Back On the Road

It was time to say goodbye to Shannon and continue our holding pattern along the Florida/Georgia line in anticipation of Trisha’s first job. We drove a couple of hours to the Cone Bridge Boat Ramp in Benton, FL, which Trisha found on FreeCampsites.net. I was getting sick of being in the city, and a remote place like this was exactly what I needed. While not strictly speaking a campsite, there were no signs prohibiting overnight parking, and a Fish and Game officer who cruised through didn’t even stop to check us out.

There were about 10 extra-long parking spaces. We took one on the far side of the lot to stay out of the way of actual boaters, of which a few passed through. After dinner we recorded a long talking-head video that’ll become the narration of our adventures from Virginia Beach up to this point. There were some trails passing through that off-road vehicles had clearly been driving down, and I was tempted to unload the KLR and do a little riding. In the end, I decided to just kick back and relax instead.

Big Mike’s

Boondocker Parking at Big Mike's

The next day we still hadn’t heard about Trisha’s job. We rolled an hour up the road to Big Mike’s Horse Ranch and RV Park in Homerville, GA. Yes, this is just about the most Georgia thing you can imagine. It’s exactly what it says it is, basically a pasture that they allow us to park in. Sites with hookups are on the right, available for a small unspecified fee. We don’t know what that fee is because we took the boondocker parking on the left, which is FREE.

Reportedly, they have no problem with extended stays here, even boondockers who aren’t paying them anything. We didn’t get to meet Big Mike himself, but his wife was super nice on the phone, the embodiment of southern hospitality. Once again I thought about unloading the KLR to explore the local dirt roads, but decided to take it easy. (Is this becoming a trend?) The only issue we had was getting swarmed by biting bugs after sunset. We were forced to retreat inside the van and spend the rest of the evening there. Trisha finished up her training for work in one marathon session and was gunning for her first job in Bainbridge this week or next. We’ll see how that turns out.

Beach Day

Shell Point Beach in a thunderstorm

The weekend arrived, and we were still waiting to hear about the job in Bainbridge. Since we were waiting to hear when, not if, the job would happen, we decided to head west down Florida’s gulf coast to once again stage ourselves for arrival on-site. Trisha was interested in another beach day, and I’m not one to argue. We set a course for Shell Point Beach, conveniently located an hour south of Tallahassee, which itself was an hour south of Bainbridge. It cost us a whopping $2 to park here for the day.

Soon after we arrived, the thunderstorm we had driven through to get there pushed its way against the strong onshore wind and passed over us. We stayed out of the water (Trisha got a quick swim in immediately after we arrived), but stuck around under the shelter and safety of a large gazebo. I felt bad that the one time I finally got Trisha to her beloved beach there was a thunderstorm, but it turns out she actually loved it. It was pretty thrilling, being out in the elements while staying dry and protected from lightning as the storm raged through. We never got to go back in the water, but that was fine, and a lot of entertainment for $2.

We’d picked Tallahassee for our overnight stop because there was a variety of Chateau Walmarts and a Cracker Barrel in the area, so finding a place to park overnight wouldn’t be a problem. On a whim, I checked Harvest Hosts and found the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. This was a no-brainer, particularly because a phone call confirmed that they would be happy to have us there for the night. Our plan was to arrive there shortly before closing, then tour the museum on Sunday.

Unintended Off-Roading

Google Maps gave us two routes to the museum. One went through the middle of Tallahassee, and the other didn’t, so we chose the one that didn’t. It was great for a while as we backtracked slightly east. Then we turned left onto Old Plank Road. It was a dirt road, which normally I don’t mind, but after the downpours it had turned into slippery mud. This road would’ve been challenging on the KLR, which is made for this, never mind our home on wheels which doesn’t even have highway terrain tires.

Google said to stay on this road for the next 22 miles. I could barely maintain 10 mph and stay in control. Aside from the obvious safety aspects, we would end up missing our check-in at the museum. We still had to go about 1.5 miles in before we could find a place to turn around without dropping a wheel into the deep ruts at the side of the road, which would’ve stranded us and probably destroyed the motorcycle carrier, too. Then we struggled back to pavement, applying some techniques I learned from off-road motorcycling and rally school to keep the van between the ditches. Fortunately, we made it safely, and didn’t follow several tire tracks into the ditches. I never wanted to take the van into conditions like that, and never want to again. But at least we made it, so a highly stressful situation is now an interesting story.

We were unable to get Google to take us down actual paved roads instead of this mud track. I had to study the map, then remember the turns to take to fool Google into putting us back on a proper course. Google is usually good, but in this case it seriously screwed us. Once we got to U.S. 319, though, it returned to reality and guided us down paved roads the rest of the way to the museum.

After check-in, we walked across the street to Waffle House for an early dinner. It was… well, Waffle House. We picked up some tasty adult beverages as the Circle K next door, then walked back and entertained ourselves with conversation for the night. We decided that if the Bainbridge job was a go, we’d head straight there after touring the museum. If it wasn’t going to be for another week, we’d continue west to Pensacola for a few days. Trisha has spent some time there, but I’ve never seen it. Online research indicated plenty of places to legally park overnight. I also have a co-worker in Pensacola myself we could visit. So either way, we had a plan. We just needed to know which one to execute.

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