Vanholio's Travel Scrapbook

Quirky (Sometimes Beautiful) #Vanlife Photos and #TravelTales by an OTR Vandweller

Goddammit! As a suspicious character with some kinda brain, Vanholio's No. 1 goal is to NOT look suspicious. But my best plans failed ...

Sign reads "The Butt Hut Bar-b-que" and has a pig seen from butt.
Goddammit! As a suspicious character with some kinda brain, Vanholio's No. 1 goal is to NOT look suspicious. But my best plans failed in Pollock, Louisiana. Got questioned by three LEOs for about 30 minutes!

This was as last Thursday. I was lookin' for a legal dispersed campsite in Kisatchie National Forest, near Stuart Lake. And I was drivin' legally down a legal road, mindin' my own legal goddamn business!

(BTW, that big photo is the sign for The Butt Hut in Vidalia, Louisiana. Had to stop! Decent pulled pork. Outstandin' coleslaw.)

The road was FSR 123. Not far in, I come to this puddle in the photo and wisely stopped. You know, instead of stuckin' myself. Took a photo as proof a my newfound wisdom.

puddle in middle of dirt road
Puddle where it all began!
Comin' down the other way was a game warden. He stopped and asked me a lotta questions about whether I had guns, where I was goin', etc. Then the fucker wanted to see my driver's license!

Now, when a LEO *asks* to see your license, that's a fuzzy area. You don't *have* to show your license as the LEO don't have probable cause, such as a traffic stop. If he did, he'd *demand* to see it. But then again, if you say no, it raises suspicions and may lead to trouble if the LEO is an asshole.

So I showed the game warden my license, but let him know this was goin' too far, IMHO. We parted.

A bit later, I took Ms. Barkley for a walk by the lake. When I come back to the van, who was standin' outside it but a local police officer and the game warden! (Cop No. 3 showed up a bit later.)

The dance began. Many questions were asked. Some were answered, some were not. Vanholio did his best to stand for his rights without invitin' an ass kickin'. Kinda like pettin' restrained but suspicious guard dogs.

Turns out Vanholio stepped his foot in it. FSR 123 drives straight to the back a the Pollock Federal Correctional Complex. Also turns out that dumbasses been drivin' back there to smuggled drugs into the prison.

So when Vanholio was sniffin' around there and nearby backroads in a white, unmarked van with outta state plates ... Well, locals saw the van and called me in. And you know what them and the LEOs was thinkin'.

Matters got cleared up. Didn't get the glove. But it was not a fun day ...


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Look what I woke to this mornin' in Kisatchie National Forest , Louisiana! Had no idea snow was comin' in. Woke up to pee at 5 a.m...

heavy snow covers southern pines in Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana
Look what I woke to this mornin' in Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana! Had no idea snow was comin' in. Woke up to pee at 5 a.m. to find lotsa fluffy flakes.

Took the big photo at 7 a.m, once I got some light to work with.

Vanholio's a very lucky little boy today, I tell you what! :-)

Sad thing is it all mostly melted off by 10 a.m. But that's usual in the south of The South. Didn't even stick to the roads none.

Ya can see in this second pick of the misty pond that the snow is hardly left. That was around 9 a.m.

light snow in grass, mist rising above the pond in louisiana
But still, I'm grateful. Packed up ASAP after I took that first pic at 7 a.m. and started drivin'. Was plannin' on coverin' miles anywhoo, but wanted to get goin' while I could drive through the Kisatchie forest country and see the snow.

Now comes the sucky part. The snow's gone, but it's muddy and cold, still in the 30s. At least the sun's out a bit today ... well, half-way. More than I seen since Monday evenin' in Homochitto National Forest, Misssissippi.

Rooftop solar's pickin' up the juice, too. Batteries are up to 85%, and dammit, if I'm lucky, I'll get full charged before the day's out!

Expect I'll be seein' more snow when I get back to New Mexico parts in January. Gotta say, though, there's somethin' special about seein' it where it's rare and unexpected.


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These are the damn days that slow us down and chill our bones. These are the days of rainy winter weather. No way Mississippi was gonna be...

autumn leaves on trees and covering forest road
These are the damn days that slow us down and chill our bones. These are the days of rainy winter weather. No way Mississippi was gonna be burning this week!

The morning fogs that lasted till noon gave way to torrential, frigid rains throughout the south. Including where I was, in Mississippi.

See that photo of the lonely forest road at top? That was in Homochitto National Forest, pretty close to Meadville, Miss. – middle of nowhere. Pretty, no? That was last Monday evenin', and the last I seen of the sun for many days.

Darkness, darkness and cold consumed the world! Only the warmth of Ms. Barkley keeps me goin'.

roadkill snake pressed into the gravel
Smooshed snake
Spent two nights in Homochitto, huddled against the rain, batteries running low as the solar panels drug in shit power.

This is the shitty part about vanlife: The van is really damn small when you're stuck in it all day and night!

Sure, it's fun at first. Snuggle in the blankets, surf the net, read a novel, cuddle the dog, listen to the ran patter on the roof.

Then about Hour 36, cabin fever sets in. The need to WALK sets in. The walls around you fall in ...

That said, I'm gonna return to Homochitto National Forest sometime. It's the kinda place I like, which surprises me. Didn't have high hopes for Mississippi. I thought it was all Delta flat despair somehow. But no!

drone toy with bread on shelf in background
Drones sold at Dollar General!?
Southwestern Mississippi has hills and woods, deep and quiet. Free from bugs this kinda year. And no tourists. Maybe next year I'll hang around more. When it ain't raining.

Oh, check out this drone for sale ... at Dollar General! How the hell did drones go from cutting edge tech to dollar store toy so fast? I ain't even bought one yet!!!


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Ever since I hit Alabama a few days ago – and now Mississippi – it's been pea soup fog every mornin' till at least 10 a.m. I can&#...

Fog ahead on US 84 in Mississippi Ever since I hit Alabama a few days ago – and now Mississippi – it's been pea soup fog every mornin' till at least 10 a.m. I can't take it! I'm about to go postal on someone's ass!

Vanholio need sunshine. It's one of many reasons he frequents the Western states: abundant sunshine. He don't like darkness.

He don't even like the humidity that comes with fog and rainy weather. It's a cold fog, a fog that digs in and chills yer bones to ice.

Thank gawd for that cold, though. The bugs is died off. If I had to contend with mosquitoes and ticks and such at the same time ... Vanholio'll take a cold nose over mosquitoes. (But still, no man should have ta make that choice.)

temperature gauge reads 66.6 F
Some a you people love the Pacific Northwest. I don't. Same shit. That's why I ain't up there. Seattle ain't got enough coffee ta keep me sane(ish).

Didn't think I'd get the same cold, rainy, foggy shit here in the Deep South. And that without compensation in the form of pretty, rocky coastal views and tall firs and ferry rides.

At least the South comes with good, cheap biscuits and smoked pork products. What I'm sayin' is the food is good. Real good. Maybe that's the only thing keepin' me out a jail right now. That and a tendency ta keep movin'.

A rollin' stone avoids The Fuzz, is what Vanholio always says!

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Well, this is a charmin' little spot! Gotta stay here again next time I pass through southern Alabama via US-84. 'Specially as cam...

Well, this is a charmin' little spot! Gotta stay here again next time I pass through southern Alabama via US-84. 'Specially as camping in Silver Creek Park is free!

They got about eight simple spots. Not much but a place to park'n pitch, fire ring, and trash cans. Well, there's a boat ramp to Silver Creek Lake, a playground, and an old hand pump for water. Plus a port-a-potty thang.

Look at them fall colors! Real quiet, too. Just how Vanholio likes it. That's why he spent two nights there – despite no cell and cellular internet reception!
Typical campsite at Silver Creek Park, Alabama, with picnic bench and fire ring, right by the lake. Big shady trees, too.
Typical campsite at Silver Creek Park

But there's OK Verizon atop the hill where you drive down into Silver Creek Park. Just parked up there a few hours to do business and get mah fill.

Bet it's fuckin' buggy in the summer though! You're right on the water, after all, and some a the lake works back inta shallow swampy bits. Bugs, bugs, bugs!

Not in December, though. No, Siree! Just gorgeous leaves, crisp nights, and morning fog.

Well, and hunters. Yes, it's that season. You can hear the guns goin' off in the distance. But they don't come in too close none.

Checked out these other two camps nearby, too: Damsite West Bank and Haines Island. They suck in comparison.

Damsite West Bank's been tagged a lot. As in graffiti. Maybe Vanholio's gettin' old, but graffit makes him feel unsafe. At the least, expectin' a bunch a loud kids hangin' 'round at night.

Haines Island's got a ferry to cross the Alabama River, though. That mighta been cool. But it's closed now.

Check out Silver Creek Park and its lake when you pass through. At least for a picnic.



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What the hell is this? Coincidence? I doubt it ... Two Texas things in one Alabama day can't be a coincidence. Two points make a line...

dead armadillo in road

What the hell is this? Coincidence? I doubt it ... Two Texas things in one Alabama day can't be a coincidence. Two points make a line, and that's a trend!

First was this graffiti I saw in a men's bathroom stall: "Alamo Texas". That was at the Love's Travel Stop in Evergreen, Ala.

What was it doin' there? Who wrote it? Why? Was it a homesick Texan? An Alabaman tourist missin' the good times a San Antonio? A fan a the movie? Inquirin' minds gotta know.

Then there was that dead armadillo. What the fuck's an armadillo doin' in Alabama? Ain't they the most Texan critter ever?

graffiti says "Alamo Texas"
Seen in Alabama bathroom ...
Goddammit. Maybe some Texan wannabe Alabama redneck is breedin' them armadillos up for the circus. How the fuck do I know!?

All I know is that I don't ever wanna see and armadillo again outside Texas. It just ain't natural.

Then again, it's to be expected that Texas influence would move east inta Alabama. Why not? The two states connect love football, guns, the Bible, and barbecue.

And even Alabamans are smart enough to recognize the benefits of joinin' Texas. Maybe they'll join the New Secession when Texas splits. It'll be the nation of Greater Texas! Big hair for everyone!

Not that Texas can ever be greater than it already is ... That goes without sayin'.

Truth be told, Vanholio misses Texas some. Maybe it's just Stockholm Syndrome, but as they say, You can take the boy outta Texas, but ya can't take the Texas outta the boy.

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I did it! I "discovered" another Alabama campsite for Freecampsites.net , Vanholio's favorite website for free and cheap cam...

Campsite among longleaf pines, seen across the Open Pond
I did it! I "discovered" another Alabama campsite for Freecampsites.net, Vanholio's favorite website for free and cheap campgrounds and boondocking sites. It's Open Pond Recreation Area.

Why ain't there more sites on Freecampsites.net for southern Alabama? Best I can figure, folks headin' this away is too much in a hurry for Florida. ...

It's "Florida" this and "Florida" that. "We went to Florida this year. Have you been?" Well, fuck Florida!

Vanholio considers Alabama is much more pretty. Not nearly as swampy, for one thing, with rollin' hills. Good food, too.

Even the grocery stores rock! At whatever the family-owned supermarket in Samson, Ala., I got smoked pork tails – cheap! Smoked meats is how you make beans taste good, plus a lotta salt. Yum!

So, yeah, Open Pond Recreation Area ...

Open Pond Recreation Area is in Conecuh National Forest, just south of Andalusia, Ala.

They got 10 "primitive" sites on Loop A for $8 a night. But there's at least three water taps I counted. And the shitter house's got a clean shower with hot water.

Loop C and D is the hookup sites, and thems is only $16 per night. Showers and all that too, a course.

Loop B is outta commission. The Forest Service keeps that aside for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Warning: No cell signal down there. Least not for Verizon. But I got OK 3G and 4G signals parked up by the fire tower you pass on the way inta camp via Tower Road, close by the Open Pond Road intersection.

The Open Pond's supposed to have good bass and catfish, if yer inta that.

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Thanksgiving weekend is done. So is Vanholio. He's headin' back to Texas. But not before enjoyin' a bit more of southern Alaba...

Thanksgiving weekend is done. So is Vanholio. He's headin' back to Texas. But not before enjoyin' a bit more of southern Alabama and discoverin' new campsites.

But the first Alabama site was a couple nights back at beautiful Geneva State Forest Lake. Tellin' ya, it's a Prime Grade A spot!

Got there Monday night. The place was cleared out after the long weekend, so had it mostly to myself. (Some guys brought in horses Tuesday to ride, but they didn't stick around but a few hours.)

The signs of weekend parties was everywhere: kicked over mushrooms (kids!), dropped Trojan condoms, half-burnt-wood, full trash cans, and port-a-potties with shit piled up above the blue waters.

But the revelers was gone. Just Vanholio'n Ms. Barkely soakin' up the quiet.

'Course, hunters is about, so the dog and me are sportin' our blaze orange vests. Can't never be too safe. Never know when you'll be around a drunk dumbass with a gun.

Weather is changin', too ... The morning mist over the lake is chill, even at a 10 a.m. temp of 66.6° F – the Devil's Chill ... More leaves have turned and fallen, too. The year is comin' to an end.

Even sunset here, at the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone, is 4:41 p.m.! Earth is shuttin' down and awaitin' the Winter Solstice.

Oh, and I got confirmation on that track in the sand at right – It's a raccoon track. Friend a Vanholio is a wildlife biologist, and she was 100% sure a herself on that one. So now ya know.

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Deer hoist for butchering Shit, after spendin' Saturday night at the Perry, Fla., Walmart, Vanholio was damn good'n happy gettin...

deer hoist with pulleys and gambrels
Deer hoist for butchering
Shit, after spendin' Saturday night at the Perry, Fla., Walmart, Vanholio was damn good'n happy gettin' to Otter Hunt Camp in Apalachicola National Forest.

What's a hunt camp, you say? And why was I there? Let me tell ya ...

Lots a the national forests cut dispersed camping during gun huntin' season (vs. bow huntin' season).

The rangers seem ta think folks campin' willy-nilly don't mesh well with drunk, armed rednecks chasin' down deer. Makes ya wonder ...

long leaf pine with palmetto understory in Apalachicola National Forest
Longleaf pine and palmetto
So they make the hunters and anyone else stay in designated campsites.

Of course, if ya want a developed, fancy site, those are still open. But for the hunters, they set up hunt camps, which are mostly just set aside areas.

But I seen some fancy hunt camps, to tell truth. In South Carolina's Sumter National Forest, they had one with vault toilets and a HOT SHOWER!

turkey tracks in sand
Turkey tracks
Here in Apalachicola, the hunt camp I stayed at's got a clean port-a-potty and a deer hoist and table for butcherin'. The brush is cleared out, too. Gotta bring yer own water, but I ain't complainin'.

Most a the hunters cleared out Sunday night. My particular hunt camp was lived at by just Vanholio and Ms. Barkley. Suits me just fine thataway!

When I got here Sunday, a bunch a hunters was scootin' this way'n that in their pickups. Most had something I never seen before – high racks.

Saw this in Crawfordville!
high rack on a pickup bed, basically a chair elevated above cab height to shoot from
High rack on pickup
High racks is a way of riggin' up a chair high up above yer pickup bed. Makes sense in Apalachicola NF as the underbrush is low and most a the pines is maybe too thin to keep a tree stand steady.


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