Our camping opportunities have been extremely limited since we took delivery of Belvedere, our RV. We had two days in a campground outside St. Louis provided by our dealer, then we brought our RV home and immediately had to winterize it and put in in storage. When Spring finally arrived we were in full lockdown due to Covid-19 so we had to wait until late April for shakedown trip number two, which was a short trip to a local campground where we could dewinterize and refamiliarize ourselves with how everything works. Several weeks later, as state parks opened back up, it was time for a bigger test, to see if we could work from the RV in a campground away from the city. Carolyn has worked from the RV while it’s been parked in front of our house, but this time we would have to rely on cell signal to stay connected. We also wanted to see how our oldest cat would adapt to RV life. So, last week we packed up Belvedere and drove to Standing Stone State Park in Overton County, north of Cookeville,Tennessee.
The park is beautiful! Lots of trees and mountains surrounding a man-made lake. The park offers lots of things to do, boat rentals, hiking, volleyball, large playing fields, a conference center and cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s. The campground is a short distance down the road from the cabins. The sites are gravel with water and electric hookups. The dump station is outside the campground, further down the main road.
There are two ways to get into the park. If you have a large rig; and we did see a few large fifth wheels and class A’s in the campground; then it’s best to come in from Route 111 through Livingston, Tennessee. This is a wider and less curvy road. The other route up 136 is very curvy in places as you wind along the edge the hills above the lake. It’s a beautiful drive but it ends at a one way bridge over the dam at the park entrance. It’s a tight turn with stone walls on either side of the road across the bridge so there is a 30 foot limit for vehicles crossing the bridge. Guess which route we took? We are 25 feet long and crossing the bridge was a white knuckle experience.
The rain began pouring before we even got to the park. This has been a very wet year in Tennessee. We had very few days of sun during the winter and after a brief period of sun early in the spring before the rain returned with a vengeance. We are still new to driving our rig and driving in the rain adds an unwelcome level of excitement to the experience. Driving on curvy mountain roads in the rain even more so. Once we we made it to the campground and found our site, which was more mud than gravel, we set up in the pouring rain. It was so much FUN!
When the rain finally let up, I pulled out our new Blackstone griddle to try it out for the first time. Setting it up and getting it attached to the propane quick connect outlet on our RV was very easy. In short order I was set up and cooking fajitas for dinner. Once I have a bit more experience with the griddle I will write an entire post about it. For now, spoiler alert, it was the biggest success of the trip. I’m in love with it.
Our cat, Josie, is seventeen years old. Change is hard for her and aside from the long ride home when we found her at Pine Mountain State Park in Kentucky 17 years ago, all of her trips out of the house have been to the vet. So, she was deeply unpleased with being taken to the RV and she let us know. She spent the first part of the drive in my lap, then finally settled onto one of the couches for the rest of the drive. Once we were camped, she took every opportunity to try to get out the door. She managed to escape twice and each time she went straight under the RV! Pretty spry for a little old lady! Did I mention it was raining and muddy? Let’s just say no one came out clean. During a lull in the rain, we did pull out a cat tent that we bought hoping to give our cats a safe place space outside. Josie wasn’t having it. She acted like Charleton Heston in the cage in Planet of the Apes. She wailed (It’s a madhouse! a MADHOUSE!) and tipped her water bowl over. It was a terrible time for all of us. But, we also gave her lots of extra snuggles and she finally calmed down and started to adjust just when we were packing up to leave.
The main purpose of the trip, getting Carolyn connected was our real challenge. There was no wifi and cell signal was less than the described in some of the reviews we read. She has to have her computer connected to the company network and she has to participate in conference calls. It took a few tries but she was finally able to connect and, despite a number of issues causing her to switch back and forth between AT&T and Verizon, was finally able to work from the RV. We learned that we really need a cell booster for this kind of situation. The one we left at home would have been helpful (sigh).
We also discovered an electrical issue with our RV that meant we didn’t have power to all of our outlets unless the inverter was turned on. The inverter acted like no AC power was coming in to the coach so it pulled from the batteries. This means that we accidentally tested our boondocking power capabilities. The rain held off during the morning hours, but the clouds persisted all day long. That, along with the canopy of trees overhead meant we got nothing from solar at all. We had to rely on our generator and engine to charge our batteries.
It would be easy to focus on all the problems we experienced. This trip was short on fun. There was no hiking and, thanks to the pandemic, very little exploring the area. We didn’t get to do most of the things we bought an RV to do. Tensions ran high at times, the electrical issues caused a lot of stress, the long periods of rain meant we were all confined inside and the RV quickly became a VERY small space. The cherry on the sh*t sundae was when we went to dump our tanks at the end of our stay and the sewer backed up.
But, we made it! And, we learned some hard lessons about full-time life in an RV. Some problems can be dealt with by investing in some additional equipment, but others require us to step up to the challenge. They will require patience and an incontrovertible sense of humor. Stuff happens and you have to be ready to roll with the punches and realize that, sometimes, the sound of rain on the roof, wind in the trees and a purring cat in your lap can be so beautiful and, indeed, be all you need.