The Wilds of Winder

A couple weeks back we thought we had a buyer for the house. It fell through at the last minute, but it was close enough that we were all getting excited at the prospect of actually hitting the road. And then nothing.

To make up for that we decided it was time to do something of an exploratory trip, something to help us discover all the little things we needed to do to get everything livable in the bus.

The house fiasco happened to coincide with a few days of warm weather so I packed up the bus and we hit the road for a short trip out to Fort Yargo State Park, a lake that sits, more or less, in downtown Winder, about 30 minutes from our house.

Surprisingly though Fort Yargo ends up feeling like you’re more out in nature than you really are. And it worked out well to camp ten minutes from a tasty Laotian restaurant since I haven’t actually hooked up the propane system yet and cooking consists of balancing a Coleman stove atop the Travco’s actual stove. It worked well enough for breakfast. On the whole it was a bit like tent camping in a 27ft fiberglass shell. The bus ran well, as well as I expected on the way out. Right as we pulled into the campground it started to hesitate when I accelerated, but I managed to get it parked reasonably level and pushed that out my mind for a couple of days.

Breakfast in 1969 Dodge Travco photographed by luxagraf
Breakfast in 1969 Dodge Travco photographed by luxagraf
1969 Dodge Travco kitchen photographed by luxagraf
Like tent camping inside an RV.

We pulled in around 2 in the afternoon and the ranger at the visitor center apologized for the fact that the lake was in the process of being drained. I didn’t say anything but I was thinking, you just created possibly the largest mud flat my kids are ever going to see and you’re apologizing?

We found a spot that backed up along what would have been a little inlet, but was currently just a sandy, muddy ravine. About two minutes after the engine shut off everyone was in the mud.

We had intended to only stay one night, but Fort Yargo was running a two nights for the price of one special, so, why not?

As a test run for full time living it was an interesting trip. There’s plenty of practical things we need to do, figure out systems that help us live comfortably in a small space. But beyond that it’s difficult to explain what it’s like to wake up and go outside. This sounds incredibly mundane, but for me it’s not. To wake up and head outside first thing sets a kind of tone for the day that’s very different. I feel part of the natural world in way that I just don’t at home.

Not everything was wonderful though. The first night we were there we had a rough time getting everyone to bed. It’s hard to fall asleep when everything is new and different and exciting. But by the second night it had all become the new (very wonderful) normal and the kids were asleep by their usual bed time.

We sat up by the campfire for a while, but if you look closely at the breakfast images above, you’ll noticed that it’s still dark out. In the end we rarely stay up more than an hour or two later than the kids.

 photographed by luxagraf
Not actually bedtime.

Friday afternoon we realized it was a long weekend. The campground filled up in a hurry and we decided to pack it in and head home the next day.

The stalling while accelerating thing was forced out of the back of my mind and into the forefront again. Things started off well enough. A bit of sputtering as we headed out of the campground, but it could have been that the engine wasn’t completely warm. Then headed through downtown Winder it died at a stoplight, then another. Then I pulled off into a nice big parking lot where I spent some quality time messing with the carburetor.

Eventually I gave up and called Progressive roadside assistance, which was a mistake. I gave up in part because I wanted to test Progressive and man did it fail. Catastrophically failed. Do not under any circumstances buy Progressive roadside assistance. Progressive refused to tow to the mechanic I wanted and instead wanted to tow me to a Ford dealership that didn’t have the slightest idea how to work on a Dodge RV. I know because I called them1. What a bucket of fail Progressive turned out to be. Really hope their insurance is better or we’re screwed if anything ever happens.

Eventually I managed to coax the bus into running and together the bus and I limped home. It turned out… well, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you so I’ll just say I’m not sure how I did it exactly, but I did. Now she’s headed in for a new carb, exhaust work and a new muffler. After that, I think it’ll be time to get back on the road, whether the house is sold or not.

  1. Needless to say I have since cancelled Progressive roadside assistance. After asking around on some RV forums I decided to go with AAA Premier RV assistance. It ain’t cheap, but it lets me pick the mechanic I want and that could potentially save thousands by stopping some idiot from messing up the bus. To me that’s well worth the extra money. 

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