Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On The Road

2011 Dec 27

We left Pittsburgh on December 16 at 5pm. The actual departure was late, very late, when compared with our estimated departure. Initially we thought to leave Pittsburgh in mid November. Circumstances kept pushing the date further and further along until we finally just said, "ENOUGH!". And despite having multiple  problems in the RV,we made an appointment for the warrantied repairs to be done once we reached Florida, so we decided to hit the road. Many folks on various RV pages suggested NOT doing what we did. Many counselled returning to the dealer where we bought the RV. But, after multiple phone calls, including one to the manufacturer, we felt our interests were better served by scheduling in Florida. Not that we didn't spend a little time second-guessing  ourselves. But, in the end, our decision turned out to be a good one. Thank God.

We originally planned to depart Pittsburgh in late morning. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans? OK, how about consistently disrupted, ever changing plans? As things turned out, we were pulling out of our yard as dark descended, the one thing we swore we wouldn't do. Of course, we knew we weren't going to drive very far in the dark, but we needed to at least get out of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

We were battered, emotionally and physically, and desperately in need of showers. Our last showers had been on Wednesday morning before the gas to the house was shut off. We drove as far as Morgantown, WV. There we got a motel room that was grossly over-priced, had filthy hallway carpets and that pervading "motel" smell. What it did have, was a clean bathroom and great hot water!  I liked it so much that I showered twice! 

Onward! Our appointment in Seffner, FL for repairs was scheduled for Dec 22 at 8AM, so we knew we didn't need to rush. Plus one of the things that makes driving the RV enjoyable is getting in the right lane, setting the cruise control and allowing everyone to pass you. 

As we drove through WV I was hoping to meet up an Internet friend currently living in Lewisburg. We opted not to call him, though, since he had just left Pittsburgh himself on Friday and I was concerned that he would be either at work, or exhausted. That was a dumb thing to do. First lesson of interpersonal dynamics learned on the road: MAKE THE CALL; Let the person make their own decisions. (Bobby, I'm sorry.) 

We drove on, through Virginia, where I can report that the drivers are as insane in the mountains as they are along 95 and 64. After a brief stop at a rest area in VA, where we were trying to take a nap, unsuccessfully, we pressed on toward the North Carolina Hills.

The place we choose to stop for the night was a lovely rest area with lots of little islands of trees. We slept well. Although, the temperature dropped more than we expected and we had to get up in the middle of the night and turn the furnace on, but at least we had a furnace! Since we had no water pump, we had no water in the holding tank, so washing up & teeth brushing were accomplished with a small jug of water. Flushing we managed with a container of water that we filled from when we drained the house. This was a tall container that we were keeping inside the non-usable shower. It was almost like rough camping, except in an RV.

About this point in our journey, I started to feel sick. And so did Greyla. Poor pupper vomited which is very unlike her. Then she developed diarrhea. My yuckiness was briefly intestinal, but finally fully manifest as a sore throat, and raspy cough. This turn of events more than any other, led to our first stay in a Thousand Trails campground in South Carolina. 

Originally, we had  planned to stay one or two nights in The Oaks at Point South. However, it was warm there, in the 60s & 70s. My cold and cough were wretched and the campground was free to us as TT members. Plus, we could walk to the local crossroads for anything essential, like bread, newspaper or ginger ale, since it was less than a mile. We stayed on until Wednesday morning, happy to be in warmth, with plenty of time for rest and recuperation.

Since our appointment at Lazydays Service Department was for early Thursday morning, we had planned to arrive in Seffner, check into the Lazydays Campground before dark and be up and ready for the service department at 8 AM.

Again, the best laid plans... We hit some construction and rush hour, delaying our arrival at the campground till just at dusk. When we stopped to register at the guard station, we were told that we could dry camp right down at the Service Dept for free. Instead, we opted to pay and camped directly across from access to showers, jacuzzi, heated swimming pool and a little bistro where you could get something to eat & drink. The only hairy part was backing into the site. But, fortunately, the couple behind us were fluent in sign language and helped greatly, since their English was as non existent as our French.

Lazydays is a huge facility with the campground & resort, plus the dealership, service and a Camping World Store. Our experience with them was very positive. We met with Kim, who was our service contact person. She double checked all the info regarding what wasn't working and was straightforward in letting us know that if there needed to be parts ordered, the repairs wouldn't happen until sometime in January. We said that we understood, but intended to "keep a good thought" that they would have what was needed in stock. But, if we had to wait for ordered parts, we certainly understood and would cross that bridge when necessary.

We spent the entire day at the Lazydays Service Dept. They provided a free breakfast and lunch, as well as random snacks, bottled water and Starbucks coffee. Our dog was welcome in half of the huge waiting area and their high speed wireless connection was zippy! If I had been feeling healthier, I'm sure we could've gone to the swimming pool while we waited. In any case, nine hours later, we once again had a functioning shower, water pump, TV,  stove fan and light. And we are grateful to the Thor representative, Mike, who suggested going to whomever would schedule an appointment the soonest. I would've loved to stay right there, except that it wasn't really in the budget. And, truth be told, it may have been a bit 'close' after a few days, since the sights are rather small. But it was a good experience overall.

While waiting at Lazydays, we attempted to find another TT site that we could stay at for free. There was availability at Peace River, but when comparing photos with the Encore Manatee Resort, we opted for Manatee. Even though it is a greater out of pocket expense, the ease of location and the many amenities made it seem like a good choice. We've been here since late Thursday and plan, so far, to stay until Dec 29, although we may rethink that.

Raymond very much wants to head to the FL Keys, but they are very pricey, even with membership discounts. He would like to camp on the beach, too. We also would like to see our friends, who live in North Port, just south of where we are now. Not sure exactly what we're doing next. And I suppose that is the point of all this, but it's a difficult mindset for me to acclimate to. In time I suppose I'll adjust, but for right now, I'd be slightly more comfortable with more concrete plans. 

All in all, despite the rough start, these first eleven days have been good. Christmas Eve was emotionally very hard and I was extremely homesick, but then I talked to many of my brothers and my sister and my Daddy and the sadness dissipated. We are rethinking our idea that we can have just the RV, without a towed vehicle for the full six months we had planned. But, all things in their time. 

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