Bye Bye Burlington
So most of you know by now that as of Jan 28 2017 we started our journey. It still feels quite surreal, but we've now managed to turn our house over to the new owners, stored our belongings in a container for when we get back, bought a 31 foot travel trailer, bought a Dodge Ram 1500 to haul it and are making our way south as fast as possible to get to some better (warmer) weather. We've now landed and settled in Santa Rosa, Florida (near Destin) after four days driving as we had to break up the 18+ hour drive into four days so the kids didn't go completely nuts!
1st Stop Bluffton Ohio! (ummm where?)
The first day on the road was the shortest one mainly because it took us longer to pick up our trailer, cross the border and just get used to driving it safely and securely. Our Grand Design Imagine trailer has plenty of amenities but it sure is a beast to haul! We planned our departure accordingly as we didn't want to have any snow during our travels as hauling a 9000 lb trailer is bound to give you some trouble if you try to pull it through the snow! Lucky for us it was only cold and no snow so we made our way safely and slowly from Burlington, Ontario to our first stop in Bluffton/Findlay, Ohio KOA. We decided to go through Windsor along the I75 as opposed to Buffalo since we felt the bigger highways were better maintained during inclement weather. Boy was I not expecting the absolutely brutal road conditions of Michigan! Likely the worst stretch of highway roads I've ever been on. As a result, it made our ride very bumpy and I had to slow down to around 80km/hr otherwise the back end would fish tail. There were so many potholes i literally could not believe it. Almost like turning a switch, as soon as we passed the "Welcome to Ohio" road conditions returned to normal. Regardless, we arrived late at night to our campsite in Ohio and it wasn't too much fun trying to find our pull through campsite in the dark. When we booked the site online they never mentioned that the campsite is basically "un-manned" in winter so there was virtually nobody there apart from a few big class A motor homes that some snow birds used to stop over on their way south as well. Nonetheless, we managed fine and the furnace and fireplace in the trailer worked over time as it dropped to around -7C overnight. Surprisingly, the trailer was quite warm although I think I went through half a propane tank trying to maintain a cozy warm temperature inside. We didn't want to use the water tanks for fear of freezing so we were all a bit stinky and smelly that day.
Next Stop Sweetwater, Tennessee: "Backing Up is Hard to Do"
The drive from Bluffton, Ohio to Sweetwater, Tennessee took us another 8 hrs to complete as we needed to stop numerous times for gas, pee breaks, snacks etc. The drive was largely uneventful with the exception of when we finally arrived at our KOA site. Sweetwater KOA is off the highway in a rural area near a meandering farm road that isn't really marked well with the GPS. Again, we arrived late at night so visibility made it tough to see which driveway was the right one to enter into the campsite and the GPS was no help at this point. Unfortunately for us, I drove past the driveway and realized that my only choice to rectify this was to back up the RV in the dark, on a single lane farm road around a blind corner slightly downhill. Not the smartest of ideas but we really had no choice and I only needed to back it up 30 feet or so. Well, let me tell you this took us the better part of 30min just to back it up to where we needed to be. Trying to maneuver the trailer around a blind corner at night going BACKWARDS was quite the ordeal. Did I mention this was my first time backing up the trailer? Nice. Eventually we managed to get the trailer in the right spot and we pulled into the KOA and into our site. It was later that night that we decided to break the drives even further so we didn't end up getting to camp sites at night and we didn't feel as stressed. As a result we added another quick stopover just south of Birmingham, Alabama (South Birmingham Campground) the next day as opposed to traveling straight to Florida as originally planned.
Welcome to Destin, Florida!
We arrived in Florida at the best state park ever Topsail Hill Preserve State Park! A quaint little campground surrounding a preservation area that's right on Santa Rosa Beach. The people here are fantastic and the kids and us all met some fun friends to hang out with and get to know over the next week or so. We loved it so much, we extended our stay a few days to enjoy the gorgeous weather before we headed to our next stop in Louisiana. Surprisingly, we met a few other families that are currently on their own little adventure around the US and Canada and we made plans to meet up again when our paths cross later in the year. Everyone in the park was so friendly and it made our first stop on this journey a great one as we all felt right at home. Even our friendly RV neighbours Jan and Bob from Tennessee baked the kids some home made cookies the night before we left. Can't ask for more than that! Check out more pics of our Destin adventure. Love this place, but tomorrow we are moving on down the road...next stop Louisiana!
I can't believe it's been only a week! It feels longer, but that's prob because in the last 7 days we drove 19 hrs from beautiful, but freezing Burlington to sunny Florida with three kids in a one row back seat while pulling a travel trailer! This brings me to my first topic:
Topic #1: Pulling a trailer feels like you're pulling a travel trailer!
Now we read all kinds of articles and opinions on what truck to get which tow bars and anti sway bars etc and we got ourselves covered bc being newbies to hauling our house behind us we wanted to get the best. But they all LIED! Only 15 minutes into our adventure Shyla starts moaning her tummy hurts and when I look back I see a poor pale seasick face of my 7 year old and whipped out the children's gravol (thank god it worked) . Another 20 minutes our non complainer Lennon is going green so another gravol to the rescue. Madden on the other hand is happy and in serious busy mode (hooray for quiet) on the iPad with games we downloaded just for him. Not going to lie the ride was bumpy and swayed and every time a truck passed by there was a vortex that seem to suck us in and spit us back out LOL. It definitely was an adjustment phase to get used to rather quickly and Alex and I were quite nervous but he was a trooper and we got the hang of it and made a few adjustments (modified brake controller, tighten chains on sway bars). Just finally got the hang of it and thought the coast was clear when we arrived in the not so beautiful state of Michigan! OMG if I ever win the Powerball I promise to donate money to fix the roads in that state! I'm not even joking there were potholes everywhere on the highway!! We had to dodge parts of cars just left in the middle of the lane while trying not to hit other cars dodging them AND pulling a 31 foot house! I don't know how that was deemed a safe highway it seemed more fitting for Gravedigger, not us hauling our new home with three kids in the back seat! I think Alex and I white knuckled it until we reached Ohio and it was an instant improvement on road conditions. So I must thank you Ohio thank you so much. I honestly thought I was ready to turn around until you're beautiful smooth asphalt highway roads. And the rest of the trip was smooth sailing no more seasickness but there were still the giant trucks that pulled by and swayed the whole travel trailer, but by the 100th time we're so used to it we don't even bat an eye.
Topic #2: I brought too much stuff!!!
Well kids toys really. I mean trying to decide which toys will:
A. occupy your kids the most so they stop fighting each other and/or bug you whinning with the I'm bored noise!
B. Have an educational/creative component (since they spend the long drives in zombie faced iPad world)
C. Be the ones they really want and are their favourites (because asking them to pick is useless as all of sudden that doll we haven't
seen since I was still pregnant with Lennon is all of a sudden Shyla's favourite! Riiiight)
D. Be enough or too little
So much pressure and at the end of our packing phase (thank the lord that's over with and let's note it that was not my most favourite part or preparing for the journey) I think I just started throwing toys into the buckets that made it to the trailer. So now I need to decide what to do with the toys taking up a quarter of the kids room here? I want to donate them asap as I'm having this crazy urge to redecorate and organize as well as clean (wtf? When did I turn into my mother-in-law?).
As for which toys I was bang on with......
1. Sticker books! All 3 kids love them and the reusable Melissa and Doug ones are gold.
2. Water guns
4. Barbies for Shyla, but she did not need the 20 we brought (sneaky girl stuffed a few in from the it-can-wait-for-us-to-return pile)
5. Hotwheels of course
6. Lego (although to be fair he hasn't played with it much, but I'm certain it'll be played with on those rainy or I'm in need of an inside time day)
7. Bikes of course! (honestly that's what they've played with most if you can call bikes a toy?)
Topic #3: The Sleep!
Ummm I'm almost afraid to jinx it, but it's either the fresh air or the VOC levels of this new bad boy on wheels, but damn I have been sleeping like the dead! And dreaming too like cool dreams. Remember those ones when you were a kid and you had super powers or you could fly? Yes! Those cool dreams and every night! So here here my new home on the road and thank you for my precious new sleep this past week. I feel like a new woman and not because I'm technically homeless or a fulltime vagabond or a mother travelling with her family around the USA and Canada but because I have had a full week of restful dream filled sleep! And to that. I say night night friends and stay posted for my next blog please:) wishing you all happiness, travels and sweet dreams! Xo