With 115° heat index temperatures and Hurricane Isaias heading up the coast of Central Florida, Jon and I finally decided it was time to hit the road again. We had felt relatively safe at our Workamping jobs at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the last few months but as things were changing, Covid was surging, the temps were rising, and Isaias was barreling down on the coast we felt the time had come to pull up our jacks and head for cooler weather.
At the time of our last blog post the museum had been closed for about a month and Jonathan and I were doing odd jobs – cleaning, doing yard work and maintenance around the Settlement. There is always more work to be done with 19 historical buildings dating back to the 1850’s. We were using the time while we were closed to get to some of the bigger projects – painting, washing windows, weeding, much needed mechanical worked on the golf carts, etc.
and producing marketing videos. We continued to feel quite safe from the Covid-19 virus in our isolation bubble as we had limited contact with others, just the other Workampers and what staff was left, and only leaving the Settlement for our grocery runs every week or so. We continued to feel like we were making a contribution to improving the Settlement though we did find that we were working more than our 20 contracted hours per week.
The museum remained closed until the end of May when the stay-at-home orders in Florida were lifted and the museum opened for four days a week. In order to gain a little income they started having musicians come out on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays for an event they called Playing on the Porches. We asked to have limited contact with the public so we ended up adding on sanitizing and bathroom cleaning duty to our other behind the scenes work. Unfortunately, this was exactly the type of Workamping that we had been trying to avoid by taking a job at a museum. We loved doing the school field trips teaching about Florida history to the thousands of kids that came to the museum every year and
we even enjoyed working the gates or in the kitchen during the music festivals but the constant cleaning was not the type of work we wanted to be doing. And once the public was allowed on the grounds again, we were no longer in that safe bubble from the virus, especially as Florida was becoming the biggest Covid hot spot in the country.
We stuck it out for another two month as the museum had reduced their staff to two part-time people who cared for the animals and did the mowing. The director, assistant director and the events coordinator were volunteering their time as the Settlement could not afford to pay them without income from the field trips and festivals and most of the other Workampers had moved on. With so little other help we really felt the need to stay and help where we could but, as the temperatures rose and the number of people who refused to wear masks increased, we really started to think we would be safer if we left. Then Hurricane Isaias started heading our way and we decided it was definitely time to find another place where we could hunker down and self-isolate.
That is when the craziness began!! We spent two weeks getting the coach ready for travel after sitting for 10 months. We cleaned out the belly boxes, got everything back in place and took a couple loads of donations to Goodwill. We washed the outside of the coach, Jon checked all the fluids and completed all of the monthly maintenance, I made a couple extra masks and we thought we were ready to roll. We hit the road on Saturday, May 8th right after finishing work when Isaias was just off the coast. We had planned on making it to Jacksonville before the Hurricane to get new tires on the coach, but fate had other plans for us! Jon always says, “man plans and God laughs!”
As we headed up Hwy 17, just an hour after getting started, our engine
started to over heat and we came to a screeching halt. Luckily, we were able to pull off the road safely and call a tow truck. Now Good Sam Roadside Assistance has been great in the past when we needed them, but this time, not so much. It took us 6 HOURS to get them to send us a truck. We had pulled off around 5:00 pm and the tow truck driver of Dave’s Towing got the call at 9:00 pm. He was all the way over in Ocala – 2 hours away from us in Crescent City – so he did not get to us until 11:00 pm. We wanted to get towed to the
Freightliner Service Center in Ocala (we have a Freightliner chassis) which meant an extra $350 in towing charges but we knew that we wanted to get the best service possible and we trust Freightliner. Being a Saturday night, they were not open but luckily there was a huge Pilot truck stop right next door and we were able to get towed there where we spent two night boondocking in the outrageously hot weather. Fortunately, we were able to run the generator to run the A/Cs to keep us relatively cool as we waited.
Monday morning we limped over to the Freightliner and they were awesome and promised to get us in as soon as possible. Within an hour or two they had diagnosed the problem – the freeze plug on the engine block had rusted out and we had left all of our coolant back on Hwy 17. Unfortunately, it would take a couple of days to get the part so we would have to find a hotel as we could not stay in the RV on their property at night. They also noticed that we had two outstanding recalls and they said they could take care of those while we waited. Another reason why we love Freightliner!
Now the real farce begins. We said OK, if we have to stay in a hotel, we might as well make it a bit of a getaway and treat ourselves, so we booked into the Ocala Hilton. We could just hang out in our room, have long hot showers, get room service, hang at the pool, social distance in a clean and safe air conditioned environment while we waited ……. not quite!
First, turns out the hotel closed the pool that afternoon and it would not be open the rest of our stay, room service was discontinued due to Covid, and the first morning we were there they had a major water leak in the air conditioning system and it FLOODED the 5th floor, which we were on, and the water rained down all five floors creating a waterfall in the lobby. We went off to Freightliner to check on the coach, run the generator to keep our house batteries charged to keep our frig running so we didn’t lose our food, and to get breakfast. Learning the part was still a day or two away, we returned to the hotel to find ServPro working on trying to dam the flood. Next they filled the hallway with LOUD industrial dehumidifiers and closed off our access to the elevator! And we were 5 floors up!! Well, at least we were getting our exercise.
The next morning, after just getting dressed, the fire alarm went off …. did I say this was becoming a farce …. more like a comedy of errors. Once we were assured that it was just the water from the pipes that burst that caused the alarm we returned to our room to finish getting ready for the day. Then off to the coach again to run the generator and then back to the room to wait. Finally, at the end of the day they called to say the coach would be ready the next morning but the hotel was not done with us yet!! At 7:00 am the fire alarm went off AGAIN!! Needless to say, as soon as the fire department cleared us to walk up the 5 flights again we packed our bags and high-tailed out of there!!!!!
Fortunately, all of the repairs and the recalls were covered under our warranty with only a $100 deductible plus the hotel comped us one night so it wasn’t as hard on our wallet as it could have been considering all that had happened. As soon as we got the coach we headed to Jacksonville.
Now all this time I had been keeping Advantage Commercial Tire apprised of our situation and they kept saying to just let them know when we would be there and they would be ready. And they were! The moment we pulled in they had two techs waiting and ready to get
to work. They changed out all six tires in about 3 hours and we were back in business. We used the FMCA Michelin Tire Program and saved about $1200!
I feel as if I have been playing the Fortunately/Unfortunately Storytelling Game! So many things went wrong but everything worked out and we felt quite blessed to have come through it all unscathed. We really want to thank Dave’s Towing of Ocala, Freightliner of Ocala, and Advantage Commercial Tire for outstanding service …. the Hilton … well, let’s just say we wrote a rather scathing review. We also want to thank all of you who followed along on Facebook and supported us though texts and phone calls, it really made a difference knowing we had your caring encouragement.
We have now made our way to a secluded little campground in the North Carolina mountains where we can self-isolate and wait out this pandemic. We will be here for about a month, hopefully getting out to do a little hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway and swimming the the creek here at the campground. From here we plan to head north for the fall and a visit to the mid-Atlantic states to see Alex and Erin then we will head south and west to see Rebecca and Jason.
We have decided to pause our Workamping experiences for the foreseeable future. We will miss all of the friends we have made during our two years at Barberville especially all of the awesome staff members, Debra, Gudrun,
Su, Heinrich, Erick & Matt and of course all of our Co-Workampers. It was a blast guys!! But the pandemic, hurricanes, earthquakes, and killer hornets have made us realize how short a time we have on this beautiful planet and we want to get out and see as much of it as we can. We have even booked another caravan (bet you never thought we would say that again after our last experience) to Alaska in the summer of 2022.
As we travel around this year we may not stop and visit with you as we would normally do as we do not want to take the chance of spreading the virus. We do hope and pray that you all stay healthy and safe and we will hopefully see you down the road on our next time through your area.