Traveling through Alabama today and found ourselves along a rainy stretch of highway.

If you find yourself near Milton (FL), not far from I-10 is the West Florida Railroad Museum. This is a great little stop if you have the time. The museum area occupies an old freight and passenger depot that was built in the early 1900s at the site of the original 1882 depot. They have several cars in their collection, including dining cars, flat car, box cars, former Pullman sleeper and two cabooses. They also have a model railroad building, an outdoor scale railroad and gift shop.

The museum is free to the public, but does rely on donations to stay open. It is operated by volunteers so the museum is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is limited and there is no room to park a RV – so if you go, take the tow!

For directions and hours, please visit their website at: http://wfrm.org/index.html

Severe weather shouldn’t be taken lightly in a recreational vehicle. If placed in a situation to evacuate your RV – either from a weather alert warning or a mandatory evacuation order – there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Flash/thumb drives with important files or photos
  • Computer with wireless access (notebook, tablet)
  • Two days clothing
  • First aid and toiletry kits
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Canned meat/fruit
  • Pet food
  • Pet medication

If you know you are going into an area that has a history of hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather, you should consider putting some emergency items in a plastic tote ahead of time – like flashlights and batteries. Make up a list (laminate and tape inside one of your RV cabinets) of items to grab in the event of an emergency evacuation. Have some canvas bags or backpacks handy for each family member to quickly place additional or last moment evacuation items in.

If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND STORMS

Wind storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids. Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Consider putting your slides in, especially if you have double slides in the back
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

If you decide to ride out the storm, keep your battery-operated radio handy. After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow Campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes. Hurricanes alerts give you several days warning. As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Put your slides in
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage. Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored. Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.  Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions. Do not risk your life over your RV or vehicle. Sadly, we know of Campers who have tried and lost.

SEEKING SHELTER

Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on. Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need. Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other Campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

My family and I have weathered hurricanes, wind storms, tornado alerts, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can live to tell your own storm tales!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Garden Fountain

Looking back…

During the start of Summer 2010, we found ourselves on-the-road. In need of a break we decided to stop at a few of our favorite places in Louisiana. Unfortunately, while we were there, the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico occurred. This changed some of our plans, as coastal communities were busy with rescue, cleanup and media crews.

There was still plenty to see and do, from gardens and casinos to exploring the back roads. We even managed to partake in our first crawdad “buffet”. Which is was quite an event in itself. I never imagined seeing adults wearing bibs and gloves, eating buckets of crawdads! But that is one of the cool things about being a Full-Time RVer… detours are no obstacle and new experiences are always welcomed. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Hard to believe the Fourth of July is just around the corner! Some of my favorite Fourth’s have been while RVing. One year we toured Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. It was a beautiful summer day until it began rain. It was muddy and slippery, yet we reminded ourselves that conditions weren’t always “ideal” for those who died and fought for the freedoms that make America great.

And most recently we had a wonderful visit to Fort McHenry National Monument. The fort and grounds have a fascinating history… and the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner!

So no matter what type of memories you are making this holiday, please have a safe Fourth of July and remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Backed-in

Backed-in and ready to get some rest and relaxation for awhile…

hmm… now where did we pack that grill? ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rain on I-85

We found ourselves in a severe thunderstorm this afternoon. That will save a trip to the truck wash! ;)

We were on I-85 when we heard an odd noise. Looked in the mirrors and saw our fender torn and hanging off, while chucks of tire were flapping about. Something on the road must have hit the tire. Got the rest of the fender off without damaging the rig more… but boy, oh boy, do we have a mess to buff out from that rubber! Anyway… traffic was going over 80 mph and it was unsafe to be in the rig. So we waited alongside the highway in 96 degree temps until the road service could come out.

Even though states have laws regarding getting over for disabled vehicles, not one vehicle did for us! I can’t believe how thoughtless people are on the roadways these days. Kudos to Eddie the repair guy for braving that speeding traffic while working under our rig. He even guided us in to the local Goodyear dealer so we could replace the spare with a new tire. Fortunately we are safe… buffing and ordering a new fender is not a problem. Easy fixes compared to our safety. 

For those who follow TMN, you probably recall our May Day blow-outs on I-35 and I-30 several years ago and know we are experienced at replacing tires and fenders. We just wished Cedar Creek would discount the fenders since we buy them annually. HAHA ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © B&O Civil War display

If you find yourself in Baltimore, make sure you plan a visit to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. This is the birthplace of American railroading! They have some of the oldest railroad equipment on display that truly transport you back to early days of railroading.

During the time of our visit, they were celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a special exhibit “The War Came By Train”. A very interesting series of displays from different views.

Although we have been to bigger train and transportation museums, this one stands-out with the incredible roundhouse. A must-see for train enthusiasts.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©Roundhouse

In addition to the numerous trains and rolling stock on display, there is also a model train gallery, working model train exhibits, dining ware exhibit, clock and code exhibit, snack bar and gift shop. In addition, you can ride the train for one mile.

Admission to the museum is rather high and unfortunately we went during an event and it was even higher. So call ahead to make sure it’s standard admission. The train ride is an additional charge, although I honestly wouldn’t recommend this because the view is very disappointing.

Parking is free. They advertise RV and Bus Parking, but the museum is located in a section of town filled with one-way and tight-cornered streets. We found ample parking for our dually in Lot B. So make sure you have a map in the event your GPS fails to keep up with the web of streets.

For more information: www.borail.org

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©B&O Exhibit

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

If you have been in a campground, especially during a flag-holiday, you have probably seen those rotating PVC-pipe flag poles. We have seen some really creative ones. People have taken the basic pattern and added a section for a name plaque or solar lights (great in parks with no street lights so your flag is lit in the evening) or have painted the pipe either black or silver.

Usually you can find at least one person in a campground who makes them. If you want to make one yourself, there are free instructions online.

You can find everything you need to complete one at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. A good quality U.S. flag will cost you $20 – $30. Less expensive ones may fade or fray, so keep that in mind when you purchase one.

When placing your flag pole at your site, be mindful of your neighbors and the landscapers. We have seen folks place their flag pole a little too close to their neighbor’s site and when their neighbors opened their car-door they emerge into a tangled flag! Also try not to place the flag in a lawn mowers path. In addition, remember to remove your flag pole during rain and wind storms.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Boat Flag

It is hard to believe that Memorial Day Weekend is here! And that means it is officially camping season. So if you haven’t already dusted off the camping gear, packed the RV or made cabin reservations at your favorite park… you are a little late. But don’t fret! Some parks may still have openings for a night or two during the holiday weekend because of last minute cancellations – just call ahead and check on their availability.

No matter where you are spending this holiday weekend, please have a safe one and remember those who have fought (and still are!) for our freedom.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © HOOPER STRAIT LIGHTHOUSE

If you are near the Eastern Shore of Maryland, you should plan to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. This waterfront museum consists of 18 acres and is definitely worth a visit if you love boats and the water.

They not only have the Hooper Strait Lighthouse on property, but Point Lookout Tower, several boats and larger historic items; in addition, they have a boat shop where you can see apprentices working on projects, several museum buildings with multiple galleries/exhibits, a wharf, a boat-tour of the Chesapeake, Mitchell house, cabin, heirloom garden and more. Oh, and did I mention driving under the drawbridge? ;)

Admission to the museum is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors. The cost actually includes two-day admission so you don’t have to hurry to see everything. We easily spent 3 hours there and probably would have spent longer if we hadn’t other plans that day. They have benches near the lighthouse and it was peaceful just sitting there watching the boats and birds across the river.

Parking is not a problem for tow vehicles, however, you might call ahead and see if there is an event before you take the RV as Big Rig parking could be an issue during busy times.

The town of St. Michaels is very quaint with seafood restaurants and shops along the main street and waterfront.

For more information: http://www.cbmm.org/index.htm

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Niña

In February we made a trip to see the Niña and the Pinta docked in Perdido Key (FL). Unfortunately between the heavy rain and limited over-sized parking, we weren’t able to visit the ships. Imagine our delight when we visited St. Michaels (MD) today and not only got to see the ships  but also had a chance to hop on board. I’m looking forward to crossing paths with these two tall ships again. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Pinta

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Mount Vernon Estate

Mount Vernon is located about twenty minutes south of Washington, DC. The property is situated along the Potomac River and if a tour of the Estate and 50-acre plantation isn’t enough to keep you busy, there is also a working pioneer farm, Washington’s tomb, a cruise along the Potomac, theater, museum, education center and gift shops on the property; in addition, Washington’s working gristmill and distillery are just three miles down the road.

Even if you are not a history buff, the awe of walking Washington’s grounds will transport you back to early America! Admission includes a tour of the Estate. However, general tours are based on entrance time and will be time-stamped on your ticket. So be prepared to wait two or more hours until you can view the Estate. Yet you won’t be bored waiting. Mount Vernon is a full-day experience!

Inside the Estate (general tour) you will see the first two floors, including the guest room where Lafayette stayed, the very bed Washington died in and… the key to the Bastille! If you pay extra, you can go see additional areas of the Estate. And don’t forget to take a moment to sit in the chairs on the back porch to enjoy the view of the Potomac.

Admission to Mount Vernon also includes entrance to George Washington’s Grist Mill and Distillery, which is just down the road. The grist mill tour surprised us as they actually started the wheel! It was noisy, but fascinating to see the stones in action. The trail from the grist mill leads to the distillery which actually produces Washington’s “recipe” a couple times each year.

One day admission at Mount Vernon is $18 for adults and $17 for seniors. Other options include audio tours, special Estate tours and a 45-minute cruise along the Potomac. Souvenir guide books are also available for $12. Parking is free. Although Mount Vernon advertises RV parking, it is a bit limited and not exactly Big Rig friendly. The grist mill and distillery have limited parking. You would be better off taking your tow vehicle.

Do not delay! You must add a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon to your Bucket List!

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort McHenry National Monument

If you find yourself near Baltimore, don’t forget to take a day to visit Fort McHenry National Monument by the harbor. The fort and grounds have a fascinating history… and the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner!

Entrance into the fort is $7 per adult; children under 15 are free. You can visit the park without paying admission – although you will only have access to the picnic grounds, visitor’s center, gift shop and movie.

Now the area is not Big Rig friendly, so don’t even think about taking your RV! If you are staying in the area you can take the water taxi or drive (but follow directions carefully as there is a great deal of traffic).

For directions and additional information, please visit their website at: http://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © I-95 North

For some reason… everyone wants to got northbound this time of year! Although they shouldn’t be in a hurry. I think we didn’t get past 5 mph in a few sections of it. ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Oh Pedro!

Yes, we got lured in by the tacky statues and cheap souvenirs… ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Picnic Stop

Taking a break from busy I-10 to grab some lunch… as you can see from the reflection in our rig, we weren’t the only Campers chowing down. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort Barrancas drawbridge

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort Barrancas drawbridge

If you find yourself near Pensacola (FL) make sure you plan a day for Fort Barrancas. The fort is actually part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, however, it is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Admission to the fort is free, although citizens need to show proper photo ID at the entrance gate.

Fort Barrancas has a fascinating history. A shot fired by a guard at the fort on January 8, 1861 is sometimes considered the very first shot of the American Civil War! The fort and other structures there were built by different groups over time. There is a great deal of history to step into… or see-through… did I mention the Confederate ghost? ;)

The area also consists of the Spanish Water Battery (Bateria de San Antonio) which has an underground passage from the fort. The tunnel section from the fort to the water battery is very dark and steep, so make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes. The fort itself is very dark in sections and you may want to carry a flashlight with you while exploring. The Spanish Water Battery has several steps going up (although you don’t need to climb them to appreciate the view).

There are also trails and a picnic area near the visitor center. And an additional treat is the view at the Overlook of Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island across Pensacola Bay!

A short distance down the road is the Advanced Redoubt. The Redoubt is unique for the time period because it was designed solely for resisting a land-based assault.

Parking at the fort is limited; however, there is a small area dedicated for RV/bus parking. The fort and visitor center is only open on Saturdays. The Advanced Redoubt has more parking and is open daily. Tours of Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt are scheduled on Saturdays.

For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm and http://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/national-museum-of-naval-aviation/

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © BRIDGEPORT

Looking back…

Doing a little Spring cleaning (okay, someone is really optimist for Spring around here!) and came across a collection of glittery vials from the summer we panned for gold along the South Yuba River.

Bridgeport covered bridge across the South Yuba River, just outside Penn Valley (CA), is definitely a must see when visiting Gold Country. Gold panning (“pans and hands”) is allowed along this stretch of the river. A wonderful place for a relaxing day trip, the South Yuba River State Park offers visitors hiking trails, visitor’s center, picnic area and restrooms. A short walk from the main parking area you will find an old cemetery and barn exhibit (with old wagons).

While you are there, stop in to the visitor’s center and pick up a gold pan kit and try it yourself! The volunteers and park officials will be happy to provide you with information on the technique. You will be amazed to see that the water under the bridge is literally glittering with gold flakes! Of course, it’s not enough to buy a new RV, but you’ll find your day at the Yuba priceless. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © SOUTH YUBA RIVER

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Niña and the Pinta

Earlier today we made a trip to see the Niña and the Pinta docked in Perdido Key (FL). Unfortunately between the heavy rain and limited over-sized parking, we weren’t able to visit the ships. I did manage to get a photo of them as we crossed the bridge off the island. We saw the Niña several years ago along the Atlantic coast, yet we thought it would be fun to see it again.

The Niña is a replica of the ship Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492. The Pinta, a newer ship, is actually larger than the original design.

For more information on the ships and their port schedule, visit their website: http://www.thenina.com/

Maybe we will cross paths with them again as we travel the U.S. :)

When they started forecasting snow on the local weather, I turned the TV off. We are in Florida, it doesn’t snow in Florida. It’s the Sunshine State, after all! And millions of Snowbirds flock here every winter to get away from the snowy North. So I thought those weather folks were just a little nuts.

Then the temperature dropped… and the rain came… the ice cold rain… and then it turned to sleet… and while we were sleeping, it turned to snow. Yes, snow in Florida. And it’s not melting… it’s staying around for a while according to our frozen thermometer. And everything is shut down for a couple of days because of icy conditions.

I sure hope that Groundhog comes popping out wearing a Speedo on February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day)! ;)

 

Fort Morgan State Historic Park is just west of Gulf Shores (AL) and overlooks Mobile Bay. The fort was completed in 1834 and was occupied during several wars including the Civil War.

Although most folks might not be familiar with the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, they have probably heard Admiral Farragut’s famous quote, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” From Battery Thomas (near the fort) you can see where the U.S.S. Techumseh sank after it struck a torpedo (mine). A buoy marks its resting place.

This state park is definitely a must-see for history and military buffs. It offers views of the bay and Gulf of Mexico, in addition to a handful of natural gas rigs and Sand Island Lighthouse.

Admission to the park includes the fort, museum-gift shop, outside structures and beach. Current price is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors. There is adequate parking; however to view some of the other structures you need to drive down a gravel road. So it would be better to take your tow vehicle. There is a ferry that can take you from Dauphin Island to/from Fort Morgan; however, weather and tide can effect whether or not they will allow RVs to board.

For directions and visiting hours, visit: http://fortmorgan.org/ 

 

A view from inside the roundhouse at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. Guess you know where we went this weekend! ;)

Have a Happy Easter!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort McHenry NM – Star-Spangled Banner

To kick off U.S. National Park week, the National Park Service is waving entrance fees. In addition, some other special offers may apply this weekend.

April 19-20, 2014
(U.S. National Park Week Begins)

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rain Delay

We were planning on putting some major mileage in today, but Mother Nature had other plans. Flooding and severe storms in the region have us staying inside and watching the Travel Channel instead. The summer adventure will just have to wait a day… or two. :)

 

AVAILABLE FALL 2014!

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