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Archive for April, 2006

Cosmic Hot Dogs

One of our alert blog readers, Rob Baker, noticed that our route from Charleston to Myrtle Beach would take us up Rt 17 in Mt Pleasant. So he put a comment on yesterday’s post to tip us off to the Jack’s Cosmic Hot Dogs and we made a point of stopping there for lunch. There’s plenty of parking in the back for an Airstream.

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Rob was right, the Cosmic Hot Dog (blue cheese cole slaw and sweet potato brown mustard) was awesome. Emma opted for the Earth Dog (plain, with mustard). Jack’s fries are pretty darned good too, thin and extra salty, and just right with a frosted mug of root beer.

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Suitably refreshed, we charged up Rt 17 a couple of hours to Myrtle Beach and pulled into the second-largest campground we have ever encountered. (The largest was Fort Wilderness, at Disney World.) It’s a giant complex, with hundreds of sites for RVs, permanent residences, rental cabanas, etc.

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Site I-46, oceanside

Our site is right smack-dab on the front row closest to the ocean. The boardwalk between the sand dunes is about 30 feet from our front door and the sound of the crashing surf emanates from perhaps 200 feet away. You couldn’t be any closer to the beach than this. It’s terrific.

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The view from our front door

Yesterday Fred gave us a microfiber towel to use when washing the Airstream. The weather was spectacular when we got here (breezy, sunny, 80 degrees) and we were in settling-in mode, so I decided to try out the towel instead of hunting up a truck wash at $40 a pop.

It worked great. We used a small bowl of water with a big sponge and two drops of soap, to get the dirt loose. Then we followed up quickly with the microfiber towel. We changed the water eight or nine times and rinsed the towel two or three times.

The result was a pretty clean trailer with very little mess using just a few bowls of water. This means we can “stealth wash” the trailer at campgrounds that normally frown on it. Good tip, Fred!

Even though the rally doesn’t start until Wednesday, there are already 30-40 Airstreams here. People who have met us at other rallies are stopping by to say Hi, and those who don’t know us are cruising slowly by in their rented golf carts and wondering about all the stickers on our trailer. Eleanor and Emma have gone out for a few groceries (which is why Brett now calls our trip the “Tour of America’s Grocery Stores”) and we’ll have pizza tonight while planning some fun for the rest of the week.

Charleston, SC

We met up with our friends Renee and Fred this morning, fellow Airstreamers who happen to live in Charleston, and they gave us a quick tour of the historic district this morning. Charleston has a vibrant and large historic residential area, filled with glamorous homes and quiet tree-lined streets and tourists in horse-drawn carriages. It’s something like a cross between historic Savannah and New Orleans’ Garden District.

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Renee and Fred in the pink

There are a tremendous number of things to do in Charleston. If it wasn’t just a stop on our trek to Myrtle Beach, we’d spend a week exploring all the good stuff. Across the new Cooper River Bridge in Patriot Park is a riverside floating exhibit of an aircraft carrier, a submarine, and a destroyer. In town, dozens of fine eateries, including the one we went to for a local specialty called “Shrimp and grits”. (Worth trying even if it sounds awful to you. We loved it.)

Then there are the tours, the parks, the marketplace, Fort Sumter, tons of Civil War history, beaches, and plenty of other things. Renee is going to write up an article for the magazine about it, sometime. Charleston is much more interesting than I expected.

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At the market

We hit the marketplace, and managed to come out with only a little bag of local cookies called “Bennes”. They’re pretty good — sort of a thin sesame seed sugar wafer about the size of a quarter. I could eat the whole bag in a few minutes if I was left alone with it.

We browsed downtown Charleston until the thunderstorms arrived. Renee and Fred headed home to pack their Airstream motorhome for the rally, and we went to Marble Slab Creamery for birthday ice cream. Today is Emma’s official birthday, after all.

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Playing in the rain

And it’s been a while since I gave you a Sign of the Week. Here’s one from today’s walk … a warning against public hula-hooping?

Charleston sign.jpg

The Road to Charleston

Not wanting to leave the Little Talbot Island area too quickly, we went to visit the nearby Kingsley Plantation. It’s a National Park site, so we scored another stamp in our parks passport. It’s a beautiful spot on the river, with some fascinating history related to slavery, but unfortunately the two main buildings were closed for renovation (termite damage).

Kingsley Plantation.jpg

Still, we spotted a bit of wildlife along the trails, including some venomous-looking spiders (probably not in reality), and this salamander. He was about eight inches long. Anyone know what species this guy is?


The ride up I-95 was uneventful, except for the alligator on the highway somewhere in South Carolina. I hadn’t realized they lived that far north. It’s a shame we weren’t quicker with the camera, but it was all I could do to swerve out of his path without hitting someone else on the highway. I-95 was crowded enough without six-foot gators wandering around on it. I was glad the Hensley hitch was on the rig … the abrupt swerve was a non-event.

I got one of those lucky wifi breaks that happen when you’re on the road. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant off I-95, but I wasn’t hungry, so I went into the trailer and found the Days Inn next door had a wide-open wifi network. That’s always good news for getting work done quickly.

But overall, it was just another day. 250 miles covered, and here we are in Charleston at a commercial campground. (The park has Tengo wireless Internet “at every site” but of course the signal doesn’t penetrate the Airstream’s skin, so I’m still using the Internet In Motion system built into the trailer.) Tomorrow we will tour Charleston and whatever else seems interesting in the area.

Little Talbot Island SP, Jacksonville FL

Now, this is a nice state park. Coming from Jacksonville, you head west past the St John River and the little ferry that crosses it, over some salt marsh, and suddenly you are on Little Talbot Island, a tiny barrier of gorgeous sand and shells on the Atlantic Ocean.

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The park is across the road from the oceanside, bordering a creek. It’s a maze of tiny lanes which we had to navigate very carefully with our 30-foot trailer. Most of the sites are like ours: shady with overhanging live oaks draped heavily with Spanish moss. It’s just beautiful here.

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Our site is small enough that we had to unhitch to get the truck out of the road, but it seems worth it. I wish we could stay a second night — there’s a lot to do here: beachcombing, bicycling trails, a nearby plantation home, a few seafood restaurants, the scenic little ferry, etc. But the park is booked up for the weekend, so we did what we could today.

First stop was the beach. It is wide and flat, miles long, hard packed enough to drive on (but you can’t here), and littered with shells at low tide. It was also virtually deserted today. Signs warn of rip tides but the water was warm and people were coming out of the water when we arrived. There’s enough space on this beach that the park service felt obliged to post signs warning that nude bathing is not allowed.

Dipping our feet in the Atlantic Ocean means we have finally crossed the country. Our last few swims have been in the Gulf of Mexico, and before that we last touched salt water in the Pacific Ocean at Carpinteria State Beach near Santa Barbara CA. Now we can go only a bit further eastward before we point the rig back to the blue Pacific.

After the beach we took a ranger’s recommendation and hopped the 3-minute ferry across the St John River to Mayport. You can ride over as a passenger for $1.00 or take the car for $3.25, each way. It’s pretty expensive for such a short ride.

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But it’s worth it. A hundred feet from the dock on the Mayport side is Singleton’s Seafood Shack, a family-run institution that has a richly deserved reputation for serving great food. We left absolutely stuffed full of crab, fish, scallops, shrimp, clam strips, collard greens, coleslaw, rice & beans, and hush puppies. This place is highly recommended! The big collection of hand-made wooden boat models in the back room is a free bonus.

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We have decided that our Open House/Happy Hour/Meet’n’Greet/Free Snacks events for blog readers and other friends will be next Friday from 1 pm to 2:30 pm, and Saturday 1 pm to 2 pm. We’ll be in site I-46 at Ocean Lakes Family Campground. If I can find a flagpole kit for the Airstream, we’ll be flying the Airstream Life flag. Come on over if you can.

Birthday Cake

The fates took retribution on me for taking the day off yesterday. Yesterday one of the back-office systems we use for the magazine started outputting errors, and I only found out about it this morning. Apparently the software went haywire somewhere around the time I was watching Cleo the sea lion.

Then I discovered a bug in one of the database queries, which would have resulted in even more errors if I hadn’t fixed it today. So the whole day was spent glaring at my laptop computer, mumbling to myself, and occasionally pounding out emails to our programmer. No wonder the keys on my computer are wearing off.

Meanwhile, the Florida sun continued to shine, the heat again rose to nearly 90, and the humidity became so thick that you could iron shirts without plugging in the iron. Florida would still be a largely uninhabited place if air conditioning had not been invented. Between the programming problems and the intense air outside, it was a day to spend at the dinette working.

I also invested about an hour in pre-planning. I don’t want to give away too much about what’s going to happen next, but from our Schedule page you can tell we’re going to be doing a lot of traveling in the next month. We’ve got a lot of things we want to accomplish, so every day I can, I’m spending time researching places to go and calling people to make various arrangements. I only mention this because when things start happening quickly, you’ll know what went into making it happen.

But it wasn’t all work today. I finally cured the last computer problem by 6 pm, and Emma and I headed off to the pool. It’s a great stress reliever to play with Emma in the water and watch her progress as a swimmer. Now she swims 25 feet or so unassisted, either under water or above water. And she dives for things on the bottom like a much older kid.

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In keeping with our plan to celebrate Emma’s birthday all week since we might be in the car on the actual day, Eleanor and Emma made a cake together. The frosting was Eleanor’s own marscapone cream frosting, which is really superb stuff. The middle layer of the cake contained a chocolate ganache, by Emma’s request. You should have been here for a taste … it’s a great cake. There won’t be any left over in a day or two.

By the way, we are going to hold a Happy Hour or some sort of get-together at the Region 3 Rally in Myrtle Beach, next week. It’s for any blog reader or any subscriber to Airstream Life. Anyone who is planning to go to the rally, check this blog in the next few days or the bulletin boards at the rally for information on when and where. We’re still trying to work out the plans right now.

SeaWorld, Orlando FL

We just dragged ourselves in from SeaWorld. We’re wiped out from nine hours of walking around the park in 80 degrees … four live shows, two fast rides, six large cups of sugary drink, and more sea mammals than you can catch in a drift net (just a bad joke, pay no attention). In short, total sensory overload.

Emma and Dad waiting for a stingray to swim by … so we can pet it!

We’re done with the theme park experiences for a while. It was a good day but my brain is becoming numbed. I think we all need some “real” experiences over the next couple of weeks, involving natural places and people who are genuine (or genuinely bizarre). Shouldn’t be hard to work that up.

But first, a good night’s rest. The air conditioner is humming and the air inside is comfortably dry & cool, unlike outside. We’ll sleep well, and dream of dolphins.

Welcome new readers!

Hey, I just noticed we were featured in the Full Time RV’er newsletter this month. About 100 new people have started reading the blog as a result, so I wanted to say “Welcome!” and give you some pointers to information in this blog that may be helpful to you.

First off, if you are searching for something specific, try the “Search” box in the left column. We’ve talked about a lot of topics related to full-timing over the past seven months, so you’ll probably find the answers you want there. As of today, we have posted over 190 times.

Second, you should definitely read through all the Tips and Ideas entries.

Third, feel free to use the “Comments” link below every post to ask questions, or add your thoughts to anything we have said. Your comments are really helpful, not only to us, but to other readers of the blog. Let us know what you’d like us to talk about.

You might also want to browse the photo albums we’ve posted online. We have hundreds of photos for your enjoyment. They are organized by location, so if there’s a particular place you are interested in (especially western parks), check the Pictures link.

Finally, if you’d like to meet up and talk in person, check our Schedule page for the details. We plan to cover the entire USA coast-to-coast at least two more times this year, so eventually we’ll be somewhere near you!

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