Driveabout: Day 18
5:45 am and I'm sitting up in bed, eager to see the sunrise. Funny how sometimes you can plant a mental post-it note and just forego the usual alarm-setting. I got dressed and opened the windows in Lucky, still somewhat dark outside, and worked on some admin until the sky began to lighten. Didn't realize that there was a scant chance of rain in the forecast and some purplish clouds on the horizon kept the rising sun veiled for most of the morning. That's alright. Every time it peeked its face out from behind the clouds, the diamonds began to dance upon the surface of Santa Rosa Sound. Reward enough for rising early and starting the day.
A quick trip to CVS to pick up some supplies and we began a nice, slow and scenic route down State Road 98. Perhaps I should say "around" State Road 98 because it hugs the Gulf Coast of Florida and slowly curves its way south, taking us through Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Santa Monica and Laguna Beach (huh? those are in California, too!) We stopped in world-famous Panama City and ate lunch at Pineapple Willie's on the pier, where we marveled at some of the signs that definitely spoke towards Panama City's reputation for being a spring-break mecca where tens of thousands of young folks converge every year to party like it's 1999.
We've been using some smartphone apps to locate cemeteries that we want to visit. Though a search turned up zero for the area we were traveling, I happened to notice a sign for a graveyard along our route. We arrived at Old St. Joseph Cemetery near Port Saint Joe and found a double-bonus: one old cemetery filled with locals who had died from an outbreak of Yellow Fever between 1835 and 1841. A newer cemetery across the way was established in 1957. Some of the grave markers were actually hand-carved while many of the graves were unmarked.
Just around the corner was Forest Hill Cemetery, which was much newer and better maintained. Thematically throughout our journey, we've seen regional similarities in grave markers. Older graveyards are more simple in their epitaphs while the newer markers actually shed more light upon the deceased. It's made for very interesting insight into their lives.
Continuing along, we took the scenic route around the Big Bend of Florida and made a stop in Appalachicola, home of the best oysters in the world. We stopped at the near-one hundred year old Gibson Inn, a known haunted hotel where a sea captain passed away after a bout of pneumonia in room 309. Happy hour drinks, oysters (fabulous!) and a trip upstairs to the haunted room were all part of the fun.
After leaving the inn, we eventually came to Panacea, Florida and settled in to the Panacea RV Park. Earlier in the week, I officially put Rita up for sale ($11,000 or best offer) and began planning on the purchase of a used rig by March. Lucky has been a great experience all around, like an extended test drive, and these past several days have given me a wealth of information regarding drivability, range, comfort, the good and bad of the coach design, etc.
Lucky drives like a car (to me, anyway) and is fantastic on the highway and in the city. I was initially not impressed by the bed, it left me somewhat achy, but I've gotten used to it. Also not terribly happy with the privacy curtain that separates the cabin from the coach (it seems like an afterthought and not aesthetically well thought-out), nor the dinette cushions (they move around too much) or shower door (it's tough to open and appears to have been installed upside-down.) There are a few minor issues like loose caulking in the shower and no covers over the vents, but they can be easily remedied.
On the other hand, the driver's seat is extremely comfortable, as is the couch, the 6.9 liter Ford engine has had zero issues with steep grades and I absolutely love the larger tanks for fresh water as well as black and gray water. The fridge is spacious and I love the storage areas outside and in. Length-wise, 32' is more than a double handful and I'd probably be just fine in upgrading to something between 25' to 29' feet. The slide-outs really create a nice and open space in the living room and bedroom, but I don't really need that extra width to sleep, so I'll be looking for just one slide-out in the front.
El Monte RV sells its rentals before they get too long in the tooth and that's more than likely the way that I'll go. With a 1 year or 12,000 mile warranty and complete maintenance history from day one, I've read good reviews from people who have purchased used RVs from El Monte. It's in their best interest to keep the rigs in top shape for customers and, despite that we all know people abuse rental vehicles, the regular maintenance would certainly help to offset the problems that come with buying a used vehicle.
With two days left in our driveabout, we decided to go out with a one-two punch of favorite familiar campgrounds.