March 4, 2011 – Rock Springs KOA – 7:30 am

It’s mostly clear outside, and a raw wind is blowing. It’s clocked to the northwest. The weather forecast calls for a severe storm to hit southeast Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle on Monday night and into Tuesday. Supposed to be the most severe single storm of the winter. It looks like we’re sneaking through this area just in time. I really wouldn’t want to be here in severe low temperatures, with heavy wind driven snow. That kind of weather can become lethal in a hurry.

I fueled up in Rock Springs yesterday, just before pulling in to the KOA. I had held driving speed down to around 63 mph for most of the day yesterday, and was pleased to find my mileage had improved to 15.2 mpg for the day. I should be able to at least equal that today, with this tailwind.

March 4, 2011 (continued) – Holiday RV Park, North Platte NE – 8:40 pm

490 miles driven today; 1,426 for the trip

That tailwind more than did its job. Coupled with smooth roads, a gradual but steady downgrade, and a consistent driving speed of 65 mph, we made it all the way here to North Platte on a single tank of fuel. Granted, the “low fuel” light was on for the last 20 miles, but still, it was a remarkable run. I calculate that we got 16.5 mph for the day, which is the best I’ve ever recorded while towing the boat. I doubt I’ll see mileage that good for the rest of this trip.

Temperatures were cold to frigid all day today, with mostly gray skies. These conditions made the drive across dreary southern Wyoming all the more boring. It’s apparent that energy is big business in this part of the country. We passed through places with names like Carbon County, and watched freight locomotives hauling uniform strings of coal cars several miles in length to plants like the Jim Bridger Power Plant, with its massive stack creating a huge plume of vapor. We skirted the town of Sinclair, whose oil refinery is apparently considered a historical landmark of sorts. The industrial structures there seem almost Gothic in appearance, and are reminiscent of one of those post apocalyptic science fiction movie sets. The scenery briefly improved between Rawlins and Cheyenne, where I-80 passes by the north edge of the Big Snowy Mountains, which certainly lived up to their name. The summit there is almost 9,000 feet above sea level, and the wind really howls through the area. I was almost tempted to set a sail. If I had, I’m sure I could have topped 20 mpg.

Today we crossed the continental divide, which along I-80 is just a small rise in the midst of a sagebrush covered desert, although the elevation is 7000 feet. Just east of Cheyenne we began our incremental descent, crossing the great plains in the valley of the Platte River. We were once again tracing in reverse the path of the historic Oregon Trail. North Platte, where we’re camped, is located where the North and South Platte Rivers join to become simply the Platte. Further east, the Platte was described by early pioneers as “being a mile wide and an inch deep”. Almost sounds like MacGregor waters.

After fueling the truck and checking in at the RV park, I unhitched for the first time since leaving home, and made a short shopping trip into town. Earlier in the trip I’d noticed I had a burned out headlight, and so picked up a pair. I had just enough daylight to pop them in.

March 5, 2011 – Waubonsie State Park, IA

306 miles traveled today; 1,732 miles total

I got up at 6:30 am. The robins were making a lot of racket, but as cold as it was, I couldn’t imagine they were finding any worms. Sky was clear, and it was 20 degrees outside. We decided to drive across town to the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Park. We had intended on camping there, but when we phoned ahead, we learned it wouldn’t be open until March 21. We wanted to drive over and look the area over, and perhaps go for a morning walk through the grounds. We were able to park in the lot in front of Buffalo Bill’s house, which he called home during his Wild West Show period in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The house itself is highly embellished, in what the sign said was “Italian Ornate” style architecture. Beyond the house is a large red barn, which Buffalo Bill built to stable his horses. The barn features rafter tails under the eaves which are cut in the shape of a rifle stock, a tribute to Annie Oakley, one of his star Wild West Show performers. We enjoyed having the grounds to ourselves during our morning walk. It certainly looks like a place worth a return trip when the house, museum, and campground are open.

Our destination for the day was of modest distance, around 300 miles, following the Platte River and then cutting over to Lincoln and crossing the Missouri River into southwestern Iowa. As we cruised along, I tuned in the am radio and picked up a weather forecast: clear and cold for the day, but with a series of snow storms sweeping through the Great Plains over the next several days. We are fortunate to be crossing the region ahead of this weather, since they’re talking about potentially hazardous winter driving conditions by the middle of next week. And that’s not the only hazardous weather in the general neighborhood. According to the internet report I studied last night, all this frigid air is colliding with warm, moist air moving in from the Gulf of Mexico over Arkansas and southern Missouri, resulting in severe thunderstorms, damaging hail and possible tornadoes. Our route will keep us a good 300 miles north of these conditions. I guess being cold isn’t so bad after all. As long as the air stays chilly, we shouldn’t have any problems with hail or tornadoes.

I-80 between North Platte and Grand Island closely follows the Platte River, and during our drive along this route, we were entertained with one of North America’s greatest wildlife spectacles, namely the northerly spring waterfowl migration. We’re in the middle of the great Central Flyway, and I’m guessing the spring migration must be near its peak. Clouds of ducks, swirling masses of sand hill cranes, strings and vee’s of geese filled the sky. Corn stubble fields near the freeway looked gray in some places, but a closer look revealed that we were seeing dense masses of sandhill cranes. Some of the borrow pit ponds next to the freeway were solid white with snow geese. Some of the flocks we saw easily numbered in the thousands, if not tens of thousands of birds. It appears these birds use the Platte River area to pause, rest and feed during their migratory journey to nesting grounds further north.

We headed for a lovely park in southwest Iowa, Waubonsie State Park, where we’d camped in the boat while on our trip to Chesapeake Bay in September 2009. We are camped there now, the only campers in the entire park. We went for a nice long walk along the ridge top trails which wind through oak woodlands and small remnant pockets of native Iowa prairie. This park is perched on a hilly ridge above the Missouri River. Overlooks along the trail provide impressive views westward, looking beyond the Missouri and out across the Nebraska plains. These hills were created by wind deposited dust called loess. We carried binoculars and a bird book, but we’re a bit early for most birds. We did see a pair of golden eagles, a brown creeper, one eastern bluebird, lots of robins and crows, and we think we heard a cardinal calling. And overhead, of course, we continued to marvel at the flights of white fronted geese, snow geese and sand hill cranes.

March 6, 2011 – 7 am – Waubonsie State Park IA

Cloud cover drifted in overnight, which helps explain the somewhat more moderate temperature first thing this morning – it’s all the way up to 24 degrees outside. We’re nice and warm in the cabin, though, enjoying our breakfast and preparing for the day’s drive. It will be a relatively short one, less than 300 miles, down to St. Joseph, MO and then across northern Missouri to Mark Twain’s home town of Hannibal, on the banks of the Mississippi. We will check into a motel there, and take some time to see the sights.

March 6, 2011 (continued) – Quality Inn, Hannibal MO

294 miles traveled today; 2026 total

We passed the 2000 mile mark today, while crossing the State of Missouri. Our route took us south to St. Joseph on I-29 and then east via US 36. We admired the dark, rich bottomland soil along I-29, noting that cemeteries in that area are perched up on hillsides too steep to cultivate. We commented on the large fireworks outlet stores along I-29, just south Iowa. Missouri must have very lenient fireworks laws, making the sale of bottle rockets and such a lucrative business near the state line. Indian reservations serve the same purpose in Washington State.

We arrived in Hannibal around 1 pm and checked into a Quality Inn, to take a break from camping inside 26 feet of uninsulated fiberglass. After hauling things up to the room, we unhitched the truck and drove into the historic district of Hannibal. This town is, of course famous as the boyhood home of Mark Twain, and we were pleased with the nicely preserved historic downtown area. An affordable price grants admission to the visitor center, an excellent museum, Twain’s well preserved boyhood home, a reconstruction of Huck Finn’s home, and several other structures which connect directly with Mark Twain’s early life here, as well as with the real people who inspired characters for his stories. Making our visit even more enjoyable, the sun came out and warmed the day up into the mid 40’s, first time we’ve felt that warm outside so far.

Tomorrow we plan on looking around some more in the morning, and then driving down to the outskirts of St. Louis in the afternoon, heading for a campground we stayed at on our way home from the Chesapeake.

March 7, 2011 – Babler Memorial State Park, just west of St. Louis, MO

110 miles for the day; 2136 miles total

We took it easy today, enjoying the complimentary hot breakfast at the Quality Inn, then hitching the boat up and driving back into Hannibal around 9 am. We drove over to the Mark Twain Cave, which is located about 2 miles south of the historic downtown. A very attractive commercial campground is situated in the hollow just beyond the cave entry building, and both cave and campground are privately owned and operated. The guided cave tour takes about an hour, and we felt it was very worthwhile. This is the actual cave which young Sam Clemens and his pals explored, and a number of features inside the cave are recognizably tied to incidents described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Also of interest are the literally thousands of inscriptions etched along the cave passages. Most go back many years, with the earliest dated 1820, just a year after the cave’s discovery. The typical technique was to blacken a portion of cave wall with carbon from a candle’s flame, and then scratch names and dates into the black. Such inscriptions look very fresh. In one remote cave passage, the famous outlaw Jesse James left his distinctive autograph on the cave wall. We were told that Mark Twain visited the cave as an old man and was highly offended with the extensive defacement which he observed. The distinction between graffiti and historically interesting inscription, it would seem, has a lot to do with how old they are.

The cave itself is quite different in structure and appearance from the stereotypical image of a limestone cave. Mark Twain’s cave lacks large chambers of any sort, and is almost devoid of classic limestone cave features such as stalactites and stalagmites. Instead, this cave has developed along a series of cracks or fissures in the limestone. These run in surprisingly straight lines, and connect with intersecting fissures at acute angles, resulting in a highly complex series of narrow passageways. It is very easy to see how a couple of young kids like Tom and Becky could become lost in this cave.

After concluding our cave tour we drove back into town, parked, and wandered over to Lulabelle’s for lunch. This establishment is situated on a side-street just off the main street, right next to the flood wall which protects Hannibal from Mississippi floods. Lulabelle’s was once a bordello, but is now a fine restaurant and B & B. The food and service were excellent, and capped off a most enjoyable visit to Mark Twain’s boyhood home along the Mississippi.

We then headed southeast on US 61 toward St. Louis. We had camped just outside St. Louis while returning from the Chesapeake in 2009, and a stop at this familiar campground seemed like a good idea. We used the navigator feature on our cell phone (newly activated for this trip), and “Mabel”, as I have named the female voice on VZ Navigator, guided us right to the Babler Memorial State Park entrance. We drove past a crew of park maintenance workers who were cutting fallen trees and skidding them up onto the park road. We stopped at the camp host’s RV, and were told that 2 weeks ago, this park had suffered a direct hit from a tornado. Dozens of mature trees had been uprooted, and the trunks of others had snapped in half. We are camped in a nice spot, in a loop which appears to have escaped significant damage. Not far away, however, the devastation was quite evident. We feel very fortunate to have missed this dramatic weather event as it happened. We will be pulling out in the morning with the knowledge that thunderstorms are forecast in this area tomorrow afternoon. We hope our route will keep us out of any severe weather.

March 8, 2011 – Lincoln State Park, Lincoln City, IN

242 miles for the day; 2,378 overall

We’re tucked into a nice lakeside campsite at Lincoln State Park in southern Indiana. Once again and for the third night in a row, we’re the absolutely only campers in the campground. Midweek in early March is definitely not high season. We’re just grateful to find campgrounds which are open; having electrical hookups, but no water and primative toilets . We’re cocooned inside the boat cabin, with a chilly rain falling outside. This weather system has been steadily drifting northeast, up through Missouri and southern Illinois. We outran it for a time today, but it’s now caught up with us. I’m planning on barbequing this evening. Unless this rain eases up, that plan is sure to change.

The drive today went well. We got a nice early start and left Babler State Park at 7:30 am, just in time to catch the morning rush hour traffic pouring into St. Louis. We took I-40 and then I-64, which cut right through the heart of the city. Traffic actually moved fairly well, and we made it through without any serious delays,detours or false turns. The drive across southern Illinois was uneventful. We were somewhat surprised to see a goodly number of oil wells scattered out in farmers’ fields. They’re smaller in size than ones we’ve seen out west. I didn’t know this region produced oil. Spring flooding was also in evidence. Rivers like the Wabash are out of their banks and inundating forests and fields in their proximity.

Today we experienced our first little touches of adversity. It started with “Mabel”, who had done such a fine job of piloting us from Babler State Park onto I-40, and then through St. Louis. I was beginning to really appreciate her skills, and so confidently followed her advise as we exited I-64 a few miles away from our day’s destination, Lincoln State Park. She quickly got us lost, insisting that we turn into some suburbanite’s driveway. I had to revert to compass and dead reckoning navigation and eventually found our way to the campground. All was then well, I figured. Just pick out a campsite, unhitch, grab some lunch and then drive up to the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial Park.

I backed into a nice lakeside campsite, best one in the campground. I leveled up the boat, but unhitching got a little complicated. On our Sea of Cortez trip I’d stripped out the stock trailer wheel jack, and since then had been using one of those clamp-on pivot models. The ground contour at this campsite wouldn’t allow the pivot jack to rotate into position. I was prepared for just such a situation, having brought a hydraulic jack from home, along with a goodly assortment of wood blocks. I noticed a problem right away. The jack had tipped over, and it’s hydraulic fluid had partially leaked out. When I tried using the jack, it refused to take the full weight of the boat. Oh well, revert to plan B, namely, the second backup jack I had along; an old housemoving screw jack, which uses a pair of gear wheels to turn the screw. It can lift tons of weight, but it operates very slowly. I managed to lift the trailer tongue off the hitch ball, and was then able to pivot the wheel jack into position. I lowered the trailer onto the wheel jack and removed the screw jack. All set. Almost. While inside the boat, helping Sandy with lunch preparations, we felt the boat lurch and go clunk. I knew immediately what had happened. I’d failed to fully snap the wheel jack into position and it had slipped, allowing the trailer tongue to drop to the ground. Actually, the spare tire was holding it just a few inches off the ground. Fortunately no damage was done, but I had a lot of work ahead of me, getting the trailer jacked back up. I grabbed my folding camp shovel and dug down into the gravel campsite pad, so I could slip the screw jack under the trailer frame. Then, I slowly jacked her up, lowered down onto stacked boards, and then repeated the operation until I’d lifted the trailer up to the proper level. I was glad that I’d brought the extra jacks, boards, and shovel, and even more glad that this campsite pad wasn’t paved. That would have really complicated things.

With the boat trailer back up where she belonged, we drove over to the visitor center. This is a National Park Service site, memorializing the location of the wilderness farm where Abraham Lincoln grew up, from age 7 to 21. The visitor center features a well done film which tells the story, as well as an informative museum. The highlight for me was a wooden cabinet which was made by Thomas Lincoln, Abe’s father. We then took a walk out to Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave site. Abraham’s mother died when he was 9 years old, from milk fever poisoning, which is contracted by drinking milk or eating meat from cows which have fed on a toxic plant called White Snake Root. A little further along the trail, we arrived at the actual site of the Lincoln family cabin. Nothing remains of the original cabin, but it’s location has been identified, and a bronze casting of a portion of the fireplace and some foundation logs marks the spot. Nearby, a replica cabin and working farm outbuildings have been constructed, where demonstrations of pioneer life are presented in the summer.

It’s still raining outside, so we cooked inside tonight. I took the Wallas stove in for service prior to this trip, and that precaution has proven worthwhile. The service technician discovered the ignition coil was very nearly burned out, and several other components were in need of replacement. So far, it’s been starting up and running perfectly. It rained so hard, an after dinner walk was out, so we watched a movie on the laptop computer. Occasionally, the drumming on the deck overhead overpowered the sound system, but we caught most of it and provided a nice diversion.

March 9, 2011 – Clifton Forge VA – Buckhorn Campground

483 miles traveled today; 2,861 miles total

Long day, long drive. 6:30 pm EST and we’re finally parked. We had intended on staying at Douthat State Park VA, and actually tried to make that work. AAA camp guide says they’re open March 1, but just to make sure I phoned them yesterday. I couldn’t get the park directly, but did speak to someone in reservations, who assured me that the campground was open. We drove the 5 miles into the park and turned off to the campground entrance only to find a closed/locked gate with a “campground closed” sign on it. It was not quite 6 pm. Time to switch to Plan B. We turned around and backtracked to a small commercial campground we’d passed on our way in. That’s where we are right now. No one around at the office, and only one side of the restrooms is unlocked (I stand guard for Sandy). I’ll worry about registering in the morning. Also, the electric service pedestal only accommodates a 50 amp connection. I dove into the bowels of the king berth and retrieved my adapter, only to discover that it doesn’t fit this campground’s outlets. We’ll get by on battery power and stove heat. It’s 40 degrees outside, not that cold.

It rained most of the day, and I pounded the roads hard getting this far. We got an early start (7:30 am), but lost an hour to the time change. We stuck with I-64 across the remainder of southern Indiana, all of Kentucky, and parts of West Virginia. We played hopscotch with chuckholes in Kentucky which were of epic proportions and frighteningly deep. All of the rivers we crossed were in full flood and out of their banks. You can’t see much of the country when driving the interstates, and even less when it’s rainy outside. We crossed the mighty Ohio River at Louisville in rain and fog. We crossed the eastern continental divide (the Alleghenys) in rain, fog and gathering dusk. The cities of Louisville, Frankfort, Lexington, Huntington, and Charleston all zipped by in turn. We learned the names of some of their favorite sons from street names on exit signs. Roy Wilkens, long time NAACP director, must have come from Louisville, and Huntington WV has laid claim to NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer. Louisville also proudly proclaimed its connection to Louisville Slugger baseball bats on their minor league ballpark, and acknowledges Colonel Sanders on what looks to be a convention center. I wonder if they offer complementary chicken wings there.

After more than 5 hours of monotonous interstate driving, I was more than ready to add a little interest to the trip as Charleston WV approached. I-64 takes an odd southerly dive just east of Charleston,and adding to the inconvenience of heading in the wrong direction, it also transforms itself into a turnpike. I’ll go to almost any length to pick a route to avoid driving a turnpike, especially when towing a tandem axle trailer, since the toll is usually based on number of axles. In this case it looked like a no brainer. US 60 cuts due east from Charleston, reconnecting with I-64 about 60 miles due east. Highway 60 also appears as a nearly straight line on the map, and many miles shorter than the West Virginia Turnpike. Who cares if the road goes through a few towns and has a few stoplights, I figure. I save time, distance, toll fees, and get a closer look at the country as bonus. Well, I was right on most of the above points.

US 60 starts out as a nice 4 lane divided highway as it follows the Kanahwa River into the West Virginia hills. The valley constricts, leaving just enough room for river, railroad track, highway, and a narrow strip of development. It’s soon apparent that this is coal country, with loaded coal cars parked on sidings, coal barges pushing upriver, and virtually every side canyon gated off, with a large coal company sign at the entrance. The highway transitions to 2 lane after a few miles and gets progressively more crooked, as the river valley narrows. Finally, the road abandons the river bottom completely and climbs into the hills. At that point things get interesting. The road twists its way up hogbacks, clings to ridges and dives into hollows as it struggles mightily to hold an east-west course in mountains which are anything but east-west. Posted 25 mile curves are typical, and one aptly bears a 15 mph warning. Most grades are 8 %. One spectacular stretch follows the New River Gorge while perched high on a ridge above the river. We were above snow level before the road finally descended one last time, down to a town along I-64. I thoroughly enjoyed the break from interstate driving. Sandy, however, vows that if we ever travel this way again, we’re paying the tolls.

March 10, 2011 – Lexington Park MD – Son Dave’s home

245 miles traveled for the day; 3,105 miles total

We’ve safely arrived in Lexington Park MD at our son’s home on the Patuxent River, which is an arm of Chesapeake Bay. We broke free of our snowbound home in Leavenworth, spent frigid nights in Wyoming, Nebraska and southwestern Iowa, stayed just ahead of a plains blizzard, held course north of severe thunderstorms in Arkansas, and punched through driving rain last night and today to complete the first phase of our journey, crossing the continent with our boat in tow. It will be great to park the truck and boat for a few days and enjoy time with Dave, Nikki and our two grandkids, 10 year old Cameron and 5 year old Gracie.

Rain pounded us all of last night, and was still falling lightly when we arose this morning. I knew we didn’t have far to go on this last leg, so we took our time and didn’t get going until 9:30. The RV park office was still vacant when we left, so before leaving I stuck a note and boat card in the door jam, asking the owner to send me an e’mail with his rate, so I could mail him a check to pay for our night’s stay. I programmed “Mabel” with Dave’s address, since our route would exit I-64 near Charolettesville VA and then follow a series of rural state highways. She did a good job of directing us on the best route, through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, with its wooded rolling hills and fallow fields and over the fog shrouded Blue Ridge, into central Virginia. We drove past wealthy country estates, enclosed by miles of white painted board fence and bearing names like Merifield, Strawberry Ridge and Chopping Bottom. Our route took us directly through 4 bitterly contested battlefields of the Civil War. I felt somber as we drove past the killing grounds of The Wilderness, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and Fredricksburg, where so many struggled and died. Shortly after leaving Fredricksburg we crossed the broad Potomac River into Maryland and tangled with a confusing series of country roads before emerging on the main route to Lexington Park. The rain, which had fallen steadily all day, intensified as we neared our destination, and was falling in wind driven sheets by the time we pulled into the Lexington Park WalMart parking lot.

I had phoned Dave on the cell a half hour earlier, so he could meet us at the parking lot and lead us on to the Patuxent Naval Air Station marina, where we would unhitch and store the boat during our visit. Dave, who is a Chief Petty Officer stationed here at Patuxent, would assist us in getting us a pass so we could drive on base. It was still pouring down rain when he met us, but that didn’t prevent us from sharing hugs of greeting. It has been a year and a half since our last visit here, so we have lots to catch up on.

After obtaining my temporary pass, I followed Dave over to the marina, where we parked and unhitched the boat. Dave then led us to his home and the reunion with our daughter in law and two grandkids. They live in a townhouse development located just a mile or two off base. Our first task, following initial greetings, was to unload the 6 dining room chairs and table which I’d hauled with the truck across the country. The set had belonged to Sandy’s folks, and Sandy’s mom wanted Dave and Nikki to have it. I’d spent countless hours sanding, repairing and refinishing the set this past winter. The whole family was eager to see their new table and chairs. We brought the pieces in, unwrapped them, and Cameron helped me assemble the table. It now sits proudly and handsomely in their dining room, ready to host meals, discussions, and family game time for years to come.

March 15, 2011 – Santee State Park, SC

507 miles traveled for the day; 3,616 miles total

For the past 4 ½ days we’ve enjoyed a great visit with Dave, Nikki and our grand-kids. We were grateful for time spent together; mostly just hanging out and doing stuff with Cameron and Gracie. We did make it up to Washington DC on Sunday for a picnic at the Jefferson Memorial and a visit to the Air and Space Museum. On our way there we stumbled onto DC’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was very festive and fun for the kids. This morning the visit came to an end with reluctant goodbyes. I drove back over to the Patuxent NAS marina, hitched up the boat, and by 9:30 am we resumed our journey.

Roofs in Lexington Park were covered with frost this morning, and after an hours drive it was still just 48 degrees outside. However, we said farewell to chill air as we drove south. Up until now, we,ve been mostly crossing lines of longitude, but today we began seriously tackling latitudinal lines, and the changes we noted were dramatic. The temperature gradually warmed all day; getting up to the mid 60’s in North Carolina and topping out at 77 in South Carolina, shortly before arriving here at Santee State Park. The change in vegetation which we noted on the drive was similarly striking. In Maryland and Virginia, feathery red blooms on the tips of maple trees were just beginning to appear. By the time we reached North Carolina, those trees were solid red, and leaves were showing on willow and other species. Redbud added their rose/violet tint to the landscape, along with white and yellow blooming trees. Around midday we started seeing bald cypress in some of the roadside swamps, and shortly after crossing into South Carolina we encountered our first clumps of palmetto. Distinctive shrouds of Spanish moss drape the trees here in the state park.

Our driving route was quite simple. Shortly after crossing the Potomac River into Virginia, we hopped onto I-95. Nearing Richmond I followed “Mable’s” advice and took the I-295 bypass, which skirts Richmond to the east and pretty much follows the perimeter defended so doggedly by Confederate troops during four years of Civil War. The National Park Service and river crossing signs we passed told the sad tale of battles between Blue and Gray: North Anna River, Cold Harbor, Chickahominy Creek, Malvern Hill, James River, Petersburg, and Appomattox River where, a few dozen miles upstream, the guns finally fell silent.

A little south of Petersburg I-295 rejoins I-95, which we will follow all the way to Fort Pierce, FL. We finally exited the freeway here at Santee State Park, about halfway through South Carolina. The park is located on the shores of a large reservoir, and is quietly removed from the Interstate. We share the campground with a half dozen or so other campers, mostly older folks in large motor homes. We spotted our first redheaded woodpecker while fixing dinner. For the first time on the trip we were able to set out our folding chairs and eat dinner at the picnic table. After so many days of cold, it’s hard to believe we’ve finally arrived in the Land of Warm.