A Bad Van Life Day

The day started out good. We got a decent sleep at Chateau Walmart. On our way inside to do some shopping, we saw this beast parked in the lot. Of course we had to go chat. It’s a Freightliner big rig with a mountain cabin built on the back, which can tow his trailer with crazy home built motorcycles. The one in front is his Diesel Wing, a Honda Goldwing powered by a Nissan 2.2 diesel with a 5-speed manual. The one in back is some crazy trike kind of thing powered by a Cadillac 472 V8. This guy is awesome.

Our next stop for the day was another Walmart just an hour and a half away. I did some work, finished quickly, and we decided to move a bit farther down the road than expected. We made it to Charleston, SC, and that’s where the day went bad. We parked at a Bojangle’s for lunch, which Trisha was really looking forward to. The doors were locked, and they were only serving drive-thru. Our van doesn’t fit in a drive-thru, both for length and for height at this point. There was a Cook Out across the street which we managed to get to. We walked in, only for them to refuse us service because they were only doing drive-thru. Why was the door open? Why couldn’t they just hand us take-out that we’d carry out with us? What was the difference? By now it was 2pm. We were both hangry. We rage ate some of the salad makings we’d picked up at Walmart, then started making our way out of Charleston.

Two extremely long, difficult turns later to go maybe 100 yards, we got on I-526, breaking our “avoid highways” rule to get around the city rather than straight through it. I haven’t dealt with roads in that bad condition, or drivers that rude and aggressive, since New Jersey. That’s saying a lot. Eventually, though, Route 17 took us out of town and everything calmed down a bit.

Work was slow and we were less than two hours from our intended destination of Hilton Head Island, so we decided to just go for it. We didn’t have to get all the way there, but if it did it would put us a full day ahead of schedule. And we did it. Hilton Head, though, was not to be. The beaches with free public parking the last time Trisha was there are now all shut down to outsiders because of COVID. What was free now requires a $30 permit, which you can only get if you’re a South Carolina resident. In fact, from what she read, we could get towed for parking basically anywhere on the island without this permit. That punts us right out. Fortunately, Trisha did her due diligence as navigator and rerouted us to a nearby Cracker Barrel. We parked, ate, and figured out a new plan.

This new plan required us to have a usable data connection, which this Cracker Barrel location did not have. I’m talking cellular data, not even WiFi, which didn’t exist either. (Naturally, this was right next door to a Verizon store.) The signal was fine, but there was no throughput on the data at all. I ran into this once before in Bethel, Maine, with all the visiting tourists spreading the available data too thin so it couldn’t be used. 

Trisha managed to plot a course to a rest area on I-95. We actually had to leave SC, enter Georgia, turn around, and come back to SC. This was fine. At least near the interstate, we’d have data. Just after crossing into Georgia, though, there was a rest area on the southbound side, so we stopped there.

It’s great. There were no signs prohibiting overnight parking. There was a pet walk area where Trisha went roller skating. So we stayed in Georgia that night and planned to hit a Love’s in Jacksonville, FL the next day to catch up on showers, laundry, and such.

Trisha says that South Carolina generally doesn’t like outsiders. I definitely found that to be the case once we left the Myrtle Beach area. So here we are, a day ahead of schedule. Not bad. We’ll be in Florida tomorrow, and just keep making an extra slow roll toward Bushnell for Friday.

For a bad van life day, it’s still pretty good considering some of the other problems life has thrown at us. Not being able to get take-out food is a serious first-world problem, as is not being able to visit a snooty golf resort town. It’s not like our house is on fire. 

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