After spending 7 nights away from our "home" (for now) campground in Florida waiting out Hurricane Irma, it was time to assess whether we could leave Mississippi and start making our way back. Two websites we found extremely helpful in making that decision were Florida 511 and Gasbuddy.
Florida 511 gives real-time information on highways in the state, including congestion, incidents such as crashes and disabled vehicles, and also allows clicking on numerous traffic cameras to see for yourself what is going on out there. We found this site while on the road evacuating Florida and were able to watch for upcoming road conditions while we traveled to see if we'd need to find alternate routes due to traffic hotspots. Then for several days before we left our hurricane hole in Mississippi, we checked several times a day to see how Interstates 10 east and 75 south were faring, as those were our planned route back.
The first couple of days after Irma cut a swath through the entire state of Florida, I-75 south looked really jammed up (red) from everyone trying to return home. The storm hit the northern part of Florida in the wee hours of Monday morning, and by Wednesday, I-75 was starting to look better, so this helped confirm our decision to leave on Thursday morning. We wouldn't hit I-75 until Friday morning, allowing even more time for traffic to clear out.
Gasbuddy was also helpful since we'd heard about numerous gas stations running out of fuel -- or not having the electricity to pump it -- in the days immediately before and after the hurricane. After Irma, Gasbuddy put up a special tracking site with this information. By Wednesday, it appeared that gas was getting delivered again, although supplies were much better along the interstates than on the back roads. There were still many stations that reported being out of fuel (especially diesel) or electricity, but just as many did have it, so we felt comfortable in making our getaway. Pearl is gas-powered, so we wouldn't need the scarcer diesel.
The night before we left, not knowing exactly how far we'd get, I made a list of about six campgrounds along I-10 that would be possibilities for our one-night stay on the road. We didn't want to get reservations as that would lock us into driving a certain amount of miles, and what if roads were much worse (or better) than we anticipated? We just don't like to be locked in if we can help it. One campground that looked to be in about the right spot didn't even take reservations, so we put that one at the top of our "preferred" list.
As it turned out, although traffic was steady and heavy at times on I-10, we did make it to that campground, although it was a bit longer day than we prefer, just over 400 miles total (we prefer 200!), and we lost an hour when we crossed from central time to eastern time. But it was still light, and the campground had a couple of pull-through sites available when we arrived.
But all was not as expected in our full-hookup site. Before Barry even got the levelers down, a woman from a nearby site came by to tell us that the campground didn't have power or water due to the hurricane. A tree had taken down the power lines during the storm three days earlier. Oops! That was something we hadn't anticipated in Florida's panhandle.
We briefly considered moving on to the next campground on our list, but Barry was very tired of driving at that point, so even though we were a bit rusty at it as we've had hookups for months, we knew we could dry camp/boondock in a pinch. Pearl has a generator, after all, and we have paper plates and cups as backup. Our only issue was not having fresh water in Pearl's water tank as we'd expected to have a water hookup, but we had enough drinking water for one night and could just take sponge baths during our short stay. It was decided: We were staying put.
A Camper's World is nothing fancy, but the location is super convenient, right off I-10 near Lamont (no, I hadn't heard of it either!). It is a smaller campground (29-31 sites, depending on which source you read) and offers full hookup, 50-amp pull-through sites, as well as 30-amp back-in sites. There's a pool, clubhouse, and laundry room, none of which we checked out. Check-in is on the honor system as there is no host on site. Campsites are $30/night for Good Sam members, though that too is on the honor system, a few dollars more if you're not a member (we are). The roads in the campground are sand and sites are grass. Kinda basic, but fine for a night.
We didn't bother trying our satellite dish since we were back in the trees, but clearer sites nearer the interstate would be able to get a signal (along with more road noise). We did pick up quite a few over-the-air TV stations with our antenna, and we had a strong Verizon 4G LTE signal.
Some of the campers here had been here through the hurricane, while others were in the process of heading home, as we were. The woman who told us about the power being out said she lived in the campground, so I am sure she was more than ready to have the power and water back!
After pulling out our paper plates and getting settled in, we heard a rumble of traffic on the road in and had a look out.
What to our wondering eyes would appear but the beautiful site of several Duke Energy trucks rolling up. Exactly who you want to see at a time like this!
We could tell that folks who had been there longer than us were excited, as they gathered on one of the site's patios to watch the workers. Seemed like the perfect time for a happy hour!
Within an hour, we had power and water back on! We knew the exact moment that happened as we saw and heard the other campers dancing and yelling -- and one of them came by to let us know. We wouldn't be dry camping after all!
Other than that, our trip back was pretty uneventful. Our second day on the road was shorter (just over 200 miles), and I-75 south was not too bad in the morning, though there were plenty of folks heading south, including lots of work trucks to help with hurricane damage recovery. We had no problem getting gas either day. We were back in Winter Garden in time for a late lunch.
In our next post we'll share what we saw when we returned to Winter Garden, so stay tuned!
We made the most of our time in Mississippi while riding out Hurricane Irma. We had a couple of cool days that were overcast with a spit of rain, but for the most part, the weather was ideal -- cooler and less humid than Florida -- and we were able to relax in the knowledge that we didn't have to worry about anything happening to Pearl.
We enjoyed quite a few excellent bike rides on the Longleaf Trace, just a couple of miles from our campground. On our last day we accomplished our longest ride this year at over 50 miles. We'd done the same ride in May 2016 (our blog post with more information on the Longleaf Trace) down to the town of Sumrall. Here's some of what we saw along the way.
First up, this lovely garden spot with brightly painted bikes and whimsical garden art that someone had set up along the trail. I had to take photos from all angles to capture its charm!
The Little Free Library at the trailhead in Sumrall looked a lot healthier than the one in Bassfield. In our post from our visit the previous year, I'd noted that the one in Sumrall had very few books, so that was a change for the better. But I wished I'd had a pile of books I was finished with to donate to Bassfield as this is the first time I've ever seen a completely empty Little Free Library. I'm hoping it is just new and hasn't gotten any donations yet.
Despite the lack of ice cream, we did enjoy checking out some pretty murals we had missed on our ride to town last year. From the coincidence department: I noticed when posting this photo and looking back on older photos that I wore the same orange bike jersey on last year's ride to Sumrall!
Another day, while Barry took a solo ride, I decided to check out the nature trail at the campground. Unfortunately, it was poorly maintained, with high grass and lots of spiderwebs. But it was still a pretty and peaceful walk in the woods. Just me, butterflies, and lots of large spiders I had to watch out for. They grow 'em big in Mississippi!
Back at our site, I couldn't resist taking one more shot of Pearl from an angle I hadn't captured before. This was such a nice campsite right at the end of the lakeside row, and the folks in the next site left after the weekend, giving us even more of a buffer for our last few days.
Such a lovely view we had; you could feel your blood pressure going down here....
I enjoyed seeing this Egret (or perhaps a juvenile Little Blue Heron?), who was frequently busy working the lakeshore.
We hated to leave our idyllic spot in Mississippi, but once the hurricane passed and it appeared that most services were back in place, we needed to get back to our Florida campground before my next orthodontia appointment on the 18th. In our next post we'll tell you about our trip back to post-Irma Florida.
Our previous post described day 1 of our evacuation from the Orlando area ahead of Hurricane Irma. We had a good night in Defuniak Springs and hit the road again in the morning, continuing west on I-10. Traffic was heavier than the day before, though at least we didn't have to go through more storms.
As we traveled through Alabama and into Mississippi, we saw many other Florida license plates traveling along with us. Because most of these folks were evacuating just like us, we were a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to nab a site at a campground we'd visited before (see this blog post from May 2016) and really enjoyed at Jeff Davis Lake. We really didn't want to travel any farther so were crossing our fingers and toes!
Barry thought there might only be a 50/50 chance that we'd find a free site since the campground is small (only 13 RV sites) and popular with fishermen, and Thursday arrivals are common for folks who want to ensure they get a site for the weekend.
We got lucky! Due to the fact that this small campground doesn't seem to be well-known outside the local area, only two sites were occupied when we arrived in the mid afternoon, and we nabbed an excellent one right on the lake.
About an hour after we arrived, another rig pulled in next to us, and a little later that day, a fifth rig arrived. That was to be the sum total of arrivals for the weekend; much to our surprise, no one arrived on Friday or Saturday! Most of the others seemed to be friends and/or relatives who come here often.
Here's the lovely view from our site as well as some photos of Pearl as seen from the other side of the small but very pretty lake.
We did bring along some unwanted guests: love bugs! It is the season, and Barry had a big cleaning effort for the first couple of days here scrubbing all the little devils off the windshield and Pearl's front panel and grill.
The weather has been gorgeous since we arrived, with low humidity, pleasant breezes over the lake, and cool evenings. After getting acclimated to the Florida heat and humidity, it feels like fall and is a nice respite. It doesn't appear that we'll get any heavy wind or even any rain from Irma, so we are very relieved with the spot we picked to ride this one out.
The cycling is excellent here, a big reason we love this campground so much. From our campsite, it's about 2 miles over to the Longleaf Trace, a paved rail-trail, mostly on a very hilly connector trail. Once on the Trace, the grades are mild, and there are very few other trail users this time of year, so we feel like we have the trail all to ourselves. We can ride into the small town of Prentiss just a couple of miles north for groceries or south to several other small towns.
Paisley has also been enjoying our time here in Mississippi. There's a part of the park we can walk to where there is never a soul after dinner, so we can let her off leash to chase her ball for awhile. She sleeps very well after these sessions!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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