Saturday, March 28, 2020

Big Lagoon State Park - Pensacola, Florida (March 2020)

We knew what the Ranger was going to say before he reached Rosie, our Airstream trailer. The concerned look on his face gave it away. 

We were right. He told us the State of Florida was closing all state parks at noon on Friday and we needed make plans about where we would head next. 

Why was Florida closing all state park campgrounds? The simple answer is the Coronavirus, which is also the complex answer to any question during that time that dealt with human interactions. 

We were amazed and shocked at how fast the Coronavirus entered our conversations, sent everyone running to empty store shelves in a panic and left us afraid to be closer than a ten-foot pole to each other. (I think I finally understand that saying from my elementary school days.)

We were at Big Lagoon for our family version of Spring Break. 

Sign at the entrance to the park

Spring Break traditionally meant our family would be found camping in T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. For the second year in a row, that park remained closed to camping due to the damage suffered in 2018 from Hurricane Michael. In addition, the access road to the campground was breached leaving it an island. 

So, this was our second year of spending Spring Break at Big Lagoon State Park. That wasn’t to imply that Big Lagoon was a second tier park. It simply wasn’t the park our family historically went to for Spring Break. 

Big Lagoon is a park that we always want to bring our bicycles and kayak to. We brought both and used neither. Between my hurt ankle and the fear of the Coronavirus that gripped everyone, we mostly stayed inside Rosie and avoided other people when we took Suzy, our Yorkie, out for brief walks. We were thankful that there was a good distance and shrubbery between individual camp sites in this park.

Section of the boardwalk

Everyone else in the park was doing the same as we didn’t see children riding their bikes nor were people outside their trailers enjoying the park. It appeared to us that the campers on either side of Rosie were grandparents who were probably keeping their grandchildren while the public school systems were shutting down in most states. I guess the shutdown of Florida’s state parks instantly made things more difficult for those grandparents.

The swamp area where alligators are typically found

Suzy on the boardwalk

The alligator warning sign

Becky’s sister and her husband were camping in the Navy’s FamCamp while we were in Big Lagoon. We were able to visit them on Battleship Row and they visited us in Rosie. We would have seen them more but they had to head south to help with their grandchildren, who were suddenly in a homeschool situation.

Navy FamCamp area

Battleship Row in Pensacola Navy FamCamp

Becky and her sister in their RV

We hope our Spring Break trip next year will be completely uneventful and relaxing. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • There are three camping loops in this park. 
  • Our site had a concrete pad. 
  • Our site had 30 and 20 amp electrical service. 
  • Our site had a water connection. 
  • Our site did not have a sewer connection. 
  • There was one dump station located at the entrance to the campground. 
  • There were three restrooms/showers in the camping areas. We noticed that the volunteers were spending more than an hour scrubbing and cleaning the restrooms every day.  
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over our campsite for voice and data. 
  • Similar to many state parks, Big Lagoon does not provide WiFi. 
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS TV stations using Rosie's antenna. We also received digital signals from GET, GRIT, ME-TV MY-TV, Stadium and Comet. The signal strength would fluctuate during the day. We were glad we brought our over-the-air DVR from home loaded with episodes of shows we wanted to watch. 
Evening photo of Rosie in Big Lagoon

Becky and Suzy in Big Lagoon

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Foley RV/Airstream of Mississippi - Gulfport, Mississippi (March 2020)

For the second time in two weeks, we had to drag Rosie, our Airstream trailer, in for warranty service. While parking in our storage warehouse after our trip to the Airstream factory in Ohio, the power jack decided to give up. That would have been a game-stopper on our original Rosie because there wasn’t a manual override that allowed you to crank the jack up or down. If that jack broke, you were stuck.

New Rosie has a place where you can connect a crank and using what we described in my Army days as the “arm-strong” method, crank the tongue of Rosie up or down. While this is tedious, it allowed us to disconnect Rosie from our truck and head home.

Using the hand-crank to unhitch Rosie from our truck

Time was an issue because we had a beach trip scheduled to start less than a week after returning home from Ohio. A quick call to Foley RV/Airstream of Mississippi successfully ended with the service manager saying they were very busy, but we should head to Gulfport and they would take care of us. That was a relief and we greatly appreciated their willingness to help us. 

We also appreciated that they would save us a spot in the camping area behind the service center. That meant we were at a great location to head to out next stop the following morning. 

We asked questions about things we didn’t understand about Rosie. For example, we were not successful in getting our two air conditioners to work at the same time. They made sure we understood how to use the thermostat. 

The Foley RV people also allowed us to use their Airstream cleaning supplies to wash Rosie. That was needed because one of us was accused of having used a dirty rag to wash Rosie the last time. 

It isn’t fair to describe this as a normal campground. It isn’t. This is a complementary parking site for Foley RV customers and we greatly appreciated it. We had 50 amp electrical service, water and sewer connections. And best of all, the service crew was able to replace our power jack, replace a missing rivet and answer our current questions.  
This must be classified as a successful stop and we appreciated how friendly, courteous and professional they were. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Texas T Campground - Cornersville, Tennessee (March 2020)

This was our second visit to the Texas T campground and both were for the same reason. We left the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio in the morning and wanted to stop for the evening before we were exhausted. Texas T was located in the right spot for us.

Sign at entrance to park

The office area was the first thing we noticed that was different from our first visit. We also thought the children’s playground area had changed. Improvements were made to both.

Playground as seen from our site

Our assigned site was a pull-thru. It appeared they used our profile in their computer from a couple years ago to put us in a 30 amp only site. Our new Rosie prefers 50 amps but can operate on 30 as long as we are careful about what electrical devices we use. (Rosie is what we call our Airstream trailer.)

Rosie in the campground

It appeared that about half of the sites were occupied when we arrived. We are not sure what the big draw was in that area because we were simply there for the night. 

Here are some specifics about this campground;
  • There were several camping loops in this park 
  • Our site was a pull-thru
  • Our site was gravel
  • Our site was level
  • Our site had 30 amp electrical service 
  • Some sites in this campground had 50 amp electrical service 
  • Our site had a water connection 
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • Our site had a cable-tv connection with about ten analog stations
  • We could not see any over-the-air TV stations using Rosie’s antenna 
  • There was a dump station in the park 
  • The park provided a WiFi signal for the campers. We were unable to to use it
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over our site for voice and data
  • There were clean restrooms and showers in the park
  • The campground had a laundry room 
  • There was a propane refill station in the park
  • This was a pet friendly park
As with our first visit, we were impressed with how clean and well kept this campground was. It was evident that the owners really tried to make sure their campground was nice for everyone. We enjoyed our stay there and appreciated their efforts to present a great little park to the RV community.

The "Ham Shack" (One owner is an Amateur Radio Operator)

The stream behind the campground

Another view of the stream

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Airstream Terraport - Jackson Center, Ohio (March 2020)

Early March wasn’t our first choice for a trip to Jackson Center, Ohio. We wanted to bring Rosie, our new Airstream trailer, back to the factory for some service. 

A logical question to ask was why did we take a trailer we had for less than two months back to the factory for some service? Our “shakedown” camping trips identified a few minor bugs in Rosie, our Airstream trailer, and we wanted to fix them before camping season was in full swing.

Another question was why didn’t we take our trailer back to the dealer for this service? Yes, it is true that Airstream dealers have factory trained service departments and are competent in all things Airstream. A couple of things on our list potentially involved what we would call “Airstream specific” parts and we figured we wouldn’t have to wait for delivery from the factory to our dealer if we were at the factory. Another factor in this decision was that we were quickly approaching the time for our first beach trip of the year and the timing worked better for us to take Rosie to Ohio.

Entrance to the service area

It is usually a challenge to book timely service appointments at the factory in Jackson Center, but we were surprised when we talked to the service center representative. He said someone cancelled his or her appointment and they could fit us in. 

We started watching the weather along our route to Ohio as our scheduled appointment time approached. Freezing temperatures and snow were in the forecast leading up to our appointment. Some friends from our local Wally Byam Airstream Club had an appointment about three weeks before our's and they told us about driving through snow to get to Jackson Center. We were relieved when the forecast for our travel time changed from snow to rain. We would have to deal with freezing temperatures during our stay in Ohio, but not snow and ice. 

We saw a few patches of snow on the side of the road as we drove to Jackson Center. We arrived early afternoon the day before our appointment. That was significant in that it allowed us to talk to our service rep to firm up what we needed.

Snow in the parking lot

We parked Rosie in its second of the three loops in Airstream’s Terraport. The first loop was full with about a dozen trailers that were dropped off for service over the winter. There were dozens more “drop off” trailers behind the service building. It was easy to see why it is difficult to get a service appointment there even during the winter. The dozens of service bays at Jackson Center were full.

Rosie in the Terraport

We had the afternoon to ourselves and decided to make a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio. We needed a few supplies and one of Becky’s favorite stores was there. We enjoyed our visit there and watched a rainstorm in the distance as we drove back to Jackson Center that evening.

Clouds on the road to Columbus

Rain in the distance

Wind blowing the rain

There were only two occupied Airstream trailers in the Terraport on our service appointment day and the tractor picked up Rosie first. That meant our service crew was able to start early fixing our issues.

Tractor pulling Rosie to the service bays

We are always impressed with how professional and efficient the service teams are at Jackson Center. The items on our list that we thought would take a full day were quickly completed.

Rosie in the service bay

Checking on Rosie

Waiting in the lobby

The service bays

Two additional Airstream trailers joined us for the second night in the Terraport. Like clockwork, the tractor started pulling the trailers needing service into the work-bays at 7 a.m.  We waited until the temperatures warmed up above freezing before starting our trip home so we wouldn’t need to winterize Rosie. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site was a back-in
  • Our site was paved with asphalt 
  • Our site had 30 and 50 amp electrical service 
  • Our site had a water connection. We disconnected the water from Rosie at night because the temperatures dipped into the mid 20s and reconnected during the day when temperatures were above freezing 
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • There was a dump station at this park. 
  • AT&T placed a weak voice and data signal over our site.
  • We were unable to see from our site the WiFi service provided in the service lobby. We were able to use the WiFi several times in the past, but not on this visit 
  • We were able to receive TV signals from ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, ION, NBC and PBS. We saw digital signals from Antenna, Charge, Comet, Escape, LAFF, ME-TV, MY-TV and Stadium 
  • This is a pet friendly park.
We were impressed with the new Airstream factory, which we passed while on our way to the factory service area. Factory tours haven’t started yet in the new factory building, but we look forward to seeing it on our next trip. 

Selfie in the Terraport

Monday, March 16, 2020

2 Rivers Campground - Carrollton, Kentucky (March 2020)

This is a new campground that first opened in 2012. We applaud the City of Carrollton for creating this park because more campgrounds are needed to serve the growing number of campers traveling the roads.

Sign at campgrond

Maybe the newness of this campground was the reason our Garmin and Ford Truck GPS systems never heard of it. Both Apple and Google Maps had no trouble getting us there and we learned about this campground from the All-Stays app.

The name of this park is obvious when you arrive there. It is on the banks of the Kentucky River just before it flows into the Ohio River. You can see both rivers from an observation platform that juts out into the Kentucky River.

Kentucky River

There was a paved walkway that led from the campground to a community park. There were signs along that path that the river had recently flooded. We saw no evidence that the campground, which was significantly higher than the walkway had ever flooded. 

The Carrollton-Prestonville Bridge was just outside the campground. It spanned the Kentucky River. This bridge was built in 1952 and was painted blue, University of Kentucky blue to be specific.

Bridge over the Kentucky River looking toward the Ohio River

Under the bridge

As a new campground, there were not any trees mature enough to give shade. Of course, we were more concerned about freezing temperatures that night than shade during our stay. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site was a pull-thru. There were a few back-in sites that overlooked the river
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service 
  • Our site had a water connection
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • There a dump station in this park
  • Our site had a concrete pad
  • Our site was level
  • There was a bathhouse in the campground. It was modern, well maintained and clean. It was also heated and that was appreciated because the temperature dipped near freezing that night
  • The park provided WiFi service. We were unable to do much with it as it was extremely slow. 
  • AT&T provided two bars of 4G voice and data service over our campsite 
  • We were able to watch ABC and NBC using Rosie’s TV antenna. We also received digital channels Bounce, Court and Laff 
  • The park had a nice playground for children 
  • This was a pet friendly park 
We heard a big thunderstorm around midnight. It woke us up, but Rosie, our Airstream trailer, kept warm and dry. We were shocked in the morning to learn of the terrible tornados that hit Nashville that night. The destruction and the growing number of people killed in that storm was hard on us as we pulled Rosie through Nashville about eight hours earlier that day. 

A selfie in the campground

The campground

Friday, March 13, 2020

Mystic Springs Cove WBCCI Airstream Campground - McDavid, Florida (February 2020)

It was easy to spot the Mystic Springs Cove Campground as we drove up to it. The unmistakable shapes and silver colors of Airstream trailers pointed us to our destination. There were more than a dozen Airstream trailers in the campground when we first arrived at the park. That number would double over the weekend.

Sign entering the campground

The Mystic Springs Cove Park is owned and operated by the Pensacola  Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), the Airstream owner’s association. That meant this was an “Airstream Friendly” campground.

Checking in

We arrived at this campground in Rosie, our Airstream trailer, for a combined rally of the Alabama and Pensacola Clubs of the WBCCI. 

This park is located between the Alabama state line and Pensacola. It is situated along the banks of the Escambia River. It is wooded and quiet. Make that very quiet.

Along the river

The park had a clubhouse with a kitchen, a needed amenity for Airstream rallies. Several group meals were prepared in that kitchen.

Inside the clubhouse

Dinner time!

Discussing grits and eggs

A little entertainment in the club house

I’m not sure if this is exclusively an Airstream park. There were only Airstreams there while we were in that park, but some “Airstream” parks allow other brands in as space allows.

The rally was our excuse to take Rosie, our new Airstream trailer, out for a second shakedown trip. We needed to figure out where to logically put things in Rosie. We also wanted to hunt for any “bugs” that Airstream needed to fix. 

The temperatures dipped below freezing one night. Our heat pump automatically switched over to the furnace as needed and that kept us warm and cozy inside Rosie. 

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site had 50 amp electrical service. Some sites had 30 amp service. 
  • Our site had a water connection 
  • Our site had a sewer connection . 
  • Sites were paved with dirt. Our levelers sunk into the dirt during a rain storm. 
  • AT&T placed a marginal signal over the campground 
  • Park documents said that WiFi service was available at the clubhouse. We couldn’t find that WiFi service, but we didn’t invest too much time trying to find it 
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS using Rosie’s TV antenna. We also saw digital channels Charge, Court, Grit and ME-TV. 
  • This is a pet friendly park.
There were some historical photos of the campground in the clubhouse. These were probably from the 1960s. What amazed me was that there wasn’t a pickup truck in the park. All of the Airstreams of that day were being pulled with family passenger cars. It is amazing how cars have changed over the past 50 years because you need a powerful truck to pull a travel trailer today.

Airstream trailers in the campground

More Airstream trailers

Sitting around the campfire

Talking with other Airstreamers

Suzy, our Yorkie, enjoys the company of other Airstreamers

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Gunter Hill COE Campground- Montgomery, Alabama (January 2020)


You can almost hear Deputy Barney Fife yelling “shakedown” as we started talking about a short camping trip to help us figure out where things should go in our new Rosie. (Rosie is what we call our Airstream trailer.)

We didn’t want to stray too far from home in case we discovered a big problem with Rosie. For the record, we found a few things Airstream needs to fix and we went ahead and made our reservations for some Airstream factory warranty service. 

This was our sixth visit to Gunter Hill COE Campground. As with most U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Campgrounds, this is a great place. The sites are large and the Catoma loop offered full hookups. The older Antioch loop wasn't open this time, but it didn’t have sewer connections the last time we camped there.

Sign at Gunter Hill COE Campground

The temperatures were pleasant during the day and close to freezing at night. This allowed us to test the heat pumps in Rosie along with the furnace. As expected, the heat pumps worked well until the temperature dropped too low, then the furnace took over and made sure that Rosie was very cozy.

Rosie in Gunter Hill COE Campground

Roads in the Catoma loop were paved and that made it nicer to walk Suzy, our long-haired Yorkie dog. On one of our walks, we talked with a retired U.S. Army soldier. He said that this was the first COE campground that he and his wife had camped in and he was surprised at how nice COE parks were. We told him that there were a few “rustic” parks out there, but most COE campgrounds were very nice.

Paved roads and the bridge in the Catoma Loop

One of the things we didn’t understand was the reservation system. My estimate was that only one-third of the campsites were occupied. We went in as a walk-in because the online reservation system showed the park as full. This wasn’t an isolated event because we experienced the “ignore the empty sites because the online reservation system says the park is full” syndrome at other COE and state parks. 

There is what appeared to be a river behind the campground. There wasn’t a convenient path to the shore.

Along the shore at Gunter Hill

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service 
  • Our site had a water connection
  • Our site had a sewer connection 
  • There were two dump stations in this park, one for each loop
  • Sites in the Catoma loop had concrete pads
  • The Antioch loop was closed so we were unable to note the condition of those sites. They were dirt and gravel two years ago 
  • Our site in the Catoma loop was level
  • There were two bathhouses in the Catoma loop. Both were modern, well maintained and clean
  • The park did not provide WiFi service 
  • AT&T provided marginal 4G voice and data service over our campsite 
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and NBC using Rosie’s TV antenna. We also received digital channels Antenna, Buzz, Decades, Escape, Get, Grit, H&I, ME, Movies and THiS 
  • This was a pet friendly park 

A selfie

Rosie's campsite