We shouldn't complain, though. We got a free night of "camping" in a
relatively safe place off the road, we had the best internet and TV reception we've had
for a month, and we finally found our favorite low-cal-but-creamy fudge bars
(Swiss Miss) at Sam's Club. The Sam's at Sugar Land, TX didn't have them, nor
did Walmart. We also discovered you can buy wine and beer on Sunday in
Louisiana -- cars and RVs, too! They don't have Blue Laws like Texas.
DAY 2: LAFAYETTE, LA TO BIRMINGHAM
This was a typical 8+ hour day for us on the road -- long
enough to cover 466 miles but not so long that it wiped us out.
Morning rush hour wasn't bad in Lafayette. We left Sam's a
little before 8:30 AM and soon reached I-10 eastbound. Traffic
was moderately heavy again (this was a Monday) but moving well
all day through LA, MS, and AL.
Early evening over the boat docks
Word of warning to those hauling 5ers and trailers: there
are some very annoying sections of freeway with clickety-clack
pavement, including several miles of I-10 east of Lafayette.
Once we reached the scenic Henderson Swamp area, the road was
mostly smooth again until periodic sections on I-12 in Louisiana,
I-59/I-20 in Meridian, MS,
and I-59/I-20 in Alabama. It makes us worry about what's happening
back in the RV with all the shaking going on. It's probably not
as noticeable in a motorhome but it drives us crazy with a 5er.
Other than that, the trip was enjoyable yesterday with
all the pretty dogwoods and other flowering shrubs and trees
along the route. As we drove north through Mississippi and
Alabama we regressed back to earlier spring foliage and flowers,
such as forsythia, daffodils, and redbuds, which is always cool.
We enjoy the same phenomenon in the spring and fall when we go
from lower to higher elevations.
Lake Allatoona is almost at "full pond"
At Baton Rouge we followed I-12 east to I-59 north, stopping
briefly at a huge Camping World store at exit 35 to look at
locks and buy a new screen
While I was driving Jim
called Carriage, Inc. about some warranty work we have scheduled
at a Cameo dealer in North Carolina next week. It's the closest
dealer to Roanoke so we figured we may as well stop there on our way from
Atlanta to Virginia so we don't have to take it back out again
during our brief layover at the house.
Jim also mentioned the newly-malfunctioning door lock
and the service manager said he'd send a new one to our house so
Jim can install it when we get back there. It's covered under
warranty but simple enough to replace that it's not worth the
effort to go to a dealer to have the work done. Jim's already fixed a number of things
on the Cameo that some less-skillful RV owners would have to
find a pro to repair. Even for jobs covered under warranty,
that's a hassle we prefer to avoid whenever possible.
All travelers on these freeways should note that some of the
roadside stops in Louisiana and Mississippi (and other states)
are only "parking areas" and have no restrooms. They are marked as
such. If you want a rest room, visitor information, and/or a
nicely-landscaped place with picnic tables, choose the welcome stations at the
LA-MS or MS-AL state lines or the rest area at MM38 southwest of Tuscaloosa.
Those have free dump
INTERESTING SAM'S CLUB EXPERIENCE
We chose to stop at another Sam's Club overnight on Monday. This one comes with a
story, too, but the ending is better!
This Sam's is located off I-459 on John Hawkins Pkwy. south of
Birmingham in a 'burb called Hoover. When we went inside the
store to ask permission to stay overnight, the manager initially
That surprised us -- it was our first refusal of
permission, ever, from a Sam's Club anywhere we've asked -- but we said thank you and
graciously left the store. No problem: Plan B was to park at the Walmart down the street!
We were hungry and pretty tired from all the driving, however, and decided to remain a few more
minutes so we could eat supper in the camper before moving to Walmart. The Sam's parking lot had plenty of room and we weren't
hogging anyone's space.
A few minutes later the female manager and male assistant who
had conferred with her about our request came out to the camper.
They were leaving work and were parked near us.
We initially assumed they were annoyed because we hadn't left
yet. We were ready to
assure them that we'd be moving along pretty soon when they knocked
on the door, smiled, and said they'd reconsidered and we were more than welcome to stay overnight right where we were.
Well, that was a surprise, too!
We thanked them, talked a little bit about our lifestyle,
promised to leave before the store opened in the morning, and
told them why we usually preferred Sam's parking lots over
Walmart's (Sam's closes at night). Jim commented about the lovely
Bradford pear trees blooming outside our door, and everyone was
We can only conclude that the manager saw we were in a handsome rig
that cost 'way more than anything else in the parking lot . .
. and hoped we'd spend some big bucks in her store!
That overnight experience was more typical of our previous stays
at Sam's Clubs than the problems we had on Sunday night. It was
quiet, no street sweeper woke us us at 5 AM, and we had good TV/phone reception
and a faster internet connection than we've had in campgrounds
in AZ and TX most of the last four months.
We slept well that night and never did see what the Walmart
parking lot looked like down the street.
DAY 3: BIRMINGHAM, AL TO LAKE ALLATOONA,
This was deliberately our shortest day on the road. We wanted to
reach Dobbins AFB early in the afternoon and have some time to
relax in our new campsite.
We had a nice, sunny day for a non-eventful drive through
Alabama and Georgia on I-20. We did reach Dobbins early
in the afternoon. That's good, because we had to resort to Plan
B here. After 196 miles of driving, we ended up at the Navy
Lake Site farther north:
This is better than Sam's Club, eh?
Jim and Cody walk on the campground road below our site.
We enjoyed driving through the hillier, more wooded terrain east of Birmingham
to the Atlanta area. There was plenty of traffic all day but it
moved at speed. We were slower than most of it, trying to
maintain a speed of 60-62 MPH to conserve fuel.
Traffic got really heavy on I-285 on the western side of Atlanta
and I-75 north, even in the middle of the afternoon. After
living in metro Atlanta for 25 years (1974-1999) I'm used to
heavy freeway traffic. I'm not as used to towing a big RV
or being the navigator through it, however.
A bigger surprise to me than the heavy traffic was the higher
price of diesel fuel in Georgia. When I lived there it was one
of the cheapest places in the States to buy gas and diesel, at least in the metro area.
We paid a whopping $2.92/gallon for fuel at the Flying J at exit
19 on I-20 in west Georgia. We got enough fuel to get us to
Dobbins, where we hoped we'd find it cheaper. That became a
problem when we had to drive farther north to a different
campground. We ran with the "empty" fuel light on for several
miles before finding a campsite at the lake. We'll get fuel
tomorrow when we run errands in Marietta.
We made a good decision to dump our grey and black tanks at Flying J
on Sunday. The dumps
at Dobbins NAS and the Navy Lake Site would be much tighter for us to
We've camped at Dobbins AFB previously in the HitchHiker, which
was two feet shorter than the Cameo. We don't remember that
being a problem. This time, however, there were only three of
the sixteen sites left and they were all much too small for us.
You can't make reservations at Dobbins and the office personnel
didn't know if anyone was leaving in the morning. We could
boondock for free in a parking lot next to the tennis courts,
but for only one night. (Regular campsites are $12/night with
water and electricity; there is a dump station.)
LAKE ALLATOONA NAVY RECREATION AREA CAMPGROUND
Fortunately, we'd already investigated staying at the Navy Lake
Site at Allatoona (I think that's the official name of the
place). We hadn't made reservations there, however.
Part of the campground, where several
trailers and 5th-wheels are pulled head in
to back-in sites! Huh?? CG staff used a
tractor to situate them that way, but we don't know why.
We called to see if there were any RV sites large enough for
us and the manager said yes, but only two of the twelve sites
would accommodate a large rig. He held one of them for us
until our arrival.
About half of the sites were occupied when we
got there. We had other alternatives in mind if the Navy campground
wasn't an option; there are seven Army recreation areas
around the lake, too, but they are even farther away from the
Atlanta metro area and their facilities vary.
We aimed north on I-75, driving past Kennesaw Mountain National
Battlefield Park to Acworth
and exit 283 on the southwest side of Lake Allatoona. The
campground is several miles to the southeast of the freeway along narrow,
hilly, winding rural roads. We weren't certain which way to go at one
fork in the road. Our GPS wasn't very helpful. It's a good thing we picked the right way, or
we might have found ourselves in a situation where it would be
impossible to turn around.
Entrance road to cabins and campground
We arrived at the campground around 3 PM, drove past the amusing
6 MPH sign, and mostly blocked the narrow, one-way
campground loop road while we checked in at the office. This
place really isn't designed for larger RVs but we did OK getting
in and we won't have to worry about it again until we leave on
Sunday. This will be our home
for the next four days.
So far we are pleased. The campground is situated on the hills above one of the lake's numerous coves. We have
a great view of the lake from our long, back-in campsite. No one
is in the site across from us (next photo) or on either side.
It's a good thing the site across from us was empty when we came
in. The road is so narrow and there are so many trees that Jim may not have been able to
maneuver the Cameo into our spot if a camper had been parked there.
It will be much easier to pull out when we leave.
Twelve RV sites with water and electricity (30-amp service) cost $14/night
or $330 a month. That's a good deal. Thirteen tent sites are $10/night. There is a dump
station. Visitors can make
reservations at this campground, which is a plus.
The rec area office has a game room. There is
no laundry facility available in the winter but it's open in the summer
when there are more visitors. We have WiFi at our site, lots of
TV stations (but not NBC with only our Cameo's antenna), and a strong Verizon phone
This recreational site also has seventeen cabins available to
rent. I noticed on one website that the cost depends not only on
the season and the size of the cabin, but also on military
rank! I assume the higher the rank, the higher the rental fee
for any given cabin but I could be wrong.
Maybe rank has its privileges.
One of the cabins
Lake Allatoona is a 12,000+ acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
reservoir that supplies most of the water to the residents of
three counties north of Atlanta. It serves many other functions,
too, from flood control to hydroelectric power generation to
It's the latter that draws many locals and visitors to its
shores. The lake is a popular boating, fishing, skiing, and swimming
destination. There are several public marinas and private boat
ramps around its perimeter, as well as numerous city, county,
state, and Army Corps of Engineers parks and campgrounds.
Although only military personnel and retirees and their guests
may use the Navy Lake Site, the public can camp at the seven
campgrounds run by the Corps. Water and 30-amp electric sites
equivalent to ours are $20 (there are many variations in price
depending on the hookups and proximity to the lake shore). Folks
with National Park senior passes can camp for half price. We
won't qualify for one of those until Jim turns 62 in August.
The Navy site where we're staying has three docks on the lake
below the campground and cabins. Visitors can bring their own
boats to the boat ramp, store them in one of the docks, or rent
motorboats or canoes. We don't boat (yet) but we sure enjoy
camping near lakes.
The recreation site also has pavilions, picnic tables, and a sandy beach for
swimming in the summer. Cody wants to go
in the water but we haven't found a good place yet to let him swim
without being seen. Dogs are allowed in campsites but not in
cabins or on the beach.
Beach and three boat docks
This is a nice place to hang out but there are a few things
other people might find annoying.
Although the Navy Lake Site is a few miles off I-75, the
access road mostly parallels close to the freeway. You can hear road
noise from some of the cabins and RV sites up on the ridge;
ours is down the hill
far enough toward the lake that sounds are muffled.
The Navy Lake Site is not real close to stores and restaurants.
We're used to that because we usually prefer the more remote
Jim's a happy camper because there's a Steak 'N Shake restaurant
He likes those even better than Whataburger. I'm happy because Walmart and a
couple of Thai restaurants are within several
miles. Kennesaw Mountain is a reasonable twelve-mile drive;
that's one of my old trail running venues and I want to go back
there this week.
Dobbins would have been closer to the race site at Sweetwater
Park west of Atlanta, but I don't think it's an option for us as
long as we have the Cameo. We didn't see any sites that looked
large enough for a 36-foot 5th wheel. We're happy we found the
Navy Lake Site.
Next entry: hiking at Kennesaw Mountain, which has
some of the nicest trails in metro Atlanta
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil