Finally it was our departure day! With my trusty General RV Camping Packing List in hand and the the trailer in the driveway, I did a quick review of our consumable items (paper plates, RV toilet paper, etc.) and added what I needed to my perishables groceries list.
Tip: Leaving perishable food shopping until “day of” the trip offers these benefits:
• Items are at their maximum freshness
• Eliminates having to make space in home refrigerator (always an issue for us)
• Perishables go directly into the trailer saving multiple trips in and out of the house
Even with our best intentions and planning, we set out later than we would have wished. MapQuest offered two routes to Augusta. GA; one by Interstate, the other via 2-lane highways. Both routes had similar driving times so I chose the 2-lane highways.
Tip: Choosing a secondary route to a destination is a great way to get more local flavor and an opportunity for impromptu roadside stops. I keep a notepad in the truck to write down interesting towns or attractions to research later for possible visits.
Our drive started out with blue skies filled with white, puffy clouds, however, it wasn’t long before the distant sky turned ominous. One thing about the south, when it starts to sprinkle, in just a few minutes a deluge can arrive. We ended up driving through some crazy thunderstorms with rain so intense, the highest setting on our wipers couldn’t keep up. Our drive time lengthened as afternoon quickly turned to night.
We arrived in the Augusta, GA area around 8:30PM. Based on our arrival time, my plans to cook a simple dinner went out the window. Also, we were still in the midst of a thunderstorm which was not safe conditions to be plugging in the trailer. We decided to make a stop for dinner and by the time we were finished, the storm had subsided. We made the 5-minutes drive to Heritage RV Park, located our reserved spot, plugged in and bunked down for the night. It had been a very long day.
Note: Heritage RV Park is conveniently located near the Augusta Mall, restaurants and gas stations. The park caters to longer-term campers, however, there are nice campsites available for over-nighters. Office is closed weekends, there are no bathroom/shower facilities, pool or other amenities and reservations must be made ahead.
We awoke to a very foggy morning, thick with moisture from the previous night’s rain. We were surprised that we had barely begun the day’s travel when the the sun burned through and we were rewarded by the splendor of a jewel-toned sky. Our drive took us right through Atlanta, GA where from the Interstate, we could glimpse the gold dome of the Capitol building, Turner Stadium with its giant baseball, and the kids’ favorite; roller-coaster tracks at Six Flags over Georgia (I see a trip here in our future).
We crossed the Georgia/Alabama border right around lunchtime so when we saw the Alabama Welcome Center and rest-stop we decided to pull-in and have a picnic lunch. Instead of eating in the stifling trailer, we brought our sandwiches out to one of the picnic tables flanking the parking lot. It wasn’t until the kids and I went into the Welcome Center that we noticed there was a nicer (and quieter) picnic area located on the backside of the building.
The Alabama Welcome Center is a spacious roadside center and a travelers dream with brochure displays laid out by major regions making it easy to focus on areas you plan on visiting. I found it convenient to also pick up information regarding areas of Alabama (like the Gulf Coast region) as a resource for future visits. There are great staff members available to answer questions, assist in mapping a route, recommending a restaurant or to provide additional information about the state. I was very impressed!
Our drive was only a couple of hours before arriving at our destination: Oak Mountain State Park, located in Pelham, Alabama (just south of Birmingham). This state park is Alabama’s largest and packed with things to do and explore. First, we had to make our way to the Oak Mountain campground, located about 5 miles from the entrance. Our campsite (#27) was absolutely perfect for kids! Located on a cul-de-sac, it was both easy to back into and worked out great for Drake and Mia who brought their scooters and hover boards! As soon as we got out of the car, new friends were showing up to ask Drake and Mia to play.
My favorite aspect of our site was that it was located right next to the Moccasin Wildlife Trail. Within a two-minute walk, I was standing on the edge of a small lake. It was my place of peace where I could take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty of the park.
After setting up camp, we made a trip to the Alabama Wildlife Center, located within Oak Mountain State Park. This is Alabama’s largest and oldest wildlife rehabilitation site. Here we learned about baby bird season; a time when the Center receives many babies that have either fallen from their nest or have been abandoned. We visited the Nursery where we observed volunteers feeding the babies with little droppers and worms in tweezers and taking notes on their progress. It was a delight to watch. We visited the aviary of recovering song birds and also stopped at a large outdoor enclosure that houses recovering birds of prey.
We were fortunate to have an impromptu encounter where volunteers brought out some of the center’s resident ambassadors (birds whose injuries prevent them from being returned to the wild). The kids were delighted to see and learn more about the Great Horned Owl, American Kestrel, Red-Tailed Hawk, and the Barred Owl. It was up-close and personal and a very special time.
When we were ready to leave, I started to open the heavy wooden door of the Center when I saw something black thrashing around on the ground. Immediately I closed the door. Out the window, I could see a man with his grown sons with a look of surprise on their faces. There was a snake right outside the door!! I was NOT going to open that door again until those guys gave us the go-ahead. When I was able to open the door, we just caught a glimpse of the retreating snake slithering away. While it was most likely the non-venomous Black Racer snake, I wasn’t taking any chances!
Note: Visit our YouTube channel @RV Adventures with Kids to watch a short Twin Views segment where Drake and Mia share their thoughts on the Alabama Wildlife Center!
After dinner, we went outside to enjoy the nice weather when there was a blink, then another one… we realized that it was fireflies! That never ceases to lose its magic to me. The kids were running around with their new friends and it felt really good to be out camping again.