We arrived at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida, on Friday,
December 6th.The night we
arrived at the campground, they were having a Christmas light judging
contest.What a great way to get into
the Christmas spirit!
We took out our little box of Christmas items that we
brought with us on our trip.We have
four strands of multicolored lights strung inside the camper, along with four
pretty red bows over the windows.We
didn’t forget our Christmas tree!We
brought a little 18” tall tree that Steve used on deployments.We decorated our little tree, then turned out
the lights and awed over the magic that enveloped our camper that night.
Later on we drove around the campground to see the contestants.There’s no doubt who won the decorating
contest!One camper was completely decked
So even though we are surrounded by sea gulls, palm trees,
and 80+ degree temperatures, we are getting into the spirit!
Shortly after arriving in Tampa, Steve took off again for
two weeks of working in San Antonio.It
didn’t take too long for me to realize that our camper was unusually hot inside
– 80 degrees inside when it was only 83 degrees outside.With the air conditioner on???Something wasn’t right.
I called a mobile RV technician to come to the base.There was something wrong with ALL THREE of
my air conditioning units!
The one up front in our bedroom had a leak in the ductwork
causing it to re-cool the already-cooled air.This was making it freeze up.Then when you turned off the unit, the ice would melt and drip on our
bed.The technician closed up the leak
in the ductwork, and all was well again.Easy fix.
The one in the back in the boys’ bedroom would start to pour
water into the room after only a few minutes of use.The technician climbed onto the roof to
discover that the weep holes were plugged, too small, and compressed too tightly
against the rooftop which was preventing the water to weep out onto the
roof.So he cleared out the gunk
stopping up the holes, enlarged the holes, and lifted the unit off the roof a
bit.And now this unit is useable again.
The unit that cools the main cabin was, unfortunately, not
such an easy fix.When the technician
climbed on the roof and tried to lift the cover off the unit, he discovered
that one bolt wouldn’t let go.He asked
if we had maintenance on the unit before, but I told him that we had not. Well,
apparently somewhere along the line, someone replaced the cover and bolted one
bolt crookedly, and that bolt was driven into the coils!So there was, obviously, a leak in the coils
which was causing the unit to freeze up.Unfortunately, this was NOT an easy fix.The entire unit had to be completely replaced.And THAT really hurt the pocketbook.
And NO WONDER we were so stinkin’ hot over the summer when we
were still in San Antonio!
Even though this unexpected expense put a dent into our
Christmas budget, we aren’t letting it steal our Christmas spirit.Joy to the world, and all that stuff!
On Thursday, December 5th, we left Charleston, South Carolina, and drove straight through the state of Georgia, and into
Florida where we stopped for the night at the Mayport Naval Station in
Jacksonville.However, we did take in a
little bit of Georgia along the way.
While Steve and the younger boys drove straight through with
the camper, the older boys and I took a detour side-trip into the city of
Savannah.And it couldn’t have gone
smoother!We drove right along the
interstate spur until it dumped us out almost directly in front of the city’s
visitor center.We parked the car,
walked in, asked about taking a day tour, and they directed us down the stairs
to the back of the building where many tour bus companies were lined up waiting
for us to climb aboard!We found one
company (the Grey Line “Oglethorpe Trolley Tours”) that was holding a
discounted special for that day, and their bus was leaving in 10 minutes, so we
grabbed our chance and off we went!
Savannah is an absolutely beautiful city, and it is very
unique in its design.The historic
downtown is still preserved from pre-Civil War days because as General Sherman
was burning everything in his path in his imfamous “March to the Sea”, the
leadership of Savannah struck a bargain with him.They said that he could have the run of the
city if only he agreed not to burn it down.He agreed, although he did take control of one of the most notorious houses
in the city as his headquarters.From
this house, he sent his famous message to President Lincoln offering the city of
Savannah as a Christmas present.
The city is arranged in a grid, as the early Governor
Oglethorpe designed it.Each city block
not only has beautiful historic mansions lining the streets, but also a city
square park.The historic downtown has a
park every block!It is amazingly
gorgeous!We even saw the park that
Forrest Gump’s park bench was!
Some of the more interesting sites that we saw along our
90-minute tour included:
-The church were “Jingle Bells” was written and
-The house where Juliette Gordon Lowe started the
Girl Scouts of America
-The statue of the Waving Girl.Legend has it that the girl would never miss
an incoming ship, and she would always wave her handkerchief at the passing
ships.Today a statue stands in her
-The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.Since our tour bus was running a little ahead
of schedule, we stopped for ten minutes to go inside.It is beautiful and impressive!
-The Pirate House.Apparently this old shanty was the inspiration
for Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”.
There were so many other noteworthy sites that we saw, but
these are the ones that really stuck out to us.We also got to see the waterfront and marketplace, along with a house
that was notorious because some book was written about it.I’m ashamed to say that I don’t even remember
the name of the book, and so the house didn’t leave an impression on me.Something about murder and whatnot, and the
book was a huge bestseller several years ago.(“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was the name of the book.)
After our pleasant and informative 90-minute tour of
Savannah, we got back to the bus station, got into the car, and drove the rest
of the way to where Steve and the other boys were already setting up the camper
for the night.I really would like to go
back to Savannah some day and spend more time there.It is a beautiful city!
On Monday, December 2nd, we left Cherry Point,
North Carolina, and drove to Charleston AFB, South Carolina. We had a tough
time getting into Charleston since it was rush hour as we arrived and it was
also after dark.There were several car
accidents blocking traffic on the highways which created a mess on the roads.On a stress scale from 1 to 10, this was at
least an 8. But we did make it in one piece, thank God.
The next morning, we walked to the Outdoor Recreation office
and purchased discounted tickets for the ferry ride to Fort Sumter National
Park.The ferry left at 11:00, and we
just barely made it there on time.We
arrived at the parking garage (where we nearly scraped the top of our van several
times because of the low ceiling) only ten minutes before the ferry left the
dock.When we walked up to the
gangplank, we were informed that our ticket was actually merely a voucher, and
we had to go inside the building and get the tickets before boarding. Luckily, we got it all done just the nick of
The ferry ride was fun and informative.The ride lasted about a half hour; all the
while we listened to the historical narration over the loudspeaker.
When arriving at Fort Sumter, we were allowed an hour in the
national park before we had to re-board the ferry to head back.At first I was concerned that it wouldn’t be
enough time to see everything, but my worry proved to be unwarranted.
There actually isn’t much to see at Fort Sumter.There is the outer wall which was partially
restored after it was destroyed, and there is the inner courtyard with a few
cannons inside.Archaeologists are
actively working at the fort, as well as restoration crews.There was a small museum inside the inner fortress,
along with a gift shop.
Fort Sumter, as you recall, is where the first shots of the
Civil War were shot.Federal Union
forces held the island-fort when South Carolina seceded from the union in
December of 1860.On April 11, 1861, Confederate
General Beauregard demanded that Union General Anderson vacate the fort.Anderson refused.At 3:20 a.m., on April 12, the Confederates
informed Anderson that they would open fire in one hour.At ten minutes past the allotted time, the
first shot was fired toward the fort. The Civil War had begun. After 34 hours of
bombardment, Anderson finally surrendered the fort.
Standing on the spot where history was made always has an
impact on us. No, there’s not much to see at Fort Sumter, but it is worth
visiting to just have the experience of being there and knowing that you are
standing at the site in which history was made.
The next day, on December 3rd, we decided to stay
an extra day in Charleston and visit a plantation.After all, if we are going to visit a
plantation on our trip, this is probably one of the best places to see
one.After debating which one of the many
possibilities we could visit, we settled on Boone Hall Plantation.
Boone Hall Plantation is one of the country’s oldest
working, living plantations.In 1681, an
Englishman named Major John Boone came to “Charles Town” to establish his
money-making plantation on the banks of the Wampocheone Creek.In 1743, his son Captain Thomas Boone, took
over the plantation.This son planted
two rows of live oak trees along the approach to the plantation mansion.Over the centuries, these trees have grown to
an enormous size and have created an arched canopy over the driveway.It is this approach to the mansion that has
become a symbol of Southern heritage.And yes, the movie Gone With the Wind modeled its Tara/Twelve Oaks after Boone Hall.
Hollywood seems to love Boone Hall Plantation.The 1980’s movie North & South
starring Patrick Swayze was filmed here, as well as the more recent romance
movie The Notebook starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.Queen, starring Halle Berry, was also
filmed here, as well as episodes of Wheel of Fortune, America’s Most
Wanted, and Army Wives.
The family and descendants of Major John Boone were
influential in the history of our nation.John Rutledge, son of Sara Boone Rutledge, grew up to become governor of
South Carolina and contributing author of the U.S. Constitution.His brother Edward was a signer of the Declaration
Additionally, the plantation produced bricks that were used
to construct Fort Sumter.Of course,
these bricks (and all the profits of the plantation) were all made by the
hands of African slaves.Boone Hall
Plantation had anywhere from 200-300 slaves.We saw some inventories that listed the slaves alongside window
curtains, bags of sugar, and tables and chairs.Merely possessions and nothing more.The African slaves in the Low Country were referred to as Gullah
culture. Nine of the original slave
cabins were still intact at the plantation, and each cabin featured a period in
black American history, from the earliest slave days to the present time.
The mansion is actually not the original mansion.The original mansion burned down in a fire in
the 1700’s.The second mansion was blown
away in a hurricane.The third mansion
(which really wasn’t a mansion, but more of a farmhouse) existed until the
1920’s.At that time, a Canadian
diplomat named Thomas Stone bought the property and tore down the decaying
mansion.He did, however, salvage many
parts of the house and used them to rebuild the present mansion.He saved paneling, doors, floorboards, bricks,
etc.So it seems as though the original
house is really still there, but in a different form.
We were able to tour only the bottom floor of the
mansion.(The current owners live in the
second and third floors, so we couldn’t see those areas.)Unfortunately for us, pictures weren’t
allowed inside the house, but it was quite magnificent and grand inside.We also rode an open-air tram through the
plantation grounds.We saw the farming
operations as well as the polo field, remnants of the fall corn maze, pecan
grove, a dike separating the salt and fresh water, movie sets, and other neat
We had a nice time at the plantation.Charleston has a lot to offer its visitors,
and we only scraped the surface.I’m
glad we decided to spend an extra day (especially since that allowed Steve and
the boys to take time to play a match of tennis – actually, three hours of
Well, you want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly?Here’s a tale of woe for you.
We planned to leave Virginia on Saturday, November 30th,
and head to Havelock, North Carolina, to do some sightseeing.
But on that morning, as we were packing up and just about
ready to pull out, Steve noticed that one of the tires on the camper was about
ready to pop.I took one look at it and
couldn’t believe that it hadn’t popped already! Plus, there
was one other tire that looked bad as well.
So we had to figure out what to do.The problem?Repair people can’t come onto the military base to change out our tires
for us.So we had to figure out a way to
get off the base without the tire popping (remember, we had been parked for
three weeks, so the tire hadn’t been rotated for a while) so someone, somewhere
could change the tires.Steve decided to
risk driving to the closest commercial parking lot and try to find someone who
could meet us there to do the repairs. Luckily, the tire didn’t pop along the
But we couldn’t locate a mobile tire repair place that could
do the specialized camper tires.So
after making many inquiries, Steve found a place that sold the tires we
needed.So the kids and I drove to
Williamsburg to buy the specialized tires from the tire store.In the meantime, Steve found a truck repair
place that could change the tires for us that was only five miles or so from
where he was.So I bought the tires, met
him at this truck repair place, and expected that the new tires would be placed
on the camper and we’d be done with it.Nope.The rims had to be changed
out.So I had to locate yet another
place that could take the rims off the old tires, put them on the new tires,
then drive the tires back to Steve so the truck repair place could put them on
Oh, and did I mention that I did all this with a vomiting
child and on less than two hours of sleep?
previous to this tire fiasco my 7yo son was so very ill that he vomited all
night long, about every 20-30 minutes.He slept in bed with me (and Steve slept on the couch, poor man), and I
got only about two hours of sleep, and that was NOT uninterrupted sleep.I was so tired I couldn’t think
straight.So expecting me to do all this
tire stuff was about all I could take.
We finally got around to eating our lunch around 2:00, then
hit the road.(And of course, McDonald’s
messed up our order, so everyone got food except me.For some reason, everyone’s food made it into
the to-go bag except my food!So now I was
tired, frustrated, AND hungry!)
Regardless, I pumped enough caffeine into my body to still
drive all the way to Havelock, North Carolina.We didn’t make it there until after dark, but by golly, we did it!
So while we DID make it to Havelock, we did NOT do the
sightseeing the next day that we had originally planned to do.We wanted to take in some of the touristy
pirate stuff that the area is famous for, but my kids were given very strict
orders NOT to wake me up the next morning – and I slept until 11:51!Bless their hearts, they’re good kids, and I
have a wonderful husband who kept them all quiet so I could sleep.
While we were in Havelock, we stayed at Cherry Point, which
is a US Marine base.I think I can
honestly say that I had never been on a Marine base before, so this was
something new!One thing I noticed was
that they didn’t have a BX (air force base exchange), nor a PX (army post
exchange), nor a NEX (naval exchange), but rather a MCX (marine corps
exchange).Who knew those existed?
But the campground was absolutely wonderful.It was new, opened only in May of this year,
and it had GREAT Wi-Fi!So instead of
sightseeing, we/I slept until noon, then did laundry and published a bunch of
blog posts since the Wi-Fi was so good.We missed the pirate stuff, but golly, sometimes you just need to sleep!