Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, March 2nd till March 14th 2018
The sun shines already when we get up on Friday March 2nd and it’s warm already, 70 degrees. A good day to continue travels. Unfortunately Beate and Gerhard cannot leave, they are still stuck at Walmart. Fortunately the mail says their master brake cylinder has arrived so there is hope they will quickly be able to travel again. We chat a little about travelling and dealing with problems you experience on long trips and then we leave Thibodaux. It’s Spring, the trees around us have fresh green and flowers are blooming.
Just before Grand Isle we have to cross a toll bridge. We’re lucky, charged only the rate of a car because we don’t have a double rear axle and via endless long bridges over the swamps and waters in the south we arrive finally on Grand Isle, South of Louisiana.
The spot, designated by the State Park, is not good because the full wind blows against our door so we look for another empty spot and we may change places. I do not understand that the Ranger has problems with getting a place on your own as there is plenty of space on this campground and despite the weekend it does not seem that this campground gets full. Good weather and Sun is for me the equivalent for sitting outside with my computer. It is necessary because we have to publish again. But when Dick mentions that there are (free) washing machines and dryers on the campground, I stop writing. What is nicer than emptying your laundry bags. So I place our laundry bag and detergent on my bike and go to the other end of the campground where indeed are two washing machines and dryers. It’s 3 pm and the machines are not occupied so the rest of the afternoon I cycle back and forth between the toilet block (with laundromat) and the RV and the result is that at 5 pm everything is clean and dry and our beds have clean sheets too.
After done so much it’s great to sit outside in the Sun and relax with a glass of wine. When the Sun is really gone and it’s getting cooler, we go inside. On Saturday March 3rd the sun shines bright but there is a hard and cool wind, so the temperature is significantly lower and doesn’t exceed 65 degrees. After having breakfast we take our bikes and explore the island. Of course we search for geocaches because they bring us to all corners of the island. The sea is not appealing because it is dark brown in color (caused by sediment of the Mississippi River) but we don’t need to go into the water and inhaling sea air is great too. Partly we cycle with the wind and partly against the wind , the last is at least 10 degrees cooler in temperature. Of course we look around at the General Store where you can buy everything and end of the afternoon we ride after an awesome trip back to the campground. There, out of the wind and in the Sun it is for sure 77 degrees.
I get on with the translation of our website while Dick looks for pictures and read through the Dutch text. Every now and then you need a quiet spot and Sun to relax.
End of the afternoon we cycle to the pier that protrudes into the sea and admire the beach with brownish sand and the oil rigs in the distance. The sea is calm and quiet, the pelicans fly over in groups or one by one and the sun shines in a blue sky. At night there is a beautiful starry sky. But it seems that the stars here are further away than, for example, in Joshua National Park. But maybe I am wrong. On Sunday March 4th we get up at 7 am and after showering, but before breakfast, I fill up two washing machines. I do not understand how this is possible (I did laundry yesterday) but I manage. That’s why we don’t leave before 9 am, but everything is clean by then. We drive to the North because we got a message from Gerhard and Beate that they were not able to retrieve their master brake cylinder, despite the fact that it’s on the airfield at the Cargo Division. First they have to clear the parts through Customs but in the weekend customs is closed.
On our way to the North we visit an old sugar cane plantation, there are still 65 old slave houses on the grounds . Unfortunately all of them are nailed up so we can watch them only from outside but it is impressive to see them standing in rows. To be a slave had to be horrible. It’s a good thing that with the civil war slavery came to an end. At 5 pm we are back at Walmart in Thibodaux. Beate and Gerhard are not there but when they return it’s again a pleasant reunion. We talk a lot, we are never short of a subject of discussion. It feels good to be back again. On Monday March 5th we get up early because Gerhard and Beate leave 7.30 am for New Orléans to get a clearance for their brake cylinder at customs.
We wave them off and wish them good luck and leave Thibodaux over small roads through down town New Orleans. In the middle of the city, when Dick stops, we hear a ghastly noise. However there is no light on the dashboard so, according to Dick, there is nothing wrong with the brakes. But to be on the safe side we take the highway so we don’t have to use our breaks so often.
When we arrive in Waveland, Mississippi and exit the highway, the sound of the brakes is so terrible that we do not drive to Buccaneer State Park but to a small workshop “Bayou Motors” opposite Walmart. The mechanic there only needs one look at the brake rotor to know that something is really wrong with our right front brake. The brake rotor is completely carved and the brake pads badly damaged. We cannot drive anymore.
Fortunately, there is a supplier for auto parts in the workshop and a fiat dealer in Biloxi, 40 mile further on, so after taking our Fiat Vin number, everyone tries to find the appropriate brake pads. This workshop can polish the brake rotor, they have a machine, so that’s will not be a problem. The rest of the afternoon Dick remains calm (there’ll be a solution) but I feel the tension. It cripples and I don’t do anything. I should have known better. Always when something breaks down we manage to repair it. I told it Beate several times. Nevertheless, tension is building up in my body. Waiting, without having influence, is not really pleasant. End of the afternoon Tony comes to tell us that appropriate brake pads are found. They will arrive tomorrow at 9.30 am. Good news, let’s hope they really fit. Dick has no doubt at all, but I……
After Tony connect us to the net power of the workshop and pointed out where we can take water when we need it, we drink a beer together, outside in the Sun and talk. During the night are thunderstorms and rains, so heavy that we awake and on Tuesday morning we get up very early. It’s still raining , more pouring and now I am concerned about the repair. We cannot get into the workshop with our RV and outdoor working is not an option. But as always I worry about nothing because at 9 am Dick drives the RV to the side of the workshop with a high shelter where we can stand out of the rain. While Dick stays at our RV, I walk away to Walmart across the street. I will come back when the parts fit. When I return after 1 ½ hours (in the meantime I could look at the mail and sent some messages) our new brake pads fit and a machine is smoothening the brake rotor.
Our Motor oil is also refreshed and the filter changed. It was necessary after so many miles. I am so relieved that everything worked out as Dick said.
The old brake pads are really bad. Not the one at the left front wheel (they have normal wear and tear) but the ones at the right front wheel are completely worn off. There even is a hole in one brake pad. It make sense that there was no warning light on the dashboard because there is no indicator on the right wheel, only on the left wheel. Tony and another mechanic work hard on the motorhome resulting in working brakes and a brake rotor looking like new. It’s really surprising that the appropriate materials were present in this State and that Tony works in this workshop because the head mechanic said, when we arrived, that they don’t work with RV’s , he didn’t want us to help. Though it’s only noon we don’t want to leave today so, after paying we say goodbye to Tony and the others mechanics in the workshop and drive our RV to the other side of the road on the parking lot of Walmart. In the afternoon, I walk around in the area while Dick is publishing in English.
We are surprised that Beate and Gerhard arrive at Walmart around 5 pm. Fortunately their RV is repaired and they can travel again. We sit together and talk about the experiences of the past few days. It is great to see each other again. We go to bed early, at 9 pm. Exhausted by tension (at least me, Tita). Wednesday March 7th after breakfast I skype with my auntie Ank while Dick, Gerhard and Beate drive to Bayou Motors on the other side of the road. When slowly braking they still have an alarming sound that should be checked. After an hour skyping I walk to Bayou Motors too. As their other workshop did not screw the wheel bolt well, the brake rotor damaged. That caused the sound if you put on the brakes. Fortunately, the damage is not so bad that there must be a direct intervention. Till they arrive in Germany in May the RV will be OKE. So we say good bye to each other and while Gerhard and Beate immediately leave (they reserved a spot on a campground in Florida) to relax for a few days, we drive along the beautiful white strands of Mississippi to Shepard State Park near the border of Alabama.
The rest of the afternoon we walk around in the State Park, Dick socialize with other motorhome travelers and I fall asleep, sitting in the warm sun. By 4.30 pm it’s getting cooler outside, 54 degrees, because the Sun disappears behind the trees, so we make a campfire where we stay till 7 pm. Thursday March 8th , in time we leave the campground. The road brings us along the Gulf, over endless bridges and bays. Several times we try to get a spot on a beautiful campground along the coast but everything is fully booked. It is Spring break and everyone wants to be out.
Finally we arrive in Florida where after some failed attempts we arrive at the Gulf Islands. We simply follow our Hakuna instead of directions from our “Good Sam book”. That makes that we see a beautiful part of the Gulf Islands and around us are only the azure blue sea and white beaches, but after a 15 mile drive we find out that we drive to the wrong side of the island. So we turn and drive 25 mile back before arriving at Gulf Islands National Seashores. It is now 3 pm and we have little hope that there is still a camp site available . No, is the answer of the Ranger. Whether it’s my very disappointed look or the ranger overlooked something I do not know but when I leave the office, the ranger comes after me and tells me that there is one place available, the camp host place.
We can have this spot for 8 days. We don’t need it that long but two days is great to stay on this island off the coast of Florida. After our RV is connected to the electricity we walk to the beach close by. The sand is white and except for some racing birds along the waterfront there is none to be seen. A nice spot. Unfortunately, it is not really warm, only 57 degrees, so we don’t stay very long on the beach. Back at the RV, it is too cold to sit outside. Sadly because we have a beautiful place with lots of space. Friday March 9th , the sun shines again in a blue sky when we get up at 7 am and after having breakfast I sit outside in the sun behind my computer. Under the Lee of the RV it’s good but in the full wind it feels cold. It’s not warm. Once again it’s time to do everything on a snail’s pace. Not that we wouldn’t do that otherwise. As Dick always says, we are never in a hurry and have plenty of time.
At noon we grab our bikes and ride over narrow dune paths to the Western side of Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens. This fort has not only played an important role in the American Civil War because it was in the hands of the Union and controlled the access to a deep port which was in the hands of the Confederates, but the fort was also part of the coastal defense. It’s was one of the many forts built after Fort Mc Henry in Baltimore, Maryland managed to survive the attack of the English. Remember the national Anthem: “The bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there” . After we watch the movie on the history of fort Pickens we walk around with the ranger and hear what happened around this place. The ranger walk ends on top of the fort from where we have a good view over the Pensacola Bay. It’s beautiful weather, 68 degrees, and it’s great to be outside and walk and ride. Of course we look at the end of the island with its white beaches and many fishermen.
On our way back we see a few turtles in the water. One of them is quite large and swims to us to get a better view. We are obviously not dangerous because he hangs out with us for a while. Back at the campground, it is 4 pm, we can still sit outside. The wind is less and the sky is still steel blue. We chat with other RV’ers who want to know everything about our “exotic” looking camper. At half past 5 clouds are coming and it cools down so we go inside. Saturday March 10th there is no sun anymore but on the campground is less wind and it does not feel cold, at 7 am it’s 63 degrees, so we have breakfast outside. After filling up with water and dumping we leave this great spot.
We drive over the lengths of the island and along the deserted beaches. It is incredible how white the sand is, like in a tropical resort, only the temperature is different. The wind has changed and comes over sea so the sea looks more ferocious and there are waves, but because of the emerald color of the water the sea is still tempting and we take a stroll over the beach. When we arrive in Navarre, Florida, we go back to the Mainland, where we continue our travels along the Emerald Coast. We regularly see fins of dolphins out of the water. The coast consist now of a chain of hotels, casinos and beach bars and everywhere are people in swimwear.
In Destin, where it’s very busy, we drive in a traffic jam, three rows thick, we see on the other side of the road the German RV of Beate and Gerhard, also stuck in a traffic jam. We wave to each other but with this hustle and bustle it doesn’t make sense to turn around. Nowhere we can stop and before we can turn around we are many miles further.
Therefore our contact will be limited to whatsapp, when we will have wifi again. We try to find a place for the night along the coast but everywhere the campsites are fully booked. Of course we know, it’s springbreak! According to a ranger this will take till the first week of april and it will be hard to find a spot. That’s why we decide to leave the coast and drive inland. There also every State park is full booked, so we end up in Chipley at the Walmart parking lot. Despite the huge signs “No overnight parking” it is allowed to stay here. After a 172 mile drive it is enough and we call it a day. Sunday March 11th it’s still dry although it’s heavy cloudy and there is no sun. After being on the road again the Sun breaks through so we cannot complain.
Obvious we came in another time zone because both our Hakuna’s indicate that it’s an hour later. Strange because, according to our map , the time zone is much further to the East. It doesn’t matter because we don’t intend to drive far and we’re lucky because 28 miles away, at Florida Caverns State Park, is an empty spot. We put our RV in a very spacious place and in the sun we enjoy a good cup of coffee. We have to spray ourselves with repellent because mosquitoes are present in very large numbers and each part of skin, uncovered and not sprayed, these ferocious biting insects know to find without failing. Although Alaska has the name with mosquitoes, we didn’t find them there in so many great numbers. After talking to our neighbors, we grab our bikes and ride through the park with its many water holes and swamps. Thanks to the geocaches we ride many trails and discover great places in this state park. The name of this park reveals that here are also caves and of course we want to visit them.
At three pm there is place on a tour and after viewing the movie about the caves it’s time to walk to the cave entrance. Just before the tour starts it’s going to rain, heavy rain, so quickly we take our thin jackets , otherwise we will soaked. Fortunately we don’t need to walk far to the entrance of the cave. The tourgroup (20 people) is actually too big but by staying behind every now and then we can admire the many beautiful formations in the cave. However, the imaginative lighting here and there is less. After one hour walking in the caves we go outside and the rain is still heavy so we cycle back to our RV where we arrive somewhat wet. We left our chairs outside so the covers are soaked and we decide to wash these together with our dirty clothes in the two washing machines on the campground.
Not until 7 pm we can stowe everything away in the closets, clean and dry. The rain stopped too so Dick can grill our sausages outside. Monday March 12th the sky is still completely covered with clouds and it is only 50 degrees but after driving an hour to the South-East the sky brightens and blue skies appear. A cold wind is blowing but with sun it’s a lot more pleasant. We are on the way to Newport, Florida, because we saw a red dot on our map, the sign of a campground. To our bewilderment our Hakuna’s (Garmin navigation) loose an hour again when we are south of Tallahassee. The time difference with the Netherlands is now 5 hours. But we don’t understand why we lost two hours within two days. Just outside of Newport we find a County Park with empty places and we decide to stay. The sun is shining again.
Dick search some geocaches and I take my laptop to write for our website. Although the sun is shining it’s not really warm but with a hoodie it’s agreeable outside. However, I have to move my chair regularly to find the sun. But the wind is good for drying our awning. Unfortunately, I am too late with my camera to take a picture of the Armadillo hanging around the campground but from the distance I see, at least, the real animal. Three years ago Elfi and Milou gave us the stuffed version and this armadillo with his nice Texan head is travelling with us. As the Sun disappears, it’s now 50 degrees, it’s too cold to stay outside and we move inside. We wake up at 8.15 am on Tuesday March 13th , the result of the two hour loss of time within two days. Our constitution is not yet adjusted to Eastern and Summer time.
We have a great shower on the campground and after leaving we take quiet roads through endless forests with huge pine trees, to the Southeast. The sky is steel blue and the sun shines brightly but a cold wind is blowing so it’s not warmer than 59 degrees. The distance to Manatee Spring State Park isn’t that far so we arrive at noon. I help the host with translating for a Canadian guest, not speaking English and after that we find out that there is a place for us at the campground. We are lucky because this is one of the State Parks that fill up quickly. The spot must be cleaned (raking and cleaning the fire pit ) but after half an hour we may put our RV on the site. It’s tricky because the ground is sandy and soft but Dick manage anyway. Tomorrow, when we leave , we have to use our snow grabber mat because otherwise, on our own we cannot leave
After having hot chocolate with cream and a muffin, we grab our bikes and drive to the Springs to see if there are any Manatees. And yes they are there! Normally, at this time of the year, manatees already left for the Gulf but because it’s been so cold the last month, at night the temperature is less than 43 degrees, they are still in the Springs. The springs are year round 72 degrees and a more pleasant temperature in winter than the Gulf of Mexico. After taken some pictures of the Manatees we drive to the Ranger station to get a trail map. If we say that we will do some Geocaching along the trails, the Ranger takes his repellent and starts spraying us. Ticks are present In the forests therefore spraying is no luxury, especially if you walk around in shorts.
After cycling around for three hours along the trails we are back at the Spring. We had a great day, on the trails, through the Woods and along huge palms. We have a last look at the loitering manatees and then cycle back to the RV where we still enjoy the last rays of sunshine.
When the Sun is too far behind the trees we take our chairs next to the fire pit and make a campfire. It’s awesome. A herd of 5 White Tailed Deer also think that because they come to look at our place. Totally not afraid of people they walk around. After an hour we suffer from burnt knees and an icy back and neck, so we go inside. On Wednesday March 14th we get up early and after breakfast we drive to the Springs.
Thanks to our snow grabber mats Dick manage to leave our spot without problems and don’t get stuck in the deep soft sands. Again, we see two groups of Manatees in the springs and we enjoy their waking up and sniffing air and moments later they swim to the mouth of the Suwannee River where they hang around the rest of the day.
At the top of the trees are vultures (Turkey and Black Vultures) looking lazy at us. We are (still) no prey. After talking some time with other guests we leave Manatee Springs State Park to do some shopping at walmart. It’s almost noon so we decide to drive to the nearest State Park, Rainbow Spring State Park. Unfortunately, when we arrive after an hour, there’s no place available but the Ranger knows another State Forest (Ross Prairie Trailhead) close by. When we arrive there half an hour later, there is still plenty of place and it’s nice here so we stop and enjoy the great weather.
Sheltered by the wind it’s warm, 78 degrees but when you are in the full wind it’s only 60 degrees. Dick is doing some small repairs. On a trip like this regular things brake down and he inflates our tires with a small 12 volt pump. It takes ages to fill them but it works. I sit behind my laptop. I have to write for the website but also for our diving club magazine, so I have work to do.