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Flying Solo: On The Road With Kathryn Cleveland In A Camper Named Bonnie And A Truck Named Clyde!

Editor’s note: “Flying Solo” is our new feature that highlights travel reports from those of our readers that, for various reasons, are now lone travelers but continue to get out and explore the world.

Kathryn Cleveland with her bike and the aptly named, “Clyde the Truck” & “Bonnie the Camper” respectively. Photo provided by Kathryn Cleveland.

Kathryn Cleveland with her bike and the aptly named, “Clyde the Truck” & “Bonnie the Camper” respectively. Photo provided by Kathryn Cleveland.

Technically, I was a full two weeks on the road in my first big RV adventure. I had left South Dakota in my truck camper and headed south. It was the very end of January and my lines were securely winterized. No problem – “I’ll figure out my mechanics as I went”. This is not a plan I’d recommend for your first foray into RV world.

Well, of course, my very casual plans went awry. I didn’t take the time to figure out the mechanics at my pit stop in Denver, “It’ll still be cold further south.” I’d planned to find a great state park in northwest Texas. Well, I didn’t get quite that far. But I did find a friendly Love’s truck stop in Boise City, OK. Snug and secure between two semis, I slept.

I had family and friends to visit along the way and suddenly, I was enjoying warm winter days of the South. I could use some water in my camper. A friend read my manual and drained my lines of antifreeze and we rinsed the lines. I got my LP tanks filled and had a short tutorial from the wonderful staff at Mack’s Camper Sales in Robinson, TX.

But after I left all my comfortable guest rooms behind, I discovered that I did not know how to flush my toilet. (Illogical camper appliance manuals will be another rant.) I had good water pressure in the bathroom but none in the kitchen sink. The fridge only worked on LP, not on electricity. My DIY repair job on a broken escape hatch was incomplete to put it mildly, and, as I drove blithely through soggy Louisiana, the downpour soaked my bed. Wow! Some fun this solo camping was turning out to be! And I was on a beeline to be with my expectant daughter while her husband was serving our country in Afghanistan. No time for a leisurely drive or even a long stop for repairs.

So with my rain-soaked, lousy attitude, I drove up to the very impressive front gates of Fort Benning, GA. I just wanted a room, not an RV hook-up. A room with a dry bed and lots of hot water. I followed the gate guard’s careful directions and found the lodge just fine. It was completely full. By now it was dark and I was tired. I found a phone number and reluctantly called out to Uchee Creek Campground. A hotel was sounding better and better.

“Come on out, we’ll find you a place. We’re all in the lodge so just stop there and we’ll fix you up.” My spirits were buoyed by their friendly response but I was a little nervous. It was really dark now and I was on unfamiliar, although well-marked roads. I drove and drove. I was convinced I must have been driving to another state to get to the campground. Turns out I was!

Uchee Creek Campground and Marina is on the Chattahoochee River, which divides Georgia from Alabama, and the camping is actually on the Alabama side of the river. It felt like miles in the dark but the next day, I realized it’s an easy drive back to the central shopping area on Fort Benning. The river is also the division for Eastern vs Central time zones but Uchee Creek uses Georgia time. I would say they were on their own time zone and it was a fun one!

Normally you check in at the well-marked country store but it was dark and sure enough, everyone was at the big, log lodge next door. It was Super Bowl Sunday and there was a party going on! What a friendly welcome I received – I was introduced to all, my camper was quickly hooked up to a convenient site and I was ferried back to the party. It was potluck and I didn’t have a pot but I had an appetite – not just for the warm food but the great military fellowship.

I’m no longer in an active military community and I had forgotten just how friendly and helpful our military family could be. We represented all branches and all ranks and the fun and freedom of camping brought us together for a great time.

Uchee Creek Campground. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

Uchee Creek Campground. Photo courtesy of the US Army.

The next morning I enjoyed an early morning bike ride around the campground exploring just a taste of its 385 acres of forest and river front. I found the sites of several lovely chalets, including brand new ones outfitted for Wounded Warriors and their families. The whole camp is flat and easy to ride. If I had more time, I would have rented a kayak and gone out on the river.

My new friends wanted me to stay for a few days. One couple previously had a business repairing RVs and he was so anxious to get into my rig and check it all out. I know if I had stayed there for any length of time, I would have made great friends and had everything fixed and explained. Several couples live in northern Florida. They drive up and spend weeks at the campground, so next time I find myself in Georgia, I will likely see them again.

I travel solo because I’m a widow. This can be a tough season when many feel very vulnerable. Is there really something wrong with my (any engine part)? What if they are just taking advantage of my ignorance of my automobile, my HVAC system or my finances? I have had a crash course in self-sufficiency in the past few years. Despite numerous deployments, I was clearly a kept woman and relied heavily on my Marine.

But the RV community has been wonderful. I have had generous people give of their time and expertise. I love getting up in my big black pickup truck and heading down the road to another adventure. I think my husband would be proud of my new skill set and he would certainly be grateful for the reception his widow received at Camp Uchee on Fort Benning, Georgia.

Kathryn Cleveland South Dakota

Reprint from July-Aug 2012 • Volume 42, No. 4


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