Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hook Day

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park near Crawfordville, Ga.

Ok, let me try this again! I lost about an hours worth of brilliant thoughts I'd written into a post on this blog this morning when something went wrong while saving it. I have a weak and variable internet connection here and it apparently became very weak and very variable just when I went to save my post. Dang. I hate when that happens.

Dar and I decided that we'd refer to yesterday as "hook day" -- the day we made the big turn toward the west, the direction we'll now be predominantly going as we work our way to the west coast by March.

After saying our good-byes with Cousin Debbie yesterday morning, we fired up the bus and headed to the bus's 7am appointment with the Cummins dealer in Columbia for an oil change, chassis lube, and generator service. While that was being done, Dar and I found a Panera and did some online research on places to stay along our way. We'd previously decided that we'd take a more northerly route through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi -- as long as the weather cooperated -- but really hadn't decided on any particular places to stay. Dar found the Georgia State Parks website and found one she though would be nice.

The bus was done before noon, so we hooked up the toad, pointed the bus west, and took off for Crawfordville, GA. by 1pm or so. The terrain of western South Carolina and eastern Georgia is made up of big ridges that run generally north and south. We were traveling west so the bus spent the day alternating between exerting on the uphills and coasting over the speed limit on the downhills. Combined with a gusty headwind, it wasn't a day for great fuel mileage.

Another thing we decided: driving into a bright sun seems to take some of the enjoyment out of a trip. With our mostly western heading during the next few months, we're going to make an effort to get going earlier in the morning and try to make our destination by early afternoon in order to avoid the sun blasting in through the big windshield. Having flexibility like this reduces the stress of driving, whether it's the direction of the sun or just staying someplace until the weather improves.

We made Crawfordsville by 3:30pm or so. On first impression, it's a very small town that's been neglected for many years. Signs directing us to the park had us make a left turn at the town's main intersection. While making turns on small or tight streets I normally spend more time looking back with the mirrors or camera than I do looking forward -- checking that I'll make the corner without hitting anything or anyone, and that the toad is still following along as it should. This time after completing the turn and my attention was once again directed forward, I see an old rusting bridge that we've got to go under -- an old railroad trestle -- and a sign: "Low Clearance -- 12' 10". Jeeesh! Just after we bought the bus I physically measured our high point as 12' 8" -- so we had a whole 2 inches to spare -- assuming the sign was accurate.

There was no where else to go, no side street that I could take that would allow easy escape. We had only two options: go for it and run the risk that we get caught under the bridge, or stop, unhook the toad (it's not possible to back up with the car in tow), drive the car away, and back the bus back up the hill into the intersection, and go a different way.

It's amazing what you can think about in situations like this. If we did get stuck under the bridge I figured we become somewhat unwitting celebrities around this small town and would probably be front-page news in the local weekly: "Yankee Camper Hits Railroad Bridge -- embarrassed driver and angry wife extricated by Billy Bob Kirby and Bubba Larrabee from Ray's Towing -- driver charged with inattentive driving and fined"

Dar closed her eyes. I drove to the bridge and slowed to a crawl. The bus inched forward. I looked up at the bottom of the bridge, now just inches away, and could see all the dings and gouges where other tall objects have hit it. I gulped. Slowly, ever so slowly, the bus moved forward. The highest thing on top is the TV satellite dish and it's dome covering is made off a somewhat flexible plastic. I turned off the vent fan and anything else that was making noise so I could hear the first scrape. Remember, I kept telling myself, there should be two inches to spare. A few seconds later Dar opened her eyes and I was making the next turn into the park. We made it and the TV dome is still with us.

Turning into the park I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Another first impression: heavily wooded, neat, clean, almost new asphalt road, and almost no one around. Stopping at the office I met two of the nicest rangers who told me they have 25 campsites and that maybe 3 of them are occupied. I paid for three nights and they said to just pick any site we'd like. The campground was built for RV's and every site is level, wide, and well separated from each other. As we walked around trying to decide which site to take neither of us could believe what we've stumbled on. We chose site #1, and I'll get some pictures of it online as soon as I can.

As I write this while sitting outside at our campsite, it's almost 80 degrees with clear skies and mild breezes. We have NOTHING planned for today. Maybe a little later I'll wander down to the ranger station and pay for a few more nights in heaven.

T