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Report 16: Martintown ON to Orlando FL

Route

From the rural highways at Martintown ON we went to the Cornwall ON/Massena NY border crossing and picked up US-37 to US-11. We stayed on US-11 and I-81 until near Winchester VA where we picked up US-17, which we followed to Myrtle Beach. The GPS complained mightily, continuously trying to turn us onto the closest interstate highway. From Myrtle Beach we detoured north-west to Conway then again picked up US-17 into Charleston SC. We got off US-17 onto I-95 into Savannah GA. From Savannah we had intended to follow US-1 (the coastal highway) into Florida, but detoured back onto US-17 to Palatka FL for an unexpected stop at a Good Sam Club Rally. From Palatka we followed US-17 into Orange City FL and then on to Orlando FL.

Highlights

When we last wrote, we had just returned to Ontario, having left our motorhome in storage in Myrtle Beach, where they also did some maintenance for us. After having spent a fantastic Christmas and New Year with our family and friends we drove back to Myrtle Beach to get the RV. There was not much snow on the Canadian side, but as soon as we crossed the seaway the trees were heavily laden with wet snow; it was beautiful. So, we took the secondary highways to see the full effect. There is nothing quite so sterile as an interstate highway.

We dodged some really crummy weather in the north-eastern states by taking the coastal highway, US-17. We had smooth sailing, while not far inland there was a huge mess on I-95. From North Carolina to Georgia, cars and semis were sliding off the on-ramps into the ditch. We did see a bit of ice and plenty of evidence of salted roadways, but our only complaint was the unseasonably cold weather in the US south-east.

We had never stored our RV, or even winterised it before; it was not a good experience. The first thing we noticed was that a family of mice had spent a month or more in our motorhome. They chewed, defecated and urinated on virtually everything. We were throwing stuff out, cleaning and washing for over a week. The winterising had not been properly done and several of the fixtures were leaking; one was cracked. The storage company replaced it without delay. When we turned on our brand new flat screen TV set it went pfffft! The workers doing maintenance during storage had spilled Murphys oil soap into the back of the TV, which shorted out everything. It took $1500 worth of repairs to get it going right (new screen and the boards inside...everything except the case and remote). We were surprised that it was covered by warranty. For some reason the warranty company would not simply replace it (it was on sale at $450). Go figure.

Towards the end of our stay at Myrtle Beach there was a terrible accident. We returned home from the movies to find our motorhome and several dozen others roped off with crime scene tape. A light plane had crashed about a hundred yards behind our motorhome, taking out the front end of a fifth-wheel RV and one of the residents therein. The pilot also died on impact. There were bits of the aircraft hung up in trees and across the street from where it hit. The impact was so great that it pushed a 3/4-ton truck across the street into a motorhome. Our friends who witnessed the event said there was a huge explosion, fireball and follow-on explosions, as the propane tanks in the RV, gas tank in the truck and small arms ammunition in the truck went off. We got there about two hours after the incident and there was still lots of smoke. Cop equipment and news crews were everywhere. We'd left Molly in the RV and judging by her behaviour when we got her out, and every time a plane passed overhead, she must have been quite traumatised by the explosions; she's fine now.

Next, we drove south to see Charleston SC and Savannah GA. Both cities feature well preserved buildings and parks in the old town areas. Of the two, we much preferred Charleston. It is much more friendly for walking around and it has a nicer waterfront. In Charleston we walked and drove all over the city, whereas in Savannah we took a trolley tour, as down town Savannah seems to be heavily populated by homeless and strange-looking folks...we did not see many people strolling the old city streets like we did in Charleston. The people seemed to be friendlier in Charleston. The old restored mansion houses in both places were fantastic, with their big balconies, gardens and gay colours. In Charleston one gets a terrific view of the nicest ones by walking along the sea wall. History buffs would need to visit both places, as both are littered with small parks containing numerous statues and plaques commemorating historical events.

While in the RV park in Savannah, we heard about the Florida Winter Samboree being held nearby. So, although it had already started and we had not registered, we went there. This was our first RV rally. There camping arrangements were first rate, with water and 30-Amp power to each coach. The vendor tent had a lot of interesting displays and we contributed heavily to the local economy. But, it was cold, with everyone wearing many layers of clothing topped with quilted jackets and even a few parkas.

We had intended staying at Orange City only a week, until we heard of another rally, the Winnie Gators 40th Anniversary rally. So we stayed for nearly a month before moving to Orlando for the rally. The stay was interesting, as it is a big park with activities. One evening we somehow walked out of the park through a back road and ended up lost well past dark...well...not lost, but we did not know how to get back into the park, which is surrounded by a high fence without retracing our steps. We were tired when we finally got home! The most interesting event while we were there had to do with the space shuttle. While driving down the road to the supermarket a huge flash of light came out of the clouds and arced across the sky. It was the last flight of Discovery. We saw the booster rockets separate and the next stage ignite and zoom off out of sight. Had we remained in the RV park we would not have seen nearly so much as, from that angle, the shuttle went behind some clouds. When it returned to earth we were again at the right place at the right time to hear a double sonic boom. Way cool!

The rally in Orlando was interesting, being the largest Winnebago state rally. There were not many exhibitors, but this was more than made up by visiting other RVers, including friends from the Alaska rally. Molly was entered into a dog parade where she won third prize for most unusual dog. She wore her ribbon proudly. We talked to the owner of a large RV repair shop in Lake Wales, with whom we made arrangements for repairs an upgrades. More on this in the next report.