Did you miss us? Just kidding, we know you did! 😉
A lot has changed in our family and around the world since our last blog three and half months ago.
Just days after we returned from our idyllic trip to Hunting Island State Park in March, COVID-19 arrived in South Carolina. By mid-March, I was working from home and we were social distancing as much as possible. Around the same time, Steven got a much deserved promotion, which took him from working in the field to working in an office.
We decided that wasn’t enough change (ha!), so we also made the decision to trade in our trusty 4Runner in March. We’d been considering making the jump for a while, but struggled with saying goodbye to a vehicle that had become a member of the family. Buying the 4Runner, and learning about other families who were traveling the country and world in their 4-wheel drive vehicles, truly set us on a new path as a family. Yet, with two growing boys, we knew we’d like to find something with more towing capacity, so we could eventually get a little bit bigger camper.
We stumbled on the V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, and it seemed to check all of our boxes. One Saturday, right before the country shutdown, we headed to North Carolina to see a Trailhawk that we’d found online. But we discovered the trip was taking a lot longer than Google predicted. Since we had to get back to the boys, we made the decision to stop and look at another option at Stateline Dodge Jeep Chrysler in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We both really liked the Jeep, and the dealership made us a good offer on the 4Runner, so we ended up with the first Trailhawk we looked at in-person.
The following Monday was my first day of working remotely, and I haven’t been back to the office yet, so the Trailhawk hasn’t seen a ton of road time. But the times we have been able to get it out, we’ve really been pleased with our decision. Toyota 4Runners are solid, reliable cars, but the lower trims are pretty lacking in features. So, it’s taken a bit of getting use to all the bells and whistles on the Jeep (we are definitely enjoying the air conditioned seats as summer in South Carolina sets in!).
We ended up cancelling our trip to Barnwell State Park scheduled for April due to the various closures and the general uncertainty about the coronavirus. We also cancelled our trip to James Island County Park for Memorial Day weekend. The campground was accepting people with prior reservations, but the water park, playgrounds and other amenities were going to be closed. So, we made the tough decision to stay home.
Instead, we booked a trip to Pirateland Campground in Myrtle Beach with Steven’s parents the following weekend. It was our first trip towing with the Jeep, and it did great! Steven said he had to keep checking the mirrors to make sure the camper was still behind us. The campground seemed to be taking appropriate precautions: limiting the number of people in the pool area, providing hand sanitizer when entering the store, etc. Although large resorts like Pirateland aren’t usually our cup of tea, we did enjoy being close to the beach and having some fun activities for the kids.
While we were in Myrtle Beach, we didn’t venture out to restaurants or any tourist destinations, and we were fully self-contained in the camper, so we felt pretty comfortable on the trip. However, since we’ve returned Myrtle Beach has become a hot spot for COVID-19, so I’d be more leery to go now. While we were there, we did take the opportunity to visit a few camper dealerships. After having our Gulf Stream Amerilite 198BH for a little over a year, we’d come to realize there were several things we really wanted in our next camper, including a walk around bed, a larger fridge, a full bathroom and an outdoor kitchen. We also knew we wanted to stay as light as possible.
At the first dealership we stopped at, we found a camper that fit the bill: a Jayco JayFlight 224BH. However, I was reluctant to commit until we visited a few more dealerships. We stopped at few more locations, but were surprised to discover bunk models were in very short supply. One salesman said it was due to a perfect storm of limited stock being produced because of factory shutdowns and increased demand from people wanting a safer way to travel. We went back to the campground to think about our next step, and got several calls from the dealership with the Jayco we liked. After some negotiating, we decided to go for it. On Sunday, we packed up our site, drove across the street and swapped campers! You don’t realize just how much stuff you have in your camper until you have to take it all out in a parking lot.
Maybe all the craziness in the world kick-started a midlife crisis because now we have a new truck and a new camper!
After getting back from the beach, we took the next few weeks to prep the new camper. Then we set off on our maiden voyage for Father’s Day weekend. This time, with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in South Carolina and protests happening across the country, we opted for a more secluded destination: Winfield Campground in Appling, Georgia. Winfield is an Army Corp of Engineers campground on Lake Strom Thurmond about 20 miles west of Augusta, Georgia. It was our first time visiting Winfield, but we weren’t disappointed. We were on site 55, a very large, pull-through site with a great view of the lake. The sites have water and electric and are a bargain at $28 a night. The playground was still closed, but they had a small, but nice beach area that the boys enjoyed.
We absolutely loved camping in our new travel trailer! Although the layout is similar to our previous camper, it feels much more spacious. And the larger bathroom and outdoor kitchen are huge hits! With our Amerilite trying to take a shower always felt like a big production, but showering in Jayco is a breeze. Being able to cook and wash dishes outside also meant that someone wasn’t stuck inside missing out on good conversation and beautiful scenery. We really feel like this is a travel trailer that will grow with our family for years to come.
As it always does, Sunday came too quickly, and it was time to pack-up once again. Luckily, it was only a one week hiatus, and we’re scheduled to head to Lake Greenwood State Park for the Fourth of July. We also have a trip planned to the Upstate to meet up with my Dad and his girlfriend later in July, and in August we’ll be heading south to Crooked River State Park in Georgia to meet-up with my Mom and her husband, who just bought their first camper a few weeks ago.
As overwhelming as the last few months have been, we are thankful to still have our jobs and to be able to keep exploring as a family. We all have more than a little bit of cabin fever from being cooped up in the house so much, so being able to get out and enjoy the outdoors together has been our one glimpse of normalcy. We hope that all of our friends and family are staying healthy and safe, and that we’ll see you somewhere down the road very soon!