Thursday, October 25, 2018

Headed South, Sort of...




Headed south out of Sloppy Floyd State Park just north of Rome, Georgia, we were enjoying the beautiful sunshine and mild temperatures as we looked forward to visiting another hidden jewel in the US Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds: Bolding Mill, just outside Gainesville, Georgia. We’ve stayed at Bolding Mill before and looked forward to a return visit. Only one hundred and five miles through rolling foothills, the trip was smooth and enjoyable as we took our time and enjoyed the beautiful back-roads of Georgia.

The only site available when I made the reservations, number 45, was not among my first choices. I didn’t care much for the site until we were actually hooked up. As luck, or perhaps fate would have it, we stayed at #45 until after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to the area and we moved to the Old Federal Campground on the other side of Lake Lanier which had restored power after the storm.



My wife and I are not careless with Hurricanes. Being Floridians, we are used to the Weather Channel Labor Day Hurricane Tracking Marathon everyone who lives in South Florida is accustomed to. We lived in Kendale Lakes when Hurricane Andrew went though and demolished our daughter’s house in nearby Cutler Ridge. After promising my wife we wouldn’t go through that again, we watched the TV several years later as Hurricane Charley took its terrifying right turn and came up Charlotte Harbor, taking dead aim at our new house. We weren’t sure where the powerful storm was when the wind and rain knocked our power out. Luckily for us, Charley decided to follow the Peace River and made a fortuitous right turn away from us. Never again, we said.

When Hurricane Irma, tired and feeble as she was, slowly dragged herself over northern Georgia with only 55 mph winds, the damage was dramatic. Over eighty percent of the roads in Hall County, where we were, were blocked with fallen trees and debris. Most of the county was without electrical power, which included Bolding Mill Campground.

I don’t carry our generator with us when we plan to stay at campgrounds with full hookups, so we had no choice but move from Bolding Mill after the storm. The only question was how far would we have to go? Home was one alternative as Irma had only gently kissed our area just outside North Port, Florida, but we had family plans for nearby Athens, Georgia, and wanted to keep them if possible. Fortunately, Old Federal, also a US Army Corps of Engineers campground, had restored power within a day, and our reservation was already in place.


The decision to stay at the Bolding Mill campground as the remnants of Irma approached was not made easily. We have no desire to be inside any Recreational Vehicle or mobile home during any more than a rain storm. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish. They simply are not safe in a storm, and offer not much more protection than a tent. PERIOD!

But, we decided Hurricane Irma would be no more than a rain storm, not even as strong as the tropical squalls that we are accustomed to. We were far enough away from trees and even below the crest of a berm adjacent to our pad to protect us from the wind if it got excessive. Or so I thought. Our daughter, who relocated to Athens, Georgia, some 60 miles away, offered us a place to stay and we could even bring our normally unwelcome dog. We mulled her offer, but decided we would be just fine.



What I failed to consider was a fifty mile an hour storm damages the woods and forest of oaks and maples far more than palmettos and scrub myrtle of Florida.

The trailer rocked and shivered many times, but never felt unsafe. I have wheel chocks that lock the wheels, and the pads under each corner were secure. The rain blasted against the thin skin, but we felt safe even after the power went out and we were on our battery powered lamps. We were concerned, but not worried, until we had one loud, startling crack not far behind us as a tree broke and crashed to the ground. We immediately ran to the Toyota Sequoia, which was unhooked from the trailer, and we moved out into the center of the campground where we spent the next several hours waiting for the storm to pass.

The camp hosts had a terrifying near miss. 


The next morning we hooked up the trailer and decided to check with the camp hosts, who also happens to be a Hall County Sheriff’s deputy, for advice on travel out of the area. A huge oak tree had fallen across their hard-pad, grazing the side of their slide out, and confirmed what my wife and I had already decided: No next time!

Anyone who tries to ride out a storm, much less a hurricane, in an RV needs an attitude adjustment.

Next: Back to Old Fed, post Irma.


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