Apologies for huge delay in the blog. I guess the "Luck of the Irish" on St. Patrick's Day was not with us. We had to return home unexpectedly. Our winter south came to an end a month sooner than expected. All is well and the blog will continue if their are any notable summer trips. It will be up next winter as usual.
We planned on being another month at Wales West Train & RV Resort in Silverhill, AL. It was certainly a unique place to stay. Although it does not have all the glitz of the huge corporate resorts it also does not have the high prices and stuffiness. It is a family owned operation that provides all the necessities for a very reasonable price. The staff goes beyond the usual southern friendly hospitality to actually personally care that you have a great time. The parks proximity to Fairhope, AL means that you will be able to adopt your own southern town to enjoy. Fairhope is a gem of a town that has numerous family oriented activities for residents and visitors alike. We had a great time at their annual Mardi Gras and Art Fair during our stay. We also made a number of visits to shop or eat. Other towns close by (Foley, Daphne, Roberstdale, Gulf Shores and Spanish Fort) provide anything you may need from a Camping World to Big Box Stores, Factory Outlets and a huge variety of restaurants. Their are also many major attractions from opera and ballet to anything in between within an easy drive to either Mobile, AL or Pensacola, FL.
Mon., 18 Mar 13
We packed and prepared on Monday.
Tue., 19 Mar 13
We then delayed on Tuesday. We check the weather network on the internet using the Interstate Travel Forecasts. We enter the Interstate and it shows the weather expected along the length of the Interstate (Major Cities only) for the day chosen. This allows us to plan and avoid expected storms along the way. A day delay would allow us to avoid major weather problems on the way home.
Wed., 20 Mar 13
Our destination today would be the KOA in Anderson, SC. The route would be to connect to I-26 at Bay Minette, AL, switch to I-85 at Montgomery, AL and continue on through Atlanta, GA to the KOA.
Despite wall-to-wall traffic in Atlanta the flow was steady which was surprising. This was the easiest major city we have ever driven through during rush hour. Of course, this could have changed quickly with an accident. Note: certain HOV lanes require a "Peach Pass" to allow use so we stayed in one of the "middle" lanes - usually one lane inside the outside left "fast lane". Sometimes the Interstate by-pass is worth taking around major cities; however, we have been through Atlanta 3 times in the past month and staying on I-85 vs the by-pass has worked fine and saved mileage.
We tend to plan stops at Flying J's along the route. They have a dedicated RV fueling area which makes life a lot easier. Our Flying J loyalty card gives discounts for gas, propane and the waste dump as well as some store purchases. Flying J's now feature Denny's restaurants since being taken over by Pilot. We often use Denny's as a breakfast or supper stop (especially if we plan to overnight at the Flying J). We also stop at Cracker Barrel restaurants along our route as many have RV parking (check website).
Flying J's on this portion include Hope Hull, AL and Commerce and Carnesville, GA. We had fueled when we arrived at West Wales (a good practice as prices always increase) so we were good to go all the way through to Carnesville. We stopped to eat at the Cracker Barrel in Opelika, AL which has good RV parking and easy Interstate access. We fueled at Carnesville (also filled with propane) and stopped at the KOA in Anderson, SC for the night.
Travelling is a learning experience. We made a note for the next time we come this way. Fuel prices are the cheapest in South Carolina. The Marathon gas station (I-85 Exit 14) where we get off for the Anderson, KOA is accessible. (My fault - I often check ahead using Google Street View to see if a gas station is accessible) Filling here rather than at Carnesville would have saved about $20. There are a number of Internet sites that give the current gas prices and these are worth checking. In an RV it is only worth comparing sites at the exits. The low mileage achieved compared to an auto means even going a few extra miles and returning to the travel route can eat up the savings. This also doesn't include driving time and aggravation if you have to enter town traffic. Stopping and starting at traffic lights can eat up a lot of fuel = good-by savings.
This is also true when deciding on a stop for the night. If the RV park is $10 cheaper the savings, at the price of fuel, can disappear in a low mileage vehicle if you are driving as little as 10 miles off your route. (e.g. extra distance = 10 mi x return = 20 mi @ 6.5 mpg = 3 gal x $3.75 = $11.25 - $10 savings = loss of $1.25).
Remember to factor savings vs driving distances when choosing places to fuel up as well. Even stopping at a Walmart where you can stay free may end up costing more than a RV park at an exit if the distance off the route is more than fuel factor.
Note on KOA's, like McD's, you know what to expect. Most have long pull-thru's (check availability on website) which are easier than unhooking for a short stay and many are right off a major highway exit. This KOA was great. They guided us to our site and we were set up before dark.
We pumped out (sewage and waste tanks) and emptied our water lines as the weather would be below freezing as we went north.
We continued on I-85 and made our next stop at the Flying J in Blacksburg, SC. I was not low on fuel; however, since we were stopping here to eat I took advantage of the cheapest prices on the east coast. As I fueled Charlotte went in to Denny's and ordered our usual breakfast. As usual, breakfast arrived at the table just before I did. This routine saves us time.
We then continued on I-85 towards Charlotte, NC where we caught I-77 which would take us to I-81. Taking the by-pass (I-485) here saves both time and mileage. The I-81 to I-77 to I-95 connection is used by some RVing south to Florida. Going to Florida the best RV route is I-81 to I-66 then US-17 through Warrenton, VA to I-95. The reason for this (when in an RV) is that the route is flat - not mountainous. This is easier on the equipment, fuel and driving. The route we are taking, especially I-77, is hilly. Our reason is that we are coming from Alabama, not Florida, and the extra day and distance to get to I-95 to head north was not worth the effort.
I-77 has good truck lanes making the transition over the Blue Ridge mountains a little easier. We had planned to stay at a KOA along I-81 later today; however, since the weather was fine and we were making good time, we modified our plans and decide to continue north to our usual Walmart stop at I-81 Exit 313 (2350 S Pleasant Valley Rd) in Winchester, VA.
This is a usual stop when heading south in December. Being a 24 hr SuperCenter we have access to washrooms and any needed supplies. They have a huge parking lot with easy access. There are often 25 or more RV's stopped here for the night during high travel times. We had supper at the Walmart McD's and picked up a few items. Luckily, I found 2 gallons of RV waterline antifreeze. This was all they had and, not unusual for Walmart, each gallon was in a different area of the store. The washrooms also came in handy when we stopped, through the night and in the morning.
Fri., 22 Mar 13
We were up a 6 a.m. I winterized the RV and we were on the road by 7 a.m.
We stopped at our usual Flying J stop at the Flying J - Clear Brook, VA just 10 minutes north (just for fuel). The McD's at Walmar was not open that early so we purchased a box of Apple Fritters to eat for breakfast while we were on the road. We could have had breakfast at the Denny's at this Flying J; however, we preferred to save the time.
I-81 travel was good with the usual slow down (Speed Limit 55 mph) when we approached Carlisle, PA. This is a huge transport switching area because the E-W and N-S Interstates that serve the Northeast USA intersect here. It was slow until we were past Harrisburg, PA and the Speed Limit returned to 65 mph.
Snow (lake affect), as usual, when we approached the Syracuse, NY area. We took I-481 around Syracuse to avoid the downtown congestion. The weather cleared when we connected to I-81 and headed towards Watertown, NY.
I-81 was closed yesterday (Thursday) morning near Watertown for a few hours after a series of vehicle crashes brought on by heavy snowfall that created whiteout conditions. I expected bad weather in this area on Thursday; but not that bad. We also came through the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area in Pennsylvania after the road was cleared from an earlier closure today. We got past Harrisburg, PA before it was closed later in the day. This was the reason we delayed a day before coming north. It pays to check the Interstate weather guide on Weather.com before travelling.
The fritters kept us going; however, it was now time to eat. We decided to stop at one of our favourites - Texas Roadhouse, in Watertown. We parked at the Lowe's parking lot next to the restaurant. We were a half hour early (opens at 4 p.m.) so we walked to Lowe's to do a little last minute shopping. We found a few items then returned. We arrived at 4:05 and the restaurant was half-full. They have a large local Friday following. We don't blame them - the food and service is great at any Texas Roadhouse. We discovered them in Texas (of course) and all have been great from AZ to FL to NY state. We had our usual 8 oz Dallas Filet - Charlotte cooked medium - mine medium rare.
The next stop was our usual fill-up and the Parkway Express Valero in Morristown, NY. This is the closest fuel stop to the Ogdensburg, NY border crossing that is easily accessible for the RV when it is towing. Filled the RV, then the car and headed to the Duty Free store at the border. We phoned family at home to get requests then made our purchase accordingly. Two bottles of Southern Comfort later (bought not drank) and we crossed the border into Canada at Prescott, ON.
It was now only a 35 mile drive on Hwy 401 to Ingleside, ON. We phone our daughter and Nick cleared a spot in the driveway at their place to park the RV for a few day. I would have to arrange for storage on Monday as we are arriving home a month early. We unhooked the Del Sol and parked the RV. Liz, Nick and Marty had to head out. I left the Fridge and heat on (low) in the RV so things would not freeze. Five miles later we were at our house saying hello to the cats - Jessie and Max.
Sat., 23 Mar 13
We returned to Liz's after noon time (borrowed Kat's CRV) to unpack the RV. Still 3 foot snowbanks at home; but, the driveway is clear (Thanks to Nick's snowplow). We tease people down south when they ask what the towbar is on the front of the Del Sol. We tell them it is for our driveway snowplow when at home in Canada, eh (or ay).
EH = pronounced AY (similar, but not the same as huh)
Eh is a useful word that is very important and is the basis of all Canadian communications. It is used in conjunction with other words, or simply by itself. The tone or the slight differences in exclamation also changes the meaning:
Eh? = what did you say?
Eh? = what do you think?
EH? = something to say just to end a sentence.
Ehhhh!! = WOW!!
EH!? = what do you mean?
Eh?? = your joking!!!??
EH!! = Hello..(you off in the distance!!!)
Eh? want a doughnut or some Tim Bits?
Eh! = sure!!
Eh!Eh! = coffee double-cream too please!
Eh? = what you say when you realize you have no money to pay for it.
Eh..cmon, eh? = asking them to let you pay for it next time.
hey..eh! = want to go to the drive-in movie??
Eh...uhuh = yes sure!
Eh..y'know = I'll pick you up at 8:00 (8:30 in Newfoundland).
Eh..cmon!! = well that's early..but ok.
Eh..wanna? eh? = lets fool around ...
EHHHHHHH = sounds coming from the car.
hey..um..er eh... = I'm pregnant!
EH????????? = how did that happen?
EHHehhEHHehhEHHH = sounds from the delivery room.
EHHH-ehh, EHHH-ehh = baby's first cry.
Ehh..whadya think eh? = marry me.
Bonus: A family supper. Pizza...mmmmm. We have the best compared to most of the USA and Canada (Spiritus in Provincetown, MA and Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT excepted). Our Italians (mostly Greeks) know how to make a pizza .
Sun., 24 Mar 13
Bonus: We get to watch our grandson's hockey game at 12:30. He is a goalie and his team is in the playoff finals.
SHUTOUT and WIN --- Way to Go Martin! If they win on Tuesday they are the champions.
Even if early - it is always good to be home.