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The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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Golden Isles, Georgia

I arrived here on a Saturday at sunset, after a long-ish day of driving. On Sunday, I took Harley for an exploratory walk on the park trails and later found lots of fleas and ticks on him. On Monday, I got flea treatment for him and Peyote and vaccuumed and washed the entire contents of the trailer. On Tuesday, a day after her Advantage flea treatment, Peyote quietly and painlessly, in her own characteristic quiet dignity, went to heaven, curled up on my warm cozy bed. Peyote's health had been declining for some time, but I believe it was the Advantage that ultimately took her life. I so badly wish I didn't give it to her, but I was sure the fleas would have a party on her and I didn't want her to suffer that either, and it just didn't occur to me....that this stuff would actually take her life. I don't know what I was thinking. I miss my little girl. We should have had more time together. Our animal friends should live as long as we do.

She was around 19, maybe 20, years old and she had been my shadow since college, literally growing up with me. She had been a surprise Christmas present from college friends. In her younger years, she was an entertaining ricochet kitten, but she mellowed out into a snuggly lap cat as she aged and it was second nature to find her in my lap when I sat down to read or watch tv. Like a shadow, she moved in quietly and discreetly, and like a proper cat, always on her terms.

From my first cross-country trip after college in a VW vanagon where she perched on the dash to watch the traffic and lights of the road, to the house in Colorado where she learned to live with two big dogs and a six-foot boa constrictor, to the house in rural Maine where she became an outdoor cat with amorous Miles as her mentor (her first, and only, cat friend), her world view expanded right alongside mine. She helped train Riley to be a gentle dog, while simultaneously terrorizing him and she always had her special spot in a sunny window or in my lap.

She was with me for so long, I still see her shadow in my periphery. I still leave the bathroom door open for her. I still think of her watching over the Airstream when Harley and I go somewhere, expecting her to greet us when we come home. I miss her dearly and am so grateful for the time we wasn't long enough...and I will always wish I did not give her that Advantage treatment. I know Peyote was old, and her health was declining rapidly, and in some ways I think maybe it was a blessing that she went to heaven painlessly and relatively quickly at home....but I miss my beautiful little black girl so much. I believe she and Riley are romping in a joyful place.


Despite the sadness of Peyote's death, I was so very glad the campground was a place of peace and beauty. It's the kind of place where the trees out-number the RVs, so you can hardly tell it's a campground. Home to a large population of squirrels, bunnies, armadillos, deer and raccoon, Harley was in a constant state of excitability. While he was learning to sit and watch the bunnies quietly, without chasing or lunging, one of the young black ones hopped over to us, stopped right under Harley's nose, stood up on his hind legs, and touched noses with Harley. Crazy. I was worried for this little guy, and kept a tight grip on Harley's collar, but Harley seemed just as shocked as I was and was very calm about the whole thing...until we moved on and he was beside himself in his usual playful frenzy.

Blythe Island Campground

People feed the little critters around here, and there aren't any predators so these woodland creatures run amok and I love it. The raccoons apparently have a strategy for raiding the unlidded garbage barrels that are distributed around the sites. My neighbor told me how they work in teams to get their treasure: one dives in while one stays on the rim to lend him a hand and hoist him back out, and another keeps a lookout....or they fall in and rock the barrel back and forth to tip it on it's side for escape. However they do it, the morning visual is often a bunch of trash strewn about, and park workers pick it up while on their morning trash collection.

On one particular morning, I tossed a small bag of trash in the barrel closest to my trailer and the trash barrel snarled back at me. I jumped back and then cautiously stepped closer to see who was in there. It was a little baby racoon, and my garbage had bonked him on the head. Poor little guy. He was scared and buried in trash. He and his friends probably had a party there during the night and somehow he got left behind and was helplessly stranded. I tipped the barrel over on its side and angled it so that he could get out. He waddled away into the forest, leaving me to pickup the leftovers from their evening's festivities.

With 1,100 acres, this park is a beautiful destination in itself. It's surrounded by marshes and mudflats, has an interior fresh water lake and has a wonderful southern feel with moss-draped oaks, palm trees and sandy roads. Usually the temps hovered in the 50s, with some days reaching into the 70s, and other days falling below freezing. Definately the best place to stay and explore the Golden Isles – even Savannah and the North Florida Atlantic coast. And a bonus is that they allow long-term stays and offer a great monthly rate.

Blythe Island Regional Park

Blythe Island Regional Park

Blythe Island Regional Park


The Georgia low country along the coast is mostly made up of salt marshes. Created by barriers islands, these salt marshes support inifinite fields of smooth cordgrass which in turn supports a rich and diverse ecosystem. The northern limit of these marshes is in South Carolina and they end around here. Further south in Florida, its mangrove swamps. Sea turtles thrive in this region, but they are also in danger of human carelessness (being run over by a car or boat, fishing hooks, litter, etc). The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is the only hospital in Georgia that rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured turtles. You can visit the turtles, monitor how they're doing, and learn a lot about them through interactive exhibits at the center. It's a heartbreaking place to visit, but heartwarming as well to see the dedication of people who care. You can even watch tiny little orphaned baby turtles squirt around in a tub. So cute.

In the summer, the mama turtles nest in this region and the little ones hatch and run for their life to the big open ocean to be carried by its currents all the way to the Azores and back. Theirs is quite the life of travel and adventure. By the way - a baby turtle's sex is determined by the temperature of the eggs as they incubate. Girls are hot. Boys are cool. The eggs in the middle, warmed by the surrounding eggs, tend to be girls. I bet you didn't know that.

Jekyll Island Marsh

Jekyll Island Turtle

Jekyll Island Baby Turtles


Brunswick is handy for conveniences of big box stores and groceries, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be much to it. The Glynn County marshes make for a beautiful drive to St. Simons Island, and you can walk or bike along the paved trails too. There's also a dog park along Route 17, so Harley could get more practice being courteous with other dogs.

dog park


St. Simon's Island is a year-round beachfront destination. The village here is a typical coastal tourist village and is a pleasant place to stroll and watch the sunset over the water. It's got the best coffeeshop in the area: Palm Coast Coffee, which is also a cafe and pub. That means good coffee, full food and bar menu, as well as live music and a great ambience in a 1920s style bungalow home. Great place to bring the laptop, get some work done and absorb the local scene.

The beach is accessible from the village and it's a great walk whether you're on the smooth sand beach, or on the other side of the grand ocean-front homes where moss-draped live oaks line the shady road. The live oaks are probably my favorite thing about the south - so beautiful, majestic and comforting - but also haunting, ghostly and eerie, with their twisted branches and draping moss.

St. Simons Island, Georgia

St Simons Island tree


Jekyll Island, like St. Simon's, is also a vacation destination. The crappy thing about Jekyll Island is the five dollar entry fee per day. It's a state park thing. But the nice thing about this island are the miles and miles of sand beaches with few people (think off-leash Harleydog). There's a campground, which looked decent, and a historic landmark district that preserves the history of the Jekyll Island Club, what once was an exclusive domain for some of America's most elite families. It is a fancy hotel and museum now, with no lack of sparkly clean Jaguars rolling about its grounds... and the front lawn is reserved for croquet games.

It happened that when I was here, a Hollywood crew was also here filming the next X-Men movie (X-Men: First Class, coming out summer 2011). Because of the holidays, I managed to miss all of the action, but did see evidence of the movie set and electrical gear all over the place.

Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach

Jekyll Island Xmen set



Jekyll Island Museum


I made the four-hour drive to Florida to spend Christmas with my mom, her husband Jim and their ornery little dog Booty. Being a little dachsund, Booty suffers from a Napolean complex, which makes him resemble a snarly dragon. I wondered how that would go over with Harley, and it seems I underestimate my noble dog. Sometimes he matches other dog's aggression, but here he was very respectful and gave little Booty all the space he needed. He didn't growl back, chase him, pounce on him or even try to make a snack out of him. My boy Harley is really getting the hang of being courteous and understanding of other dog's personal space.


I love how our paths keep crossing. We met in Maine, then Cleveland, then Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and now here in Brunswick. They've got two West Highland Terriers - Toby the younger, and Kinsey the elder - and they are the cutest little dogs I've met. Harley and Toby were itching to be offleash, so we took the dogs to the dog park in Brunswick and Harley impressed me once again with his courteous behavior. After a leisurely stroll on the beach at St. Simon's village, we gave Southern Soul Barbecue a try, seeing as it's received so much kudos and some major media attention, but all agreed that it wasn't all that. At camp, it was margaritas (recipe: 3 tequila, 2 triple sec or grand marnier, 1 lime juice, squirt of agave nectar) and tasty dinners in the Whale (their luxuriously large 5th wheel). They were only here for a couple days, but they were days well spent. My spirits had been low this month, and I was craving fun times with friends. They're on their way west, and perhaps our paths will cross again sooner than later. I am starting to get the itch to travel more and head west myself. But first, I'll be spending some quality time with family in Florida....


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All images and words © Sharon Pieniak
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