WA: Wandering – 07/12/2017 – 07/18/2017

Parking: Quality Inn in Mt. Vernon
Rating: 9

Parking: Curley’s Resort in Sekiu
Rating: 6

Parking: Ramada Inn in Olympia
Rating: 10+

Parking: Comfort Inn in Bellingham
Rating: 10

Parking: Oxford Suites in Bellingham
Rating: 10++

Being ridiculously hot in NE WA, we decided to go back west, pick up the sailboat from its parking spot overlooking Sequim Bay, and do a little sailing.

We went across Hwy 20 since Hwy 2 was being repaved and we’ve never been on Hwy 20 between Republic and Winthrop, but it turned out that part of it had been washed out, so we ended up making a detour that was longer than if we had just taken Hwy 2 from the start. After over-nighting in Mt. Vernon, we headed to Sequim to pick up the boat. We had been worried about leaving her since she was parked in the trailer section of John Wayne Resort next to the tent campers, but she was fine other than having one partially deflated tire. We hooked her and started a driving tour of the Oly Pen. The clear-cutting of the forest that goes on there makes me appreciate the selective culling that the loggers do in NE WA.

We drove all the way out to Neah Bay, but we did not know we had to pick up a parking pass in town, so we ended up not going out to the point. It seems we often do the type of sight-seeing my family did as a child (i.e., drive up to somewhere but not actually go in) that I swore I would not do as an adult.

The northern coast of the Oly Pen along the Strait of Juan de Fuca is sparsely populated and not really good for tourist sailing, so the poor boat ended up getting dragged past more bodies of water without getting wet.

After rounding Olympia and heading back north, I was reminded of why I don’t much like the Seattle/Tacoma/Everett area of the state when we were stuck in some ridiculous traffic, but at least Bellingham was a nice place to prepare for our sail.

Mazama, WA
Hwy 20
Mazama, WA
Hwy 20
Mazama, WA
Hwy 20
Sekiu, WA
Sekiu
Sekiu, WA
Sekiu
Sekiu, WA
Sekiu
Olympic Pen, WA
Hwy 101 – Pacific Coast

WA: Round trip to Everett – 04/25/2017 – 04/26/2017

Parking: Best Western – Cascadia Inn
Rating: 10

Sultan, WA
Bringing Baby home

As is our usual luck, the best price we found (by a significant amount) for our new toy was all the way back west – just a few miles from where we used to live on the opposite end of Hwy 2 from where we were. So, it was road trip time. The trip over to Everett was uneventful, but the return trip was not much fun. Since this was the first time we had ever had heavy equipment on the truck, we kept it slow. The deer were doing their migration thing, so we literally saw over 500 of them (about 10% of them actually on the road in front of us). I was certain we were going to end up hitting one especially since we didn’t get back to base until it was well after dark.

Not many people are able to take their truck camper off their truck and then haul a 8000 lb excavator on it! Though I don’t know that we’ll be hauling her around much – loading and unloading it without a ramp is a nail-biting experience, but at least she is home safe and sound, and she will make the rest of our driveway clearing a breeze (not to mention awesome fun).

West Coast: Heading North – 02/06/2017 – 02/11/2017

Parking: Motel 6 in Hesperia, CA
Rating: 7

Parking: Harris Ranch in Coalinga, CA
Rating: 6

Parking: Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, CA
Rating: 7

Parking: Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, OR
Rating: 8

Parking: Super 8 in Kelso, WA
Rating: 8

Due to medical reasons – and the fact that Premera no longer offered the nationwide insurance plan in our “home” zip code, we needed to get back to Washington state. California was having record precipitation, and the drive was not very comfortable or entertaining – especially since we did the same drive and stayed at the same places during our initial shakedown trip to Disneyland. We had to carefully time our trip through the passes of northern California and southern Oregon to avoid the snow as we did not have our snow-chains with us.

This is my least favorite part of full-time RVing – having to push through a location as quickly as possible.

TX: Across Nothing – 01/24/2017 – 01/27/2017

Parking: I-10 Rest stop near Roosevelt
Rating: 8

Parking: I-10 Rest stop near Fort Stockton
Rating: 8

Parking: Red Roof Inn in El Paso
Rating: 8

AFN, TX
Nothing

I saw a print version of this “map” of Texas a few months ago, and I can now 100% confirm the AFN region (between Fredericksburg and El Paso). There is an interstate, sometimes another road paralleling the interstate, a fence, and rare glimpses of livestock (mostly goats).

Between Fredericksburg and Austin, it was slightly more interesting. There is an average of one winery per mile, but there are surprisingly few actual vineyards, so I don’t know how that works.

After driving through about 600 total miles of this vast nothingness, reaching the Socorro/El Paso area is like suddenly finding Los Angeles in the middle of the desert. There is almost a hard line between the big empty and MILES of continuous strip malls. It’s bizarre.

AFN, TX
Cactus
AFN, TX
Rest Area

TX: Austin – 01/17/2017 – 01/24/2017

Parking: WoodSpring Suites
Rating: 10

Austin, TX
Austin from Sahm Hill

Once again, it was easier and cheaper to stay in an extended-stay hotel than in an RV park.

Austin is like a shiny, brand new city just unwrapped from its cellophane packaging (in the “desert sandstone” designer color).

I had heard that Austin was the “Seattle of the South.” It does share a lot of similarities – very tech oriented, young-adult demographic, influential music scene, marches against Trump, etc., but in other ways it could not be more different. For one thing, it is very clean. Seriously, no garbage, or needles anywhere – even in the “sketchier” parts of town (which were about as sketchy as Tukwila). The parks are fantastic – there are parks/trails along both sides of the river the entire way through the city with places to rent boats/bikes everywhere. There are a lot of dogs – really big dogs, but I saw no unpicked poop, and despite many unfenced off-leash area, the dogs were well-behaved (didn’t have a single dog rush me on foot or on bike).

We went to the original location of Chuy’s – a TexMex restaurant that is now a franchise. The food is pretty good, but the atmosphere at this location is weird, fun and eclectic which is totally lost in their franchised locations. Also nearby were a couple of food truck malls which were doing a stellar business, so we hit those a different day.

We haven’t been to a movie theater in a couple of years, but since there were several Alamo Draft Houses in Austin, we had to try one. I had a pecan stout milkshake that I still don’t quite know if I liked or not.

We went to watch roller derby one night (high bank style) as an early birthday excursion. That was my first time at a match, and it was full of colorful characters (both on the rink and in the stands). I still don’t understand the penalty system (pillow fights as a penalty?), but it was fun to watch, and I think it may have revived my interest in skating.

The only thing that really annoyed me was Voodoo Donuts. Somehow, I had never made it to the original location in Portland, so I was quite happy to find them in Austin. We went to order, and the cashier matter-of-factly said, “we’re out of coffee.” Whut? How does a donut shop that hails from the #2 coffee consuming city in the country NOT HAVE COFFEE? No bueno.

Voodoo Donuts, river parks, food truck malls. Now that I think about it, Austin is probably more appropriately the “Portland of the South.” They even have a “Keep Austin Weird” campaign similar to the “Keep Portland Weird” one.

Austin, TX
Sunset Panorama of Austin from Sahm Hill
Austin, TX
Graffiti and kayakers
Austin, TX
Roller Derby at the Palmer

AL: Daphne (Mobile Bay) – 12/16/2016 – 12/23/2016

Parking: WoodSpring Hotel
Rating: 10

Mobile, AL
Unlucky Sailboat in Weeks Bay

Normally, we prefer to avoid hotels because it’s a large pain to haul stuff from the RV to the room – the reason we have an RV in the first place is not have to do that dance. When the local park is $50 / night and has terrible reviews, but the hotel is $36 / night and has great reviews, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get a place with a private bathroom for less money. This is our second stay in a WoodSpring (the first was Fargo), and for what it is, it’s an excellent place. It’s an extended-stay hotel (with a kitchenette), and it’s the only place I’ve stayed in the last few years that was under $40 / night without having “business” being conducted in the parking lot. Plus the front desk and housekeeping staff are very friendly. Now I sound like a commercial for WoodSpring, but I really like their hotels.

We visited the USS Alabama (battleship) and the USS Drum (submarine). The scale of everything on board the battleship was massive. It’s really impressive that back in the 40s, they were able to go from laid-down to launched in only two years. Not only are the guns (and ammunition) huge, but in order to support a crew of 2500 sailors and marines, the living quarters, the food preparation facilities, surgery, dentistry, barbershop, and the laundry facilities had to all fit. Being in an RV, we think we have little space/privacy, but those men truly had none.

On board the sub, my partner barely fit because he is so tall (6′ 7″). The ceilings are short and bunks are only 6′ long on these boats, and we couldn’t imagine anyone of his size being able to serve. There was a volunteer in the Drum who had actually served on her, so we asked him about the height of the men, and to our surprise he said that they did have an engineer who was 6′ 7″ and they had to cut a hole in the wall at the end of his bunk for his feet, but the rest of the crew told him to put his head through the hole instead.

If you’ve found this page because you were searching for sailing Weeks Bay to Mobile Bay, here’s a tip – don’t. The charts for Weeks Bay show that it should be fine for small sailboats, but the charts have not been updated since the bay has silted in. It is shallow. Really, really shallow. Someone has put in some PVC markers to indicate the “channel,” but even there it is really, really shallow. We had to keep our eyes riveted to the depth sounder. For a good portion of the trip across the bay, there were only a couple of inches of water under the keel. We couldn’t even put the rudder down, and had to motor (with the motor pulled up high) the whole way across Weeks.

Once through the pinch point, it didn’t get much better until we were significantly off-shore. Eventually we got to the point where there was 4′ of water under the keel, and we felt more comfortable and could do some sailing. The wind was fine for a short while, but eventually, it just turned into a dead calm, so we turned around and motored back. It was enough to get Eidolon her Alabama sticker but not by much.

FL: St. Augustine – 12/04/2016 – 12/08/2016

Parking: The Conch House
Rating: 10

 

St. Augustine
Spanish Fort

As with most state parks in Florida, it’s impossible to get an RV spot for a contiguous block of days without having made a reservations months in advance, so we stayed at The Conch House hotel. I spent a lot of time in St. Augustine as a teenager (just after getting my license!), so I was very happy to get visit again.

There were some thunderstorms during our stay, but I was determined to get in some sailing, and we finally got one glorious day. We took Eidolon out past the islands into the Atlantic “proper.” Now I just need to figure out some way to get her into the Arctic when we visit Alaska, and she’ll be a three-ocean boat.

The sailing was glorious. We sailed right up along the sea wall (weaving amongst the boats moored there), and I think we are now part of about a hundred people’s vacation photos because people were snapping pictures like crazy. Why? Because we were actually under sail. We saw about fifty sailboats making their way through the ICW, under the Lions Bridge, and into town – but we were the only boat that was actually under sail. We looked quite picturesque skimming along.

Biking from the hotel to the city across the Lions Bridge was quite easy, so we went a couple of times to walk around town, see the fort (free! America the Beautiful pass is finally useful), eat at the restaurants, and have some gourmet popsicles – I had cucumber/mint/lime (like eating a frozen salad) and my partner had an Elvis (banana/chocolate/honey).

We finished up our stay with dinner at the Conch House (in one of their tiki hut nests), and my partner had his first taste of alligator.

St. Augustine
Lions Bridge
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
St. Augustine
Safe Channel Buoy

GA: Down I-75 – 09/21/2016 – 09/24/2016

Parking: Allatoona, GA
Parking: Econolodge
Rating: 8

Perry, GA
Parking: Rodeway Inn
Rating: 6

I-75
Near the TN/GA border

We decided that it was time to visit my partner’s family in South Georgia, so we headed south.

It was a bit of a climb for the RV going over the mountains – the last mountains we’ll probably see for quite a while, but it was a very pretty drive. After having been stationary for a while, we were itching to be moving, so unfortunately we did not spend any time in Chattanooga or Atlanta – both of these cities have changed quite a bit since I was last there. Chattanooga is a good-sized city now, and Atlanta is all pavement. Passing through Marietta (where I grew up) on I-75, I recognized almost nothing except the Big Chicken. The interstate was being widened again, and it looks like it will be ten lanes just north of I-285 when finished. Seattleites would have heart failure with the concept of such a wide interstate. There was still kudzu on vacant areas along the highway, but there just weren’t many vacant areas.