|There and Back Again
||[Sep. 7th, 2011|11:42 am]
Or, how we made it down to Florida in two days and back in three. Our clear preference in this lifestyle is to travel once a week or so, driving 4 to 6 hours each time. Towing, we average 40 mph. That’s start to stop, counting in rest breaks, lunch, fueling stops and all. If the driving is all on freeways we do a little better, maybe 50 mph; if it’s back roads or surface roads around cities we do a little worse. So if we have our druthers, we travel a maximum of about 250 (less is fine) miles per change of venue, and we like to change our venue every week or two. I don’t get discontented sitting for a month, but J gets antsy if he’s in one place too long, and I’m perfectly happy with the one to two week stays as the norm.
But just like everything, reality is no respecter of preference. When work says jump off we go. In this case, from Virginia to Florida and back again. In a way I was glad to have a two day deadline to make 625 miles; it proved we could still do the long drive days at need, making 500 miles in a day. Not fun, but doable, and the cats didn’t fuss too much. With the longer drives when we take meal breaks we load the cats into the trailer and let them move around a bit, and this was Lili’s first experience with that; she’s still not sure what to make of it. They all like the snacks they get when we let them out, though.
Our trip back to the DC area was a little more relaxed; we had three days to go about 750 miles. The extra day meant we were able to get off the road in the early evening every night, which helped a lot. We were also able to share the driving, which made it go a lot faster. I think on the whole I prefer keeping the drive distances to 250 to 300 miles if we can, even if it means several driving days in a row. Better, of course, is taking a drive day and then a rest day and then a drive day (repeat as needed) and steadily making miles over time, but we couldn’t get out of Jacksonville until the last minute.
We finally left on Friday and I was glad, because usually traffic is pretty light on the weekends. Coming into DC on Sunday is normally optimal for ease of driving. Not so much this weekend, alas. A wildfire in the Dismal Swamp (I swear I am not making this up) on the border of VA and NC forced a lot of the returning shore-goers onto I-95 off the smoke-occluded US highways, and the traffic was horrendous. Everyone was trying to make time, and there were any number of slow-downs and fender benders (and people cutting us off – not a good idea to cut off the ginormous RV, folks, we can’t stop on a dime!) Add in a cloudburst on route 5 getting to the Beltway and it was a huge relief to get into our campgrounds every night.
Without a clear idea on when we’d be able to leave Florida, we didn’t bother to make reservations for the trip north. Thankfully, we were able to call ahead in the afternoon both days and get a night in two very nice campgrounds just off the freeway. We stopped at Florence RV Park (in Florence, SC, oddly enough :-p) and at a Jellystone Park in Emporia that we had used before on another speed run. Both were very nice places to lay over; I’d definitely use them again in similar circumstances. We didn’t even call Cherry Hill to move our arrival date to Sunday until Saturday afternoon (they were exceptionally nice to me all four times I called to change our reservations; I think we're all relieved that we’re done with that.)
We’ve got a full week scheduled at Cherry Hill, one of our favorite campgrounds. I am looking forward to having some time here to catch up with friends and also with our mail. Before we left Surry, VA in such a hurry, I’d asked our mail forwarding service to send our accumulated mail to Cherry Hill, which was our planned next stop. Mistake. I was trying to make sure that the mail would come in a timely fashion, and succeeded in having it sent to a state we were not in. Our long-suffering friends came through for us again and picked up our packages, making it the second time they’ve rescued our mail for us (when we were in DC in June, I simply forgot that I’d had a package sent until after we were 200 miles away.)