Friday, October 05, 2012

Jacksonville, Florida

Reluctantly, we left North Carolina on Wednesday morning.  It might have been 11:30, but hey…it was still morning!  We sure miss the wonderful cool temperatures and not having to use the A/C.

We got onto I-26 and left the same way we entered the state.  We decided we much prefer going up those mountains, than coming back down. It was pretty stressful and we were certainly glad once we got to flat and straight roads!

When we went down those same grades, it was a little more nerve wracking.  We’re still trying to learn how to drive in the mountains without burning up our brakes.

We have an exhaust brake, and Al tries to use it instead of the foot brake.

We were going down a pretty steep grade with the exhaust brake on.  We noticed a red warning light showing up on the dash, and quickly realized the engine rpm’s were too high.  He applied  the foot brake and the rpm’s came right down.  We think what happened was when he applied the exhaust brake, it brought the transmission down to 2nd gear and I guess that was a little too low.    We’re thinking he should have tapped the exhaust brake instead of applying it steady.  The Allison transmission is supposed to handle all this stuff automatically, so maybe we should have just let it do it’s job.  We sure don’t want a burned out engine like what happened to Linda and Howard of Rv Dreams.   Any suggestions on how we could have handled that steep grade better? 

We drove back to St. George, South Carolina and stayed in the same little Mom and Pop campground that we stayed in on the way.  Jolly Acres is a great stop on the way to Asheville, and it’s right off I-95.

The owners, Larry and Beckie welcomed us back to our same nice, level pull through spot.  We were able to fill up our almost empty propane tank before we left and they even gave us some home made sausages for our freezer!  We much prefer campgrounds that are owned and run by individual’s instead of these big corporate owned campgrounds that are frequently so poorly managed.

We got another late start, but were on the road by 11:30 again. 

We had a little over 200 miles to go to put us in Jacksonville, Florida.

As we got out of the hills and mountains, we were watching the elevation numbers on the GPS.  Once we got into Florida, I had to laugh.  The elevation here is 4 feet!  Quite a difference from the 6600 we were a week ago.    It’s so much more relaxing to drive on flat straight roads!

We found what looked to be a nice Rv park right off I-95.  It was $42 a night, which was over our budget, but then we realized it was a Passport America park.   We arrived during a pretty nasty storm, so we sat in the parking lot and waited it out.

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the Passport America rules close enough.  It turns out, this time of year (until Nov 1) you have to stay a minimum of 3 nights to get the PA discount.  We paid full price for the first night.   

Someone asked me about  Passport America and whether they should get it or not.  I think most full or part time rv’ers use PA. We have found it to be very well worth the $40 some dollars for an annual membership.

You do have to read the rules on each campground, because every park sets their own rules.  Some, like Jolly Acres in South Carolina and Hominy Valley in NC let us use the discount as long as we wanted to. Some campgrounds have a limit to the number of days, and some don’t allow the discount on week-ends or holidays.  They are all different.

Most in Florida have restrictions at least during the high season (winter).  We’re at Pecan Park Rv Resort.  This morning, we decided we’d stay an additional 2 nights if they would allow us the PA discount retroactively.  They did, so we’re staying until Sunday.  There is a lot of interesting places to see in this area, so we’re going to do a little exploring before the afternoon rains come. 

I will take some pictures of the rv park before we leave.  I know how much we prefer to see lots of pictures before we decide on a park.


  1. "The Allison transmission is able to handle all this stuff automatically, so just let it do it’s job". Yes the transmission downshifts oly to the gear it needs to slow you down, the console will indicate the lowest gear. Use the exhaust brake in florida, get the feel of the operation, feel the shift points.

  2. We stayed in Pecan Park last November. Will the Flea Market be running this weekend? And enjoy the fighter jets when they decide to fly over. You are close to the Anheuser Busch Brewery and its free tour.

  3. So glad you liked "Jolly Roger". They must like you a lot. We've been there many times and never got free sausage. :-))

  4. Wow, I can't imagine how you'll do with the roads and grades of the West. I grew up in the west driving on those roads, albeit in cars, and I'm still scared to death of some of those roads.

    When you go to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Black Hills, many places in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and California you will encounter grades.

    On our last trip to Mesa Verde, Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, we went miles out of our way to stay on more gradual grades. There was only one place I felt in danger because we went on a road we weren't familiar with. The grade was 8-9% for miles. Going downhill there was a particularly steep section coming right off the top. About two miles down I could smell our brakes smoking. We stopped at a small pullout and sure enough, smoke was coming out the rear tire of our pick up truck. I told Bob was had to wait until the brakes cooled down. We waited 1-1/2 hours. Better safe than sorry. Luckily the rest of the grade down was almost flat!

    Live and learn. We don't have a nice engine like yours. We have a Ford F350 7.3 liter diesel.

    Glad you're back where you feel comfortable.


  5. Maybe I'll stop at Jolly Acres as I head south in 10 days or so.

  6. Glad to see you're happy being back in the flatland! With our Allison Transmission while towing our 5'er it works extremely well, like you said, I just give the brakes a quick tap and the transmission pretty much takes over from there to slow us down on hills.

  7. I was looking at Thousand Trails earlier today and saw it was $499 per region and then looked and saw they didn't have any campgrounds where we would want to go.

    Just looked at Passport America. They seem to have a lot of parks and $40 per year sure is a bargain even if you only use it a couple of times.

    It is on my sign-up for list.

  8. Use the exhaust brake and when your speed picks up too much, use the brakes for a short distance to slow down, release the brakes and let the exhaust brake continue to do its job.

    Short distance braking will not burn out your brakes, when you've slowed down and let the exhaust brake take over, the brakes have a chance to cool down.

    Where people get themselves in trouble is when the ride the brakes all the way down the hill, causing overheating.

    Short, hard stabs of the brakes and then allow them to cool down is the key.

  9. I always leave my exhaust brake on as it only engages when needed... I probably find it more useful in cities than I do on slopes and yes we have done several 7 to 8 percent grades but try to do 6 percent or less if possible...


Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to