Or should I say “Back to Georgia”. By nothing other than remarkable coincidence our van will be departing on this ocean crossing to Australia from Savannah, Georgia, barely a hundred miles from Brunswick, Georgia where we had collected our truck camper after its shipment up from Argentina back in April. Not in a million years did we think we would ultimately be shipping to Australia via the US East Coast.

From Winnipeg, we went almost directly to Savannah, save for a slight detour around Chicago and a planned ( and delightful ) sightseeing stop in Charleston, SC.

As of the last post we had just crossed into the US. The Emerson/Pembina crossing ( the major one south of Winnipeg and north of Fargo, ND., ) was extremely quiet – as in, no one in line at all ! Unheard of at any of the BC/Washington crossings, we were delighted at how smoothly and quickly it went. It was not just because of the speed but also due to the fact that the Carnet we were travelling with was processed in just minutes ( a process, we are reliably informed, that can be much more complicated ). A “Carnet” you say ? But with a Canadian registered vehicle you don’t need one of those when travelling to the USA ? Indeed, you do not, but when driving into the US with a vehicle you then intend to “export” via a US maritime port one needs to either bring it in “bonded” ( carried on the back of a flatbed truck ), or under cover of a Carnet. Fortunately, since Australia is one of number of countries that  requires the temporary importation of a foreign registered vehicle to be secured via a Carnet, we happened to have one and thus avoided the ( expensive) complication of bonding our vehicle between Winnipeg and Savannah. The whole Carnet story is worthy of a blog of its own but I’ll hand it over to this experienced overlander who does an excellent ( and very humorous) job of explaining what a Carnet is ( “Carnet de Passage en Douane” or CPD, to give it its full French name ) and why (and when) it is required: https://youtu.be/kjHkE_Ite5s

Carnet stamped, we were on our way south in the US of A with plans to reach Fargo that same afternoon. The landscape ( and temperature ) changed little…..still flat, and still cold – it would be another day before we saw any material change in the mercury. From Fargo there were a couple of options- drop directly south in a race for warmer climes then turn hard left ( East ) towards Georgia, or take a generally more gradual South Easterly route towards our destination. We opted for the latter given it saved us some time and hundreds of kms of driving but also gave us a different route than we had taken when we had traveled ( essentially ) this route in reverse, back in April.

The US Interstates are always well-marked. Our ( more or less ) direct route South East from Fargo (ND) took us through some, and around other, major US cities. As we were pretty much bee-lining it to Charleston and Savannah to deliver the van it was convenient to use the ring roads around most of the bigger cities en route.

Remembering this was basically a delivery trip ( getting the van to Georgia our primary purpose ) any sights we might see along the way would simply be a bonus. With the weather mostly cold and overcast (generally miserable !) there was little incentive to stop. Warmth, lay further ahead. Nashville, which we wanted to explore back in April, was predicted to have constant rain as we would have passed through so saw little point in revisiting on this trip ( the risks you take when travelling in December, I guess ).

We thought this a most unfortunate town name !

When we had route options we generally chose roads we’d not driven before (the 74 in this case). Our long drive was at times boring enough that we did not want to repeat the dreary segments. We still saw lots of monotonous farmland………

The ensuing days were mostly long and uneventful, the only excitement being that each night was getting warmer than the last. It would be south of Bloomington, Illinois before the days got consistently above 0 degrees Celsius ( 32F ).  With open campgrounds still scarce, overnight stops consisted of truck “travel centers” ( giant ‘Loves’ or ‘Pilot’ fuel stations ), Cracker Barrell’s or the ever reliable ( but last resort ) Walmart parking areas. There was always somewhere and we were never alone. There were two exceptions where we enjoyed a different form of stopover, known as “Harvest Hosts”. The link will give a full description of this mutually beneficial arrangement and we really enjoyed the two we stayed at ( a microbrewery and a coffee roaster ).

Parked up in front of our first Harvest Host stop, “The Coffee Grounds” in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. A boutique coffee business, with a flat parking area, in a quiet neighbourhood offering good coffee and welcoming staff. Very good first experience with Harvest Host. The friendly barista was quite enamored with our van.

Familiar states  and cities came and went as we crossed the Mid-West. Fargo, Minneapolis/St Paul, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and on to Lexington ( Kentucky )…..a more or less direct ( via Google Maps ) route to our destination. At least now it was (finally ) getting warm – if not dry. We’d experienced all weather conditions on our route but it had been, for the most part, overcast and rather gloomy. State after state after state – rain, rain, rain. What stood out to us were two things – the incredible number of semi-trailers on US interstates ( at times outnumbering vehicles – we have never seen so many  ) and the way in which road signage (billboards) on those same interstates mirrored the current polarizing political divide in the US: pro-life vs pro-choice, and pro-gun vs gun-control bill boards were a constant. 

The poor weather continued as we passed state after state but at least it was warmer this far south. We could handle the rain and were just happy to be free of the biting cold.
Here at a Pilot truck centre near Lexington, Kentucky. As long as you filled with fuel they were always fine with an ‘overnight’ given the local campgrounds were mostly closed in December. Fortunately we have complete blackout ability with the blinds – never realized how important that would be !
Whatever “it” was, we did not not “find” in Ohio any respite from gloomy weather ! At least it wasn’t pouring rain – that would come next.
Our memory of Tennessee – just pouring rain, non stop.
By North Carolina, the Western part, we were finally getting near the Atlantic coast but still it rained. And rained. And rained.
Our second Harvest Host overnight stop – the Plankowners Craft Brewery in Spartanburg, South Carolina. A fun night, good food (and beer) and an extremely friendly bar manager who made sure we and the other overnighting van couple were well looked after.

Almost 9 days of constant driving after leaving Kelowna we pulled into Savannah but not before making a delightful stopover in nearby Charleston, South Carolina. Not only was it a day where the sun did shine but this amazing and very historic city offers visitors a wonderful architectural, gastronomic, political and military experience ( the first shots of the Civil War were fired here ). A walk through the historic old town and around the waterfront park stretched muscles that were well and truly cramped up after so many days on the road.

Seldom, when driving any type of RV, much less an overheight one, can you legally, affordably, and securely park in the very heart of a city’s downtown. Charleston is the exception to that rule and it made for a much more convenient stay. We, along with another couple and their kids, took full advantage of the covered Visitor Centre parking lot. Check out their van – and I thought we had a ton of stuff !
Charleston downtown – they obviously regulate building heights in this area as we saw no modern high rises. It added to the city’s charm.
Lois enjoyed Christmas shopping in the craft stores.
Young military cadets, Charleston, in classic style uniforms.
No shortage of reminders of Charleston’s slavery history.
Charleston waterfront with its famous park in the background. Many Civil War naval battles were fought in nearby waters ( see details on the bronze plaque below ).
First gunshots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston.
Pastel colored historical style buildings in Charleston – it was our best weather since leaving Kelowna.
We stood admiring this stunning Art Deco period building ( we are both Art Deco fans ) in Charleston, then noticed the plaque on the front. On closer inspection it had a significant role in the Civil Rights movement as recently as the ‘60’s (see next image).
Kress building, Charleston.

By design we got to Savannah well ahead of the port delivery date ( and that date is in turn 7 business days ahead of the ship’s arrival date ) since there was much preparation still to be done. That and we did want some time to simply explore the city and all its Southern charms. The van would need to be cleaned to showroom condition, valuables removed, and everything that might bounce around on a 5 week sailing be battened down firmly. We’ll save details of that for the next blog but we both agreed that delightful Savannah was the highlight of our trip ( Charleston a close second ). The plan to drive hard and get there, then spend time exploring had paid off. We loved both places and the fact that we had generally good weather there after days and days of fog and rain just added to the joy.


Coming into Savannah from the North we passed the port – our van would be among those hundreds of vehicles awaiting shipment in just a few days.
At both campgrounds in Savannah we were right by a river – plenty of signs (and campground staff ) warned us about not swimming there.
We added these decals ( required for Australia ) just before driving to Savannah port. Felt it would look a bit ridiculous putting them on too soon ( after all, everyone in North America has a left hand drive vehicle ! )
Lois, taking a break during our van re-packing
While the US enjoys generally cheaper fuel than Canada it’s a brutal time to drive a diesel. The diesel fuel economy advantage does not come close to erasing the current gasoline/diesel price difference in the USA. I found myself lamenting that I no longer owned a 5.3 litre gasoline V8 truck.
Savannah street scene, always so many oak trees covered in Spanish moss.
Many stately manors are spread throughout the city, this one beautifully decorated for Christmas.
John Wesley founded Methodism in Savannah
Savannah’s famous (and huge) Forsyth Park.
Golden dome of Savannah’s City hall
Like many such cities, Savannah is revitalizing its formerly gritty waterfront area. Now a place of boutique stores and renovated older buildings.
The city features in many episodes of American revolutionary historical significance. We spent hours wandering its streets and reading all the historical markers. The restored buildings, like in nearby Charleston, are outstanding.
One of Savannah’s myriad “squares”. Literally every two streets there is a grassy square with huge oak trees covered in iconic Spanish moss. Very American “South”. Trivia moment : a significant part of “Forrest Gump” was filmed here. Remember the famous “bench” scene ? Shot in Savannah’s Chippewa Square ( the bench was just a film prop, it’s no longer there – but everyone asks where it is ! )
As this will be our last pre Xmas blog, Lois and I wanted
to thank you for following along and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !

Next week, we deliver the van to port – stay tuned !