Florida

Hell Month in Jacksonville

Driving on Interstate 95 through Jacksonville on the way to Savannah, the thought never occurred that we would end up spending a month in Jacksonville, more specifically, a hell month in Jacksonville. Clearly, spending that much time in Jacksonville was not part of the original RV Living Journey plan. The original plan was to be traveling up north exploring the east coast visiting friends and family.

Having to flee south from the cold weather, it was decided that Florida would be the best position to avoid freezing temperatures. But where in Florida? We had just slowly ventured up the Florida coast making the journey to the main continental United States. You have to move forward in life, so backtracking all those miles was not even an option. It was also not the time to be too picky. Most RV parks fill up with snowbirds during the winter season who flee for the same reason we are.

After narrowing down the list to a few cities, calling RV parks, comparing rates and what not. It was determined that the Sunny Oaks RV Community located on the outskirts of Jacksonville would be the next destination. For starters, it was a low rate, the temperature was not going to touch anywhere near 32 degrees, and it was located near good size city which we had never truly visited before. Boy, were we in for quite the surprise.

The drive to the campground from Savannah, Georgia was fairly normal, nothing too exciting? Campground is just off the West belt 295 exit and seemed easy to find, but when we arrived, it wasn’t. The roads including sidewalks were tore up with construction for miles, obscuring entrance ways into businesses and communities. Practically almost missed the entrance into the RV park. On arrival, there wasn’t too much space to pull to the side to make way into the office, but we made do. The rig was encroaching on another camper’s site though.

After taking care of business in the office, we were escorted to our site by a staff member on a scooter. This gentleman led us out of the main site and onto the main road. After a couple miles, there was an entrance we were guided into the assigned campsite was the very first one. A concrete slab was present but it was their policy that they park customers on the grass directly next to the slab. It was clear that if the RV was parked on the concrete slab, some of the hoses would not have reached, even with extensions. This definitely was not well thought out. We were initially parked in grass, but things are not always what they seem.

During the month of stay, it rained often, enough to keep you inside for rest of the day. It had rained so much, it created miserable conditions outside. The ground the RV was parked on turned into a muddy mess, disrupting the blocks the stabilizers were pressed on causing instability in the rig and loss of proper leveling. This led to efforts of having to re-stabilize the rig many times after the rain stopped and the ground hardened.

The muddy ground was the least of the issues experienced during the month, but was still a noticeable one. Dealing with people when venturing outside the campground, and even during the campground was at many times unpleasant. The management had mentioned that they had recently bought this campground as a mobile home park and was in the process of turning it into a RV only campground slowly but needed to evict the mobile home residents. These residents didn’t seem to kind to the RV travelers coming and going. Heard several dramatic arguments over petty things. Recall one argument over a resident who took over all the laundry machines all day and did over 10 loads of laundry.

The quality of people encountered outside the park was even more scary. One day in Jacksonville, one distraught lady who appeared to be in some altered state attempted to rob us. Witness several, what appeared to be homeless drug addicts, attempting to jump the security gate in the middle of the night. All day everyday cops were going up and down the street back and forth with their sirens. Just outside the gate, where we had perfect view point, was a speed trap. Every couple days or so a few cops on motorcycles would park right outside the campground gate, hide behind construction signs and pull over people speeding. Over the course of a month, I probably saw over a hundred people get pulled over.

Can’t forget to mention, that only after being there for several days did, I find out on Reddit, that the campground was just a couple miles away from one of the deadliest streets in Jacksonville, Moncrief. An area full of gang activity. There were many nights where gunshots were heard. Many nights, sometimes in a row, with many gunshots ringing through the night. Looking back, it was a fairly scary place to be.

The event which topped it all off as a hell month was the day before departure. Already having realized that we had enough of Jacksonville and its vicious energy, it was decided that once the paid month was over, we would be moving on to better places. Perhaps just a friendlier location with pleasant surroundings.

A usual routine that has slowly come to be is prepping things and getting things read to go a couple days before departure. This time it was noon or so the day just before we were scheduled to depart to the next campground in another city. The initial start of the routine starts with taking the RV off shore power, and starting the engine, letting it run for 20 minutes or so. This serves to warm parts up, gets fluids moving, and helps verify that everything is working correctly for the journey on the road.

Upon starting the engine, everything seemed to be working fine. After several minutes the battery meter would suddenly drop to the lowest point and the engine would begin to die. This would occur in a cycle for several minutes. Revving the engine would do nothing to keep the engine on, or the battery charged. After a bit of time, there was a sudden smell of smoke. Electrical smoke. Pull over the flap to the batteries revealed a horrific site. A negative terminal on one of the batteries at some point in time had gotten so hot that it just broke off which essentially short circuited an electrical current in the RV. When the terminal fell off, it was touching a piece of rebar which was there to secure the batteries in place. As the engine was being revved up, the short circuit seemed to transfer the electricity to the rebar which caused the rebar to get super-hot turning it bright red. Clearly panicked, the rig was shut off and everything disconnected for safety. At first, it was thought that the batteries were dead, and just needed a simple battery replacement, no big deal.

Having thought this, we jumped in the car, and went to the auto center at the nearest Wally world with the two batteries. Luckily, the batteries (which had been freshly replaced just before we bought the RV) were less than a year old which meant they were still within warranty. Unluckily, the store we were at had sold out of the exact battery model that was needed. Staff at this store was surprisingly helpful so not all help was lost in humanity. They called to the next store to locate a battery for us, which helped a lot. The next store was in Orange Park, just a 30-minute drive south. It was a simple trip though, drove down there, exchanged the batteries, and drove back. Just took time though.

Got back to the rig as fast as possible, replaced the batteries. Opened the picture of the exact wiring that was taken before taking out the batteries. By completing the wiring matched to the exact wiring diagram in the photo, there seemed to be an issue now. By touching the last wire to the terminal which completed the circuit, it would start sparking. The diagram showed a wire from the positive terminal going to the negative terminal, so sparks would make sense. It is still not understood to this day, why, before this issue occurred, was the wires connected from the positive to negative not doing anything? But once the batteries were replaced and went to match the exact wiring to the photo, sparks occurred. How did the person get the wiring like that defying a principal of electricity in the first place without incident? Lots of unanswered questions. If you are reading this, understand electricity and would like to enlighten us on what actually occurred, we are all ears. Completely baffled, not knowing what to do, it was time to plot the next move.

Basically, here we are stranded in a campground the day before we were set to depart and we have no idea what is wrong, what happened, or even how to fix it. A bit shaken, we hit the phone books for an electrician, mechanic, RV consultant, or someone to come over to take a look. Not having much luck, we called the front office of the campground to alert them of the situation and to inquire about if they had known anyone who might be of some assistance. They were no help, in fact, they pretty much didn’t care. Faith in humanity lost; that didn’t take long.

Luckily, through the grace of the universe, one of the many, many numbers that was called, called back. After telling them the issue and the location, we were in luck. As a matter of coincidence, the mechanic was out on a call already but was within a few miles of our location. This brought a small sense of relief. Getting this issue resolved as quick and efficient as possible so we can leave this unforgiving city is main priority.

When the people, who would save the day arrived, it felt like a miracle. Having repaired RV’s, and other stuff for over 30 years, clearly, they knew what they were doing. At one point, they even left to pick up some parts, and came back. After what had seemed like an hour’s worth of work, they were finished, fixed the problem and were on their way. Everything was working fine now, worth every penny. By this time it was dark already, marking the end of the final day of hell month in Jacksonville.