A Beginners Guide To RVing - Part 3

The List

Okay, let's recap: sewer hose? Check. Water hose? Check twice. Tarp? Check. Wheel covers? Check. Incidentally, I have learned that these are not just for protecting your tires from weather; seems they are also to protect your tires from male dogs too. Television? Installed. Wheel chocks? Check. Lock? Check. Surge protector for water? Check. Surge protector for electrical? Check. A table for eating outside under the awning? Check. Ground cover for those muddy areas? Check. An additional propane tank, just in case we need it? Check. By the way, did you know a new tank needs to be purged before it can be filled? Neither did we, but we do now! Is that it? Well, it's enough for now. Okay, time to begin our plan to actually travel!

Finding an RV park for you

One might think that an RV park is an RV park; no, it is not. Parks vary in price, activities, and other sundry items like free laundry, pet accommodations among other perks. Thus far in our limited experience, we have found that one cannot necessarily request the site one desires at some (read all so far) parks. In one we were told that the site we desired was a monthly site and as such not available for our one night stay. At another, we were told that they required a two night minimum. At one we were told that while they might be able to give us our choice "things" occur and they might have to move us before we get there. And at another we were told that in order to not lose our prepaid payment we must cancel a minimum of thirty (that's 30) days in advance; if not we lose it all. So if something catastrophic occurs three weeks before we leave we lose our entire payment. Nice.

But we also have joined both the KOA and Good Sam RV associations. These have certain perks available only to their members such as 10% off any campground they are associated with, tons of reviews one can read about and which will assist in the decision making process, roadside assistance and other unique opportunities for the active (and new!) RVer.

But whither shall we go? When? Well, my job hinders me from traveling whenever we desire so we must target a small window and proceed. So, Summer it is. Now, the where. No mountains just yet for me so somewhere semi-flat. North? No, not just yet; how about the other direction: South. But not just any southern destination will do; Pensacola here we come!

I have sat down with my trusty laptop and mapped out various paths and routes from here to there, sought out good RV parks on the Good Sam RV website and we have formulated a plan. But to have a plan without action is to have no plan at all, so we must now act upon it by making reservations at these RV parks we have chosen.

Calls have been placed, reservations made and confirmation emails received. Pensacola, we are go!


Our RV does not have electric leveling jacks and after one time of winding these things up and down to see how to level and settle the trailer I went out and bought a cheap battery operated drill. I went into my tool box, found the right size socket and tried it out. Worked like a charm! Up and down on all four jacks. No more spinning that tool around for me!

Day One

Our first day will be spent traveling to Memphis, Tennessee. Our target RV park is the Tom Sawyer RV Park on the banks of Ol' Man River himself, the mighty Mississippi River. I have crossed it a few times in my life, even wandered alongside of it in St. Louis but I have never spent a night beside it. After reading the exploits of young man who canoed alone from beginning to end on the river, I find I have a new respect for it and would like for it to become a bit more than just a place on a map to my family and I. So, I placed a call and we now have a reservation at the park for the end of our first day of travel.

As our SUV will only get around 10 mpg pulling the trailer, I am also setting specific stops to re-fuel and our first stop will be in West Plains, home of Country Music Hall of Fame member Porter Wagoner. From there we will continue on through Jonesboro, Arkansas and then on to West Memphis, Arkansas. Technically we will be in West Memphis, crossing into Tennessee when we pull out the second day.

First day of travel will be just over 300 miles and about six hours of driving.

Total Miles Traveled
U.S. Space and Rocket Center
U.S. Space and Rocket Center | Source

If Caleb wants to try this, ok. Not me!

Days Two and Three

On the morning of the second day we will hit the road around 8:00 AM on the road to Huntsville, Alabama. Our destination? The United States Space and Rocket Center, AKA Space Camp. Yes, Space Camp is where we will spend about a day and a half, allowing our son to lead us around here and there, staring at various astronomical items, rockets and such. We will visit the Space Shot, a rocket that allows you to see what a real rocket launch feels like. 4 G's of force and complete weightlessness for a few seconds. Fun for him, not for me! A G-Force Accelerator just like you see in the movies, a Mars climbing wall and more, oh so much more!

And while we are there, we are going to take a look at the actual Space Camp program. If he likes it, and we are good with it, we plan on bringing him back in the near future to spend a week at the Space Camp itself, where he will be able to take a walk on the moon, build and launch a real rocket, and maybe even plan a mission to Mars! He would have a blast!!

One evening we will visit the Von Braun Astronomical Center and attend a planetarium show. Who knows? Maybe we'll be able to see Jupiter, Mars or Saturn! We have watched, and will watch few more times before we leave, the film Space Camp. Starring Kate Capshaw, Tom Skerrit, Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan and a very young Joaquin Phoenix, it is a somewhat fanciful yet quite entertaining film set in the mid 80's.

We will also visit Monte Sano State Park and see the beautiful area described in James A. Michener's novel Space. I have seen this in my mind for years; now I will be able to see it in person.

The Memphis to Huntsville portion is a short couple of hundred miles and will be accomplished in a little over four hours.

Toes and sand!
Toes and sand! | Source

My wife has taken to keeping the webcam from Pensacola Beach up on her computer and sitting down several times each day to just watch. Each day when I get home I get a report on the beach activity and wave action. She will be prepared when we actually get there!

Days Four through Eight

After a day and a half in Huntsville we will hit the road bright and early for scenic Pensacola, Florida. Home of the white sugar sand beaches, frolicking dolphins and complete rest and relaxation on those sands, we will spend the majority of our days here just having fun. The target RV park is Avalon Landing just north of town on a secluded bay with a private fishing bridge, lovely grounds and a place to cool our heels for a few days.

Lying 350 miles and some six plus hours south of Huntsville, it will take us until early afternoon to reach our destination but it will be time well spent in search of relaxation. We plan to refuel both body and SUV in Montgomery, Alabama en route, arriving in Pensacola around 2:30 PM. Five days and nights, sun, surf, and sand all await us. Ahhhh!

What will we do there? Well, some activities include visiting the Perdido Key State Park, the Gulf Shores National Seashore, Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola Beach, Uncle Sandy's Macaw Bird Park, taking a dolphin sight seeing cruise, and the Pensacola Lighthouse. Of course, we will also frolic in the sand, do some snorkeling in the man made reefs near shore, probably do a little fishing and maybe even swim with some sharks! Depending on our time of visit, there may be other things going on that will interest us.

We might even buy a metal detector and sweep the beach in search of pirate gold!

But one thing for sure we will be doing is visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum. You see, the Pensacola area is home to the Navy's famed Blue Angels and word has it that they practice here quite often. I have seen them a time of two but my family never has. The museum is free and allows one to wander about, seeing this and that and maybe getting a glimpse at the Blue Angels practicing their exciting routine.

Do you remember this movie?
Do you remember this movie? | Source
How about this one?
How about this one? | Source

Day Nine

Day Nine comes all too soon, and begins our journey home. We will be traveling to Tupelo, Mississippi, some 335 miles North and six hours or so away. Fuel stop in Mobile, Alabama with a bite to eat there as well. Once in Tupelo around 2:30 PM, we will set up at the Campground at Barnes Crossing and tour the Tupelo Auto Museum. This museum has a wide and varied collection of cars that will make even a non-car person squeal with glee. Beyond that, we will most likely see a few sights around town and call it a day. Tomorrow and home await.

Day Ten

400 miles to go. Seven hours or so of solid travel, broken up by intermittent stops in Memphis, Tennessee; maybe Jonesboro, Arkansas and one final stop in West Plains, Missouri for fuel before traveling the finals miles to home.

Perhaps we'll visit Graceland while in Memphis, or the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. Who knows? All I know is that after a true, honest to goodness ten day family vacation, home might look pretty good. And I know that my garden will be overrun with tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, potatoes, and green beans just waiting to be picked and canned.

Anybody hungry?

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bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 6 months ago from Central Florida

Wow, I didn't notice this was on a niche site until I was prompted to sign in. Congrats, Mike!

Sounds like you've got your excursion pretty well mapped out. I hope you take pictures and maybe even film a video or two of your trip. It'll be fun hooking up with other RV-ers and creating memories with new friends.

I look forward to the tales you have to tell once you hit the trail.

Mr Archer profile image

Mr Archer 6 months ago from Missouri Author

We are constantly fine tuning our trip but by and large this will be the blueprint we follow. I recently found another location we might go to while in Florida near Destin called Gulfarium. Kind of a Sea World type place where you can get up close and personal with various sea life. Tina and Caleb are really looking forward to this and we might even let Caleb snorkel with the stingrays and sharks they offer. We are pumped, we are ready and we will definitely take a lot of pictures and videos to share! Take care Cheyenne! Have a great weekend!

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