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Old 09-08-2013, 10:50 PM   #15
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Here we are on the beach:

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Old 09-09-2013, 06:26 AM   #16
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:03 AM   #17
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You may have found it already but the donut hole is the place for breakfast.
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:08 AM   #18
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Our days at Topsail are drifting together but are going great. We take a very leisurely pace in the morning, get to the beach around 10, and stay until about 2. Then it's lunch, naps and bike riding before dinner.

Yesterday I walked around by myself and got to see most of the RV park. I was wrong about the other parking spots being better than ours. While many of them appear to be better at a quick glance, it's easy to see most of the pads are pretty broken up and could use to be re-poured. As others mentioned in reviews, the "100s section" is newer and in excellent shape. It has the feel of a permanent community with street lights and well-kept lawns. Our site has been great, and I haven't heard anything from our close neighbors' sites. I sure hope they haven't heard too much noise from ours.

The camp store is pretty small and has more souvenirs than anything else. Still, I was able to buy a coax cable and tune in the park's 100+ channels. One TV reported 64 analog and 74 digital, while the other reported 64 A and 121 D. Although many are just the same channel presented in analog, SD and HD, it takes a long time to cycle through the whole list looking for something. Not that we'd watch much, anyway. The TV is one of the least used parts of our coach. I'm sure it would be different if we were full-timing or long-terming, but for a week beach vacation TV isn't a priority for us.

As others have pointed out, the beach is so sparsely populated it almost feels like you're on a private beach. Today more people were out at the same time, but I'm not sure there were even 50 people there, maybe not even 25. The first day people leaving as we got there said the flies were terrible, but he wind must have shifted because we got a couple of flies early on and then nothing. Today the wind was strong and there were no flies at all. We've been getting good use out of our bike child trailer, keeping my 6-year-old and a lot of beach stuff in there for the ride down. When we get to the end of the path, we lock our bikes up and disconnect the trailer. I wheel it the rest of the way to the beach. Tonight I noticed its tires are completely flat. I'll have to air them up and see if that makes it any easier to pull

We'd originally planned to bike to Stinky's or one of the other close restaurants for one meal, but we've been enjoying the relaxing pace so much we probably won't leave Topsail until it's time to check out Friday. We still haven't decided whether to go back through Birmingham, AL, or Jackson, MS. Each of those routes is about the same distance and has some decent campgrounds to choose from. I considered Tannehill SP in AL, but we're looking for a quick park and go. We won't really have a lot of time to explore so easy access and a sewer hookup are more important than things to do nearby. I didn't want to rush back, but we both have multiple obligations at church Sunday morning.

On our bike ride tonight, we noticed the parking area by the entrance gate is meant for leaving your tow dolly if you bring one of those. We also rode through the cabin area. There's one mobile home and a few cabanas that look semi-permanent, but otherwise I think they are all for vacationers just like the RV park. I think it would be just as fun to stay in one of those, although its nicer to bring your own home with you. I also checked out the wifi just because its here and unusual for a State Park. It reaches weakly to our site and it mainly meant for the spots closer to the camp store.

Tomorrow will be another beach day, although we're considering renting a canoe at one of Topsail's lakes first. More on that if we decide to do it.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:01 PM   #19
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Today was our slowest start yet. Biscuits and bacon were on the menu, but someone :cough: :cough: forgot to thaw the bacon last night. While that someone got the bacon thawing and cooked everything, I went outside for maintenance. I checked all the tires, still holding at just about 95 psi, pumped up the bike trailer tires, and installed the insect screen on our furnace. I had ordered the wrong model previously; I still need to take that one back to CW along with the solar rope lights I bought for this trip that don't work. Installing the screen, I ran into more philips screws the Thor assemblers helpfully stripped for me when they built the unit. I was able to get them out using a smaller flat bit on the multi-head screwdriver. After replacing the furnace screen I went ahead and dumped the tanks since the gray was full and the mid bathroom showed 3/4. The rear black tank always shows empty, even when we know there's a lot in there. I'll add it to the list when we take it in for the bed service. I guess I should call the repair shop and Thor sometime this week to get the ball rolling on my repair claim. I meant to do it Monday morning but was having too much fun at the beach.

By the time we finished breakfast, it was nearly noon. My older son and I went to rent a canoe at the camp store. The volunteer couple working the desk had never rented one out before, but we all 3 worked it out together with no problems. They gave me the key to the canoes and the locker combination to the paddle/life jacket locker.

Apparently they will send the tram to the Campbell Lake stop if you ask, but we wanted to ride our bikes. The mile-long trail was easier than the beach run. Along the way are several workout stations as if the Boy Scouts or some other organization has a physical fitness test on the trail. The Campbell Lake area was deserted today. We parked our bikes, got paddles and vests, and then headed down to the water. Just as I stepped in the mud next to the canoes, I remembered my water shoes, purchased especially for a canoe trip a few years back, that were sitting in the RV a mile back. I unlocked one canoe and managed to get us in the water without having to get my regular sneakers wet.

Paddling the lake was a bit of a challenge at first. The last time I was in a canoe was a Veterans' Outward Bound trip through the Everglades 3 years ago. As I remember it took me a bit of paddling to get the hang of it then, too, but I had an adult partner who was able to help the process. My 8-year-old boy wasn't quite as helpful, and the wind affected us a lot more on the open lake than it had in the more enclosed Everglades. After a few failed attempts to paddle down the middle of the lake, I realized I needed to stay on the edge and keep paddling one side against the wind. That way I was able to get to the other side of the lake. Once we got there, the wind dropped off considerably, bringing out the biting flies right away. Not even Off with DEET kept them away. By this point we'd been out over an hour, and the flies, horseflies, and cockroaches in the canoe made the whining reach epic proportions in the front. I got us back to the shore, and we locked up the supplies before checking in with the front desk to verify we were done.

When I got back, my wife decided she and the boys would take a nap. While they were out I decided to check out the ride to Stinky's Fish Camp to see if we could bike there. The bike path along 30A is what all other bike paths should be: wide, paved, far from the edge of the road....It was an easy 11-minute ride to Stinky's and about 1.9 miles according to the bike app I installed to measure today's ride. When I got back I looked up some information and found that Stinky's wasn't known as a good place to park a bicycle. More importantly, FL law requires both boys to wear helmets, even the one in the trailer. Helmets are sitting in our garage back in AR, so we decided to skip eating out this time. Hopefully next time we visit Topsail we'll have made the 4-down or dolly decision and will have a car. We could have rented a car but didn't want to do anything other than eat out once. I offered to call a taxi but my wife decided she had a better idea. We heated hot dogs and wrapped them in foil, then baked them in the oven for awhile. We packed up the food and drinks, and got to the beach for a relaxing dinner right on the water. We got there by about 5 and stayed until the sun went below the horizon. A piece of my wife's bun fell and she absent-mindedly tossed it to the lone bird that was standing about 20 feet away. Just as I was saying "bad idea, babe," about 30 other birds came out of nowhere and started looking for food. When we didn't give them any they eventually lost interest and flew away, but it was pretty funny.

While sitting in the sand enjoying the surf, two V-22 Osprey's flew by. That reminded me today is September 11. It's funny to think how much life has changed in those 12 years. We've lived in 2 other countries and I've deployed to 4 more. We had 2 crazy boys, one of whom caused us to come home early from Turkey. I "retired" and started working on the same base as a civilian. I made my dream come true and bought this bus we're enjoying today. Who knows what the next 12 will hold?
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Old 09-18-2013, 01:01 AM   #20
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Day 8: Topsail to Edwards, MS.

As you can see, my interest in keeping up real-time waned as I spent more time on the beach. We had our last great beach day on Thursday and then Friday the 13th we packed up and departed Topsail. Despite the earlier warnings about US-98, I decided to try that way. I also decided to try Askew's Landing Campground in Edwards, MS if they had room or one of the CGs in Vicksburg, MS otherwise.

US-98 wasn't bad at all. I'm guessing the mileage must be a lot shorter for the time to be better even with all the stoplights. I haven't been to Hurlburt Field in a long time, and it was neat to see how the runway basically comes up to 98. Except for a short section that was narrow and 25mph, 98 was plenty wide and fast enough for us. After crossing the bridge into Pensacola, we decided to stop at the Whataburger off Gregory St. We'd stayed in a motel in this area a few years back, and in one of those great travel moments I let a fight with Elle keep me from even unwrapping my burger here. This visit was much better, and I even got to cross an item off my nerd bingo list by paying with my NFC-enabled phone.

I ate fast and then got everyone else in the bus. We made our way to I-110 and then I-10 with no trouble. From there to Hattiesburg it was the same as the trip down. I-10 to Mobile, then US-98 again where it was mostly 2-lane narrow in AL and 4-lane divided in MS. Instead of heading towards Pelahatchie, we continued on US-49 to Jackson, where a huge rainstorm hit us. Fortunately it wasn't too long or the rest of the drive might have been miserable. I-20 W from Jackson was just as beat up as I-20 E had been the week before. Soon we were out of Jackson and on the way to Edwards.

The drive into Askew's Landing is interesting, first because the paved road is very narrow. I'm still extra cautious after losing my right mirror the day I drove away from the dealer, but I think even a veteran would have to cross the yellow line to avoid going off the right side.

Askew's Landing was a nice enough CG. We think the vast majority of the guests were permanent or very long term. A few 5th wheels in the "transient" area had wooden decks beside them, and one had 3 of its 6 tires rotted out. There was a FEMA-looking trailer with a table saw and other tools outside, but overall the CG was safe-looking and not trashy. Our parking was in a field with 50A, water and sewer hookups. They said we got the last 50A spot, but there were a lot of 30A slots open. We still haven't tried a 30A CG yet but will get a chance next month when we camp with our church at Petit Jean in Arkansas.

Askew's Landing seems like it was made for rallies or big reunions and such. There's a pool, game room and laundromat in addition to the small store. There were different types of birds (pheasant, maybe?) outside the store, and a pen with ponies and goats the boys enjoyed seeing. Our stay was too short to see much, but we were fine with that. Last day in the next post.
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Old 09-18-2013, 01:22 AM   #21
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Day 9: Home Sweet Home

We got off to our usual slow start, even though I was out of bed earlier than I had been on the whole trip. At 10 we packed up and drove off. Another little anomaly hit me: I know I put the antenna down because I forgot to do it until we started moving. Then 30ish miles later when we stopped for gas in Tallulah, it was partially up again. After that we checked it every hour or so, but it never came up again.

In Tallulah, we filled up for the first time since leaving FL. This was the farthest we'd driven without stopping, and consequently the gas bill was steep--$176! After getting over the shock we picked up US-65 and headed north. From Tallulah to beyond the AR border, US-65 is mostly 2-lane without a turn lane in the center.

Somewhere between Eudora, AR and Lake Village, we got behind a funeral. We assume as much because we kept noticing the traffic on the other side had pulled off the road and the cars were just getting back on as we approached. Also a few stragglers kept dangerously passing the rest of us to join the group. A few times they almost got to attend their own funerals!

Leaving Lake Village, 65 first becomes 4-lane separated by a turn lane and then becomes 4-lane divided. From here we just backtracked our course from the week before: US-65 to I-530 to I-440 to US-67. Although most GPS programs will likely show it's faster to continue on I-30 through Little Rock and then pick up US-67, I can say from years of experience here it's worth the extra minute to take I-440 and skip the downtown traffic if your destination is north of 440 on US-67 like ours.

We made one stop in Dumas to hit the bathroom since we weren't planning a dump stop before home. Other than that the ride home was uneventful, and we pulled in the house without stopping for gas after Tallulah. We unloaded everything we needed to in about an hour, and I washed the beast off with my pressure washer, taking care not to hit the decals with too much pressure. We've definitely improved our unpacking time in the short while we've owned this coach. I'm sure we'll get plenty of other opportunities to practice.

All-in-all we traveled over 1300 miles in 4 driving days and averaged about 6.5 mpg. We had some challenges but loved our first (of many, we hope) long trips in our coach.
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