Other than being high price and RV-filled, those State Parks and ACOEs still were beautiful reprieves after days of unforested riding. They surprised me the same way the parks in the South Dakotan plains had. After spending a whole day riding through flat, wide open, SD farm lands, I'd be shocked to find myself suddenly winding through dense forest that seemed entirely out of place without having to first pass through a false walled wardrobe. The same happened in Alabama. I'd go from a long day of highway riding to being chased by dogs through the woods in the blink of an eye. And after escaping the dogs, I'd find myself in a park full of trees alongside a manmade lake. A lot of Southern campgrounds seem to have a body of water attached to it, which makes sense with that godawful heat. Did I say lake? I meant swimmin' hole.
|This is not from a Southern State Park. This is in Colorado. I just like the picture.
And that heat is interminable. In July and August, you'll sweat as hard at night as you do during the day. If you're touring down there, make sure to pack a tent with as much ventilation as possible and don't bother with a blanket. Alternatively, a mosquito net and a rain tarp would work, but I prefer the tent since it weighs about the same and protects better during storms (September is storm season, and most camp sites are fairly wide open up above, even if the park is in a forest). Maybe even pack a small fan to run during the night. It can keep you cool and add a little white noise, which can be nice if the couple in the RV across from you like to get up at dawn to walk their hound dogs.
But back to the Southern State Parks. Another thing to know is that they close heckin' early. It's not that big of a deal with a bicycle, as gates are designed to keep cars out, not people, but if you're road tripping by car, be warned. If you show up to camp after dark, there's a good chance you'll be locked out. That is definitely the case with ACOEs. If that happens, I'd say just keep driving until you can find a Walmart parking lot to take a power nap in while waiting for the next park to open in the morning.
Finally, the staffs at these campgrounds are all pretty laid back. Sometimes almost nonexistent. Why, if one wanted to, one could probably roll into camp late at night and then leave early in the morning without ever seeing a single park staffer. Not even the staffers that enforce the fee collections. Yup. One could if they were so inclined.
But listen, with the high price point of those campgrounds and the terrible heat, it may not be a bad idea to keep an eye out for low price motels some nights. Especially nights with severe thunderstorms rolling through. Thunderstorms full of lightning, the great white shark of the sky. There's really no shame in spending $40 on a motel with A/C and a mattress when you'd otherwise be spending $30 on a small dirt pad surrounded by RVs.