to a day’s worth of driving to Shreveport, LA on I-20. Our Pit Bull Suede has severe skin allergies. She seems to break out to almost anything we try to feed her. It took a year or two to finally find a protein for her that worked: venison and potato. The only place we could find her food is at Petsmart with a Banfield hospital attached. We found one in Jackson, MS right off the interstate. Just a quick in and out and we would be back on the road, right? Ahh, if only things worked out the way we always planned them.

I pulled the RV into the Petsmart parking lot, went over a speed bump, and SNAP! Something broke. I casually kept driving and parked in the first available space, hearing scraping along the way. I was freaking out thinking I broke it while Josh calmed me down and went into problem solving mode. We came out to assess the damage. The back hitch that holds our motorcycle carrier had snapped off of the bumper. We were dragging the carrier behind us at an angle. Thankfully the motorcycle started right up and looked OK. We untied the motorcycle, and parked it in another spot. Thankfully, there was a Home Depot in the same shopping plaza. We bought 1,500 pound ratchet ties and metal epoxy. We wanted a temporary fix, so we could get to a campsite or hotel and still have the motorcycle for transportation. The goal was to put epoxy on the hitch and ratchet tie it to the bumper. The epoxy would help stick together the hitch and bumper. One broken ratchet tie and thirty minutes later, our temporary fix wasn’t as great as we hoped. The ratchet ties pulled the hitch closer to the bumper, but not close enough. We quickly called Coach Net (our lovely roadside assistance provider) to see if any RV service and repair shop could squeeze us in. We didn’t have much luck on a Friday afternoon though.

So, we ran our errands at Petsmart, unpinned the motorcycle carrier, set in on the couch in our RV, left the motorcycle in the parking lot, and drove the RV to Lefleur's Bluff State Park. It was the closest, cheapest park we could find. After we found the park and saw they had vacancy, we drove back to Petsmart to retrieve the motorcycle. On the way back, I drove the RV while Josh followed on the motorcycle. I made it back to the entrance of the park and realized Josh wasn’t behind me. I panicked and called him immediately. The motorcycle broke down a mile or so before “home.” He called CoachNet again. They were able to provide a free tow back to our campsite. Two hours later, we were finally able to set up camp. The RV Park is actually two miles from the entrance of the park. At ten miles per hour it was time consuming driving to the RV park, picking a site, driving back to the entrance, paying for the site, and finally driving all the way back to the space we would call home for the next few days. Jackson, MS welcomed us with a stressful first day, but the state park was so beautiful, it melted our stresses away.

Our site was right on a lake. Not only did we have an RV site, but we had a huge area for tent camping. It was the first time I was able to set up our 15 foot dog runners at an RV park. Unfortunately there weren’t any sewer hookups, but on the bright side they had an awesome shower house. The park ranger was very nice and informative. He made sure we knew what sights to visit while in town and told us about the park a little. He said they didn’t get many bears, but there was “a friendly alligator in the lake who won’t bother anyone.” After our experience in Lamont, FL we certainly found this amusing. We were wary about how much it would cost to fix the back bumper, so we didn’t do much in Jackson. I learned “We Remain” by Christina Aguilera and decided to film a video. “We Remain” is on the soundtrack for the second Hunger Games movie "Catching Fire." I felt the scenery of the park reflected the Hunger Games well. While we were filming, cars kept driving by. Instead of trying it again and again from the top hoping to record uninterrupted, we filmed two separate takes. I then went back to the RV and edited my videos. I even decided to re-film the ending in our “back yard.” It was the first time I edited something this large. Check out the video for yourself, and let me know how I did!

Finally it was Monday! We woke up early and got to Camper Corral as soon as they opened. We were hoping to leave that day. They told us it would take a week to order a new back bumper. We were certainly feeling the pressure about getting to Utah. We took the news with a grain of salt and started talking about our plan B. As we pulled out of the parking lot, we saw a yard sign pointing down the street to a brand new RV service and repair shop. We already called every RV shop in the area. We decided to push our luck and see if they could help us. It couldn't hurt to try a new RV shop less than a half mile away. Their friendly staff greeted us outside and got to work on it right then. They had a metal fabricator who was able to reinforce and reattach the bumper with three inch corrugated tubular steel and tig weld to two inch triangle steel supports. Freshly painted and a new RV door handle later, we were ready to hit the road! We’re both sad we didn't get to explore Jackson. There is a lot to do there! When we go back, we will be sure to visit Ground Zero Blues Club owned by Morgan Freeman. Next stop: West Monroe, LA!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Meridian, MS

We arrived at Nanabe Creek Campground. We decided to stay for a week so we could catch up on laundry, get our mail forwarded, and take care of some RV maintenance. 

The park was mostly full. There were a lot of permanent residents. We pulled up to a cute office building that was three stories high and looked like a tepee/tree house. The doors were locked though, and it looked abandoned. A host couple came up to us though and checked us in just fine. Her husband filled our propane tank before we pulled into our site. The roads were gravel, but the sites themselves were just dirt and roots. There were so many trees all of over the park. It took us a good ten minutes to maneuver around the trees and back the RV into the site. The park had a very nice set up, but it looked like the owners just stopped keeping up with it. We had to use pliers on the water hookup every time we wanted to use it because the water spigot didn't have a knob. On a positive note, they have amazing WiFi. We were watching Netflix on our Roku, and I was using the laptop at the same time. We didn't have to use our hot spot at all while we were there.

The next morning, we saw a HUGE forty-five foot fifth wheel/toy hauler checking in. The host couple was scratching their heads trying to find a spot for their big rig. I had a feeling they were going to ask us to move because we were in one of the bigger sites. Sure enough, they did. We moved across the street into a back-in. The site was much nicer than the pull through we were just in. We still had to squeeze in between trees, but we had more than enough room. There weren't any tree roots under our RV this time. It wasn't a big deal for us to switch sites, especially after seeing how much better our new site was. There were plug ins for power on both sides. A fellow camper tested the voltage on both and said they were both great. So of course we used the plug in closest to our shore (power) cord. We plugged in; no power. This is a great reason why we got a longer shore cord. When we first bought the RV, our shore cord was ten feet long. We had to get our plug in replaced, so we decided to upgrade the length to fifteen feet. If we hadn't done that, we wouldn't have been able to plug in on the other side of the RV. We realized later that the power source on the side that didn't work on our RV was a plug in for a washing machine and dryer. This is a common mistake in the RV world. The outlets and plugs look identical, but the wiring is completely different. It won't work if you try to plug into one, but some people try to use a washer/dryer male piece for their shore cord. This will fry your entire electric system. 

As a traveler, we are constantly keeping an eye on the weather. The Weather Channel and Al Roker are our best friends. We saw that Meridian was going to get some snow. It was already pretty cold outside. Our heat runs off of propane. We turned on our heat and after about thirty minutes, we realized our heater was kicking out cold air. We just got our propane filled a couple of days before, the indicator says we're full, but our fridge, heat, and stove won't run on it. We asked the host couple about it because they were the last people to touch our propane system. They just shrugged their shoulders, said, "I don't know," recommended a repair place but didn't know the name of it, and walked away. We decided to ask our neighbor about our problem. He told us the guy who fills the propane can be a bit sloppy with it at times. He told us we might have air in our propane tank. So we turned our burners on the stove on for five to ten minutes at a time, and then tried to spark one of them. Nothing happened. We tried to purge the air out like this for days, and we still weren't getting any propane. So we had to improvise. We went to Walmart to look for an electric heater but they were all propane heaters. So we bought a bunch of candles instead and used our roof A/C unit on the heater function. With snow outside, we were able to keep the temperature at sixty-five degrees. The candles really helped. Even though we were using our roof heater, it struggles to stay warm when the outside temperature is below freezing. We learned that this is common and doesn't mean there is anything wrong with our unit.

After the snow had melted and temperatures returned to the sixties, it was time to focus on getting new tires. We went to Southern Tire Mart to get it done. It was thirteen hundred dollars for six tires and the front two are All Terrain tires. It was the first time we brought the RV to a shop to get work done while being on the road. They were able to work on it with the dogs inside their kennels inside the RV. We were both nervous about it at first, but everything worked out. The mechanic who did the work said our tires were in really bad shape. He couldn't believe we never had a blowout or a flat. We got our new tires in the nick of time. 

Feeling positive about our new tires, we went back to Nanabe Creek Campground to tackle our next problem: laundry. We do not have a washer/dryer in our RV and not ever campground has a laundromat. Being on the road, our laundry gets pretty backed up. We had about five loads to do. There were four washers and three dryers. Only one of each worked, but they didn't put any "out of order" signs up. We lost about seven dollars because of it. I personally made "out of order" signs and put them on the machines that didn't work. One of the other campers was venting about there only being one washer and one dryer for an entire park. He said, "At least they finally put a sign up. They've been taking my money for about a month now!" He was very appreciative to learn that I put the signs up. The next day, we saw the host couple with a repair man trying to fix the washers and dryers. I guess the signs got their attention.

We have a mailbox with a UPS store in Wilmington, NC. Instead of having a P.O. Box, we have a street address which comes in handy. Anytime we stay somewhere for a week or longer, we try to get our mail forwarded. It came a couple of days before we were going to leave. Josh ordered a cell phone signal booster and installed it quickly on our RV. We have a small antenna on our roof. We ran the cable in through our kitchen window where it connects to a phone cradle inside. When the phone is in the cradle, the signal booster is applied. It really works too! Josh's phone signal can be white (no 3G), but after putting it in the cradle he has full blue signal (3G). You can buy the Wilson Electronics Sleek Cell Phone Signal Cradle Booster on Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003FGWGPS/ref=oh_details_o08_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1   Even though we still couldn't figure out why our propane wasn't working, we felt accomplished for our problem-solving and teamwork to get everything done. We hit the road in hopes of getting to Louisiana by the night. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Opelika, AL

My Uncle Charlie and his fiance Jennifer were getting married in about a month. We decided to back track and start heading to Boca Raton, FL. We left Decatur, drove back through Montgomery, and stayed in Oplika, AL. The drive through Montgomery took longer than usual. We were in bumper to bumper traffic for at least an hour. We were next to a boy's high school sports team through most of it. They read the windows and looked up my YouTube channel. They all had huge smiles as they pressed their cell phones against the windows. They were all playing my videos! They truly made me feel like a celebrity.

Opelika is a small town about thirty minutes west of Auburn. We stayed at the Spring Villa RV Park. The park was on a property that used to be a plantation. The original plantation house and slave quarters were still on the property. The park itself was very open. We were far enough from the road to not hear any traffic. We were surrounded by woods. The park had full hookups, but no WiFi. We both had very poor cell service, making our mobile hot spot obsolete. We only picked up three channels on our TV antenna, so we relied mostly on DVD's for our entertainment. 

At first it was very eerie to stay there. When we would walk the dogs near the plantation house, Honey would bark at the house. We never saw anything there. We stopped walking them near the house after it happened two nights in a row. Apparently one of the slaves killed the slave owner in the stairwell near the top floor. The house has been said to be haunted ever since by the slave owner's ghost. We asked some of the locals about this, but no one knew what we were talking about. You could tell the slave quarters had been burned down, but the main structure remains.

All around the park were trails. We went on a day hike with the dogs. We weren't sure how long the trail was, but we prepared for anything. While walking we saw a lot of animal tracks. I'm not an expert, but I'm we saw plenty of paw prints and hoof tracks. We came to the end of the trail when it hit the main road. The plantation land was very large and extended to the properties across the street. We decided to keep going. After only being twenty feet into the property I stopped dead in my tracks before hastily turning around. There was a dog laying on his side. Thinking he was asleep, I told Josh and we backtracked across the street. Josh made it clear to me then that he was sure the dog was dead. I've never seen a dead dog before, so I made him go back to double check. Unfortunately he was right. We put a ten foot stick in the ground near the entrance of the property as a marker and called the local Animal Control. Unfortunately we never got a call back from them, and the dog's body was never picked up. 

The park would put deer corn out late at night. We watched multiple deer enjoy the treat, but could never catch it on film. Several nights we heard coyotes howling. When the sounds got closer we would fire a shot from the shotgun. That would usually stop the sounds. One time we had the dogs outside when the coyotes were howling. Both of them became on edge and barked and growled towards the woods. The howling stopped after that. 

 We decided to go check out Opelika as a town. I looked up a local open mic night. Most of the time, we go to the venue a day or so before and check it out. We were lucky enough to do this on the same day. Later that night, I was dressed up, tuned, and ready to play! I was a little nervous but completely ready to shine. We enjoyed watching others sing, play, and jam together. A harmonica player even came out! We had a blast getting to know the townies at Eighth and Rail. We learned that Opelika was an industrial city. Opelika's downtown had small town charm much like my hometown Salisbury, NC. After a fun night of music and conversation, it was time to head back to the park.

The most surprising thing about Opelika was the diversity of the area. Downtown was normal with local businesses surrounding the streets. A couple miles down the road however, the quaint town turned into a high crime area. Different people even asked Josh at different gas stations numerous times if he wanted buy crack or other drugs. But just a couple more miles from there was our campsite in the middle of the country. As you turned on the road that lead us to the Spring Villa Park, there was a sign that read "This road is subject to catastrophic sinkholes." As an RV driver, it made us nervous to drive on the road. We saw numerous school buses on the road though, so we felt safe enough to drive on it. At the open mic, we asked the locals about it. They told us there was a sinkhole on that road years ago, so the city had to post that sign. They assured us we had nothing to worry about. 

I called my soon-to-be Aunt Jennifer to ask her about the wedding details. She told me that there were family complications, and they were going to have an intimate wedding instead. While we were in Decatur, we learned that Josh's ninety-five year old grandfather had been in the hospital for dehydration. He was having trouble taking care of himself properly. The family helped get him into a home. After everyone left, Josh's sister Kathy was left to take care of his affairs since she was the only relative living in the same state. Kathy has family of her own and with her third child on the way, we knew she could use some extra help. Since my uncle's wedding was called off for all the guests, we decided to change course and head to Utah to help Kathy. Next stop, Meridian, MS!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Montgomery, AL

We were excited to leave Florida and head north to explore a different state: Alabama. First stop, Montgomery!

Montgomery was one big shopping mall. Every where you looked there were stores. Pretty much everything you could do there (minus the historical stuff) you can do any where else. We hardly saw any small businesses. It seemed the city was filled with only "corporate America" style businesses.

As always after a long day, we were excited to get to our campsite. Our GPS, it seemed, was not too excited. It took us past the RV park a couple of times before we finally saw the place! The Woods RV Park and Campground was tucked away behind a gas station, Burger King, KFC, and Arby's. We were literally in their back yard! The campground itself was very clean and very well-maintained. The staff was super friendly, and once again we were enjoying cable. 

Unfortunately the weather was awful during our three night stay in Montgomery. It was very cold and windy. At night, the wind chill made the temperature drop to about twelve degrees Fahrenheit. The harsh weather kept us from enjoying some historical things in the area like the Civil War Walking Tour.

After such a short stay it was time to hit the road again. We needed to continue our journey for The Voice audition in Nashville, TN. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DeFuniak Springs, FL

We were very excited to get out of the wild of Lamont, FL and head to our next stop, DeFuniak Springs, FL. DeFuniak Springs was an average town; it was nothing special. We only stayed there for three nights. Our brake light came on as we were driving into town. A brake light will concern any full-time RV'er. We decided right away to get the brake problem taken care of. 

It cost us three hundred dollars to get a mobile mechanic (we found through Coach Net) to come out and change our master solenoid. While Josh was overseeing the work being done on the RV, I took the dogs to a quaint gazebo area in the park. The park was about a two hundred foot valley leveled out into three different sections. We stayed on the top level. The gazebo area and fishing dock were on the bottom level. There wasn't a bad spot for the view anywhere in the park. It also turned out to be a great time to practice for my audition for The Voice. I decided to take to social media and posted three audition song videos for my friends and family to choose from. See my next post to find out which song won the vote!

Juniper Lake RV Resort was a beautiful place to stay. The owner, Donna, had started the park with her late husband and two dogs. She was very sweet and very blunt about what was going on in the park. Certain parts of the bathroom were being replaced and the laundry room was in repair while we were there. The park is connected to a neighborhood. Josh and I took advantage by walking a two mile loop every day while we were there.  The best part about staying there was the free cable. We actually got more than sixty channels, which was a great way to pass the time. We watched Duck Dynasty and Honey Booboo for the first time. 

As we made our way out of town, we stopped by the local Walmart for our weekly shopping list. One of the items we picked up was temporary window paint. 

It was a great way to market myself online! I got a dozen views and a couple comments on my YouTube page telling me where they saw the RV. I was overwhelmed by the support I got from complete strangers! Yet they had taken the time to look up my video and listen to ME SING! I couldn't believe it! It made me realize the true motive for my dream: to move someone with my gift of singing.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lamont, FL

After two days of very little sleep, we couldn't wait to get to Lamont, set up camp, and relax. It was a longer drive then we expected. We stayed at the Ecofina River Resort. It's almost in the middle of no where. Driving in, we passed nothing but swamps and the occasional gas station about every ten miles. Most of the roads had weight limits - something we've never had to worry about before. We go really excited when we turned off the the state highway onto the he final stretch of road that would lead us to our final destination. Too bad it was an extra five miles down the road at thirty-five MPH. 

A sign at the office.

We arrived just before the office closed. Even though we were planning on staying a full week, we had to pay daily because the park was having trouble with their power. The owner kindly directed us to a site where there hadn't been power troubles, and we didn't have any problems at all with the electricity the entire week we stayed there. Ecofina River Resort was a gated park with one side for permanent residents and another side for monthly, weekly, and daily residents. Nearly all the spots were filled on the side we were staying. We soon learned though that most of the campers were empty. People pay monthly fees for their RV to just sit there. For once ever campsite had a fire pit. We were finally getting the chance to enjoy roasting hot dogs over an open flame near our RV. There were also two lakes in the park. I was cute to watch the turtles sunbathe on the draining grate. From where our RV was parked, we were about twenty feet away from the lake and forty feet away from a swamp where alligators, bears, and wild pigs dwell. We felt relieved to have our shotgun.

The view from our campsite. The building is the office and clubhouse. There are those turtles I told you about!

There were only two other people staying at the park at the time. So many empty RV's made the place seem like ghost town. The next day, the park owner had electricians come out to fix the sites that weren't getting any power. After they left, music started playing from an empty RV parked across from us. At first it didn't bother us, because it filled the eerie silence. Pretty soon we realized it was one CD being played over and over again from speakers on the outside of the RV. It was a classic rock CD. The tracks made it seem like it was bought at a gas station. Eventually we complained about it to the park owner. They said that the owner of the RV hadn't been there in about three months and had no idea why the music was playing. The park got permission from them to go inside their RV and turn it off. The silence returned, but this time it was embraced.

The lake is so close! It starts where the tall reeds are.
We took the motorcycle out to get more groceries. The closest gas station (or any open business for that matter) was a quick eight mile ride down the road. We truly felt isolated because we didn't pass any buildings the whole way there. Not even a house. We had left behind civilization at least thirty miles back.

Roasting hot dogs. Yum!

One night while we were watching Netflix (the park had AMAZING WiFi), Josh asked me to mute the TV. We could faintly hear an animal sniffing around the back windows of our RV. Any animal that can reach that high had to be a bear. We waited about thirty minutes and went outside to let our dogs out. We could hear a loud banging on the exit gate over and over. The bear was trying to get out of the park! We rushed the girls inside and stayed there for the rest of the night. Sure enough the next day we found bear tracks around our RV and near the exit gate. 

The clearest track we could see.
During the one week we stayed there, a really bad storm came through. The sky had to have dumped about five inches of rain in one night. The Weather Channel had given our area a flood advisory. In the middle of the swamp was a huge river (the Ecofina River), and its levels were going to rise about five feet, putting surrounding areas in danger. We were shocked to come outside and see at least one inch deep rushing water. The lake kept coming in and soon it was twelve feet away. The rushing water beneath our RV had come up over our tires and was touching the rim. Before it got that bad, Josh went outside to film a video of the weather and check on the status of the flooding lake. He heard a hiss ten feet beside him and shined his flashlight over to where the sound came from. He saw three alligators slip into the lake; they were scared off by the light. After that I was ready to stay inside for the rest of the night. By the next day, everything was a huge puddle, but the water level had gone down to a tolerable level. 

We learned a lot in Lamont about being around wildlife and in a terrible storm. We even tried to go fishing in the lake, but we didn't have much luck with our artificial bait. And after Josh saw alligators in both of the lakes, I was too scared to spend a lengthy amount of time near them. A father and son arrived near the end of the week in a pop-up camper. It's a family tradition for them to come out to his secluded camp and go hunting. If you're not a hunter or a fisherman, you'll struggle to find things to do at Ecofina River Resort. We still had a great time, but I don't think this place is on our list for great parks. It was time to continue our journey to The Voice auditions in Nashville, TN.

Some pictures of driving in and around Lamont

This is pretty much all you see for miles

Crazy right?!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Decatur, AL and Nashville, TN

We were thankful to continue heading north. Hopefully we would escape the cold, windy weather! On our way to Decatur we passed a brown historical sign reading "Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament - Next Exit." We decided to be spontaneous and check it out. About twenty miles away from the bustle of the city, through rolling farm hills, we found it! White picket fences lead our way to a beautiful castle and Vatican-esque plaza. There was a church, gift shop, Nativity Scene, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, and an entire building dedicated to the now Saint John Paul II and the teachings and history of the Eucharist. We didn't get to go on the tour, but we enjoyed praying together and walking around. We knew we had to get back on the road soon, but it was nice to take a moment to be with our heavenly Father.

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Point Mallard RV Campground is a part of a huge complex of fun things to do. A track, soccer field, ice complex, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, batting cages, chapel, water park, golf course, driving range, bike trail, and RV park are all collectively Point Mallard. Their RV park was the largest park we have ever been to! They also have a pretty big section for tent camping only. Basic amenities were included minus cable. We even had curbside trash pick up multiple times throughout the day. The office and camp store was well stocked. The host couple was nice enough to explain how to connect to the park's WiFi. A host couple is a couple who is staying in the park for at least three months. They help with park maintenance, and other campers are encouraged to see the host couple for any issues that come up after office hours. Josh and I have considered doing this!

The Voice audition in Nashville, TN

After weeks of planning, we decided to rent a car and drive from Decatur to Nashville for The Voice audition. It was awesome and a bit strange to drive a car again after months driving the RV! When we arrived at the Nashville City Music Center the line wrapped around the entire block! There was a bike show in town so we were thoroughly entertained while we took an hour or so to walk around the block. Longest walk ever! By the time we got to the door, I had to say goodbye to Josh and continue the rest of the journey without him. I wasn't alone though! I met two awesome chicks in line: Tammie and Dominique! We stuck together through the entire process. We distracted ourselves with conversations about past auditions and our dreams of becoming a singer.  I didn't make it, but I am so proud I gave it my best! The Voice's audition process is much less stressful than American Idol or X Factor. I only had to wait in line for one day and not two. All of the singers were very respectful of each other. It was nice not having to deal with all the crazy people that come out for American Idol. Josh met one of the girls who made it through the audition to the next round.  We got the RV because getting on these shows is like winning the lottery, and we are just going to keep "buying those tickets"!

The next day we decided to take the motorcycle out and ride around the town. Decatur is a quaint city filled with neighborhoods and restaurants. The only place in town to watch Superbowl XLVIII was at a Chile's. We were hoping for a small business to go to like in Wilmington, NC, but this made it clear that Point Mallard Campground is pretty much the best thing the town has to offer. We ended up having a pretty good night though. We ate way too much and enjoyed the game and commercials. 

While we were staying at Point Mallard, we met a very sweet couple from Texas who was staying in a fifth wheel across from us. Every day we walked the dogs, we gawked at their rig in amazement. It was the first RV we ever saw with a telescoping slide out. We knocked on their door one evening, and they graciously invited us in. I had a fun time bonding with the wife while Josh talked RV logistics with the husband. We enjoyed swapping stories about our travels with them. It was the first time we met another couple we got along with and liked since we've had the RV. 

After staying in Decatur for three weeks, we were ready to continue our journey. The weather had different plans for us though! We found out that Decatur was going to get snow. The temperature was already below freezing for the past week. Our sewer hose and tanks froze. We couldn't even get the RV to start on most days. Since we realized we needed to prolong our stay, we decided to take advantage of our surroundings and walk to the ice complex. Josh had never been ice skating before, and I had only been once in New York City. Surprisingly, there were a lot of families at the rink that day. The prices were so reasonable, we ate lunch there too. You can tell from the pictures and videos we had a blast! Later that night it snowed. It snowed for four days straight. It was a lot of fun playing in the snow. The dogs also got to wear their Ruffwear boots in the snow for the first time!

After a month long stay in Decatur, it was time to start heading to South Florida to visit some of my family. We hit the road and started the drive to Opelika, AL. Check out two new YouTube videos I filmed during our stay!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jacksonville, FL

We drove through Jacksonville a week or so earlier on our way to St. Augustine. There was construction on the interstate. Narrow lanes, no shoulders, and shifting lanes all led to white knuckle driving that we absolutely wanted to avoid this time. Luckily our GPS has a "Least Use of Freeways" option that came in handy. We were doing fine until we got into downtown Jacksonville. The GPS took us all over the area with turns every half mile or so. We kept laughing about it and wished we had a dash camera to document our journey down the rabbit hole. It was time to go over a bridge, but it was closed due to construction. We turned off the GPS and drove around the bridge as best we could. Eventually we felt lost so we turned the GPS back on, but it led us to a tunnel that had a nine foot clearance. Once again it was time to use our common sense of direction and turn off the GPS. We found ourselves driving through the ghetto and really bad parts of town. We passed tons of businesses with tall, barbed wire fences, run down houses, and a restaurant called Hip Hop Fish N Chicken. We were blown away by it all. A simple one hour drive turned into a four hour expedition.

A Truck using blinds for the cab. We've never seen that before!
Finally we made it to our destination: the Pecan Park RV Resort. This park is definitely the most well put together park we have ever been to. The paved roads and sites in such a large space made it look like a little suburban neighborhood. It was perfect if you can get over the deafening roar of commercial airplanes flying over your head every hour or so.

Downtown Jacksonville
Our neighbors on our right were a married couple in their late twenty's with five kids. It was the first time we met someone RV'ing full time who was within our age group. She got pregnant at sixteen. Her and her boyfriend decided to get married and have been together ever since. We never got to meet her husband. He worked with his dad running their own paving company. In fact, his parents had a camper parked across the street. Josh and I could be wrong, but everything about them screamed American Gypsy. We had just finished an entire season of TLC's "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding" on Netflix. If we hadn't watched the show, we probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. Of course we never asked and they never said anything about it, so our suspicions were never clarified. 

By the time eight o'clock rolled around that evening, it was time to feed the dogs and find a place to walk them. Right next to the park is an open field where they hold a weekly flea market. As we were walking we saw a group of people hanging out under a carport that had one wall, two buildings (more like sheds), and music playing. We had come across a little "hole in the wall" bar/restaurant. The waitress was extremely happy to have us there and took no time at all to introduce us to the owner Phil. He told us how he started a fenced in gator pond there for him and his friends to hang out and drink. Eventually, his friend talked him into getting a keg or two and starting his own bar. The Tiki Island Tap House has been open since April 2013. They have beer pong tournaments, karaoke, live bands, mud wrestling, car washes, mud truck shows, and delicious pulled pork BBQ. What was once a fun hangout for a couple of friends quickly grew into a small community of fun-lovers. I think the funniest moments of the night were when Phil would randomly walk around setting hamburger buns on the tables. Some patrons would laugh and say, "No thanks Phil. I'm not hungry," even though they knew the bread was for the fish. We would stand out on the viewing dock, break up the bread, and throw it out to the fish hoping to see one of the six alligators. It was too cold for any of them to come out unfortunately. There were a ton of fish though! It was fun to see large catfish nibble.

After talking for awhile and explaining our life in the RV, travels, and goals, they "just had to hear me sing." Fifteen minutes later and a quick run to the RV for my guitar, they had two mic stands and a chair set up for me. What I thought was only going to be a couple of songs quickly escalated into a two hour concert. It seemed everyone wanted to film me, talk about music (the Hick-Hop genre was a popular topic), and listen to me play and sing. I guess you could say it was my first gig! I made a promise to Phil that I would come back and play for at his bar when I got famous. We met a lot of colorful people that night and made a bunch of memories Josh and I won't forget anytime soon. We developed a lot of inside jokes from that night! We went to bed way too late (or early depending on how you look at it) and squeezed in as much sleep as we could before Grandpa's funeral the next day. 

When the alarm went off the next day, it was tough for both of us to get out of bed. Lucky for Josh, I had enough motivation for the both of us. I let him sleep in while I got most of everything ready. I immediately snapped into our morning routine. We needed to get ready for the funeral, take down camp, drive thirty minutes to the Ramada, get a room, put the dogs in the room, and get a ride with my dad to the church...all in about three hours. 

 Morning Routine/Getting Ready for the Road:
  1. Feed the dogs and take them out
  2. Eat breakfast
  3. Take a shower (we have to shower at least thirty minutes apart to have hot water for both of us)
  4. Sweep out the RV
  5. Dump the grey water tank (water that drains into the sinks and shower) and the black water tank (everything that is in the toilet)
  6. Fill up our fresh water tank using our RV water filter
  7. Pull the awning in
  8. Transfer our laundry, guitars, and bass from the cab to the bed in the back
  9. Lock up our 20 gauge Mossburg shotgun and put it in the back as well
  10. Put the dogs in the kennel and turn everything off
  11. Unplug our shore power cord from the site
  12. Take our blinder off the front of the cab
  13. Plug in our GPS and we're ready to go!
At the Tiki Island Tap House. Behind me is the gator pond.
We made it to the hotel with thirty minutes to spare. After figuring out where our room was, we had to break down the kennels and bring them up to the room. It was too hot and humid that day to leave the dogs in the RV while we went to the funeral. The service was held at The Church of our Savior Episcopal Church. It's a beautiful church that sits right along the St. John River. It's such a beautiful, peaceful place; it's truly ideal for a house of God. The service was beautiful. I hope it offered other family members and friends as much peace and closure as it did for me. 

The church view.
After attending a reception the church held, the family went out for lunch where we were able to catch up and talk about Grandpa. My mom flew in for the service. While Josh took a nap, Mom and I went bowling after lunch, and we had a blast! She had an early flight the next day, so she had to go back to her hotel. Josh and I got changed and met my dad, uncle Charlie, and his lifelong best friend Greg at the hotel bar. My uncle Charlie picked the hotel because he knew Ralphie May was performing at the Comedy Zone that night. Unfortunately both of the shows were sold out for the night. Josh and I asked the desk before the second show if they had any seats available and sure enough they did. With every laugh, our sorrows went away.

Uncle Charlie and I

Daddy and I

After a quick breakfast and we said our goodbyes, it was time to pack up the RV and head to Lamont, FL!