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Old 09-04-2013, 02:55 PM   #1
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Yogi on the Lake MS and Topsail Hill Preserve

We're leaving Friday for our first long trip in the new "Bus." We'll be driving from Little Rock, AR to Pelahatchie, MS to try out Jellystone Park for 2 days. Then we'll be off to Topsail Hill Preserve SP near Destin, FL. We're expecting decent weather that will allow us to swim both places, and hopefully it will be a bit less crowded after Labor Day. We'll be there with our two boys, 8 and 6 (yay for home schooling ).

Since we're new we still haven't made a tow decision, and we don't feel like it's worth it to have my wife drive a car 10 hours just so we can go out shopping easier. Does anyone have a suggestion on RV friendly restaurants near Topsail Hill?

We're still open for the weekend of the 13th for the trip home. If we love Jellystone we'll stay there again, but as I've mentioned in a different thread we're considering Oak Mtn SP outside Birmingham, AL. Any gems in AL or MS you'd recommend on the way back to the Little Rock area?
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Old 09-04-2013, 07:52 PM   #2
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You can always rent a car in Destin if you want.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:59 PM   #3
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Just got back from jelly stone in horn lake ms about a 15 min drive to memphis. Pool water slides very well kept cg. We stayed at top sail hill last summer you will be pleased. A must eat for breakfast is the donut hole just outside the cg. Im not impressed with oak mountain sp but thats my 2cents. Look at tanny hill sp its about 20 min off 65 on 20west. Haven't stayed there but its another option.
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:10 PM   #4
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Debbie, thanks for that advice. It's something I keep forgetting even though I know it's a good option. It's something we'll look at for sure in FL, especially if Enterprise will pick us up at the SP.

Manny, thanks for the report. Originally for this vacation, my wife said she wanted to stay close. We were actually planning to stay at that Jellystone for a few days and then stay at a SP in Arkansas on the way home. When she changed her mind, I started out looking at going through AL (in another thread here) until I saw the other Jellystone in MS near Jackson. I hope it's as much fun!
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:40 AM   #5
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J.P. Coleman state park,Iuka, Ms. Pool closed now put pickwick lake still warm enough to swim, no food for 15 miles, bring what you need, ck map, almost right in your way from Destin to Memphis, full details of park on Internet,
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:47 AM   #6
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You can always rent a car in Destin if you want.
X2 on car rental.
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Old 09-05-2013, 07:05 AM   #7
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As far as restaurants, you get 'em all sizes and shapes, from the chains to the elegant. Nice boardwalk on the west end of Destin that has some with a view of the fleet and water. There is a restaurant just west of the road to TopSail (all white) that many love the breakfast and other meals. Can't remember name.

Envy you...TopSail is really nice camping and beach...bit of a walk...but great sand. Lots of nature trails to awl as well. Have fun!
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Old 09-07-2013, 04:32 PM   #8
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Day 1: Little Rock to Pelahatchie, MS

In true form, I waited until the last minute to decide to buy a bike rack so that we didn't have to stack 4 bikes on the bed. I went to Camping World Thursday and bought a Swagman tow 3-bike hitch rack. I thought eventually we'll tow either a dolly or tow bar. The Swagman comes without a receiver tube, as it clearly says online, but like others I missed this part until I got home. Our truck's receiver hitch wasn't long enough for the rack. Receiver tubes and hitch extenders aren't a common in-store item, so we bought what we could: a Reese 3-ball tow bar. It was long enough to fit through the bike rack and attach to the RV. It was so close I decided to zip tie some pool noodle pieces on it and the ladder.

We took it slow Friday morning and wound up not getting on the road until just after 11. My first stop was a Petro travel stop to weigh. The boards are full of newbies like me wondering how the process goes, so I'll add my experience here: I pulled up so that my front wheels were on the front pad and rear wheels on #2. You really can't help but do it right if you pull up to the speaker. The intercom came on and the operator asked if it was an initial weigh. I said yes. She asked for my trailer number and I replied it was a motorhome. Less than 30 seconds later she said she had me. I went in and paid $10 to get my report. My Hurricane 34E weighed just over 18,000lb, with 6800 on the front axle and 11k on the rear axle. All weights are below the maximum by enough that I think I'm probably not overloading.

We left the station and headed out towards MS. From the weigh station on I-40 east of Little Rock, we took highway 161 to I-440 to I-530 towards Pine Bluff. Other than some construction on I-530, the roads are all wide and in good condition. In Pine Bluff we took US-65. It's mostly divided highway with some turn-offs and a 65 mph speed limit. Near towns it loses the split and drops to 60 and eventually 45 or lower until the other side. There were several different options but Google said the fastest was to switch to US-82 and cross into MS. We took MS-454 a short way to MS-1, which is divided and 65 mph at that point. From there we took MS-438 over to US-61 South. US-61 is in poor condition on this stretch, with just one narrow lane each way and really bumpy roads. After a few miles on US-61, we turned left to MS-12 which looked brand new by comparison. After about 20 miles of two-lane road we turned onto US-49W South. It was much like US-65 in AR, with wide, divided roads and 65 mph speed limit.

Google originally had us cutting across MS north of Jackson. I was a bit nervous about not staying on interstate-like roads in the big (to me) rig, but I read here "you don't see the country from the interstate!" However, close to Jackson, Google switched to highways and I let it. We followed US-49W to US-49 to I-220 to I-20. Because of our late start and a gas stop on US-49, we were passing through Jackson at rush hour. That's the least fun kind of driving for me in the RV. With lots of lane changes, exit only, left exits, etc, I was doing a lot of changes. Everyone's always in such a hurry that I put my blinker on to get over to the slow lane, only to have the car behind me shoot over into that lane and pass on the right. I sound like an old man, but I know in a car I'm often guilty of the same thing

After a few miles on I-20, we took the exit for MS-43 and headed towards Jellystone. The turn off MS-43 isn't well marked, but Google knew where to take us

Check-in was easy. We stopped outside the gate in designated parking and I went in to pay the second night. I wish I'd brought the kids inside because the rangers (some of them, at least) do a whole spiel for the kids emphasizing the 9 1/2 mph speed limit, etc. After reading reviews here and rvparkreviews.com, I decided to reserve a premium spot near the waterpark. Surprisingly the spots weren't all very level, but that's why we carry blocks. With two blocks under each tire, we were able to get level enough to lower the jacks without lifting the tires off the ground. We hooked up the electricity, put out the slides, then went right to the waterpark. It's not huge as waterparks go, but is very cool compared to just a simple pool. We stayed in the water park a bit then moved to the regular pool, which was warmer. It overlooks the lake and we were able to see the sun set from there. Pretty cool way to end the day. We went back to the Bus and got back into dry clothes to get ready for bed. I lowered the overhead bunk for my son, at which time there was a loud bang and the cable supporting the bed popped out. I have a whole other thread about it so won't repost here. Look for it in the Thor Owner's forum.

After realizing the bed was a lost cause, we let our older son sit at the movie outside while we took the younger to the well-lit playground. They have a building next to the pool with a white wall, and at dusk they start showing cartoons and then movies on it. It's Dinosaur weekend here so Night at the Museum was on. After the movie ended we hit the sack early. Son #2 didn't get a nap yesterday, and he was asleep in less than 5 minutes. I don't know about son #1 because I passed out right away. On to Day 2...
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:26 PM   #9
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Even with the minor issues wasn't it all fun.
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Old 09-07-2013, 07:03 PM   #10
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Stinkys Restaurant on 30A also Goatfeathers on down further on 30A.....can buy fresh seafood there also.....glenb
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Old 09-07-2013, 11:22 PM   #11
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Day 2: Yogi on the Lake

We woke up rested after about 8 hours of much-needed sleep. The campground offers all-you-can-eat pancakes Saturdays and Sundays. I thought that would be a nice treat to get us away from the bed, give Mama a break from cooking and allow us to meet some others. That's been the real point of camping for me so far.

The breakfast was all you can eat pancakes with one side of sausage, drinks not included, for $4.99/adult and $3.99/child. There was a short wait, but the pancakes came out hot and very delicious. They were so hot that several plates melted on the way from the kitchen. They might need to consider different disposable plates . The sausage took a bit longer to arrive, but it was fantastic. Now, I haven't told my wife this, but the b'fast was advertised as pancakes and bacon when I checked in. As I waited to order I heard the people complaining about the lack of bacon and the staff member trying to explain they get bombarded on Sat mornings and had run out. So, besides the fact that bacon is her favorite, my wife doesn't usually care for breakfast sausage. We were all pleasantly surprised--amazed even--at the quality of the sausage. It was hands down the best sausage patties we've ever eaten in our lives. Adults got 2 patties and the kids each got one. Son #1 offered to share his with us without even tasting it. Normally we don't let him be picky about his eating, but we gladly allowed him to give away his sausage. He and I both had an extra order of plate-melting pancakes anyway.

After breakfast we spent a few minutes watching the flocks of geese on the beach, and then we headed back to the Bus. I won't go into the repair details here--check the other thread I mentioned above--but we spent just over 3 hours fighting the bed back into a safely stowed position. We're hopeful that is the worst part of our trip and the rest will just be rainbows and sunshine.

At the end of the repair we were physically and mentally tired. I know all you experienced RVers have seen these trials where you puzzle out how to make it work without having to drive 10 miles for a different tool or wait for a repairman. I'm impressed with our ability to work together without fighting and to take turns coming up with the next good idea that saved the day.

After the heroics my wife served lunch, and the parents might or might not have accidentally spilled a touch of Cap'n Morgan--purely for medicinal purposes--into our Cokes. By the end of lunch she and 6-yo son #2 were ready for a nap. Surprisingly, my older son wasn't dying to get to the water activities, but I did make him take a walk with me to check out the whole premium area and then to the camp store. He'd been wonderful helping us, keeping out of our way and keeping his brother entertained during the repair, and as a treat I promised him anything he wanted from the store. After carefully checking out everything they had to offer, he settled on the 34" fill your own powder candy tube, which will last the rest of this trip and beyond unless we start sharing it with him.

When the nap was over we all suited up and headed for the waterpark. It was pretty busy both with guests and day pass users. A lot of the reviews complain about non-campers "illegally" using the facilities, but I think they don't realize they sell day passes to the activities. The waterpark was enough to keep us entertained until just about sundown. Right at the end of our time, I was playing like a child with my 6-year-old and wound up nose-diving into a waterslide. I look like I lost a fight with someone, and that's about how I feel.I intended to ride through the whole park to check it out, but with the long repair and the fall, I was too tired by the time we got back to the bus and changed into dry clothes. The pool and all the main activities are right next to the premium spots, but that's only about 1/4 of the park's area. Most of the sites are in the large gravel area a good walk away from the waterpark and main office. If we decide to stop here on the way home I'll be sure to check out that side unless I'm rebuilding the engine or something :-)

We started a fire as the sun went down and ate dinner outside as we listened to the movie start just on the other side of the bus. Tonight it was Dinosaur, a movie I'm not sure I've ever heard of. We let our bigger son take his dinner over by the movie while we decadently watched a bit of the 34E's outdoor TV. I forgot to bring a coax cable to use with park systems, but the antenna was able to pick up quite a few HD stations in Jackson and the local area.

As the fire burned down we walked down to the lake. There's a dock between sites 4 and 5 in the premium section, and we sat on it and watched stars. My wife saw 3 satellites pass tonight, but I missed them all.

One last note that will be more for the review: there is wifi here but it seems to be based in the office and weaker as the distance increases. Here in the closest spot we get about 1/2 strength and 2/5 bars on my Verizon LTE iPad. I can't imagine there's any wifi signal in the main area unless they have one or more repeaters over there but the cell coverage should be the same. I know RVing is not about using the internet, but if I don't share my trip report realtime I'm a lot less likely to ever share it! Tomorrow we're off to Topsail Hill Preserve in Florida.
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Old 09-08-2013, 12:21 AM   #12
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We have stayed at Oak Mountain several times and have enjoyed our stays there. It's not one of the top of the line RV Parks but it quiet and peaceful.
One place I would highly recommend is John Kyle State Park at Sardis MS. The camp ground is on the lower lake at Lake Sardis. The camp ground is full of majestic oaks and absolutely beautiful. The town of Sardis is only about 6 miles away and Oxford MS (Home of the Ole Miss Rebels) is 15 miles in the opposite direction. Oxford is loaded with great restaurants if you are looking for a night on the town.
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Old 09-08-2013, 05:10 PM   #13
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Looking forward to your TopSail report. We will be there for the first time in about 3 weeks..
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Old 09-08-2013, 10:38 PM   #14
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Day 3: Pelahatchie, MS to Topsail Hill Preserve, FL.

We got off to an early start today, about 7 am, but took it slow because we want to be somewhat relaxed on this trip. We ate breakfast and started closing up. One thing I found odd was the dumpsters were a pretty good walk if you don't have a toad or rent a golf cart. We decided to hang onto our trash and wound up tossing it out at a gas station later. (along with $117 on gas!)

By the time we set sail it was 10 am. We let Google Maps take us down MS-43 to MS-18 and MS-13. All the roads were standard back country two-lane, but they were in good repair and not too narrow. Once we got on US-49 it was divided 4-lane highway with 65 mph speed all the way to I-59 S. The roads were in great condition until about Collins, when they weren't as well maintained. We spent a few minutes on I-59 before taking US-98 toward Mobile. US-98 is divided 4-lane with very few places to stop in MS. We stopped for gas in Lucedale before crossing into AL. Over the border the road immediately drops to a 2-lane with slower speeds and more red lights. It's like that most of the way to Mobile, although it opens up a time or two to 4-lane. In Mobile we took I-65 S for a few miles to I-10 E. I-10 in AL was pretty uneventful, although the tunnel was a big hit with the boys. Near Pensacola, Google wanted me to take I-110 to US-98 and Waze wanted me to go through Navarre. I'm not extremely familiar with the area, but some guys at work said it would be better to stay on I-10 than to drive all that way on US-98 with slowdowns and red lights. We took I-10 to Defuniak Springs and hopped on to FL-331 towards the beach.

We've packed pretty well for this trip, but my wife wanted to stop at Wal-Mart before entering the park. She told me this right as I went past my last opportunity to turn around and hit the one by I-10. We continued down to US-98 and went just past the Topsail Hill Preserve entrance to the Wal-Mart there. It's small by supercenter standards, but it had most everything we needed. I'm still deciding whether to buy a wye for the two sewer hookups or keep switching the hose when we dump. Thanks to a UPS delivery error, I wound up with two 15' Rhino hoses. I opened only one and have to decide whether to pay for the other or return it to Amazon. In any event, Wal-Mart didn't have one so I'm still deciding...

I didn't mention it before, but the love bugs were out in full swing in MS today. When we stopped for gas I scraped hundreds off the windshield and front grate, and 10 minutes later it looked the same as before I cleaned it. By the time we got to FL it was looking pretty bad. We weren't able to find a self-serve wash to hose off the front, but we did buy a brush at WM. The check-in ranger said it would be ok to fill a bucket with water to get the bugs off, but tomorrow I'm going to pay the $3 fee to outright wash the rig. Check-in was a breeze and we made our way to the spot. The CG is very nice looking, but we were a bit surprised by the space. You see, all the reviews say how spacious the CG is and how you feel like you're alone in the park, but they neglect to mention this is by FL beach standards where apparently most CGs have you park inside your neighbor's rig. These spots are as close or closer than any we've seen in our short time of renting and now driving our own MH. They are pretty nice, although our spot #79 is is need of a re-paving job. The pad is so broken up it took about 10 tries to find an area level enough to bring the jacks down without lifting the front wheels off the pavement. Based on my quick survey, it seems like we got the runt of the litter because the other spots seemed fine.

After finally parking we got the power on for the AC and hopped on our bikes right away. Incidentally the Swagman bike rack performed flawlessly. It looks like our bikes didn't change position from AR to FL. We followed the tram path to the beach. There are bathrooms at the tram stop as well as outside showers and lots of bike racks. From there we had another short walk on the boardwalk that protects the dunes from having us walk all over them. The beach was as white as it looked in pictures, and the water just as blue. It was pretty warm, too. We spent about 45 minutes wading and playing in the sand before heading back. After that I hooked up the water, washed off the front of the bus, and then it was showers for everyone and dinner. Tomorrow we're going to check out the camp store and spend a lot of time at the beach. I'll post a picture from my phone in the next reply.
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