HED:Folks find RV traveling fun

By Gary Perilloux

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN - On a blistering hot Friday afternoon, one happy camper has a nose for a good weekend place to hang out.

Just inside the Blue Bluff Campground gatehouse, the armor-plated visitor slides over the hot asphalt. At about a foot tall and less than three feet long, the armadillo may rank as the smallest of recreational vehicles checking out the campground for a comfortable place to burrow.

But his human counterparts share the same zeal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers getaway here.

Just down the campground road, Dot Buchanan and her daughter, Kim Murphree, lounge under the shady comfort of an aquamarine-and-lavender striped awning attached to their 30-foot Dutchman fifth-wheel RV.

A gaggle of 13 geese swims serenely past their campsite as a cool breeze floats in off the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, fluttering the green-leafed hardwoods surrounding their camper.

"You get away from the house and the telephone and just sit back and relax," said Dot Buchanan, whose husband Lynn bought the Dutchman several months ago as a present for their 29th anniversary.

"It's like you forget about your worries and problems of everyday life," Kim said.

Off the beaten path

The Buchanans, Kim and her husband, Lane Murphree, and the Murphrees' 2-year-old daughter, Katie, often trek to Blue Bluff from their Houlka home. It's not a long journey, but it's far enough to get away from it all, said Dot and Kim, who enjoyed the peaceful campsite while the rest of their camping party made a boat run.

"We're far enough from home that we won't run back to the house," Dot said.

"And the people at the gate are so nice," Kim added.

Their Dutchman fifth-wheeler, a type of RV that's hauled by a gooseneck hitch in the back of a pickup, sleeps six, includes a queen-sized bed and features a full kitchen.

"But we try to cook outside, too," Kim said.

On a recent evening, the family enjoyed an outdoor supper under flickering pastel red, yellow, blue and green Chinese lanterns strung between the trees. Suddenly, an unexpected visitor intruded (not an armadillo).

Kim Murphree spotted something falling from the tree overhead into her dinner plate and onto the green-checkered tablecloth.

"All of a sudden this stuff started falling down and it was a squirrel eating hickory nuts (in the tree)," she said with a laugh. "The squirrels will just about come up to the table and eat with you."

Mockingbirds, cardinals, doves and blackbirds join the squirrels in visiting their campsite.

"And we have red-headed (woodpeckers)," Dot said. "We usually have two come by every morning."

Neighboring campers frequently mingle, too. Children on skates and bicycles occasionally circle the paved campground trails.

"You see young people that have kids and granddads and grandmothers with their grandkids," Dot Buchanan said. "It's a family thing. No age limits."

Out-of-state visitors

Like the Buchanans and Murphrees, Thomas and Lucille Simon and Roy and Charlene Robinson began camping in tents years ago and now lovingly embrace the RV life.

Unlike the Mississippi campers, the Simons and Robinsons hail from the Volunteer State and are retired. That means they're ready volunteers any time the camping bug comes calling.

The Simons of Union City, Tenn., have sojourned in all 48 parts of the continental United States, including 43 states in one year. The Robinsons of Humboldt, Tenn., like to venture closer to home, usually within a 150- to 200-mile radius of home.

That's why the Aberdeen campground presented a good meeting place for the Tennessee couples, who both had trekked to Blue Bluff before. The Simons and Robinsons first met at Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee and now frequently hook up for RV getaways.

They share duties cooking meals for each other. And for the first time in their week at Blue Bluff, they took a break on this Friday and headed for McDonald's in nearby Aberdeen.

"Yeah, we had to have our burger," said Roy Robinson, who prefers Blue Bluff's convenience to another Mississippi campground they've visited east of Booneville. "You go there and you drive about 12 miles to get to a grocery store. I don't like that much."

Roughing it in style

Times have changed and conveniences have improved since the Robinsons took their first tent camping trip in the 1950s to Chain of Lakes State Park north of Chicago on the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

"It was primitive," Roy Robinson said. "You were lucky if you had electricity where you could run a cord. And you'd have two or three hydrants in the whole park. You had to tote water.

"The first time I remember paying (for a campsite) it was 50 cents."

They later graduated to pop-up campers and eventually their current 30-foot trailer, which has a full kitchen, bedroom, bath, TV and awning that allowed them to watch an evening shower in lawn chairs at Blue Bluff.

RV camping remains a bargain, according to the Robinsons, who pay just $6 a night at Blue Bluff with a senior citizens discount.

And teamwork with the Simons from the campsite next door helps.

"I'll cook a meal in my trailer one day and she'll cook a meal in her trailer the next," Charlene Robinson said.

In their week here, the couples have feasted on barbecue ribs, spaghetti, pork chops, potato salad, corn, baked beans, butterbeans, banana pudding, apple pie and more.

"We're going to cook a big stew tomorrow," Charlene said. "We really just cook one big meal a day."

Though it's not their cup of tea, some RV campers they meet on their travels are full-time RVers. Once in Tennessee, the Robinsons met a couple in their 80s who had been traveling in their RV without a permanent home for two decades.

Lucille Simon said she and her husband are prone to travel on a whim in their Coachmen motorhome, an all-in-one RV.

"Just go," she said with a flick of her arm while visiting under the Robinson's awning. "I don't care if you're on a horse and buggy. Just get up and go. We're partial to that motorhome."

Of the 48 states, Simon's hard-pressed to pick a favorite spot, but she's partial to the Rockies, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.

"And I'm very thankful we got to see every state in the union of the 48 states," she said. "I don't guess we ever will, but I could turn around and do it again."

And though the scenery's often priceless, the special relationships they form with people like the Simons makes the RV experience a beloved part of the Robinsons' life.

"It's good that you can find somebody you can care about and can get along with and have a good time," Charlene Robinson said.

"We really mix it up, don't we?" said Lucille Simon, chuckling with her campground neighbors.

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