Friday, December 30, 2016

Savanna Historic Visitor Center, Savannah GA

Savannah Historic Visitor Center
301 MLK Blvd
Savannah, Georgia

Located right smack in the middle of the historic district, the Savannah Visitor Center seems like an unlikely camping spot.   Well the term camping is used lightly, as they do not allow tents or grills but they do allow overnight parking and even have large RV specific spots.   

You can stay here for $8 dollars a night, or $14 for 2 nights.   I know you are shocked, I actually paid for camping?  Well, you have to pay for parking pretty much anywhere in the district anyway, so you get parking and a place to stay for one price, with the perk of being within walking distance of everything worth seeing in Savannah.   If thats still not good enough, you can park for free at a pilot I visited briefly before entering the city, right off I-95.   Or...if you are feeling daring, after hours the visitor center opens their gates and lets anyone in, so you could slip out in and out at night without anyone the wiser.  YMMV.   I think they may do the same on weekends.

Even the stairs are historic :)
But turns out the $8 was money well spent.   This site isn't about where you park your rig as much as what is around it.  Savannah, GA's downtown, river market, and historic district is absolutely beautiful.  Every street, house, plaza and even back alley is like a work of art taken out of a museum.   I keep wandering to parks in the distance to sheepishly discover it wasn't a park, but just a traffic median strip...that just so happens to have picturesque statues, fountains and amazing greenery. 

Apparently Savannah was big in the earlily days of quite a few churches, so they are represented throughout. Statues and giant churches built on the remains of other churches.   Some were replaced by more humble businesses, but respect is still paid with signposts and plaques to the original places.

The man who sold me my pass at the visitor center suggested I check out the river market if I get the chance, so eventually I got my bearings and limped on down there.   It was about a mile away but I was excited, feeling vindicated in stopping here for the night, especially after my disappointing visit to Myrtle Beach.  

The area did not disappoint.  The cobblestone streets lead down to some 'historic stairs' that take you down to the water.   I was hoping to see an old riverboat.   There were two there, tho I think they are gas powered rather than steam ;)  Good enough, and they make a lovely backdrop against the sunset.

The River Market area was packed with a pretty varied array of shops, clubs, restaurants and even a pet store.   usually I avoid tourist area shops like the plague, and while the usual stuff was present a lot of the shops were unique and clever in their approach (ill admit the 2 stores beside each other, Bob's your Uncle, and Fanny's your Aunt got a smile out of me).

Walking along the edge of the river, I found a pretty awesome WWII memorial.  It was a world split in two, and inside were names inscribed.  Pretty powerful and sobering message, kudos to the artist.

As night was approaching, and the clubs started cranking up the music, I found one more statue near the river exit out to the bay.  I wish pictures at night could do it more justice, but the statue depicts a woman and her dog waving at travelers both arriving and leaving on their voyage.   It felt like a fitting stopping point for my visit to Savannah.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Marsh WMA, Gresham SC

Marsh WMA
Murray Rd & Pine Log Landing Ct 
Gresham, SC

This was a super convenient place to stay for 2 nights.   Fairly close (30-40 mins?) to the tourist trap of Myrtle Beach, this little camp was surprisingly enjoyable.   This is mostly a hunting spot, but you are free to camp there to for up to 4 days.  

I followed the GPS coordinates on freecampsites, and it left me hanging a good ways from the campsite itself at night.   This lead to several sharp frantic turns as I followed signs to get there.  Use the cross streets above in google navigation or the coordinates I provide to get closer to the kiosk.

The road into this place is sand, and its a marsh, so while well packed it will flood out.   I met a great local here with his dog who stopped for a chat, and I asked how bad was it to get out of here when it was raining. He told me dismissively that it wasn't a problem at all.   

Then he proceeded to tell me, with sincerity, how they come back through there all the time in their john boats and don't even scrape the propellers at all. Needless to say when it started pouring after 2 days I took off like a bat out of hell, and just barely made it.   So go if the sky is dry, but avoid in wet conditions unless you have 4x4.

You can only camp in designated campground area, namely, the area right across from the Kiosk.   They have a log at the kiosk in the bird feeder (weird..) so be sure to fill it out.  I just put camping for reason i was there.  I think its mostly for hunters anyway but better safe than sorry.

The site itself was neat though, there is a brick fireplace and a roofed area.   Next to it you can find a hand well with water (little brown, not sure if potable) and a sink.   I think this is mostly to help with game processing, and there is a rack nearby to hang up your catch.  

During the day you can see all kinds of awesome wildlife, I saw a bunch of different birds in vibrant colors.  Without hunter orange clothing of some sort, I didn't want to hike too far into the woods.  Other than that, not much out there.  The local guy told me that travelers often do camp there and then drive into Myrtle Beach instead of paying for an RV park, and so I felt a little better doing the the time.  

Get the idea I didn't enjoy Myrtle Beach?  lol   I will touch on it a bit since its the reason I came to this site.   I know I went in the off season, so i adjusted my expectations.   Even then the whole place felt very..hmm...trashy?   One street away from the beach I saw dumpy houses with junk all over the yard and a couch hanging off the curb.  Its like a slum dressed up as an attraction.

Walking down the main strip near the board walk hustlers and hawkers nearly assaulted me.   There were no public restrooms in sight, and it generally seemed run down.  

Worried I had judged the place too harshly, maybe all beach tourism towns were like this.  But panama beach florida busted that theory.  Unlike Myrtle they didn't just want to squeeze some tourist dollars out of people and do the bare minimum necessariy to facilitate that goal, they actually built up the area and made it nice.  The people who lived there cared about the area beyond it's ability to milk cash from tourists and it showed.

Anyway, check out the video of Gresham, SC below, and subscribe while you are at it so you can catch my Myrtle Beach video as well when I upload it.

Introducing The Campsite Compendium

So now that i am on the road, I have been staying at a lot of campsites and cool spots, and maybe some not so cool ones.   But the goal has been to spend as least as possible for camping on my travels. has been an invaluable resource for this, as has walmart allstays, cracker barrels, and truck stops.

While some of the information provided is helpful, I kept wishing there was more I could know about these places before I head there and try to find them.   GPS is great but time and again I found myself in the middle of no where and not quite there, so I started recording my drive into each campground (when possible) and documenting the site a bit.  I also wanted a place I could personally find the spots i've been to if I am ever going through the area again.

I will have a playlist up on youtube for each part of the compendium (fastest updates there), and on this blog I will do a more detailed post for each one, with my thoughts on the campsite or things I've done nearby.   I will also be adding a link in the menu above to the campsite compendium that will be indexed by state so you can easily find each site.

I'm working on the format, so it may undergo some changes in the future, but check it out here or in the menu above.

Yates Place, Troy NC

Yates Place
700 Dusty Level Rd
Troy, NC 27371

Yates Place campground is a small campground in Uwharrie Forest in Troy NC that I spent 2 nights at in November 2016.  This was a great camping spot after my visit to the town of Mayberry not too far from this location.  

The campsite is pretty easy to find, coming from town you want to look for a cemetary across from the turn in to Dusty Road.  The road into the campground is gravel, but well maintained, probably because there are homes back there and school buses do go down these roads.   At first I thought a skoolie conversion camper was coming into camp, but it was the local school bus making a turn in the overflow area that is available right before the entrance proper to the campsites.  

There are several campsites available, during my time here very few were actually occupied.   Most of the people who come to this campsite do so to backpack on the trail or hunt.   In fact there isn't much else you can do in this area.  Though other parts of the forest has jeep and 4x4 trails galore, they are not allowed at this end.  So it is a pretty quiet experience at night.  Most sites are near to the gravel road, but traffic is sparse.

Each site has a picnic table and fire ring.   Some of the sites have a lantern pole but not all.   The sites are pretty close together, so if it is busy plan to cozy up to a neighbor.   If you are lucky enough, and you value a little privacy, there is one site by itself to the left of the road in the woods, right before you get to the trail gate.

The site has a pretty standard vault toilet, but it was clean.  Bring your own toilet paper though.  Bearproof trash cans are provided in the middle of the camp.  There is no water available, but the dollar general is about 8 mins away in town, and has a propane exchange (that i needed!).  

The locals seem very friendly.   The highlight of my stay was meeting a young man named George who owned the hammock in the picture above.  Polite almost to a fault, but clearly welcoming some company and conversation from someone living a similar life. 

He actually had been living in this and a nearby campground while attending community college and his enlistment in the area.  He told me that he hasn't had any problems out there or seen a ranger.  Unlike me he lives the more survivalist lifestyle, and feels like it will help him transition into the military easier.  His tale is fascinating, involving losing his father to PTSD and his reasoning for following in his footsteps, but if you want the details, you might have to seek him out yourself there, in Yates Place.

Be sure to check out my video below, where I show the road into the site and give a little video tour:

Friday, December 23, 2016

A trip to Mayberry


So on my trip down south to escape the freezing cold and snow that was right at my back, I took a little detour into the past.   I decided to go to Mayberry, home of lovable characters Andy Griffith and Barney Fife. Well, in reality I visited where the show was filmed, in Mt., Airy North Carolina. 

I wasn't quite sure what to expect or how exactly to find what I was looking for.  I asked a local guy at autozone where the Andy Griffith museum was, and he gave me directions.   I actually missed it though, and headed into the small towns downtown district.   A couple of wrong misguided (aka i was lost) turns later and on a completely regular unassuming suburb street I found it, the real Andy Griffith museum, the Mayberry Courthouse and Wally's Service Station. 

Surprised I awkwardly steered a hard left into the small driveway, not really sure where I should park.  Apparently, according to the hotel/gift shop manager, anywhere is just fine.   I also found out from her that the courthouse/jail/sheriff's office should be open and if free to enjoy and take pictures.   Awesome!

So I did just that.   Outside there are names of all the characters laid into the ground.   Walking through the door was a blast from the past.    Everything was there from the shows.  The rifles on the walls were clearly props, but the old phones, the radio equipment, furniture, everything looked just the same. 

I'm assuming like most tv and movie sets, it is a bit smaller than you would expect, but it still managed to get 2 jail cells and the sheriff's area in there.   Another nice surprise is that the cell doors are open, so you can even go inside for great photo ops.

I love the fact that otis had the key ring on the wall next to his cell, and he could just let himself out when he sobered up the next morning.   And its still that way!  I wonder if someone staged this place after the show was over, or they just left it exactly the way it was?    Probably the only difference I noticed was an old old TV set in one of the cells, I dont remember that from the show but it didnt seem out of place.

After I had my fun playing both Andy and Otis, I went out side to see the service station.    Complete with old trucks and a bunch of antique auto equipment and pumps, you'd almost think the place was still open in the same condition.   Unfortunately it wasn't though, so I made due with outside pictures.

I was a big fan of the Andy Griffith show growing up.   I only got a handful of channels on our old tv, but I loved watching this show and the wholesome slice of Mayberry's daily life.

The town of Mt. Airy isn't too bad either.   I found a nice community park with great free facilities right near by that I hit up for lunch.   It has a nice trail and fishing there, as well as some geocaching.  Although you can't stay past dark, the town had a convenient overnight spot in the local Cracker Barrel.   Big lot, friendly manager when I asked, perfect.

On the way to the cracker barrel i saw out of the corner of my eye a modern looking building...what do you know, the official Andy Griffith Museum.   I pulled over but as I thought about it, I think I already visited the real deal down the road, who needs red ropes and display cases?   So I just snagged a quick picture with Americas most famous Father & Son fishing team.

If you'd like to view the courthouse through some vicarious tourism, here is a video of me checking things out.  Thankfully not quite as silently as my New River video lol   Forgive any giggling like an excited school girl. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Farewell West Virginia

It was time to leave.   The next day the temps were supposed to drop down into the mid to low teens and snow was coming.   Not this time!   I took off like a bat out of heck, and headed for the warm south.

I was definitely nervous about this, more so than when I was going to go last year.   But I was also kinda glad to finally be setting out.   I decided on the way I would pay one last visit to the New River Gorge and bridge.

Its a pretty healthy walk down and up the stairs to view the gorge, but the views are pretty mesmerizing.   I stopped at the visitor center, which has a sorta WV museum inside that was really cool.  Lots of old mining stuff and even an old bible.    If you want a pretty silent walk through of the display, heres a video I took:

From here I am heading to overnight at the Beckly, WV walmart then onto North Carolina!

On The Road Finally

Savannah, Ga

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I have exciting news.   I have been out on the road travelling for nearly a month now.  Woohoo!

There have been ups and downs, and I plan to share them here in good detail.   I have been uploading a lot on my youtube channel, so if you want the most frequent updates (and to support me a bit) subscribe over there.  I am diligently video documenting every place I stay (only paid $8 bucks so far!) into a compendium of campsites that I will eventually index here by state, but currently live in a playlist on youtube.
If you have the internet juice to check it out anyway, I have become all too aware just how precious data and free wifi can be.   This is the first time I have been able to really sit down and type out a blog post.

So expect some delayed posts about my setting out from west virginia, through NC, SC, GA, and onto my current location in florida.   I am making my way west, hopefully all the way to the RTR and big tent show in quartsite...but will I make it?  I hope so!

Friday, December 2, 2016

DIY Van Cabinets and Bed Frame for around $120

  • 3 Sheets Pine Sheathing 4'x8' - $68
  • 4 Boards 2"x3"x8' - $8.16
  • 8 L Brackets (2 Pack of 4) - $5.47
  • 1 Pack of Kreg Pocket Screws - $3.98
  • 2 Cans Polyurethane - $8.50 
  • 2 Frameless hinges - $7
  • 10 Pack Hinges (need 8)- $11
  • 5 Drawer Pulls - $5
  • 6 magnet latches - $6
Total:   $123.11
Optional:  2 Pints of Stain - $9.54

Tools Used:

A bed across the back is probably the best use of space in a van, but when I tried to go back to it, my ankles didn't agree.   I started getting some pain there, I guess from not being able to stretch out.

So the bed had to go lengthwise, and this means I was looking at a mess of stuff and no organization I find acceptable, especially if I planned to take my tools with me on the road.   So I redid my bed to make it more stable, and decided to make some storage cabinets.

I don't have money to waste, and the only home improvement around is lowes, so I was left with pretty low quality wood.   I bought 3 sheets of pine for $22 each, part of 1 sheet will make the platform top for my bed, and the leftovers will help make doors and shelves.  The vertical pieces of the cabinet are cut from the factory edges of the other sheets.   For simplicity the cabinets were 4 feet high, not exactly to the ceiling.  But since there is no top piece they functionally are that tall.  Saves on wood and time.

The bed is a simple box frame with the 2x3s with plywood on top, done the same way as my old bed (except all one piece) and the shelf I made previously for my tools.  The only difference was I left the front bottom board off this time, so I could slide stuff under easier.  I put a leg in the center for added support but Im not even sure its needed, its pretty stable once you screw the top down.

Since I wanted to save as much wasted space as possible, I made the cabinets frameless, so no 2x3s were needed.   I wanted to use all the space, even the curved space on the walls, so I made foam templates that follow the contours.    This can be a pretty tricky and annoying manuever, but it was very easy using a pointed (cut a point) paint stick with a pen drilled through it like below.  You push the tip of pen or pencil against the template, and  follow the contours of the wall with the pointy end of the paint stick.

You could probably save time and just use the actual wood instead of the foam, but I wasnt sure how well this was gonna work, so I didnt want to try it first with wood.   I just traced it onto the wood then cut it out with a jig saw.    I reproduced it 3 times (actually 4 with one cut to fit over the wheel well, but I discarded it later).

The front most section is for clothes.   I wanted an actual closet for hanging clothes, but in a low top van it was just too wasteful.   The other section would have 3 larger sections (2 shelves), the bottom one encompassing the wheel well.  The top section would be smaller because of the curve of the van, I decided to split it into 2 small cabinets.

I used a pocket hole jig to connect the shelves, along with L brackets to connect the verticals to the van floor and the steel van ribs.   Each vertical sits besides one.   A pocket hole jig (kreg) is super easy to use, and saves a ton of money on L brackets or fasteners.

The cabinets still need a face to attach the doors to ( tho you can get frameless hinges like I use for the closet door but they are more expensive and don't work for this application).   I picked the least warped of a warped bunch of wood and cut out the holes for each area with the jig saw.   I used the selves to measure how big to make them, then left a couple inches around for hinges to attach.   I then used a roundover bit in my router to round the openings.

I used pocket holes to attach the face to the closet.  Since I cant get a drill inside the back end of the cabinet to screw it in on the other side, I pre-attached L brackets to the face, a boards thickness from the edge, and slide them inside against the back vertical, then screwed the L bracket to it from the side.   Voila. 

At first I was going to make the closet from the top to bottom of the van, but decided I'd rather have an open space on bottom for easy access to some things without opening the door.

If there was any place that the selection of cheap wood was going to come back and bite me, it was with the doors.    None of the larger doors sit flush against the wood, so magnet hardware had to be placed where the wood isn't bowed away.   To not complicate it even more, I decided to make them square and abandon the jig saw for my tracksaw.   Think of a tracksaw as a portable table saw for sheet wood, or a circular saw for people who can't cut in a straight line but have to. :)  They are normally way to expensive for regular DIY dudes, but they make off brand ones that get the same job done.

 It doesn't look bad, but its hard to keep the magnet strongly connected if the connection isnt flush.   So I have to put 2 magnets on one of the big doors, as it opens down (gravity is against it).   So 2 magnets for $2 is cheaper than spending $50 on higher quality wood that might not be as warped.

Added some $1 door pulls and some stains and I am very pleased. 

There is still enough room next to my bed for my potti and to sit my feet down or store something large if I have to, like more wood.  Now to just figure out what to put in all my delicious vertical space.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tiny Pallet Home Part 2

Home Sweet Home?
Its been a while since an update on the tiny pallet home.   Temps dropped here alarmingly fast so work was accelerated quickly.   I wasn't there to document some of the process, but I do have some shots of it being built even if I dont have the specifics on construction.

In the last post the bottom part of the walls were constructed as well as the floor.   Next the upper portion was raised.  The pallets were connected like they were with the floor, a board was used to bridge them in the middle.

One side of the walls was dropped a foot to make the roof have an angle for shedding rain and snow.  Openings were left for a door and 2 windows.

Originally the idea was to add plywood sheathing to the walls to seal them up, but the cost was just prohibitive.   So more free pallets were broke down and the boards used to solidify the walls.   This would have taken forever if someone didnt lend us the ultimate secret weapon for breaking down pallets.

The CLAW.  This little tool in combination with a sawzall made it so much easier to take the pallets apart.  Just a little tapping and it slices right through the nails.  If you plan to make anything from pallets, save yourself a lot of headache and borrow or buy this tool.

Some neighbors had torn down an old building, and offered up some old foam insulation, and thick plastic.  Lots of people will be happy to give you the materials for hauling it away.   This was used to insulate and completely seal the walls.   They had some thin plywood that was in rough shape, but was nevertheless used for the flooring.