St. Augustine Served Two Ways
As we’ve mentioned before, it is not easy to find spots for a 38′ motorhome in most of Florida’s state parks. They usually only have a few sites that fit a rig that size (if any) and they’re almost always reserved until the end of time (or the end of the reservation window, whichever may come first).
We really wanted to see St. Augustine and had heard great things about Anastasia state park, so we booked it immediately when 3 consecutive nights at Anastasia became available on ReserveAmerica.com. We like to stay in a place for longer than 3 nights… so we then had to find another place to stay, assuming we didn’t manage to extend our time at Anastasia somehow. Which is why we ended up staying at two different campgrounds while visiting St. Augustine.
Visitors from Home
We were thrilled to have Hannah’s dad and sister fly down to visit us in St. Augustine! They stayed right in town and spent basically their entire 5 day stay visiting and exploring with us. Hannah’s sister’s birthday happened to land when they were with us, so we even got to celebrate that with them! It was great to have them with us and so fun to watch them with Calla. She certainly loved their visit as well.
Part 1: Tales from the Swarm
We had heard great things about Anastasia state park from the beginning of our journey, and it’s clear why people love this place. The location is great – it’s just a few minutes from downtown St. Augustine – and the beach is amazing. The whole park is really nice, actually.
Expect for one minor detail – THE MOSQUITOES. It turns out that hurricane Irma left a lot of standing water on the ground in this area. And you know what loves water? Mosquitoes. Do you know what else they love? Human flesh.
As beautiful as Anastasia state park was, it was absolutely ruined by the interminable mosquito siege that was going on in the campground. Our site had large pools of standing water and tons of vegetation all around it, so we were not spared.
I’m usually not too bothered by bugs, but this was different – I felt like I was prey. We had to literally run to the bathhouse when we wanted to shower (the sites are E/W only) while using the towel to debug ourselves. We saw others embracing similar tactics, which turned out to be much funnier when it’s not you being attacked. And yes, we were using DEET, and no, that didn’t fully keep them away.
They even managed to bite us as we rode our bikes – it felt like there was a cloud behind us, waiting for us to stop, while also producing kamikaze bugs that somehow landed on our backs while going 15MPH.
Anyway, we made the best of it. They weren’t bad at the beach or in St. Augustine itself, so we spent as little time as possible outside at the campsite and explored elsewhere.
Part 2: The Beach to the North – North Beach
We happily did not inquire about staying longer at Anastasia and moved on to our reservation at North Beach Camp Resort. It was just on the other side of St. Augustine – only a 20 minute drive. Fortunately the bugs there weren’t bad at all there.
North Beach is right on the banks of the Talomato River. It also extends to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of A1A. It wasn’t our favorite spot, but it was decent enough. The nightly rates were steep ($70+), the office was kind of dumpy, and the place had too many long-term residents for our taste, but it had a decent beach, full hookups, and was still close to St. Augustine.
What was shocking, though, was the damage done to the area by hurricane Irma. Many houses looked empty and even more had major exterior damage. The shore itself was severely impacted as well – an insane amount of sand (tens of feet deep) was swept away by the storm. Decks and fences that were previously at beach level were now 15 feet in the air. Beachfront houses’ support beams were fully exposed and often damaged. It was eye-opening and sad, but intriguing in an uncomfortable way.
Visiting Castillo de San Marcos
There is a really old, really big fort smack in the middle of St. Augustine. It’s a national monument and definitely worth exploring. We watched another cannon demo and learned a lot about its Spanish history and its coquina construction.
We really enjoyed our time in St. Augustine. The city and its beaches are beautiful. And having family visit us made it great! We’d recommend a visit to Anastasia – the bug problem was due to the hurricane and probably is already back to normal.
When we were researching the RV lifestyle, we read all about hookups and how they worked. Tim blogged about all of the details in this RV 101: Hookups post. We were well aware that some campgrounds have full hookups, some have none, and others have a combination of them. Here are the combinations we’ve seen thus far on the road.
- No Hookups aka Dry Camping
- Electric & Water Only
- Electric Only
- Full hookups (electric, water, sewer)
What we didn’t yet know, however, is how these various combinations hookups would impact our daily lives. So I’ve made this table below to explain.
|Hookup Type||Lifestyle Impact||Modifications|
|No hookups (dry camping)||Water:|
Fill motorhome's water tank either at the campground if they have a water full, or fill it before we leave the previous campground. We'd never camp without access to water!
Must limit use - use paper plates so we use less water on dishes. No showering in the RV - we take showers in the bath-house. We bathe the baby in the RV, but dump the bath water outside or use it to flush the toilet (so it goes into the black tank, which is hard to fill)
Without a water hookup, the water pump has to run. This is noisy every time you turn on a sink, but you get used to it.
Since there is no water hookup at the site, you are limited to what your tank can hold. Conservation is the name of the game!
No white noise machine to help baby sleep better. No air conditioning or fans. No power to keep laptops/cellphones charged. No TV. No power for the Mobley (internet source we primarily use).
Since the walls are really thin in an RV, you can hear pretty much anything going on outside. The baby can also hear us come into the room, no matter how quiet we try to be. The loss of the white noise machine is kind of a big deal for us, because it allows the baby to sleep more soundly. We all know how important sleep is! Maybe we will find a solution for this as we get into boondocking.
Use portable water containers. Fill up with fresh water, leave them outside, and use them to wash dishes or rinse sand off your body.
Run the generator if you're allowed (some places have rules against use, or limited hours you can use it). It is also noisy, somewhat smelly, and considered an annoyance to neighbors - so we try to limit its use.
We also have this large battery which we also use for the tow brake controller. It's awesome for charging our phones, laptops, Mobley, etc multiple times.
Without this battery, we'd be a lot less likely to try dry camping again. The fact that we an recharge a lot of our devices + keep internet access (if we get good signal) is important to us.
|Electric & Water Only||Water:|
Water access is available right at the campsite, so there is no need to fill the tank or use portable water containers. We use paper plates sometimes (especially if we will be there awhile) to limit gray water. The gray water tank fills up quickly, and with no sewer hookup, we'd have to go to the dump station to dump it, which involves packing up the RV, bringing in the slides, pulling up the stabilizing jacks, and then going to the dump station.
Showers fill up the gray tank fast. Use the bath-house for showering if possible. If not - shower VERY quickly and run the risk of overflowing the gray tank.
No impact. Can use the TV, AC, charge devices, etc.
We have seen lots of people with these tote tanks when there is no sewer hookup. People empty their gray water/black water into these, then pull them over to the dump station with their cars. It avoids having to close up the entire RV and drive it over to the dump station. We haven't purchased one yet, but are considering it. The main con is having to store it when you don't need it.
With only electric available at the campsite, we have to use water from our holding tank. This means we have to limit our water consumption. In this scenario, we'd user paper plates and shower in the bath house.
Again, use portable water containers. Fill up with fresh water, leave them outside, and use them to wash dishes or rinse sand off your body.
|Full Hook Ups (Water, Electric, Sewer)||This scenario is the most like living in a house. You don't really need to pay attention to how much water you are using, because it is freely available to you at the site (water hookup), and you can drain the tanks (sewer hookup) any time you need to.|
The difference is, you need to drain the tanks! If you forget to do that, or don't do it often enough, the tanks will overflow. Tim drains our tanks every couple of days when we have full hookups.
Some places (mainly at RV parks) there is even a cable hookup, so you can get some channels.
Since there’s not really any interesting pictures to go along with hookups, other than the ones we put in our last post about this topic (of the hoses connecting, dump station, etc) I’ll leave you with this dump station sign from Ft. DeSoto Park. We have a backlog of things to write about on the blog, so keep an eye out for more posts soon.
Note: We’ve had a rough go lately with moving around a lot (stressful) + our daughter being sick and not sleeping well, hence the break in blog posts. Anyway – hopefully, we’re back! I say “hopefully” because kids are just so unpredictable!
After our weeklong stay in the lap of luxury at Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort, it was time to come back to reality and visit some state parks. After not finding many appealing options on the Georgia coast (we will have to get our GA state sticker some other time!), we decided to head to north Florida. We did a few quick stops (2, 3, 4 night type stops) in some Florida State Parks. Why such short stops? Mainly because the state parks in FL fill up very quickly. The state park system was also carved out 60 or so years ago, when big motorhomes/fifth wheels/travel trailers didn’t exist. So the limited big rig spots at FL state parks, along with the fact that they’re so popular, meant that we could only snag a couple nights in a row at each one. Ideally, we would have stayed for at least a week.
Our first stop was Fort Clinch State Park, just south of Jacksonville, on the northernmost part of Amelia Island. It’s actually in a town called Fernandina Beach, which I had never heard of. One thing that has surprised us so far about FL state parks is how spread out they are. You may check in at the ranger station, then still have a 15 minute drive to the campground. Most of the time, this means that the park is very secluded, which we love – it’s just not something that we were used to up until this point. It can also make for some longer drives to get out of the park – google maps may show something is 10 minutes away, but when you add on the 15 mins to get out of the park, it takes a lot longer.
We loved Fort Clinch. Like way more than we expected to. We were so enamored with our little 2 day stay at this gem of a park that I think it will always be in our minds as one of our favorites. We ended up with a site in the beach loop. The sites were pretty tight and there was no shade, but that is the price you pay to have the beach within a 5 minute walk. Our neighbors switched a lot over the two days, so any time a neighbor would leave, we had an ocean view. The sites at Fort Clinch (and at all FL state parks we’ve been to so far) are electric and water only. We also only had 30 amp power at Fort Clinch, but if we are careful, we can still run both air conditioners on 30 amps. A RV heats up SUPER fast, so it was important that we had AC while in the direct sun. There was a larger loop of campsites back in the woods at Fort Clinch – this campground is called Amelia River. I liked these sites better from a shade, space, and privacy perspective, but you would have had to drive to the beach. Pros and cons to each.
The beach at Fort Clinch State Park was nothing short of spectacular. We are getting to be beach snobs, now that we’ve seen so many in such a short period of time. This beach ticked all the boxes for me. First of all, it was EMPTY. There were never more than a handful of other people out there with us, and a lot of times, we were alone. The beach was incredibly wide, the widest I’ve ever seen, and low tide left behind tons of tidepools for Calla to play in. It was impeccabily clean, but there were tons of large seashells – the most I’ve ever seen at any beach. It was so much fun to sit in the tide pools and sift for shells. When we checked in, the ranger told us about the amount of shark teeth in the sand at the park. We spent our whole visit searching for shark teeth, but never could find one! Other people we talked to seemed to have an easier time finding them. Maybe we weren’t looking in the right places!
The park’s namesake is…well, Fort Clinch itself. A visit to the fort was an awesome way to spend a Saturday morning, especially because once a month they have Garrison days. There were volunteers dressed up in costumes and they played their parts just as if they were living in the fort. It was a neat way to learn history, and we got to see them set off a cannon.
The kind park ranger also mentioned that we should check out downtown Fernandina Beach. He said that it had a lot of character, a marina, shops, etc. Sold! We went to downtown Fernandina Beach one evening and were pleasantly surprised by the quaintness. Beautiful historical buildings, tree-lined streets with wide sidewalks, tons of restaurants and shops – and a marina with a sunset backdrop. We ate dinner at a “seafood shack” that had a playground in the outside seating area – genius! There was also live music in the middle of downtown with performances by various artists, dance groups, etc. I was really glad that he had suggested this. We didn’t even know downtown Fernandina Beach existed, let alone were planning to visit it.
One thing I will mention – Fort Clinch, being our first of many FL state parks, was my introduction to “Florida adds on a bunch of fees and taxes to get more tourist money”. So although the nightly rates are decent, the addition of taxes and fees (some of which have been even higher at subsequent parks) make the final nightly rate a lot more than what you see at first online. This rubs me the wrong way because I think everything should just be included up front in the nightly rate – enough of the “surprises”!
We were disappointed that we only had two days to enjoy this beautiful place, but we certainly did a lot in those two days – it helped that the days were over the weekend. It remains one of the best beaches I have ever been to. I was able to squeeze in a couple of beach runs that were absolutely beautiful – I didn’t see another soul – just me and the waves. The only negative was that the camp hosts were trying to push us out of our site before the 1pm checkout time. They said “someone is waiting for your site”. Well, checkin is at 3, so this meant that the next people were 2 hours early. No one let us in 2 hours early to our site, and we paid for 2 days there. So that small negative interaction was the only complaint we had about our stay at Fort Clinch. If you like quiet, big, beautiful beaches, and an option for a historic experiences (downtown + Fort Clinch itself) we think you should put Fort Clinch State Park on your “must visit” list!
Laundry. It’s a dry topic, but it’s a reality of life – eventually the dirty clothes must be cleaned!
In-RV Laundry Options
When we were looking at RVs, I was pretty open to NOT having a washer and dryer in the RV. I considered it a “nice to have” but not a necessity. I read a little bit about it, and it seemed like very few people who have a washer and dryer are happy with them. A lot of people have a 2 in 1 model (the same machines does both washing and drying, so you don’t even have to switch the clothes!) because they take up less space. Some are vented and some are not, and I read that the non-vented ones are pretty much worthless because it takes forever to dry the clothes. I’ve also heard that no matter what kind of in-RV washer/dryer setup you have, they can’t wash many clothes. The capacity is small. Like a couple shirts and some underwear, MAX. At that rate, I’d be doing laundry all day, every day, which is not what I wanted for myself. One last “con” to having one in the RV is that they take up a lot of water, and therefore, space in the gray tank. Unless you have full hookups, you wouldn’t want to use the washer because you’d fill up your tank quickly.
So, all this to say: I thought a washer and dryer had potential to be a nice convenience, but I also wasn’t totally upset that the RV we ended up with didn’t have it.
I’ll also note that even if the RV you are interested in doesn’t have a washer and dryer, most of them have hookups and you can add one.
So..no washer/dryer in the RV. That leaves me with only one option: to use a laundromat or a campground laundry room. I think they are pretty similar. So far, I actually haven’t had to go to a laundromat. I’ve been using the laundry rooms that most of the campgrounds have. I was also able to wash a ton of clothes, rugs, and bedding for free when we stayed with my grandparents, which was very much appreciated!
The laundry rooms are coin operated, and a load of laundry ranges anywhere from $1.00 per load (for each machine) to $2.50 – at least that’s the highest I’ve seen so far! Most private campgrounds have a change machine somewhere that you can use to break bills into quarters. State parks sometimes have laundry facilities, but I’ve yet to see a change machine. At least in Florida, all of the laundry at the state parks is outside, but under cover. The one campground where I did laundry, it was inside, but it wasn’t air conditioned. Not exactly pleasant, especially on a 90 degree day when you have the dryers going! One disadvantage to campground laundry rooms – a lot of times they only have 1 or 2 washers/dryers, so you can’t just go do it all at once.
Using a campground laundry room is expensive. I do about 5 loads every time, and sometimes I have to put extra time in on the dryers. It’s all a part of the RV life budget!
It seems like I end up doing laundry about once every two weeks. Tim and I run out of clothes much more quickly than Calla. Thanks to her Grandmas and her aunt sending her clothes, she could probably go for a month without needing her clothes washed! The first thing she runs out of is pajamas. We just throw our dirty clothes into a big laundry bag and by the time we need laundry, two of the bags are full. If a place we are staying has cheap, clean, laundry facilities, I will do the laundry at that place – because you never know what the situation will be at the next stop! It’s also really nice if the laundry room is close enough that I can walk the clothes over instead of having to drive. At one campground, I thought I could walk over 2 heavy bags of clothes, detergent, quarters, and carry Calla (who wasn’t yet walking) – that was a mistake and I would not attempt that again.
Differences from In-House Laundry
Besides not being nearly as convenient, there are some other things that are different about doing laundry in an RV. I have nowhere to air dry clothes. I used to use multiple clothes drying racks in the basement of my house to air-dry some of the clothes that I didn’t want to ruin. Now? Everything goes in the dryer. Sometimes these dryers are VERY hot, even on a “normal” setting, and fry the clothes. Toasted elastic, anyone?
I do intend to purchase a foldable drying rack, but I’m just not sure that we have anywhere good to store it. Although it folds, it still has a big footprint. I can’t decide if it’s worth it to try to make room, or if I’ll just continue putting everything into the dryer. Since I can’t be as nice to my clothes as I would in a house (air dry, separate loads, etc) I am thinking that my clothes will wear out more quickly. Again – just another thing to consider as part of the RV budget. I can’t expect things to be exactly the same as they were in a house. If my clothes get fried in the dryer, I guess it’s part of the price I pay. I’ve also dried a couple of things outside, but try to avoid doing this with lots of clothes as it’s an eye sore, and I don’t have a drying rack (as I mentioned).
Truthfully, doing laundry on the road hasn’t been as big of a burden as I expected. I think choosing my laundry facilities wisely (at least as much as I can) helps, and doing it once every two weeks isn’t bad. I’m sure I will have negative experiences with it here and there, but so far, so good.
After we left Ebenezer Park near Charlotte, we headed south to Aiken, South Carolina to stay with Hannah’s grandparents. They have a really nice house right on the golf course of a gated community – which we stayed in instead of Trudy. But don’t worry, she was parked out front. 🙂
It was a great week in Aiken. We spent lots of time with family. Hannah’s grandparents were wonderful with Calla and so generous with making food and entertaining us! It was great to see them spend so much time with Calla, and it was clear that they really enjoyed it.
I also carved out some time to do a little work on Trudy – a couple new interior 12v lights, new LED outside lights, a new kitchen faucet, and some new hitch hardware (tighteners and locks). Trudy even got a bath!
Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort
After Aiken, we headed southeast to Hilton Head Island. We had made reservations a few weeks prior at Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort (HHIMCR) based on reviews and pictures. And my goodness, they were spot on! The place is seriously gorgeous!
You pay for it, though – at $70 per night (+ 10% tax – ouch), it was the most expensive site we’ve had yet. I’d say it’s worth it, though.
Each site at HHIMCR is privately owned. The resort manages rentals and landscaping. I believe the owners get 50% of the rental revenue – which doesn’t sound like a bad deal.
There’s a beautiful lake at the resort with sites tucked in all around it. There are 3 types of sites – lakefront (anywhere near the lake), clubhouse (around the pool/clubhouse/gym/tennis area), and forest (everywhere else). We were in a forest site. The resort is exclusive to motorcoaches only, so you have to have a self-contained unit 18 feet in length or greater. The majority of the patrons have class A’s, but we did see one class B and a couple class C’s.
I’ve never been around so many nice motorohomes before. Many of them sticker for several hundred thousand dollars – some over $600k. I don’t know how you pack that much value into a motorhome, but apparently it’s possible. The frame must be some sort of gold alloy or something.
This resort is a well-oiled machine. It’s laid out nicely, perfectly manicured, and has great amenities – a nice pool and spa, a great gym, a nice playground, lots of tennis courts, and a clean and inexpensive laundry area.
However, the downside of that landscaping is the near constant hum of yard equipment – they even have a large gas-powered, self-propelled fan that they ride on that blows off the open sites. We found it to be fairly annoying at times.
This wasn’t our first time in Hilton Head, but it was definitely our favorite. We had basically no neighbors, and being in such a beautiful setting was great! To Calla’s dismay, we also rented bikes to take advantage of Hilton Head’s comprehensive bike paths. They’re really well kept and will take you all over the island.
We also met a full-time RV couple that are our age that actually just bought a lot at HHIMCR – Kim and Ryan of Sort of Homeless. We hung out with them a couple of evenings – it’s great to talk to others who are doing and dealing with the same things as we are! And it didn’t hurt that they’re really friendly and helpful people.
HHIMCR is somewhat inland compared to our other beachfront spots – Coligny Beach is a ~12 minute bike ride. Coligny Beach has lots of nice shops and restaurants, a great beach, and lots of places to walk or sit.
I was also able to start using the new flat top griddle we got for the Camp Chef grill. It’s AWESOME. It’s large (16″x 32″) and ~40 pounds of steel – just what you want for a portable RV cooking setup, right?
Ups and downs
The life of an RV is hard. Lots of changes in temperature, being thrown around on the road all of the time, and generally low build quality means that there’s nearly always something to work on. That’s how we ended up having the opportunity to add a new lawn ornament to our lot at HHIMCR!
Early in the week I noticed a little water on the floor by the toilet. After further investigation I found that the original toilet (a Dometic 210) was leaking from the sprayer and also from the vacuum breaker every time we flushed. And that water was dripping right onto a carpeted “box” behind the toilet that hid water and electrical lines.
New parts to address both leaks would have been nearly $70 with shipping. So, instead, I drove the hour to the Savannah Camping World and bought a new Dometic 310 for $160. The installation was pretty straightforward, though I will say it was also pretty gross. Anyway, we also ripped out the wet old carpeted box thing, so now we’ll have to figure out a new way to cover the lines. Or just leave it open – it doesn’t bother us too much.
We also found that an odd smell was coming from our living room A/C intake unit when it’s NOT running but the bedroom A/C unit IS running (the whole system is vented together). I figured something was plugged up or dirty, so I got on the roof, pulled the outer cover and the evaporator cover off to investigate. I cleaned the evaporator coil and the surrounding area with a toothbrush and vinegar, and that seemed to help. But, unfortunately the smell came back and is still around to this day! I need to buy a proper A/C coil cleaner and clean both A/C units thoroughly to see if that helps. Sadly, I’m sure there will be more to come on this topic.
HHIMCR was our favorite campground so far. We were sad to leave, but onward we must go.
Rolling On A Whim - Our RV Life
We are a family of 3 who began full-time life in an RV in August 2017. The only real plan is to enjoy ourselves and see both the hidden gems + the main attractions in the USA. We hope you'll follow along as we adjust to RV life with a baby, and reflect on what it took to get here.