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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sweet Jack = Sweet Deal at Lake Lanier Islands

So, I am a collective buyer - that doesn't mean I buy things and allow them to form collections. It does mean that I take advantage of the new social media craze called "collective buying." I'm sure you have seen commercials for the uber popular Living Social or Groupon sites who offer special deals if enough people "collectively" purchase the item. That's collective buying - we all buy - we all save.

Recently, I purchased a two night camping stay at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort (disclaimer: the company I work for is partly funded by them, so my opinion of this location is slightly biased due to my need for a paycheck.) The deal was two nights of camping for $35, not bad. The Islands are close to home and this would provide a great practice outing for us. We really need to get better at packing, unpacking, setting up and taking down. Not that I feel we'll be entered into some kind of weird Supermarket Sweep type gameshow with those who can set up and take down camp in record time being lavished with fabulous prizes...I just know we can do better and not make things so complicated....R I G H T.

Our Sweet Jack weekend began on a Friday night, we packed up and headed over to the LLI Resort after we got off work and had eaten dinner at home. It was about 9pm. A short 12 mile drive later and we were at camp. The office was closed, so signs and gate staff had instructed us to go to site 114 where we would find the charming resident host. Since we knew our site number, I hopped out to go "check in" and sent Jeff up the trail in the RV to find our site and park - we were losing daylight fast and I was not too keen on setting up in the dark (more on that later.)

I found the host's campsite and knocked on the door - out popped this little hobbit of man wearing shorts and flip flops. He was wearing no shirt and was a hairy little beast. Similar in fact to the gaggle of cats I saw swaggering about behind him in his humble abode. After telling me his name, which I promptly forgot, he came outside with our registration packet and began to tell me how to find the site. Being a kind little hobbit, he offered to squire be to the campsite on his golf cart. I accepted.

By the time we got there it was pitch black dark. And when I say pitch black, I am not kidding. The campground has no street lights, no trail lights and the think the camp site numbers are marked on 4x4 posts in Braille. Jeff was not there. Now, it had been a good 15 minutes since he dropped me off, and this campground is not huge. Knowing he had never been here before and that seeing the numbers on the site posts was a little like playing "Where's Waldo" I called him on his cell phone. He was almost to us, having made a wrong turn and taken the scenic route all the way around the grounds. After he arrived and parked, the Hobbit left us for the evening and wished us well.

Sample campsite...kinda primitive for my tastes.
First things first, I have to find the bathroom. You may not remember that we were having some toilet trouble (leaking into the floor) during our first outing - so we did not have an operational bathroom at this point. Relying on the comfort stations at campgrounds so far had been fine. Well, at this campground, the nearest bathhouse was down the street, up a hill (through someone else's site) and through a small patch of woods. Not exactly what I'd call a "comfort." So, being the lazy soul I am, I took the car. The restroom facilities were nice, very clean and well stocked. Thank God. The only troubling thing was the note tacked to the door..."be sure to keep this door closed. if you don't all manner of critters will be attracted to the light and we don't know what you might find in here." Yikes. I promptly went back to camp.

Once there, I noticed the engine was still running on the RV. That was odd since Jeff had everything all hooked up and we looked like we were ready to settle in for the night. Turns out that the campground only had electric hookups for 30 amps - we require a 50 amp hookup. Of course we had no converter (they make this thingy that hooks up to your 50 amp electric and makes it work in a 30 amp plug in. But we had none. And neither did the Hobbit. Jeff thought he had one at home in the garage - since we were so close, he went home with Noah in tow to find it. He came back empty handed, frustrated and tired of looking. So, we slept with the engine running the generator all night. Which means we ran on gas all night, which means by the morning we were very dangerously close to the "E" symbol.

50 amp to 30 amp thingy
At first light, Jeff headed out again, this time to a nearby camping supply store where he purchased the converter for $20 and got us all hooked up. Again, thank God. The only downside to this 30 amp hookup was that we could only run one air conditioner, but we didn't mind because the single unit we were running kept the place on arctic blast.

Later that morning we met Jennifer (my friend from work) and her daughters at the LLI waterpark for some sun and fun. It was packed. We got there early and staked out a place under one of the large umbrellas. It was a perfect day. Shade when we wanted it, sun when we wanted it and perfectly delightful water when we wanted it. After some swimming and sunning, we headed back to camp for lunch. It was so nice to be able to go back to the RV, eat and rest before heading back out for the afternoon.

Noah had a birthday party to go to that night, so Jeff and I had our first evening alone in the RV. Did I mention there was no cable tv or internet at this campground? And that we were about a quarter of the length of the Bataan Death March from the bathrooms? It was a fun filled evening of driving to the toilets and twiddling our thumbs, until we were sitting outside under the awning and a dude jumped out of a truck passing by and started yelling at Jeff. It was Derrick (a guy he used to work with at Peachtree Dekalb Airport.) Derrick was at LLI with his family celebrating his nephew's birthday. They had a campsite too, and a boat and were taking the kids out for one last spin on a tube before it got too dark. We invited Derrick and his wife, Uganda to come over when they got the kids settled. It was a date. Our first cocktail party at the camper! Woot!

Mean ass trail raccoon.
A little while later, Derrick made it back, Uganda was getting their kids in their pajamas and then she would head over. We had some snacks and drinks and visited with Derrick for a while. It was really nice to have company. Later we went and sat outside - the weather was nice - in the low 80's which for this summer meant tolerable. Uganda walked up a short time later and she was a little bit excited because on her long walk (in the dark) from their campsite she encountered some raccoons (at least she thinks it was raccoons) on the path. They were a little bit snarly and aggressive, nice. But she made it and we had a nice visit with her too.

Nothing like running on empty to elevate your senses.
The next morning we packed up early and headed home - via the first available gas station...remember we were on empty after a full night of generator running on gas alone. We made it home without further incident and enjoyed our Sweet Jack deal at the Islands. Their campground was a semi-primitive experience, but the views and convenience of being near the waterpark were worth it.

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