Author Topic: Trip reports  (Read 18514 times)


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Re: Trip reports
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2018, 11:30:27 PM »
Oops!  This is what happens when posting late at night. :O

I uploaded these last two of my posts in the wrong place.  :-[
I meant to put them in “Trail Marking” thread. The context simply isn’t there on this thread. :D



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Re: Trip reports
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2020, 08:36:47 PM »
I have been meaning to post a trip report from early July.  It's lengthy, so i will break up a bit.  I hope you don't get completely bored with it.

      The Odyssey: Part 1

This pandemic has been difficult for many of us.  Whether it’s confining ourselves, avoiding public spaces, constant focus on sanitizing and disinfecting or simply staying aware of the COVID-19 spread in our area, this situation is different than any we have experienced.  Then, some of us had to suffer through the throws of the actual virus.
I am personally responsible for the health and safety of approximately 500 employees performing heavy industrial (oil & gas) construction.  This responsibility can weigh heavy at times, but never has it presented itself as it has this past June, in Texas.  Trying to sort out the CDC from the TDH, antibody tests from the antigen tests, the public sponsored testing centers vs. clinics vs. doctors offices, and interpreting the results, had taken its toll.  I needed a distraction.  I needed a chance to wrap my head around what was going on, so that I could better define the path forward.

A good friend of mine got a job in eastern PA, and needed someone to transport his 32' camper trailer that would be his 'home away from home' for the next 2.5 years.  He found ‘a guy' that agreed to perform the task for $3k.  I agreed to the task for a simple barter.  I had recently help him acquire a ’03 Ford Ranger work truck (beater).  He no longer needed the truck, so I would take it off his hands and deliver his camper.  Done and done.

So the journey begins.  I picked the day after Independence Day, expecting reduced traffic and smooth travel.  I wanted the trip to be basic.  I only packed a few clothes, and nourishment would be completely vegetarian as animal products added difficulty to storage and preparation. I already knew that bananas were challenging to maintain over several days travel, but peaches turned out to be the most difficult.  Jbee’s advice over the years proved handy in packing and preparing.

I woke up early, conferred with Ground Control (Google) on the attitude and vector for the trip.  The Command Capsule was to be my 18 year old Ford SuperDuty (Monster).  The first task was to retrieve the payload consisting of the 32' travel trailer, in Cleveland, Texas.  I had never carried such a load with the truck, but was confident that it was within its capabilities.  I left the house without bothering to dress, intending to only wear what the situation demanded.
Of course, the trailer was fully connected at the location to be picked up.  I disconnected the umbilical, water and waste lines, before the beast could be moved from its perch.  I also had to don my sport kilt and a shirt. Gloves were also necessary PPE while handling the waste lines.  Retracting the sliders was intimidating, but ended up the easiest task of the lot.  Once the payload was completely free of its attachments and firmly affixed to the Ford, I was off.
Determined to make this an adventure, beyond your basic and boring interstate road trip, I set my sites on secondary roads through east Texas and all of Louisiana.  Releasing the Velcro waistband from my kilt and a quick, overhead tug on my shirt, meant I was appropriately dressed for the trip. Wearing only the seatbelt, I steered toward the rolling hills of the piney woods of East Texas.

These were familiar roads that I had traversed many years previously so the trip was off to a very favorable start.  As I neared Louisiana, signs appeared warning of a low clearance bridge ahead.  Not wanting to cause expensive damage to the payload such as ripping the a/c unit from its perch, I inquired of the owner, “What might be the full height of this beast?”

He had never considered this question.  All of his travels pulling it from place to place always involved major highways.  He questioned my sanity in taking lesser paths.

I explained that this was my odyssey to undertake, and not his business to question the means and methods.  He then reported the total height to be 11'1", well within the 12'3" clearance to the bridge.  I may have held my breath briefly as I approached the Red River Bridge superstructure.
The roads in Louisiana were just as expected. Rolling hills and pine trees, bayous and vista, providing a constant visual stimulation.  The miles passed without interruption.

Mississippi presented its own challenges.
Road crews in Louisiana are widely known for their inability to build a level and stable roadway.  IH10 across South Louisiana will test the sturdiest suspension system.  Well, it seems that Mississippi highways were built with the same engineering. 
It is completely understandable that driving across difficult terrain, things placed on the rear seat might suddenly find themselves on the floor.  But, when those same things bounce back up onto the seat, you know the road has issues.

Once in Mississippi, I needed to stop for fuel and pit stop.  I had to put on something besides the seatbelt.  Making Mississippi the 3rd state on my trip wearing only the seatbelt.  The secondary roads meant that there were few instances where my nudity might have been observed or offensive to the mundane.  I decided for this trip, that the state of being nude was simply that.  I would cover whenever I ventured into the realm of others, but inside my own dwelling, the command capsule, would be under my own rules.

Transitioning through Mississippi and into Georgia brought other concerns.  The rolling hills of East Texas and into Louisiana tasked the old Ford to some extent.  The throttle would increase, as would the turbocharger, but not anything that posed a threat to the heading and vector.  That changed as we ventured into the foothills of Appalachia.

We were on IH 59, headed toward Birmingham.  A long ascent lay before us.  The tranny stuck in high gear as the tach and turbo struggled to maintain speed, the turbo would increase, higher, then higher still.  Other gauges warned that the ship was under stress, but we ventured on.  We crept higher and higher still, with the strain of breaking gravity’s massive pull, bringing the speed lower and lower still.  Then, with no warning, somewhere a bright red button was hit.
A blast of black, acrid smoke bellowed out the rear. Only Mr. Bond's Aston Martin could have presented such a deliberate presentation of noxious gases.  The turbocharger jumped into step, the tranny downshifted 2 gears, as the tachometer approached red-line.  But, the speedometer stopped its decent, now gaining momentum as gravity conceded its grip.

I was left in awe of the old Ford's power.  Still worrying that the strain would somehow cripple the beast.  But hills turned to mountains, and soon I was passing lesser beasts in their quests to conquer the ever present gravity.

I stopped just South of Birmingham.  Satisfied that I had put a significant dent in the journey, the odyssey.  I picked an interstate roadside park.  One that had restrooms aplenty and appeared to be a favorite of other road warriors.  Road warriors came in many different varieties.  But the Interstate system only recognizes two.  They were separated by those traveling for their occupation and those traveling for personal use.  Cars were directed thusly, OTR trucks had their own parking areas.  And they owned those areas.  I was a recreation traveler, towing an RV.  I could not find refuge with the cars and pickups, so I found a nice slot at the far end of the OTR truckers’ lot.

It did not take long for me to recognize that I was the odd man out here.  Though my rig stretched over 50', it did not match the machismo of the OTR crowd. I extended the slider of the RV to allow me access to the bed, but somehow, the trucker that pulled in next to me felt it necessary to creep inches from my open window.  I knew that I would have to find different accommodations for the next night.

It seemed like a burden, more than an inconvenience, to wrap the kilt around my waist only to stroll up to the restrooms for a toilet and sink.  The odd glances from the others I passed kept me on alert. Maybe they would have given me the same squint eye if I had simply walked up in my natural state, but I would feel more vulnerable, less in control.

Morning broke and I was looking forward to making some wonderfully fresh coffee.  This has always been an enjoyable part of every camping trip.  I would manually and naturally crank the coffee grinder while the water heated to a boil.  Daybreak usually meant some solitude, where the dress code was as relaxed as my attitude.  But, of course, that is not the case at the travel stop.  Bright lights overtook the morning twilight, diesel rattle covered nature’s richness and exhaust was the flavor in the air. I ground the coffee on the RV steps, boiled the water on my propane burner and fixed a bowl of Kashi, blueberries and Coconut milk for a quick breakfast. Then hit the road

The story continues in Part 2.



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Re: Trip reports
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2020, 09:04:23 PM »
            The Odyssey Part 2

Day 2 took me out of Alabama, into Georgia and through Tennessee, catching a brief trip through North Carolina, into Virginia.  That brings the count to 8 states.  All naked, save the seatbelt and periodic stops for fuel and pit stops.  All of the pit stops at this point were at rest areas and fuel stations.  I was getting around 10mpg, so stops were mandated every 300 miles.

I was getting used to the 'red button' events occurring as we encountered ever increasing elevations through mountain passes.  Recognizing that others, pulling similar and lesser loads, with much newer vehicles were struggling at least as much.  Passing a brand new, Ram 3500, pulling a 28 footer was somehow, very satisfying.

The roadside park I found just south of Roanoke was geared more for tourists, than the OTR truckers.  The 18 wheeler slots were parallel parked, not packed across an immense lot. The spot I got was perfect.  My slide-out was into a wide median, no one was going to impose on my well deserved rest.
Wrapping the kilt around my waist for the trip to the restroom block to pee and brush my teeth, was the only excuse I had to wear anything.  If I had to find relief during the night, there were woods aplenty nearby.

Well, that's not exactly how things played out.  Around midnight I decided to venture out to relieve the bladder.  The place was HOPPING!  No way to hide behind a tree without appearing nefarious. So I wrapped the kilt around my waist and headed for the restroom block.  As I approached, a respectable looking chap stopped me to ask if I could help him.

He had locked his keys in his truck and needed to call for help.  I told him that I had more pressing matters to attend, but would happily discuss his predicament after my needs were attended.  Returning from the restroom, we headed back to his pickup, parked near my rig.

I retrieved my cell phone, but offered that I had a 'slim jim'.  He called the roadside assistance authority, while I retrieved my 'tool'.  It took a bit, but I was able to unlock the door for the gentleman, and retired to my own abode.

Imagine my surprise, at only an hour or so later, a loud knocking on the trailer, woke me again from my slumber.  Wrapping my kilt around my waist, I opened the door to find a State Trooper asking me about my 'slim jim'.  I wasn't sure whether to own up to it, since it is not legal in all 50 states.  But he explained that another vehicle had locked their keys in their car and he had contacted the previous gentleman to find out who had the wondrous tool. So, I provide the slim jim to the officer.  Aren't these standard issue for public safety officers?  It took him a mere minutes to open the door and return the tool. This was an enjoyable night, though sleep was not abundant.

I arrived at my destination just a few minutes after noon on the third day.  10 States traveled, only dressing when necessary.
My buddy was unable to tear away and assist in the RV set up, but hey, I took it down at the start of this adventure, obviously I was up to task in getting it setup.  Except that the accommodations didn't quite match the RV.  We needed a 50 amp supply, not the standard 30 amp at this particular slot.  Oh well, no good deed goes unpunished.

After undoing the setup, we moved to an accommodating site, and set the RV up, again.

After a great restaurant dinner, I settled into the first night sleeping in a fully connected RV. The a/c blew cold air, the toilet flushed and the night was beautiful. Fireflies were abundant in this campground, and the moon was bright. A bit of pride was certainly present as I drank a glass of Pale Ale and discretely released the Velcro on my kilt to celebrate the successful delivery of my payload.

After a satisfying breakfast of cereal, blueberries and coconut milk, along with fresh ground drip coffee, I embarked on my return trip.
The return trip meant that no trailer was holding us back, cruise control functioned perfectly and I could now get 500 miles to a tank of diesel, while no acrid smoke emerged from the tailpipe.  Well, only if the situation warranted it.

I wanted different scenery for the return trip and thought it would be great to stop at a clothing optional park to allow at least 24 hours of true vacation as part of the odyssey.  The Naturist Park was closed due to the virus restrictions, but google provided another option.  Whispering Oaks, in Hampshire, TN, is a clothing optional, all male, campground. The fact that it is a ‘Gay Campground’ is not prominently stated, but it doesn’t take any digging to uncover that fact. The website claims that traditional naturist etiquette is followed (no open sexual activity, “no” means “NO”, be respectful, etc.) so I felt it was worth a visit.

I am comfortable with my sexual orientation and have friends that represent the wide sexual orientation palate that is present in this ‘common era’.  So, I am very comfortable in mixed environments of various sexual proclivities, particularly when the sexual activities are kept private.

The drive there was unremarkable, except for the first fuel stop.  It was a roadside bakery inside an old train depot.  The fuel pumps were stretched alongside the RR tracks, with the diesel pumps at the furthest point from the ‘station’.  When I pulled up to them, it was obvious that, with the door left open, no one could see what I was (not) wearing.  Of course there could be cameras, but the layout led me to believe that the cameras were pointing more toward the vehicle, not the clothes free driver.  Anyway, I stepped out, swiped the credit card, activated the pump and proceeded to fill the tank.  I decided to put on my kilt and shirt anyway, since I needed to purchase some water and use the restroom.  I cannot yet claim to have filled my tank while naked, but that day will certainly come.

I decided to top off the tank again before traversing the last few miles to the campground and then kept the shorts I threw on because I did not know what to expect in the registration process at the camp.

The camp was 340 acres in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a short dirt road.  I parked at the reception building, but the door was locked with a note and phone number.  I left a v/m message and proceeded to look around.  The place looked empty.  Eventually, I saw a young man walking my direction wearing shorts, shoes and a shirt.  I greeted him and asked if he was Jonathon (the name on the door), but no, he was Jason, but he worked for Jonathon. Anyway, I told that I had called yesterday about camping and we stepped into the office.

As he was checking me in, the heavens opened up and serious rain began to fall.  He asked if I was still wanting to camp or would I prefer a bed in the bunkhouse.  I didn’t want to share quarters with anyone, especially with the virus running rampant.  He assured me that I would have the bunkhouse to myself as there were no reservations and other beds were available for drop-ins.  They were the same price as a campsite, so I readily agreed.

He offered to show me around, but it was still raining.  That was okay, because I had a large umbrella in the truck.  I shucked off my shorts and sprinted to the truck to stash the shorts and grab the umbrella.  He seemed amused at me returning, completely bare and holding the umbrella.  He then proceeded to show me around the camp.

There were several cottages, larger houses and 2 bathhouses.  A couple of people were enjoying the covered Jacuzzi and a couple others in the pool, even though it was still raining. Camping and RV areas were on the far end of the central facilities.  All of the people in the Jacuzzi and pool were nude males, but I was the only one nude walking around the place.  My observation is that most of the guests were there because the campground was a Gay Campground, not because it was a Clothing Optional Campground.  Gay men apparently enjoy provocative dress over nudity.  Again, just my observation, not criticism.  Jason pointed to a walled area behind one of the bathhouses, mentioning that it was a ‘play area’ with several ‘toys’ available for private ‘parties’. I just acknowledged him and kept walking.  I had made it clear why I was there and had no interest in hooking up during my visit.  He showed me to the bunkhouse and we parted ways. 

There was a map in the reception office showing trails leading all around the 340 acres and I was looking forward to exploring them the next day.
After settling in at the bunkhouse, I ventured back down to the Jacuzzi/pool area and went for a swim.  It is a real luxury to walk from the room to the pool with only a towel, jump in, feel the water flow across every inch of skin, refreshing and rejuvenating the road-worn body.  The pool and water were very clean and not over chlorinated.  Jason had earlier mentioned that he was the defacto pool boy, cleaning and checking the chemistry, each morning.

Also in the pool was a jovial guy named Cliff.  We chatted about travels and adventures, the virus and other friendly topics.  After a while he wanted to go back to his RV and rustle up a batch of some kind of frozen beverage.  He promised to bring me back a glass on his return to the pool.  I told him that I planned to come back after getting something to eat.

I stopped at the bathhouse on the way back to the bunkhouse to pee.  It was a typical campground bathhouse with 3 stalls and a group shower room.  It seemed odd to me that an all-male campground would not have urinals.  I really expected a trough, but maybe that was just me, over thinking things again.
I never clarified their position on female guests.  What about transgender?  Questions that really needed no answers.

Fatigue settled in hard after I had a scrumptious portion of hummus, chips, nuts and a banana.  I decided to relax on the bunkhouse porch and retire early.  Oh! The fireflies were plentiful here too.  Lighting up the entire area around the bunkhouse.  Mesmerizing and relaxing.

The bunkhouse proved to be perfect accommodations for the layover.  3 beds in a typical bedroom, a desk and lamp.  The bathhouse was just outside, on the opposite side of my truck. Rope lights were strung along the pathways to make sure guests did get lost in the dark.

Final episode to follow.



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Re: Trip reports
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2020, 09:16:21 PM »
The Odyssey: Final Chapter

Waking up upon first light, I was relaxed and fully enjoying the quiet forest scenery.  It was the first time in this journey that I could climb out of bed and step outside without worrying about offending the masses.  The bunkhouse had a front deck with a couple chairs and a small table.

I retrieved the food and staples from the truck and proceeded to make coffee.  The little propane burner heated the water quickly, but my leisurely stroll while manually grinding the beans, kept my pace reflective, instead of anxious.  The coffee was delicious and the morning glorious.
There was a shed across the path with a bulletin board stand next to it that caught my attention.  Walking over there I noticed that it contained another map of the walking trails.  That proved to be a perfect study while I enjoyed my coffee.

The cottages across from the bunkhouse had one guest, who needed to head out early for work.  We chatted briefly while I befriended his dog.  That interaction gave me the curiosity and opportunity to investigate the cottages. They were typical camp house cottages, on pier and beam foundations and unique, artistic exteriors.  The cottages appeared randomly scattered amongst the trees, with a path connecting them.  I followed the path until it joined the hiking trail beside the shed.

Walking through the trees into the raw forest was a delight.  Soon, I had returned to the bunkhouse to replenish the coffee and prepare breakfast.
Life was returning to the camp when I noticed someone at the office.  I wandered over to ask about the trails as some of the areas looked to cross outside the property and close to the road.  Jason assured me that the entirety of the trails were clothing optional, and that the few places where the trails extended beyond the property were onto other members’ properties, except for one particular trail that crossed property that had changed owners.  The new owner was not a friend to the campground and should be avoided completely.  That trail happened to be the one by the shed that I was investigating earlier.  It was good that I got this information before venturing too far down that path.

Jason also told me that the ticks were particularly bad this year, probably due to the warm, dry winter.  He said that there was strong tick repellent in the common areas by the pool I was encouraged to use generously.

He also showed me how to access the trail maps by capturing the bar code on my phone.  This was a great tool, except that the charger somehow failed to charge during the night and my phone was almost dead.  No matter where I plugged the thing in, the phone would not accept a charge.  Not that I was too upset with the prospect of hiking the trails unencumbered and disconnected.

I decided to visit the Jacuzzi and pool before heading out, walking there barefoot all over, without even bringing a towel.  As nature intended, except that the water was chlorinated and the sides concrete.

After applying generous portions of the tick repellent, retrieving a bottle of water and wearing my flipflops, I set out on the trail that left near the entrance of the camp.  The trail led down a gulley that eventually met a creek.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The creek flowed over flat sedimentary rock with water only inches deep, but in places fell over small water falls creating puddles and pools sufficient to splash around in, if not get fully immersed.

I took a path away from the creek that I had noticed on the map.  This path led to a meadow that Jason had explained was often used for pagan and local burner gatherings.  The climb up was more difficult than I’d expected, but the meadow was everything I had hoped, except that by now, the sun was high as was the humidity.  I realized that my water was not going to last as long as I had planned, so I would need to head back in the direction of camp.  I crossed paths with a few horses and noticed a barn across the meadow.  This gave me confidence that I was where I expected to be relative to my review of the map earlier. 

Heading back toward camp, I crossed some grasslands, looking for the path that led back to the creek.  That’s when I felt the tickle of a tick scampering up my leg.  Promptly flicking it off, I checked to make sure it hadn’t invited guests.  I only walked another few paces when it seemed like I had crossed into a tick nest.  There were suddenly dozens of the varmints climbing across my feet and legs. 

I wanted to get the heck out of there, but I also didn’t want to give any of the blood suckers time to latch on either.  What a dilemma. 
I ran to the woods in the direction of the creek and hoped for a safe path down.  Once out of the grass, I worked to make sure I got rid of any ticks that were still looking for a place for lunch.

I was able to find a trail that led back to the creek and worked my way back to where I left the creek earlier.  Once I had my bearings, I was able to return to the campground easily.  I returned on the far side of the camp, where the RVers parked.  This led to the pool area where the outdoor shower was a welcome relief.  Drinking water was available in the lodge next to the pool, life was good.

There were several things I wanted to investigate along the trails, but that would have involved more water and a backpack.  Maybe later.
After eating some fruit and other sustenance at my bunkhouse and grabbing a cold IPA, I decided to return to the pool. Several other campers were lounging in and around the pool, so I happily joined them.  Cliff was there and I sent a friendly wave his way.  He did not seem as friendly today as he had been the previous day.

Apparently he felt slighted by my not returning after our brief conversation and his promise to bring me a cup of his frozen concoction.  I explained the reason that I had chosen to retire instead of coming back to the pool the previous night, but he still harbored ill feelings. ??????  So, we kept our distance.  I was certainly good with that.

I checked several more times during the afternoon, for more ticks, but found none.  Somehow, I didn’t find the inclination to go back to the trails.  It seemed like a better plan to lay back, relax and enjoy the facilities.

After the morning ritual of coffee and breakfast, I loaded up the old Ford, checked the fluids and fired up the beast.  With a full tank of fuel, it would be afternoon before I needed to dress. 

I had shucked my shorts upon arrival, in the rain storm, at around 5 pm on Wednesday and wouldn’t bother with any clothes or covering until a bit after noon on Friday and having traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I stopped for fuel and a restroom.

My truck-nuding came to an end at 5pm, when I arrived at my son’s apartment in North Dallas.  He, his GF and I spent the evening sharing wonderful wraps with an assortment of veggies and seared fish, excellent company and conversation.

Up again at dawn and having said goodbye to my son, I was on the road again, clothes free for the rest of the journey home.  By noon, I had made it home, still clothes free and prepared to return to the unreal world I had left 7 days earlier.

Footnote:  The Ranger, that was received as compensation for delivering the trailer to Pennsylvania, has turned out to be a really nice truck.  After some TLC and cosmetic attention, it is a real treasure of a vehicle.  I am looking forward to the adventures it has in store for us once the pandemic settles down and retires to the ether from which it came.

The End


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Re: Trip reports
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2020, 06:19:41 PM »
Maybe the tick repellent worked in that none of them seemed to latch on even if they did hitch a ride on you! :)
Great trip description, Safebare, thanks.