I mentioned this park in our last post, but we enjoyed the place so much I wanted to add a bit more to the bullet points I provided the last time.
Finishing up our trip to New England, our usual favorite park in Cleveland, GA was all booked solid. This was due to a 4th of July celebration they put on each year that not only attracts RVers, but locals as well. Not a space to be found, and that was actually a good thing given how scared Grover gets around fireworks. The celebration is held the weekend BEFORE the 4th, which is why the park was already booked solid.
After going through 5 other options who were already booked, we started looking on the other side of Georgia along the I-75 corridor. We were able to find a place for a week so that we could give our daughter a hand in taking care of Jace on days he didn't have pre-school, even though it was a slightly longer drive to pick him up and drop him off.
The park we stayed at used to be called A-OK Calhoun, but the new owners have renamed it Cedar Break Campground. It's a bit dated, but they have been updating the park in different ways, beginning with clearing out the rather undesirable clientele who used to reside permanently in the park. Some not very nice people and activities were apparently in place before, but there was no evidence of that in the current long-term residents, so don't believe any reviews you might read from a couple of years ago!
Also on the plus side: newer sites in the back with 50A pull-thrus for the larger rigs. Not nestled in the treed-in area of the older part of the park, but better able to handle newer, larger rigs.
Their pool is of a decent size and condition, and it's a salt-water pool instead of traditional chlorine. The chairs and tables are new. They also have a snack bar on-site that will deliver your order to your campsite. Not a big menu, but pizza is pizza.
They've been updating almost all of their internal cable infrastructure, and only have one more aisle to go to have it completed. That's the good news. The bad news is that their contract for cable TV is for an older signal that doesn't make it through newer motor homes like ours with all our internal switches and routers, and the contract is in place for another 4 years.
Sites are all pretty level and well cared for. Some sites at the end of streets have brick patios and furniture. Not all sites have fire rings, however. Roads are typically narrow for an older park, and there are not enough 50A sites to accommodate motor homes, but if it's not too hot you can make do with a single AC unit on 30A if need be.
Cedar Break also features a series of small cabins for rent, interspersed around the park. The staff is very helpful. They also have a very special resident: Peanut the Peacock. You'll hear him as it's getting dark, doing his peacock thing, but he's quiet after the sun goes down. If you walk up to him, he'll turn his back to you, extend his feathers out fully, then turn around to face you as if to say, “See how beautiful I am?” The park is located close enough to the Tennessee border to make some day trips there, as well as to spots in the northwest corner of Georgia. Price was very reasonable, as they give a discount to those who served in the military. All-in-all, a very pleasant surprise, and a place we'd go back to again.
Still, we needed to punt for the July 4th holiday. Part of the reason why we hadn't planned ahead for staying anywhere was that we hadn't planned on Jace needing some attention a couple of days a week, and we were supposed to head up to the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and Washington state this summer. Needing to be back in Georgia immediately after the 4th , and until Jace enters kindergarten in mid-August, required us to punt and find some space relatively nearby. So we went with our favorite COE park in Gunter Hill just outside of Montgomery, Alabama. They had a spot available for us for a week before the 4th of July weekend, but no openings after that.
Further punting, since we will be near Red Bay, Alabama, where our Tiffin was made, and Tiffin is going to be closed for the holiday, we'll make a speed run up of a couple of hours drive up there and camp out in one of the many gravel parks with full hookups they have in town for a paltry $25 per night. Should be plenty of spaces available. It's what you do to make lemonade out of lemons when you don't get a lot of notice.
After that, it's back to Leisure Acres in Cleveland for 5 weeks until the early fall travel season begins! Please keep Grover, and all other animals, in your thoughts as the July 4th holiday arrives.
A nice two-week trip to the southern New Hampshire / seacoast of Massachusetts in early June is just the thing to renew old (or maybe I should use the term “long-time”) acquaintances and family. The weather is nice and temperate (although a bit warmer than usual but that is fine with Barbara), and campgrounds are just opening up for their short season. Familiar places and familiar roads to travel without using GPS to find our way.
And of course familiar New England comfort food designed to expand our waistlines.
Every area of the country has food that they are known for. Wars can be started on which state has the best barbecue, for instance, and I'm not even going to try going there.
Massachusetts is known for a few great foods. First, the absolute best seafood on the planet – fresh caught and in the cold Atlantic waters. Also roast beef sandwiches – thin, almost shaved pink and tender roast beef piled high on a hamburger roll. Greek-style pizza – which in some circles is far better than New York-style because, well, New York. And Chinese food. Not sure why the Chinese food is better up there (I'm personally not a big fan of Chinese food), but Barbara hasn't found any better anywhere else, and she knows and loves Chinese food.
And while this trip was different in some ways, most of our interaction with friends and family revolved around going out to eat.
And my waistline paid for it.
We stayed at our usual haunt – Mill Brook RV Campground in Kingston, NH, just over the border of Massachusetts. It's a nice park with very few transient spaces, and caters to the no-kid crowd, so it was good that this was our first trip there where we didn't have grandson Jace. It's also nicely spaced between the Massachusetts seacoast, my Dad's place in Chelmsford, and our friends in Nashua, NH.
First meal after arriving was a trip down the road to Costello's Famous Roast Beef and Seafood. With a name like that, how can you go wrong, right? Their Junior Roast Beef sandwich is bigger than most other places regular roast beef, and their seafood comes from just about a 30-minute drive away from the shore. I indulged in both the junior roast beef (white American cheese and no barbecue sauce) and a small fried clam and scallop order. Ate it all. Barbara had the junior roast beef with the cheese and sauce, and didn't finish hers. Some people are just lightweights when it comes to the eating department . . .
Had an appointment with my Dad to do his taxes again this year. He's in a pretty nice senior living center with his own studio apartment that he takes care of. In past years (pre-COVID) the local senior center did his taxes for free, but hasn't resumed that practice as of yet. Since I do ours every year on TaxCut, it's a simple process to add in the Massachusetts state option and handle his. For a guy pushing 92 years-old this July, he's doing pretty good.
Our next stop for eating was to an old friend, Essex Seafood in Essex, MA. They were our go-to place for seafood for many years, but had suffered a devastating fire the previous year. Newly rebuilt, they had just opened a few weeks before we arrived up north. Barbara ordered the small steamers (clams) and a small clam chowder. Thinking she'd be helping me with my order, I did the large fried clams and fried scallop boxes (no fries, because they just take up unwanted space in my stomach that can be used for seafood). Little did we know that Barbara's small order of steamers were more like someone else's large order, so I got no help whatsoever with my clams, while she nabbed a single scallop off of my plate.
This necessitated my violating a firm and fast rule for eating seafood – getting a to-go box – even if it was just for about a dozen fried clams or so.
We had intended on hitting our old beach place – Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, MA, but we found out since they reopened post-COVID, they were charging $30 for parking. $30 bucks! We also wanted to take our inflatable kayak out on the water there, but also found out they didn't allow for that. Probably due to no lifeguards on duty and not wanting any liability for accidents. Disappointing.
We had to take Dad down to his local healthcare provider for tests the following day, but after arriving there it was determined his tests needed to be done first thing in the morning, so we took him out to lunch at another local favorite - Stelio's in nearby Billerica, MA. Dad and Barbara got the local Fish and Chips, while I went out on a limb and ordered their beef stroganoff. Both Barbara and Dad brought home leftovers. I did not – a recurring theme.
Met Bob Dwyer, an old co-worker and golf buddy from my days at Xerox for lunch the next day at a local 99 restaurant, where no leftovers were taken home. Again.
Another roast beef stop at Simard's in Wilmington, MA after some business was taken care of, where it was determined that the roast beef wasn't as good as it used to be, and much smaller than at Costello's, but the fried mushrooms Barbara has always liked were still great.
We had a chance to see three of Barbara's cousins one Saturday. It had been planned to have a get-together at her cousin Joy's house in the afternoon, but the previous day Barbara's aunt (their mother) had taken sick. Given that all of them were going to be in nearby Manchester, NH to visit her in the hospital, we moved the get-together to a restaurant near by. Margarita's is a nice Mexican restaurant which serves a really great ½ lb burger and mixed drinks that go right to the very top of their glasses. Not a problem, unless your table is a bit unsteady and rocks back and forth with the slightest pressure. At that point, drinks spill. Might be set up that way to get you to drink faster, but I'm not sure. Their glass of wine is also about a half a bottle's worth. Not often that I don't finish a glass of wine (and some of Barbara's – but that's a story for another time), but in this case since I was driving I left a bit in the glass. A very sad end to the meal, wasting good wine like that . . .
Another afternoon saw my cousin Charlene on my Dad's side visit us up in our campground. I hadn't seen her for over 50 years. We had connected via Facebook about 6 months earlier, and she visited with Dad one afternoon, which was really nice for him. Great visit for us to talk about long-lost family. No food was associated with her visit, however.
My final visit with Dad for this trip was to get him to those tests that needed to be done in the morning. While Barbara stayed in Enterprise with Grover, I took Dad to his tests and to breakfast after that at the Big Belly Buster restaurant down the road in Billerica, MA. The Country Breakfast features 3 eggs any style and three different types of grilled smoked meat products, but I opted for all bacon. Dad took home some scrambled egg and and a few home fries. I took home nothing.
While the food at our next stop wasn't inspiring (it was tasty, however), the occasion was fun. A group of graduates of Wakefield High got together for a pre-reunion reunion. On June 13, 1971, Barbara and the rest of her graduating class walked down the aisle to receive their diplomas. To celebrate that august occasion, some classmates decided to get together on that same date 50 years later. The actual reunion will be celebrated later this year, but it was past time for a few long-time friends to meet and swap stories about their town and catch up with each other. We met at the Dockside restaurant in the Greenwood section of Wakefield, and even the few husbands who attended had fun.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. Especially in my world. After a short drive-by of Barbara's old house, I suggested we take Rt 1 northward to see if the old Putnam Pantry was still in business. The location was always known for it's Ice Cream Smorgasbord, where you pick you flavor of ice cream and then run down a line of various toppings to complete the fattening experience.
Barbara, always willing to go along with my crazy schemes, played the role of navigator, and lo and behold, found Putnam Pantry on the first try! Still open, still had the smorgasbord, even if the number of toppings to choose from was more limited than we both remembered.
So we had dessert . . .
Our next meal was with our best friends, Rick and Marielle Penney. We had stayed with them recently during our trip to Myrtle Beach and had parked next to their Grand Design Reflection 5th wheel in the resort, but they were now back home in Nashua, NH. Nice pizza place nearby that makes a great bacon and pepperoni pizza for the guys, and a garbage pizza with the works for the ladies. Fresh strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream followed for dessert.
Our last meal up north was a final trip to Costello's Famous Roast Beef and Seafood. We ordered the large fried clams and scallop boxes to eat there, and ordered a junior roast beef for me and a very tasty cheese steak for Barbara to take on the road the next day. I know hers was tasty because I had some of it for lunch at a rest stop in New York state.
Three stops later – one night in Hegins, PA at Camp-A-While campground, one night in Max Meadows, VA at Pioneer Village RV, and our final stop at a new to us campground in Calhoun, GA called Cedar Break and we're back in Georgia for a week. We barely found this place with an open 30A spot before we have to vacate for the July 4th weekend coming up. It's actually a very nice small park that has been, and is still being, updated and expanded by the new owners. About 5 minutes off of I-75, and very quiet at night. They even have a resident peacock wandering around the campground.
Next up – making do in a pinch when family and holidays clash in a post-COVID RV world.
Just some musings and observations, most of which we've discovered since the beginning of the year.
When your 4 ½ year old grandson is with you full-time for 5 months, it's understandable that the focus would be on his activities. So even though I've tried to keep everyone abreast of the RV parks and campgrounds and the things that might interest and entertain fellow RVers, I know I've missed a few things we've learned on the road.
American drivers stink. I mean really stink. I personally think that Florida drivers in particular truly believe that speed limits on their roads and interstates are merely suggestions. Mind you, they're not aggressive like some other drivers I will be mentioning later on; they just drive faster than normal.
And I get it. There's a lot of real estate between one Florida town and another, so taking your time is a waste of time for many people in the Sunshine State, but we're not talking about another 5 MPH or so; we're talking about 15-20 MPH or more on state highways. And don't get me started about I-95 drivers. Don't think I ever saw a state police car on I-95 once in all the miles we put on that road in the Mini. Maybe they feel there's no reason to even try catching these scofflaws. Maybe they just don't care. Bottom-line, if you're traveling on I-95 in Florida and you can't maintain at least 5 MPH over the posted speed limit, get yourself over to the far right-hand lane.
Georgia drivers, on the other hand, are just downright dangerous. Speeding is the least of your worries when driving your motor home on Georgia interstates. No car or truck driver in Georgia wants to be behind an RV, and they'll do virtually anything to get in front of you. We've had multiple – and I mean more than a half-dozen - drivers come up an on-ramp and continue onto the breakdown lane at speeds exceeding 70 MPH (we always go no more than 63 MPH set on cruise control) just to get in front of us. And they all cut in front of our nearly 15-ton motor home with less than a car-length to spare. If you've never tried to suddenly stop one of these gas models, we don't have air brakes like the bigger diesel rigs have, so there's a LOT of inertia to overcome! They're also not shy about cutting over two lanes to get to an exit your motor home was blocking from their view.
And they can't say they didn't see us. We're a 38-foot long, 9-foot wide, 13-foot tall rolling billboard in bright blue and white.
Finally, Massachusetts drivers. Having grown up here in New England, we're very familiar with how bad drivers are in this area, but they seem to have gotten worse since we left the area. On a positive note, they tend to leave the RVers alone. But you take your life into your hands in the Mini. Maybe they just don't notice something so small. Maybe they just hate us Mini drivers because we're not driving Subarus. Maybe it's our South Dakota plates. Either way, in less than a week we've been cut-off nearly a dozen times.
Moving on to a gem of a campground we discovered . . .
We needed a spot to spend a few days in the Hershey / Gettysburg area after dropping off Jace and before our reservations took effect up in New Hampshire. One of our Tiffin friends had posted about having stayed at Dogwood Acres in Newville, PA. It's equidistant between the aforementioned towns, with about a 45-50 minute drive to each. It's also situated about 10-15 minutes off of I-81 in the middle of nowhere, so it's incredibly quiet at night. The owners have a Tiffin Phaeton they live and travel in. Super nice people. Nice lake and pool on site. The park has a McDonalds kind of theme going on, with their playground decked out with many brand characters and locations. There's also a life-sized Ronald McDonald sitting on a bench to greet you as you enter the park. Grover was NOT a fan of Ronald. Walking back from the very nice dog park, he wasn't looking straight ahead as we were coming up to Ronald. All of a sudden he looked up and found a red-haired clown waving at him. He did a 180 flip in the air and started barking and growling at the interloper. Gave Ronald the stink-eye and a growl every time we passed him after that. Didn't know clowns creeped out dogs like they do us humans.
Moving on, it's refreshing to see things getting back to pre-COVID normal. Mask mandates being dropped if you've been vaccinated. Store shelves getting restocked and products that have been missing are slowly returning.
Gas prices are becoming very disappointing. After never spending more than $2.30 per gallon since we started this journey (and much less than that usually), prices have rapidly increased to $3.00 or more. When you've got to fill the tank with 60-70 gallons of gas, that charge on your card looks pretty steep. haven't spent $200 on a fill-up yet, but if someone in Washington doesn't get their act together soon, it's going to happen.
Finally, after sleeping on our Tiffin-supplied foam mattress for more than 18 months, Barbara and I decided to return to a Sleep Number mattress, which we had used for more than 20 years previously. We ordered a new RV Queen from the Myrtle Beach store, and await it's delivery in about 2 months time. The Tiffin mattress isn't bad, but we just felt we could sleep better on air like we used to.
More travel awaits, with a report on our latest trip to New England coming up, and a huge trip planned for the entire summer up in the Great Plains states and the Northwest. Stay tuned!
In the immortal words of former President Gerald Ford, “Our long national nightmare is over”.
After 5 long, fun, but exhausting months, grandson Jace is back with his mother; and Barbara, Grover and I can now sleep past 7 AM if we choose to. If you've read the last few blog entries, you know we've spent lots of time and effort trying to keep an almost five year-old entertained since the beginning of January, and while it can be tiring to normal parent-aged people, it's downright exhausting for grandparents as old as we are. Let's face it; some people become grandparents in their mid-forties, and might have a five year-old grandson by 50. We're well into our sixties, which just confirms Barbara's belief that there is a reason God invented menopause!
Our last two months of April and May took up 5 weeks at our favorite North Georgia campground in Cleveland, GA – Leisure Acres – where we were able to have an occasional restful Friday night, Saturday or Sunday afternoon while Jace was reacquainted with his mother and father. And while we had hoped for a hand-off in early May, we still managed to finish the month with some more memories with Jace.
One of them was introducing Jace to the mothership, Red Bay, Alabama. Every kid with grandparents who own a Tiffin needs to see where all the Tiffins go to get fixed or modified, and Jace was no exception. No warranty work this time, so we were once again ensconced in Convenient Campground behind the Tiffin Service Center, but this time all our work was being done by third-party providers in town, so we had appointments made with each.
We had heard good things about Belmont Diesel just over the line in Mississippi, so since it was time for our semi-annual chassis maintenance on the Ford gasser, we decided to check them out ourselves. Very glad we did! They did our oil and filter change, and lubed the chassis for about half the cost of Bay Diesel over in Red Bay. The only knock against them (and we heard it only from some diesel owners) is that they don't have the big hydraulic lifts used by Bay Diesel to allow the owner to check things out under the chassis with the technician. Not a big deal for us. I know nothing about the underside of the Ford F-53 chassis, and have no desire to see it firsthand. As long as the technician tells me he rolled underneath and checked everything out and it looked good to him, I'm a satisfied customer.
Our next stop was back at Red Bay Body Shop, just outside the entrance to the Tiffin manufacturing plant. These were the guys who did such a great job of repairing the damage to our rear basement doors and tow dolly last year. No damage to repair this time (thank Heaven!), but a bit of an upgrade to Enterprise's exterior. On all new Tiffin high-end Buses, and optionally on their Phaeton line, the solid colored slide ends are painted to match and join up with the pattern of the rest of the coach, and it's really a great look. So I figured, “Why can't my gasser look just like those high-end diesels?”
So now it does.
Jeff and Jeff did a fantastic job on the front end of our main slide, and the rear end of our bedroom slide. These guys are perfectionists. It was their first time doing this upgrade, and even though they underestimated the time and effort to do the job, they stuck to their original estimate like the professionals that they are. A final night to let the new silicone sealant set properly, and it's back on the road to Jace's final vacation spot: Myrtle Beach, SC.
We had planned 6 months previously (pre-Jace) to meet up with long-time and best friends Rick and Marielle Penney in their new-to-them Grand Design Reflection during their first long distance excursion in the new fifth wheel. They had spent a weekend with us last year at our campground in New Hampshire, but that was only about 45 minutes away from where they lived. This was their first real long distance drive with the new rig, and a first for both of us at a true beach resort.
Our destination was Pirateland RV Campground, an older location that had a lot of amenities for kids and adults (Rick and Marielle were also traveling with her brother and sister-in-law Michael and Marie, who had their son and two grandkids with them in an Open Range travel trailer), so entertaining kids was pretty important. The campground was built in the late 1960's, and there became the first problem we encountered. Thank God our friends had the foresight to book the relatively few pull-through sites in the park, because I'm not sure we could have backed into some of the smaller sites we saw. Others did, but it all depended on whether the people across from you were not parked in the narrow streets and hadn't taken a walk to the beach so they couldn't move their car or truck.
The streets in Pirateland are narrow. Like just wider than your motorhome narrow. As we were turning onto the one-way street to find our spot, I had to negotiate a drop-off into water on my left side to swing wide enough so that I could thread a needle between a truck parked too far into the street on my passenger side, and the awning of a fifth wheel parked too close to the back of their site on my driver's side. No exaggeration: I had 6” of clearance from scraping the truck, and 4” from taking out someone's awning. And due to our tow dolly configuration, I can't back up to better reposition my approach, so it's get it right the first time, or else.
I stuck the landing.
The good news was that our three sites are all in a row next to each other, so visiting with friends was easy, and because they were at the front of the row it was just a short 3-minute walk to the beach. The wind kept things comfortable on hot days, but the awning stayed in all the time. The mini-golf on site, the splash pad for kids and the lazy river for adults are adequate, but the on-site support is spotty. The previous residents on our site must have had a budding engineer with them, as someone had dug a fairly deep hole right off of our concrete pad, which almost resulted in a serious injury to Barbara. A call to the office got someone out right away to fill it, but a similar hole at the end of our site remained unfilled before we left, even with two requests to fill it. Bottom-line is that no one at Pirateland checks the sites out when people leave to see if there is anything that needs some attention.
The other issue is golf carts. For some reason people feel the need to rent them and drive them constantly around the campground. Too many of them are driven by young people who don't follow the speed limit and play music too loud. One of our travel companions actually stopped a cart going too fast and pointed out the 4 and 5 year-olds playing around the campsite to remind them to slow it down.
Still, we had our fun with friends and with Jace. We alternated days on the beach with days at the pool. Jace made new friends with everybody he met. He also collected shells. Lots of shells. We had to buy a container for all the shells he collected, and that went home to mom along with Jace at the end of our trip. Myrtle Beach was a fitting end to Jace's long stay with us.
A day or so before being handed over to mom, Jace announced that he wanted to bring Grover with him to his new house, because he loved Grover. Grover, however, wanted nothing to do with that deal. Grover likes Jace just fine, but he also likes alone time, which never happens with Jace around.
As we transferred Jace and the rest of his belongings to his mother's car, Jace promised that he would do video calls – to Grover, not to us – and he promised to be good for mommy.
And we got back to blessed peace and quiet, even though we'll miss the little stinker.
Next stop: New England and the return of an old friend . . .
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.