Road Trip! NJ To Florida, Seeking Endless Summer

As you know we have embarked on either the best road trip of our lives, or the worst idea we’ve ever had, only time will tell. We finally got on the road, living the RV Life about two months ago with the intention of living like hippies on their way to Woodstock. We weren’t going to stress about anything ever again, we were just going to wing it and make it up as we go, it was going to be a nice relaxing ride around the country following 70 degree perfect weather days. Just Me, My Wife, and Our Dog.

You hear stories like ours all the time, maybe not from real people you actually meet, but definitely on those cable travel channels. It’s usually someone who used to be a butterfly photographer that just sold their house for 1.5 Million, but not Real people.

Sounds great right? Pile of cash in the bank, wind in your hair as you go down the road, flipping a quarter at every stop sign to see which way you are going next…

So far it hasn’t gone like that at all.

My birthday is in early March, and in New Jersey that means sometimes you’re fine with just a sweatshirt for the day, and sometimes there’s two feet of snow for my birthday. This year I don’t want to be cold. I’m tired of it. I haven’t been easy on my body the past 40 years, and the cold reminds me of every single injury. No, This year we aren’t freezing for my birthday, We are going to be sitting on a beach in Miami.

We booked a place for a month from Valentines day to St Pats in Florida City so that we had plenty of time to explore the Keys, and Miami, and the Everglades, and just not be cold this winter. This is going to be perfect, we have over a month to make it from Jersey to Florida, more than enough time to see family and friends along the way without ever feeling rushed.

We hitched up the 5th wheel and headed for the border. We were finally leaving New Jersey. Nothing can stop us now, the truck is full of fuel and I’m not stopping until it needs to get topped off again, we should be well out of the “North East Region” before even needing to think about stopping.

Well if you know my Wife, you know there isn’t a restroom along the interstate highway system that she hasn’t been in. About a half an hour into our 2 year journey I hear the infamous, “Can we stop for coffee?”, which is Wife Speak for “I need to pee, but I know it’s too soon to ask to stop for that”.

As lovingly as I could, I replied “Honey, I have 500 horses pulling 10,000 pounds and they ain’t stoppin for anything”.

5 minutes later I was getting us coffee while she was checking off another stop on her bathroom world tour map. No big deal, we aren’t destination time based anymore, we are just on a road trip with no plans. No need to be in a rush anymore, we have the time to stop. We don’t need to do a 20 hour haul from Roswell New Mexico to Las Vegas Nevada because we are behind schedule and our son only has 2 weeks off of school anymore.

This first potty break was a sign of how the next month was going to go and I never even realized it until I was looking back on the journey thus far. There were going to be a lot of things that we Knew that we were going to have to Relearn. Way more than just “Doug isn’t stopping until we get there”, transitioning into “Sure, we can stop”.

Our first 300 miles from NJ to Shenandoah River State Park should have taken around 5 hours. It was closer to 7. We should have had plenty of daylight left to get parked and set up. When we backed into our site, I was glad that I had installed extra reverse lights on the camper because it was pitch black in the valley already.

The next morning, we took our dog Lagertha (lag-a-tha) for a walk to check out our new back yard, and the trip switched from annoying slow to totally worth it.

Road Trip to Shenandoah River State Park
View from our ‘back porch’ in Shenandoah River State Park

The sun rose brighter, the air smelled cleaner, even the animals were happier here. Or, maybe it was me. Either way, waking up in the mountains of Virginia was still better than any morning stuck at home.

Normally we would have finished walking the dog and then hooked up and headed out on our way to the next stop, but this time, this trip, we are slowing things down. We are going to stay another night and just enjoy not having a schedule to keep and the fact that there isn’t any snow on the ground.

The morning is brisk, but by the afternoon the temperature gets warm enough to go out and do some trail hiking and just relax before we hit the road, not quite 70, but closer, and way better than the 30 degrees back home. The following morning the temps are in the 20s, nowhere near 70. Time to go.

Next stop, Croft State Park , not super far from Greenville SC so I can see my brother and his family, who we don’t get to see very often at all. We’ve lived in the RV for almost 6 months now, and now we are in no rush at all, this leg of the trip should be super easy.

Well, we lived in the RV stationary for 6 months at an RV park back in NJ, guess what we weren’t in the habit of doing? Locking the fridge…

Know when we realized it? About 10 miles down the road when we left Shenandoah.

Vintage Trailer Supply

Know when we found a place to pull over along the side of the twisty, turning, steep mountain roads? About another 15 miles down the road…

So… That was cool. But, all is well now, back on the road.

We spent the next couple days, catching up with Mike and Jen and the kids, and making up for lost time with the laughs we haven’t gotten to share together the last couple years and had a great relaxing visit. But, alas, its time to go again.

Next stop Charleston to visit Loretta’s best friend Jenny. We are only staying here two or three days too then its on to Georgia. 10 days later we would actually be on the road.

We had a great time visiting with Jen and Brandon and the kids, and they even let us Moochdock in their driveway, so we are saving a ton of money on campsites. Loretta had been to Charleston to visit Jen in the past, but I had never been there and didn’t mind the extra time checking out a new city, and with Jen and Brandon living there, it was like having our personal tour guides so we got to see stuff some people might miss out on.

Somewhere along the line these 10 days, our son and his best friend convinced us to start a youtube channel. This sounds like a great idea! Just shoot some video, post it online, next thing ya know we will be rich and famous and living in Ibiza. It isn’t that easy at all really.

Don’t get me wrong, we are LOVING doing the videos every week, and learning new things with the video editor, but we are supposed to be retired now. How did our Son trick us back into a full time job that we don’t even get paid for? No matter, he wins this round, and if you want to see some of the cool stuff we found in the Charleston area, check out the video below.

We said our goodbyes and got back on the road. We are 2 weeks in now, and starting really feel the relaxation that comes with not having anywhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. Our next stop is in Georgia to visit our friends Kim and Austin.

We set up shop in High Falls State Park for 5 days. The park was beautiful, there were lots of great trails to go hiking on, the weather is starting to be consistently warmer every day. Things are looking up. We were only about an hour from Senoia, which is where they film The Walking Dead, and have done a lot of other tv shows and movies, so lets go check it out.

If you haven’t been there, definitely add it to you list of stops, even if you aren’t a fan of The Walking Dead. The town is a perfect blend of small town and tourist town. There is a cool main street with shops and even a restaurant owned by Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus from the show.

Nic And Normans
Really Good Food

We spent the rest of the time in Georgia hanging out with Kim and Austin, catching up on old times and making some new memories. The girls went out and got their nails done while Austin and I went and had a few drinks and checked out a new restaurant. Even with going out to eat a few extra times the last couple weeks, we are still on budget thanks to Jen letting us Moochdock, and using the state parks instead of RV Resorts.

That gave us an idea for our second youtube video, on how to road trip on a budget.

We wrapped up production on our second video, and started down to Chewacla State Park for a few days. There’s a great waterfall hike, and we will get to see our Nieces, and Sister in law. The park was awesome, the check in staff was great, and we are even practicing what we preach in our latest youtube video. Hell, we are even here ahead of schedule for a change, so we are going to be able to surprise the girls and pick them up from school!

As soon as we parked, the headaches started.

It took us almost an hour just to get the RV unhooked from the truck. The front jacks on the Fifth Wheel were taking turns not working. Instead of lifting the front of the RV, they would rotate it over to one side or the other.

I can feel it starting to come back now. That stress level and attitude of a construction boss who’s crew is behind schedule and every time he looks around they are all “on break” again. Several hammer blows to the landing gear and a few choice words of encouragement, both legs finally come down and we can unhook the truck. Just have to level it, runs the slides out and plug in. We can still make it to the school on time…

We switch back to our normal routine. I hit the Auto Level button. Loretta grabs the water hose, I grab the power cord. Then we hear the beeping error from the jacks again. Mother Fu…

Close enough to level. Run the damn slides out and lets go.

Slides went out just fine, we go to fill up the dogs water bowl and the pipes are banging like a cop serving a search warrant. The power is flickering like we are in the middle of a Halloween haunted house. And my patience level is nearing an all time low for the day.

Loretta takes the dog for a walk and calls Kayla to let her know we finally got the camper and truck separated, I have a discussion with our camper about how tired I am of its bullshit today.

Loretta comes back and says “Kayla said this was Jasons favorite place to come camping”. Now it all makes sense. Jason and I used to bust each others chops all the time when he was still with us, and now we are at his favorite park. I don’t put much stock in this kinda thing, but after hearing that, I looked to the sky and said “Ok, you got me bro, good one.” Everything fixed itself at that moment and we haven’t had an issue with the RV since.

We did make it to the school on time to pick up the girls and spent the next 3 days realizing how happy we were we only had one boy. My nieces ran me through the ringer, and the youngest somehow convinced me to do gymnastic stretches with her, I think I’m still walking crooked.

When we leave here we are in the home stretch on our trip down to Miami for a few weeks to escape the cold. We are heading south into the west side of Florida, then East over to St Augustine to visit with Aunt Stacy and Uncle Mark and check out Old City. Again, another city I’ve never been too and we have personal tour guides.

This is another city I would highly recommend going to if you’ve never been before. It’s like Pirates Of The Caribbean meets Nashville. There’s cool stuff to do for every age group in the family, and the weather is beautiful even in January.

During our tour of the city, I hopped over a small guard rail to take a picture and popped something in my knee. Now I’m doing the peg leg pirate walk around the city, the rest of this trip should be fun…

From here we only have a couple stops left. We are heading west towards Tampa and stopping to visit Lorettas parents along the way, then on to see my cousin Katie and her husband Jimmy, and if we can squeeze it in, a visit with our friends Kristen and Craig and seeing some sights around the city. Then its off to Fort Myers to visit Lorettas brother Daniel and sister Rebecca and our niece and nephews.

We managed to make the schedule work to see everyone, and even squeezed in an hour to sit on the beach in February, because if you can sit on the beach in February, why wouldn’t you?

Know what happens we you go from bundled up in winter clothes in the north east to half naked in the lower latitudes and forget sunblock because its February? Yup…

No matter. Tomorrow we are on the very last leg, and I would rather be a little itchy from a sunburn than home shoveling snow.

At this point we have been on the road a month and a half and both of us are looking forward to being stationary for a little while so we can just take a minute to catch our breath and just relax.

I’ll be honest. We haven’t relaxed yet. I don’t think we were even set up for 10 minutes before our new neighbor David pointed and yelled “You guys got winners, grab a beer and get ready” and we haven’t stopped since.

We are here for a month from Valentines to St Pats, we’ve got plenty of time to get some stuff done, can’t hurt to go meet the new neighbors and throw some cornhole for a bit right?

We’ve been here 3 weeks and haven’t gotten any of our “chores” done yet. The people here are awesome, and it almost feels like home. We all hang out like “normal” neighbors, and go out and do things together, and meet up in the pool or the on site tiki bar at the end of the day and trade stories of our adventures for the day.

We still have to make sure Lagertha gets her Mom & Dad time, and her daily excursions. We had a whole list of things we were going to do when we got down here, and didn’t do a single one of them for 2 weeks. We were just having fun with our new “Florida Family” and time started to get away from us.

We realized it one Saturday morning and told ourselves we couldn’t go outside and play with our friends until we got some stuff on the calendar so we would actually go check it off. We took the next 2 hours and got some adventures lined up. Now we can go hang out, and we have “days off” when we can go do stuff.

We have made some awesome new friends and are really having a great time playing in the Florida sun, but if there is one thing that Life On The Road is teaching me, its that I really miss my couch…

Maybe the next campground we can just sit around the fire and catch our breath? Nah…

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