There are a lot of us lovers of the RV life. Florida estimates that there are 135,373 recreational vehicles registered in this state alone. Over the holidays, we joined the community.
In the predawn black and a cold snap that plummeted temperatures to 18 degrees in the North Georgia mountains, we boarded the Four Winds Magic Bus for our maiden RV adventure that would take us from our Appalachian Mountain home to a warm, flatlander Christmas with family in Pasco County.
The Lake Padgett area in Land O'Lakes was home to us for 19 years before we relocated last year.
I had double-checked all systems, but a nagging little voice told me that something wasn't quite right. The voice said, "Drive, and it will happen." My trail-tested Liberty Jeep was the tow car. Our already-neurotic Boston terrier, Buster, involuntarily twitched and repeatedly blinked bulging eyes when I dropped the RV's Super Duty Triton engine into drive. The chihuahua spread her short legs on the wood floor and hunkered down. The dogs were used to the motor home while stationary on our property, but when the engine purred and gears shifted under them, it was on par with a California earthquake judging by their paranoid behaviors. At some point they bucked up and dealt with it and a thousand miles later, they seemed like natural-born RVers; my smash-faced terrier watched the road from behind my shoulder as we traveled and the yappy one slept.
Eventually, I eased the 31-foot RV and tow down the mountain that we live on and onto the highway. Right away I noticed the steering wheel pulled to the right. At first, I rationalized that the pull was normal when towing, but the big V-10 didn't seem to have the power that it did when I drove it 65 miles after picking it up in Summerville, Ga. I checked the Jeep through the rear camera system and all seemed normal so I brought the RV up to 55 mph. Just then, a semi pulled alongside. The driver flipped on his cab light so that I could see him and pointed rearward, indicating that I needed to pull over and check my load. I'm glad I did, and God bless that trucker.
When I read the instructions for towing, I overlooked one small detail. One must unlock the steering on the towed vehicle by putting the ignition in a certain position, something I would normally catch on my mechanical check list. I was one click off, so the relatively massive RV had pulled the Liberty Jeep along, its steering locked, causing the front tires to virtually disintegrate.
The smell of hot rubber permeated the air as our festive bon voyage mood turned ugly. I glanced at Buster; he just turned his head sideways and whined. Purchasing a set of tires along the Interstate during Christmas week was not conducive to finding bargains. No matter, this was the maiden voyage and as with boats and motorcycles in the past, I knew that maiden voyages can be expensive. Like the time we cruised some mangrove-dotted sand flats near the Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg in our newly purchased boat. A couple of hundred yards after leaving the channel, I discovered the reason my boat lost power was that the quad-blades of my plastic speed-prop were ground off in the sandy shallows. Excursion price tag: $300.
A few hundred dollars after I had discovered my error, we replaced the tires and we were tooling south for a Florida Christmas. Fortunately, no further damages were incurred.
We stayed at the Quail Run RV Park north of County Road 54 on Old Pasco Road. Quail Run is within a few miles of new shopping complexes at the Grove and at Wiregrass Ranch. Even though we had finished our Christmas shopping, I was unable to resist the urge to buy additional gifts for the two grandsons. The lesson learned is that compulsive shoppers on a budget might want to consider staying in forestry parks or other remote sites far from the suburban malls.
On the positive side, our trip was a blast. Our two young grandsons spent one night with us and we spent Christmas at our son's home along with the entire immediate family. Unlike during other trips to Florida, we never felt like we were imposing by accepting gracious offers from relatives to stay with them. We came and went on our own terms and there was never a time that we worried about overstaying our welcome.
This area of Pasco County is a bedroom community to Tampa. Most people who live in central Pasco work in Tampa just as we did. The many alluring lakes in the area offer countless opportunities for boating, fishing and other water sports.
Just be careful if you decide to attend an RV show in your area. The travel fever is more contagious than the flu and a lot more fun!
Larry Clifton is a former Land O'Lakes resident. His Web page is www.examiner.com/x-852-RV-Travel-Examiner.