As you may have seen via Facebook, our departure from New Jersey and Ft Dix was met with a nice snow storm. Obviously this is not ideal weather to leave a campground and drive for hours, but it is the ideal time to leave if your water lines are frozen and your water reserves have run out, and you HATE being cold. Tino finished his last day of training Friday, December 15, and we were all ready to be in Florida. We debated staying Friday night because he was going to be tired and we had no idea when he would be done that day. However, when I woke up Friday and saw the weather I had been monitoring all week predicted snow, I started packing and preparing to leave.
The ground was frozen, the hoses were frozen, the power cord was frozen stiff, as were the bike rack straps.
It was all a small struggle but I got it all completed. While I was working hard the boys were cleaning the snow off of every bench and picnic table they could find. At some point they looked over at the lake we were parked by and thought “we should go break the ice!” Emerson slipped and fell in at the edge of the lake. I only found out when I saw his sweatshirt soaked and muddy while he shivered in front of me. He had refused to put on a jacket this morning, and I couldn’t find his winter coat??! The boys and I had a big talk about playing by lakes, ice and hypothermia. I prefer the scare tactic and slight yelling to get my point across with safety issues, otherwise, these boys drown me out and don’t listen to me.
I pulled in the slides just as the first snow started to fall at 2pm. By 4pm when Tino was finished with his training and walking back to the camping site, the truck was hooked up to the camper (appropriately – I CHECKED!) and there was 3-4 inches of snow on the ground.
Due to my recent mishap with leaving this very same parking space I requested Tino drive until I felt comfortable. Also, I don’t love driving at night. It hurts my eyes… I told him to drive until we found 40 degree weather!
The weather combined with my somewhat irrational fear of the camper falling off or over, made the driving slow. We required 4-wheel drive to make it down the county roads to the Interstate. And for the first few hours of the drive we averaged 10mph. During these first few hours I repeatedly looked in the rear view mirror and saw the Beast resting on the truck bed, while we were driving. Talk about your mind playing tricks on you!!!
We drove all the way to Richmond, Virginia the first night. It was around 20 degrees outside and without being able to put the slides out while “boondocking,” we agreed it would be too cold to sleep in the camper. But first we needed to fuel up the car. Apparently, midnight is shift change time at Marathon and there was no service available. Also, they only had high power diesel fuel for 18-wheelers. I have no idea if my truck can handle this type of fill up. We left, on fumes, to figure out another option tomorrow.
We saw a worthy hotel with a decent parking lot and pulled in. I started to get nervous about the departure and made Tino stop so I could get out and assess the loop around the hotel. Good thing I did! We never would have made the third right turn to get out of the parking lot! It was time to back up the camper… which meant it was time for me to drive K We drove across the street to another hotel with more parking spots and walked in to the hotel to get a room. The boys were still awake and it was 12:30 at night. In signing the paperwork I learned they were not dog friendly! Great. She is either going to freeze in the car or we are smuggling her in and hoping we don’t get caught. At a $250 fee, yikes! (Thank you large Ikea bag! We smuggled!)
After breakfast and a diesel fill up 3 miles away we were on the road. For 13 hours we drove, and drove and it wasn’t until Florida we reached 40 degree weather. It was 48 degrees and 9:00pm when we reached Jacksonville. 3 hours from our destination! We pressed on and made it all the way to my parent’s house. We parked in the middle of the road and went to bed. Parking this thing adequately in the driveway was tomorrow’s problem.
After breakfast at Johnny Grits – our favorite breakfast spot in the area – I was ready for the challenge. Grandma was really excited for the show, we got her a chair and a beverage and put her out of the way but right in front of the action spot. It was obvious there were branches in the way and Trey was there with a large limb cutter to help. My parent’s drive way is a narrow entrance over a culvert, a round about in front of the house to the left, and a large pad and carport to the right in front of the garage. Off the back of the pad is a large field and grass exit with a small hill. In my head over the last few weeks this area became smaller and smaller and the hill bigger and bigger. My nerves settled a lot when I was there to see it all. I determined the best way to park would be to drive straight into the grass field and back the Beast on the pad in front of the carport. This way the power cord could reach the new electrical outlet my parents had installed and it would be on level ground. We ended up cutting 2 branches right at the start and that was the whole show. I maneuvered the truck and Beast like I had done this a hundred times. I corrected only once and parked perfectly on the edge of pad, auto-leveled the camper and put the slides out. Like a Boss! Uneventful for the scrutinizing eyes of my family 🙂
The Griswold’s are here! Let the Christmas festivities begin…