Fun at the Grocery Store

Friday August 21st 2020

Rain threatened all day, but never really got beyond a few sprinkles. Clouds dominated the sky most of the day to keep the high temperature in the mid eighties. The ever present humidity made it feel a little warmer.

A little visitor.

This morning I stripped my Honda CR-V of the bicycle and the towing gear so I could run some errands. First on the list was grocery shopping. Without the bicycle on the back it is a whole lot easier to load and unload the groceries. About midday I made the trip to the local Walmart. This one had three employees at each entrance enforcing the mask requirement, social distancing and building capacity requirement. I have to say Walmart is consistent across the country enforcing its COVID-19 rules. Even in an area like this one, where the government doesn’t require masks, Walmart maintains its rules.

Some of the shelves were empty today. The canned vegetables section had a lot of empty packing boxes. This Walmart seems to have resorted to warehouse store style shelf stocking for simplicity and speed. The packing boxes are put on the shelves with the top cut off so the contents are visible. Today all that remained was the empty cardboard containers. The other stock shortage that impacted my shopping was the absence of milk in 2 quart containers. They had plenty of gallons, but in hot weather I don’t use a gallon before it spoils. I’ll have to make another grocery store excursion next week to get the things I missed today. Considering it was over two weeks since my last restocking, a week will seem odd.

The grocery shopping and a stop at the gas station to fill the tank took over two hours. I’m really not sure where the time went. Even when the store is busy I usually spend less than an hour. When I got back to the campground it was starting to fill up for the weekend. It will be interesting to see if tonight’s residents stay for the weekend or leave in the morning. I’ve been wrong with my guess at other campgrounds the last couple of weekends.

Travel Day to Kingsland GA

Thursday August 20th 2020

Today was a short travel day with a timing problem that often accompanies short trips. The amount of time between checkout and a reasonable check in time at the new location is greater than the time it takes to travel between the two places. In this case I had three hours to travel ninety miles.

To solve the issue I departed as close to checkout as I could. I was on the road at 10:50 just ten minutes before checkout. There is a major rest area about midway down Interstate 95 that I planned to stop at for an hour or more. As I approached the rest area I was greeted by signs indicating that the area was closed. I saw plenty of trucks in the parking lot so I stopped anyway. The car parking area and the rest area building were all closed and blocked off. There were plenty of trucks, RVs and quite a few passenger cars in the truck and trailer parking lot. Most of the cars had desperate people in need of a break. Many had pets to walk, but a few people got out of there cars and ran into the woods. People watching was a good way to spend an hour.

A few more miles along my route, I stopped for gas. It proved to be another time consumer. I waited behind a trailer to get to the pump in one of the RV lanes. The pump wasn’t the fastest in the world and I had to do two credit card passes to put in the sixty gallons of gas I needed.

Site C-6 at the Jacksonville North / St Mary’s KOA.

I arrived at the Jacksonville North St Mary’s KOA in Kingsland Georgia about 2PM. This is a familiar stop. It is nice campground with many tall pines shading the sites right on the Florida Georgia line. The last time I stopped here was the spring of 2019 as I left Florida heading west. I’ll be here for five nights this time.

A Day of Rest and Bird Watching

Wednesday August 19th 2020

After three days and about 720 miles of driving, today was a day of rest. I spent the day at the campground relaxing. The day started with a reasonable temperature in the seventies, but the humidity was in the oppressive range. I had to turn the AC on earlier than usual as the temperature climbed toward ninety. The expected line of thunderstorms late in the day dropped the temperature back into the high seventies with the humidity briefly under control.

I spent some time today wandering around the campground noting the things that have changed since my last visit in 2018. The most visible change are some new cabins and they are building a viewing deck patio like structure along the side of the pond. A more subtle difference is the same one I’ve seen elsewhere across the country this summer. They are not putting much if any attention into flower beds. They didn’t plant anything this year. Except for a few flowering bushes there is not any colorful plant life in the park. I think the resources that would have been used for the flower beds went to COVID issues.

Finally caught up

One of the attractions at this campground is the bird life in the pond. I spent quite a few minutes along the side of the pond with my camera taking pictures of the various birds. I saw egrets, anhingas, and the resident swans. Most of the time the birds were in the middle of the lake or on the far side, so I had to use a lot of zoom for nice pictures. The last time I was here the swans and a few ducks were on the bank beside the campground.

Solo swan and a couple of turtles.

Tomorrow I’m moving on to my next stop. I have about a ninety mile drive down Interstate 95 to the southern boarder of Georgia. My next stop is another regular stop in St Marys Georgia just before the Florida State Line. I’ll be there for a few days.

Travel to the Savannah Area

Tuesday August 18th 2020

With only 190 miles planned driving today, I slow rolled the travel prep tasks this morning. I pulled out of the Forsyth KOA at 11AM. The drive was uneventful.

My electronics worked today. I was able to listen to the rest of the audio book and the first couple of chapters over again since I didn’t have anything else ready to load. Before my next travel day on Thursday I’ll have to find another book or pod cast. I prefer to listen to someone talking than music. The quality of the talk goes directly to how quickly the long miles pass.

Along the drive southeast from Macon GA on Interstate 16, I saw more container trucks going both ways than than I’ve ever seen. I assumed they were coming from or heading for the Port of Savannah. When I got a chance to do a little googling, I learned that the Port of Savannah is “The single largest and fastest-growing container terminal in America.” It is nice to know I wasn’t imagining the large number of container trucks and that my deduction about the port in Savannah was on point.

Site 46 at the Savannah South KOA in Richmond Hill GA.

There were a lot of dark clouds and a brief shower on today’s journey, but it didn’t prevent me from arriving at my destination shortly after 2PM. I’m at the Savannah South KOA in Richmond Hill Georgia for the next couple of nights. This isn’t my favorite KOA. The sites are close and some of the roads are narrow. I stop here because of the convenient location and all of the birds in the pond. In addition to hand raised swans there are native ibis, egrets and blue heron.

The black clouds and showers I passed through on my way to Savannah strengthened into a line severe thunderstorms. Throughout the late afternoon and evening there were warnings on the TV and the sky to the northwest got darker and darker. The threatened hail and strong winds never arrived. We got heavy rumbling thunder and lots of lightening all with a light long duration rain. I’m holed up inside my RV home with the air conditioner keeping everything cool.

Travel Day to Forsyth Georgia

Monday August 17th 2020

I was up early this morning to get started on my travel day. Crossing into the eastern time zone was going to steal an hour from my travel day and I had two cities to navigate. One was the medium sized city of Chattanooga and the other was the Mega Metropolis of Atlanta. I was on the road by 8:45AM. That was one of the only things that went according to plan.

The biggest annoyance of the day was my travel entertainment. My radio/CD player/Bluetooth speaker/navigation system was acting up again. Lately, it gets into a mode where it is continuously restarting. Power is probably dropping out to the unit causing it to restart, but it isn’t consistent so is hard to fix. Today was one of those days that it didn’t want to stay running. I stopped at the first rest area and tried to get it going without success. As I continued on my journey I let the unit keep trying to restart while I listened to every little squeak, screech, grind, bang and clank from the RV as the motorhome moved down the road. After about an hour the radio miraculously stayed on and started to play my audio book. It was fine for the rest of the journey.

The other big annoyance was a navigation error. To get from the north side of Atlanta to the south side there are three options. I could take Interstate 75 right through the middle or I could take the Interstate 285 beltway around the city. If it were a weekend day I’d probably take Interstate 75 through the middle of the city. On a weekday shortly after the lunch hour I thought it was prudent to take the beltway. Interstate 285 around the west side of the city works out to about 4 miles longer according to Google. The east side beltway is ten to fifteen miles longer. Approaching the intersection there were four lanes heading for the Interstate 285 beltway. I was in the far right lane assuming it would be the lane for the west side beltway. I didn’t really pay attention to the signs. For some strange reason of highway overpass design the two right lanes crossed over the two left lanes after they divided and I was headed on to the east side beltway. In a car I might tried to find an exit and reverse direction, but in the big RV it’s easier to just keep going.

Site 119 at the Forsyth KOA.

After an annoying rain shower on the east side beltway I rejoined Interstate 75 south of Atlanta and continued on my way south. I arrived at my overnight stop in Forsyth Georgia at 2:30PM. The Forsyth KOA is a good location for an overnight stop just north of Macon Georgia that I’ve used before. Tomorrow my journey to the sea continues.

Back East of the Mississippi

Sunday August 16th 2020

A strong line of thunderstorms passed by shortly before dawn. The sound of rain on the roof and thunder in the sky drowned out the sound of the air conditioner that was necessary to keep the temperature under control with all the windows closed. It was over by the time I got up shortly after 7AM.

My early start to the day was intended to help get on the road earlier than normal for my travel day to the east. I didn’t make my 9AM goal, but I was on the road 9:45AM. The first order of business was topping off my fuel tank with Arkansas cheaper gas. It only took seventeen gallons of gas in the nearly 80 gallon tank to fill the tank.

Interstate 40 through Memphis and the next 170 plus miles was an easy drive. Traffic wasn’t bad and the road was in good condition. The Interstate 840 outer belt south of Nashville was another story. The road has some serious bridge transition issues and a few unexplained dips where the road surface seems to have collapsed. My motorhome shocks got a real exercise. Two years ago I vowed not to take 840 around Nashville again. I broke that vow today because I was heading south out of Nashville on Interstate 24. After all, I rationalized, they had two years to fix the issues. Wrong again.

The only real traffic I encountered all day was on the section of Interstate 24 heading south from Nashville toward Chattanooga. There were many trucks surrounded by lots of cars. Once the road transitioned into two lanes it really got slow. Having to go around trucks going up hill in traffic can be a challenge in the big motorhome.

Site 10 at the Manchester KOA.

I pulled into the Manchester KOA in Manchester Tennessee for the night after 280 miles at 2:45PM. This is the first time in fifteen months my RV home has been parked east of the Mississippi. While I enjoy my time in the western states, I still identify as an easterner.

Last Day on the Banks of the Mississippi

Saturday August 15th 2020

For a change the day began with a clear blue sky and lots of sun. It remained sunny all day. The humidity was a little bit lower because of a north wind. It was hot, but not unbearable.

This is my last full day on the banks of the Mississippi River. The barge traffic was not as heavy today. There was still enough traffic to keep me interested. I’ve really enjoyed my stay here. I’m sure I’ll return in the future.

I took advantage of the free machines and got another round of laundry completed today. A few of the less frequently washed items got their turn in the suds. Last night I thought I missed my opportunity because of all the people in the RV park. I assumed they were here for the weekend and would be competing for the machines. I was wrong again. Very few of last nights residents stayed. Even the families with young kids packed up and moved on this morning. The park is nearly full again this evening.

Tomorrow I’m moving on to the middle of Tennessee for a night. Monday I’ll continue southeast to the middle of Georgia for another single night. I’ll probably head for the Georgia coast from there before slowing down, but continuing straight south is possible. I’m heading for familiar territory where I know my camping and touring options.

Blossom of the day

A Foggy Start to the Day

Friday August 14th 2020

It was a foggy start to the day. Visibility was reduced looking up and down the river. It was close to 10AM before I saw the first barge pass by. As the day went by the fog lifted to cloud cover which gave way to sun before night arrived. Tomorrow is forecast to have a little less humidity.

The fog had lifted some by the time this big barge came up river.

Between walks around the RV park and rushing over to the riverbank to watch the passing barges, I got back to travel planning. It seems like this year has been more research than planning followed by more planning than execution. A good amount of changes and re-planning got thrown in for good measure.

Weed flower of the day.

My set of winter reservations in Florida start at the end of October. I have the first three weeks of September including the Labor day weekend planned in extreme southern Georgia and northern Florida. My immediate need is to figure out the last two plus weeks of August starting Sunday.

I am getting tired of checking for travel issues and attempting to locate things to do that aren’t closed or restricted because of the pandemic. The options aren’t good. I’d like to visit Nashville, but this isn’t the time to tour a big city. The Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountain National Park area has similar issues. I’m sure there are nice campgrounds in the middle of nowhere, but I haven’t found any that interest me. My current thought is to head through Tennessee and most of Georgia rather quickly to get back to the familiar territory of southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. There are many little outdoor things to do and places to visit that I’m already familiar with in that area. Tomorrow I’ll make the decision after a little time overnight to ruminate on the decision.

After a week with lots of available sites, the campground is filling up tonight. I’m guessing that most of the people are here for the weekend. Many of the RVs have little kids that the visitors during the week don’t seem to have. There were more people lining the riverbank this evening to watch the barges pass by.

More Barges Passing My RV Home

Thursday August 13th 2020

The storm front that was threatening all of yesterday finally arrived in the predawn hours. The wind started to roar and my RV home was buffeted back and forth. I just had time to get the windows and vents closed before it started to rain. I went right back to sleep, but there was plenty of evidence of a big storm this morning.

A bench made from a single log located on one of the large grass fields along the Mississippi River.

It was a fifty fifty kind of day. It started off cloudy and ended very sunny. As usual, the dominant weather characteristic was the humidity. Every walk around the RV park or even a quick trip to the riverbank resulted in dripping sweat. Thankfully, the temperature peaked below ninety.

Blossom of the day.

This was lawn mowing day around the park. One of the nice characteristics of the park is all the open grass. Today we paid the price with all the noise from the mowing equipment. They use a small riding mower around the sites, but a big platform mower towed behind a tractor for the open areas. Since I never saw both units at the same time, I think it was the same guy switching back and forth between the two pieces of equipment. It was an all day activity.

Tug pushing a set of barges six long by six wide.
Huge three engine tug pushing at least 36 barges down river.
One of the smallest barges to pass by today.

The barge traffic in the river was particularly heavy today. On previous days very few barges passed by during the middle of the day. Today it started early and continued all day. One of the early down river units was one of the biggest I’ve seen. It looked to be composed of thirty six barges with a huge three engine tug pushing them along. The challenge of turning to follow the bend in the river was particularly apparent.

Are these windmill blades?

Later in the day a northbound lash up finally gave me a curious cargo to wonder about. The front barge had thirty huge white cylindrical to flat parts. I think they were windmill blades, but they didn’t look like the ones I’ve seen on the road. I’ll never know for sure, but it was fun to see something to speculate about.

Cyprus trees on the far side of one of the ponds. The resident Great Blue Heron is hiding under the trees.
Cropped to show the heron.

Overall, today was another fun day hanging around my RV home.

Barge Watching and a Non-Shopping Trip

Wednesday August 12th 2020

The day began with full cloud cover and haze looking out over the river. It wasn’t a full fog, just the visibly manifestation of the high humidity. The clouds kept the temperature from climbing for most of the day. Right at the hottest part of the day around 4PM, the clouds gave way to some intermittent sun. The temperature soared. A day that was in the low to mid eighties most of the day ended in the low nineties.

I am really enjoying watching all the barges getting pushed by the campground. The small barges getting pushed down river can slip quietly by before you even know they are passing, but the big rafted barges heading up stream announce their presence long before they get near. The engines on the tugs give off a deep vibrating rumble as they strain to push the barges against the current. They churn the water so deeply that the wake is still producing new waves several hundred feet behind the tug.

I drove into Memphis this afternoon to visit the Bass Pro Shops in the Pyramid just over the I-40 bridge into the city. I was curious what I might find in the end of summer sale I saw advertised. There wasn’t much merchandise that interested me, but I got to watch the alligators get feed. One of the ponds on the store floor has some three or four foot alligators. The staff were feeding them with a long metal pole. Judging by how quickly they snapped at the pole, it is a good thing the girls hands were a long way away. The fish in the other ponds weren’t as interesting as the alligators, but were still more so than the merchandise. Overall, the visit was about a six on a scale of 10.

One of the buildings in the campground is marked with the high water level from May of 2011.