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Secret Mission: The Sunshine State

Skip Bosley shares insider tips on Florida boondocking, state park reservation strategies, and taking grandkids to the Magic Kingdom.  It’s a top secret mission to the Sunshine State!

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Truck campers and grandchildren are the perfect fit.  Our three darling grandchildren have all traveled with us in our truck camper.  Noah, the oldest, was with us on our Alaska junket.  Hap, the middle one, has camped and fished with us on Assateague Island, Maryland and in Florida where both of our grandsons reside.  Cassie Anna, the youngest, has been with us on many of our excursions to and through the Great North Woods, across the continent to California, all along the Pacific shore, Yosemite, and the magnificent parks of Utah.

Secret Mission: The Sunshine State… and the Magic Kingdom

The reason behind this Florida trip was a surprise birthday party for Cassie at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.  Cassie Anna was seven going to eight on this trip; her Disney Princess status still very current.  Her parents and other Granny were flying in to join in the fun.

Cassie has been truck camping with “Bambi” and “Poppio” since she was four years old.  She is an experienced truck camper adept at spotting boondocking possibilities, helping to layout our courses with the GPS program in our laptop, remembering to get the trash out of the camper when we fuel up, and is masterful at finding the best diesel prices.

Recently, a television comic was musing about the special relationships found between grandkids and grandparents.  He said it could be because they shared a common enemy, the parents.  On each of our trips with the grandkids, a major problem has been getting the kids away without the parents, who don’t want to be left alone, and want to be in on the fun.  “We’ll send postcards every day”, we tell them.

Then we smile and quickly dash toward the rig.  Linda, Cassie, and I leap into the cab, giggling and waving to those we’re marooning to their daily responsibilities, whilst we, the three worldly wanderers, are free from daily cares and on the road again.  Wowwee!

Skip’s Tip #1: When traveling with grandchildren, or any kids, have copies of medical insurance cards, birth certificates, passports, or school IDs.  We have a signed and notarized permission document, found on Google, that permits us to make decisions on medical and travel emergencies for our grandchildren.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

A south-bound trip from the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) requires crossing the Chesapeake Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The whole crossing is twenty-three miles, with two one-mile tunnels under the deep water channels.  Along the route, close to the center, is a man made island which has a nice restaurant for a break in the action to watch the goings on.

As you pass through the toll booths on route to the elevated bridge-tunnel highway, there is a pull-off for closing the valves of our camper propane tanks.  The average crossing time is less than half hour, so a refrigerator and food will be fine turned off during the crossing.  After crossing, there is another pull-off for restoring the propane flow that is well marked.  I don’t use the twelve volt system to operate the refrigerator anymore.  When I forget to switch it, battery power suffers.  We use propane for the refrigerator, exclusively.

The views as you cross the Bay Bridge Tunnel are vast.  Salt marshes along the southern tip of Delmarva give way to long sights into the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.  Great ships of every description can be spotted on ingress or egress.  Huge aircraft carriers convoyed with service vessels, ore and container ships, and large and small fishing boats are all passing in the two main channels.  On a clear day, the far shore is easily spotted, seabirds soaring all around.

The two tunnels can be a hairy drive in a truck camper.  They are two lane, one north, one south, down from the four lane divided highways of the bridge works.  Seeing an eighteen wheeler coming at your truck camper out of the darkness is a white knuckle experience.  I try to look at the center line and keep a proper distance as I pass.  After a short while you get the hang of it.  Then I begin thinking about the 1,000 foot carrier crossing over our heads!

Skip’s Tip #2: Keeping track of tire pressure is paramount.  As the ambient temperatures change, tire pressures will also change.  Safety, tire wear, and economy are all at risk.  Since we have a built-in 2500 watt AC generator on board, a small AC air compressor fits into an out side locker.  It is capable of 110 psi, which will work on the 19.5” “H” rated tires we use for highway travel.  The compressor has come in very handy on lug nuts and filling air mattresses.  Ours came from Northern Tool for less than $100 bucks.

The GPS is useful in getting through the maze between Virginia Beach and Norfolk; it is a mixture of Route 13, I-64 then on to Route 58.  This is a time to be paying attention because it is tricky; being in the proper lane to change from one route to another, carefully, is what is needed.  If you miss an exit, it’s not hard to recover.  We know that from experience.  After Route 58, it’s on to I-95 south.

We have stayed in some commercial campgrounds in the past, but no longer.  With our trusty Walmart Atlas, which includes a Walmart store finder, we can easily find convenient on and off spots to overnight.  The Walmart Atlas also has the zip codes to aid in satellite aiming.

At Walmart, we always park under a bright mercury light array for security, but also to charge our batteries from the solar panels.  Should there be the rare, “No Overnight Parking” signs on the lot, we ask a manager and they have always directed us to the rear of the store where the delivery trucks park at night.

Shopping for the best fuel prices helps miles to pass.  Cassie runs the laptop, GPS, and internet.  We Google and Twitter our way toward the big fun to come.  It is difficult to utilize the CB any more to get travel information because some of the language is rude and sad.

Skip’s Tip #3: On our ladder is a rack to carry two chairs, two folding tables, and a sturdy collapsible portable step.  Behind the ladder we carry two chairs-in-bags.  Shock cords are utilized to keep everything secure.  From many years of experience, I always use two shock cords for each item.  Over time, sunlight will deteriorate the covers of the shock cords, so they should then be replaced. 

Since we have a large front cooler rack mounted on our truck, I use shock cords to hold a grill, flag poles, umbrellas, and the bikes we tote too and fro.  I also carry a variety of bike locks to deter theft.  No far no losses.  I do not use shock cords on the roof rack where visual inspection is not easy.  On the roof rack I lash a fishing rod carrier with good Dacron line, which is resistant to solar breakdown.

Finally Florida

Our first overnight in Florida was at the Gamble Rogers State Park at Flagler Beach on the ocean, just north of Daytona Beach.  Our grandson, Noah, a co-conspirator, lives close by.  He came for dinner and was to meet us at Disney World for the birthday bash.

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