Note: When I started this vagabond life, I wrote weekly updates. After a few years, I moved on to occasional posts but they became pretty random. I’m trying something new this time around, borrowing the format my friend, Alissa, uses. She posts by campground, with details — good and bad — of the campground, the campsite, and the surrounding area. Seems like a good time to start doing new things, so here’s the first one of its kind. Oh, and here’s a link to Alissa’s travel blog.
When I finally got back on the road after 4.5 months, I didn’t go far. My first destination in this new round of adventures was a local one: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, just south of Gainesville, in Micanopy (pronounced “MIK-i-NOH-pee” in case you’re wondering). My plan was to pull the trailer out of my friends’ side yard, get new trailer tires, and check in to the campground after a Walmart run. I figured that was enough activity for one day, considering the 90F inferno that is summer in Florida.
Hitching up the trailer to the Ridgeline is a bit different than hitching up to the Outback. It’s actually easier, since I don’t have weight distribution bars any more. The routine was just enough different that I worried I might forget something so I made a checklist on my iPhone. After all, it had been weeks since I had done what used to be second nature. Little mistakes can have big effects when towing, so I wanted to start off right.
The new tires were on by 9:30AM so I had a few hours before I could show up at Paynes Prairie. Off to the local Walmart, then, to stock up on groceries. Every single person at Walmart was wearing a mask, 95% of them with nose and mouth both covered. Fear is a powerful motivator with infection and death rates on the rise here in Florida.
With a cart full of paper goods, staples, and perishables, it was time to figure out where to put everything. Oh, the joys of the Ridgeline! It holds three storage bins in the back seat and two in the truck bed, so stowing staples was a pleasure. The little fridge in the Alto, on the other hand, was stuffed to the brim. Closing the door involved a little dance of holding stuff in place till I could secure the door latch.
While the Alto was sitting in the parking lot with its solar panels exposed to the sun, I fired up the Victron solar controller app on my iPhone. I hadn’t done this since February, so I faced the inevitable software and firmware updates. Worth it, though, to see the panels were generating good wattage. Solar power was a GO.
Paynes Prairie offers about 30 trailer/RV sites with water and electric and a dozen tent sites. While the park has two bath houses, I chose to use my own bathroom and shower in this time of pandemic.
I was pleased that I hadn’t forgotten my hard-won skill at backing into a site. I turned off the engine and stepped out to survey my home for the next three nights. After months of staying in a city, I was back in my element, surrounded by tall trees and bird singing. I grinned all afternoon, despite dripping sweat as I set up my campsite. I was so happy to back in my vagabond life, even if it was only 10 miles away from where I’d been.
I left the back window shade open that first night because there was thunder and lightning. (Yes, you can fall asleep during a thunderstorm. Well, I can.) The next morning, this was my view as I woke up. No more houses blocking the trees and central air units humming away. Just me forest bathing to start the day. Ahhhhh.
My morning walk took me down to the end of the road by the boat dock. I turned right onto a little path that led to an observation deck where I could survey the whole of the lake.
Oh, look, a gator having a morning swim. I knew from kayaking here earlier in the year that there were gators; you just don’t see them most of the time. The gator sighting combined with the oppressive heat made kayaking a zero-possibility activity for me this trip. I’ll wait till I’m out of gator country to do my paddling, thank you very much.
Let’s be honest, I just threw stuff in the Alto when I moved out of the airbnb, so things were a mess. The truck has a huge amount of space compared to the Outback, so I wanted to figure out how best to store things in the bed and back seat. I’m an organizer at heart, so it was happy time for me getting everything sorted.
Remember those new tires? Before I did my first long stretch of towing, I wanted to check tire pressure and lug nuts. I unearthed my torque wrench and air compressor from the in-bed trunk and got to work. Lug nuts good, tire pressure a bit low so I pumped them up to spec. I also fixed up the hose tube that got crushed back in February. My main dump hose is stored on the back of the tongue; having a second hose is a “nice to have” for sites where the sewer hookup is far away. Trailer life is really just one long unending series of little maintenence tasks.
After three nights and a lot of prep work, Luna, Breeze, and I are ready to get out of Florida. Onward to Georgia, aiming for cooler climes in the next week or so.
- Site 8. Most sites on the outside of the loop are well-spaced with good privacy.
- Services: electric, water, dump station
- Cell service: Verizon (stronger), ATT (weaker)
- Groceries: Publix 10 min (off I-75), Walmart 15 minutes (Gainesville)
The beginning is always today.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley