Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Flag at Cape San Blas

Can you believe that the last of the Big Three (July Fourth, Memorial Day, Labor Day) summer holidays is already here?! For most folks, this is the last time they will head to that favorite camping spot until next summer. Whatever your plans are this Labor Day weekend… safe travels!

 

Rotating PVC-Pipe Flag Poles

Smaller Flags for RV Parks

Photography book of our journeys 2007-2012

A THOUSAND WORDS: Photos from life on-the-road by HS Cooper is now available in ebook format for only 99 cents! The softcover version is now available at Amazon.com.

 

Saw this while sightseeing in Gulf Shores (AL) today. I think the poor octopus was so worried about Shark Week that it broke out in spots! The store really knows how to grab your attention though! ;)

Today’s view…

Although there was plenty to see today, I found myself gazing at the clouds.

Looking back…

In the Fall of 2009 we found ourselves in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Virginia). There are several recreational areas tucked away in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. One hidden gem is Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area.

We were exploring the back-roads and looking for some autumn foliage when we discovered this scenic lake. The weather was cool and there was very little Fall color in the area. The park was weeks away from closing for the season and had only a few day visitors during our stay. We opted to take a brief hike and found that the park was abundant with wildlife.

Places like this gets lost on us at times and it makes one wonder how many hidden gems have been passed by…

 

The third book in my Campground Mystery series, DYING TO WORK CAMP, is now available online! The first two books in the series, A ‘CLASS A’ STASH and THE PROPANE GAME are also available in softcover, hardcover and PDF format. And don’t forget my book A THOUSAND WORDS: Photos from life on-the-road is now available in softcover from Amazon.com!

Summer pass you by? There are a two upcoming holidays to take advantage of our U.S. National Parks “fee-free” – one in August and one in September. During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply. For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website. The next “fee-free” holiday will be in November.

August 25, 2014
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 27, 2014
(Public Lands Day)

While driving along Hwy. 98 the other day, we discovered the Baldwin Country Heritage Museum in Elberta (AL). If you find yourself in the region you will definitely want to find time to stop in.

The museum offers a variety of indoor exhibits as well as outbuildings and farming equipment. Outbuildings include a general store, old schoolhouse, church, blacksmith shop, potato shed and pole barn. The goal of the museum is to share and preserve the cultural heritage of the community. They do a wonderful job of showcasing the variety of crops and specialties of region – from potatoes and oysters to turpentine and honey.

 The museum is currently open Wednesday – Saturday and has free admission (although donations are appreciated to keep things running). Parking is adequate for a tow vehicle; however, if the museum is busy, you may find trouble parking the Big Rig.

For more information you can visit their page at FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BCHeritageM

If you have ever been traveling on I-10 through Alabama, then you have probably seen the USS Alabama as you crossed Mobile Bay. Next time you are in the area, make sure you have time to stop and visit this amazing ship and all the exhibits at Battleship Memorial Park.

The battleship is huge! It is just under 700 feet long from stem to stern and if you take all three self-guided tours (red, green and yellow) it will take you two hours. And believe me, after you tour the USS Alabama, you can skip the gym for a week… or two! It requires a great deal of climbing to tour the entire ship. There are some great exhibits on board and one item to note is a piece of the USS Arizona.

After you tour the battleship there is a path that leads to the aircraft pavilion. Inside are several exhibits, including a piece of brick from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Also on the property is the USS Drum, which is the oldest American submarine on display in the world. This submarine is actually on land and you have to go up several flights of stairs to tour it. Make sure you save some energy to tour the USS Drum because it well worth it!

The property also includes a gift shop and small restaurant. Outside exhibits vary – from aircraft to tanks. There is a nice picnic area along the bay, as well as a pier.

The cost of admission to tour the USS Alabama, USS Drum and aircraft pavilion  is $15 for adults and $13 for seniors. Parking is $2 to enter Battleship Memorial Park. There is adequate RV parking. If you don’t have the time to tour the vessels or can’t walk/climb, you can pay the nominal parking fee and still see them from the park.

For more additional information and hours, you can visit their website at: http://www.ussalabama.com/visitor_info.php

Traveling through Alabama today and found ourselves along a rainy stretch of highway.

If you find yourself near Milton (FL), not far from I-10 is the West Florida Railroad Museum. This is a great little stop if you have the time. The museum area occupies an old freight and passenger depot that was built in the early 1900s at the site of the original 1882 depot. They have several cars in their collection, including dining cars, flat car, box cars, former Pullman sleeper and two cabooses. They also have a model railroad building, an outdoor scale railroad and gift shop.

The museum is free to the public, but does rely on donations to stay open. It is operated by volunteers so the museum is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is limited and there is no room to park a RV – so if you go, take the tow!

For directions and hours, please visit their website at: http://wfrm.org/index.html

Severe weather shouldn’t be taken lightly in a recreational vehicle. If placed in a situation to evacuate your RV – either from a weather alert warning or a mandatory evacuation order – there are a few basic things to keep in a central location where they can be accessed quickly.

  • Personal identification
  • Emergency and contact information
  • All monies
  • Medicines needed
  • Eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Insurance papers
  • Camera
  • Cell phone, charger and spare batteries
  • Flash/thumb drives with important files or photos
  • Computer with wireless access (notebook, tablet)
  • Two days clothing
  • First aid and toiletry kits
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Canned meat/fruit
  • Pet food
  • Pet medication

If you know you are going into an area that has a history of hurricanes, tornadoes or other severe weather, you should consider putting some emergency items in a plastic tote ahead of time – like flashlights and batteries. Make up a list (laminate and tape inside one of your RV cabinets) of items to grab in the event of an emergency evacuation. Have some canvas bags or backpacks handy for each family member to quickly place additional or last moment evacuation items in.

If you are asked by authorities to evacuate – do it! They know more about the current situation or conditions than you do.

WIND STORMS

Wind storms are not to be taken lightly in a RV. The damage from a storm can leave your area isolated for long periods, especially since most campground locations are outside main power grids. Preparation should be taken as soon as weather advisories go into effect.

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers so that everyone is advised
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the shelter if the storm worsens before hitting your area
  • Tie down any furniture or obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Consider putting your slides in, especially if you have double slides in the back
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Purchase extra batteries for all your equipment
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks
  • Gather appropriate items and a shelter bag if you do need to evacuate
  • Prepare non-perishable foods that can be fixed quickly and not waste propane when the power goes out
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you may be without communication for a few days

If you decide to ride out the storm, keep your battery-operated radio handy. After the storm has passed and it is clear to go outside, check on your fellow Campers.  Remember only to call 911 if there is a life threatening emergency, as local lines will be busy.

TORNADOES AND HURRICANES

If your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning then conditions are favorable for tornadoes and you should prepare to seek shelter. If your area is under any tornado alert, then you must seek shelter quickly. In the unfortunate circumstance that your area is under a hurricane watch or warning, then you need to prepare to evacuate. Areas under hurricane watch still receive storm bands possible of generating tornadoes. Hurricanes alerts give you several days warning. As soon as the advisories go into effect, start preparing!

  • Monitor weather alerts
  • Contact campground personal and other Campers
  • Discuss emergency shelter locations and evacuation routes
  • Speak to other Campers about leaving as a group for the local shelter
  • Obtain cash from the local ATM or bank as they will be shut down well before the hurricane hits
  • Purchase non-perishable foods that can be eaten from a can or pouch
  • Put your awning up and secure it with cable snap ties, do not rely on standard awning latches
  • Put your slides in
  • Anchor down any obstacles that could damage other campers
  • Cover up anything outside that may get damaged from the rain and winds with new tarps (not used ones, they will shred quickly)
  • Tape a “X” with masking tape on all your windows as debris from the hurricane-force winds can shatter windows
  • Fill all your propane and extra fuel tanks (do not forget to label them with your name or campsite number)
  • Test your generator for several minutes
  • Check the condition of your camper battery, obtain a backup if needed
  • Empty your holding tanks and fill your water tank
  • Contact family outside the area and let them know you will be evacuating and the name of the local shelter(s)
  • Gather appropriate items for your shelter stay

When the time comes, seek shelter! Material items can be replaced, lives cannot. After the storm is over and officials allow you to return, then begin to survey your damage. Many people do not realize that when there is a major power outage, gas and propane stations cannot pump without electricity. Cash is also a necessity as many stores will be cash-only until power is restored. Living in storm aftermath can be a very stressful time. Just be thankful for what you have and try to move forward.

FLOODS AND FIRES

If conditions in your area are favorable for flooding or wild fires, then you will possibly have to seek shelter quickly.  Make sure you take the appropriate precautions and locate the nearest evacuation route if you are able to leave with your RV. If officials ask you to gather a few items and leave your RV, then do it. Grab your evacuation kit and follow their instructions. Do not risk your life over your RV or vehicle. Sadly, we know of Campers who have tried and lost.

SEEKING SHELTER

Spending several days in a shelter is not easy and the conditions are not always favorable. As a visitor to the area you should be respectful. It is a horrifying experience for the locals – they are worried about losing their houses and livelihoods. When the storm is over, you can move on. Please do not rely on charitable organizations for food or other items. These organizations need to focus on those who have lost everything or those who have no means to obtain food or clothing. Take responsibility for your own family and allow the organizations to help those truly in need. Most shelters do not provide you with cots, blankets or food. Be respectful and do not drag in all your camping toys. Just take basic items you need, such as a modest camping chair, sleeping bag, non-perishable food and your evacuation kit. If you go with other Campers, make arrangements to share some items to ease the burden.

My family and I have weathered hurricanes, wind storms, tornado alerts, a winter storm and the threat of wild fires in our RV. We have spent days at a shelter and lived weeks in storm aftermath. It is not always easy, yet with the proper preparation you can live to tell your own storm tales!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Garden Fountain

Looking back…

During the start of Summer 2010, we found ourselves on-the-road. In need of a break we decided to stop at a few of our favorite places in Louisiana. Unfortunately, while we were there, the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico occurred. This changed some of our plans, as coastal communities were busy with rescue, cleanup and media crews.

There was still plenty to see and do, from gardens and casinos to exploring the back roads. We even managed to partake in our first crawdad “buffet”. Which is was quite an event in itself. I never imagined seeing adults wearing bibs and gloves, eating buckets of crawdads! But that is one of the cool things about being a Full-Time RVer… detours are no obstacle and new experiences are always welcomed. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Hard to believe the Fourth of July is just around the corner! Some of my favorite Fourth’s have been while RVing. One year we toured Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. It was a beautiful summer day until it began rain. It was muddy and slippery, yet we reminded ourselves that conditions weren’t always “ideal” for those who died and fought for the freedoms that make America great.

And most recently we had a wonderful visit to Fort McHenry National Monument. The fort and grounds have a fascinating history… and the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner!

So no matter what type of memories you are making this holiday, please have a safe Fourth of July and remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Backed-in

Backed-in and ready to get some rest and relaxation for awhile…

hmm… now where did we pack that grill? ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rain on I-85

We found ourselves in a severe thunderstorm this afternoon. That will save a trip to the truck wash! ;)

We were on I-85 when we heard an odd noise. Looked in the mirrors and saw our fender torn and hanging off, while chucks of tire were flapping about. Something on the road must have hit the tire. Got the rest of the fender off without damaging the rig more… but boy, oh boy, do we have a mess to buff out from that rubber! Anyway… traffic was going over 80 mph and it was unsafe to be in the rig. So we waited alongside the highway in 96 degree temps until the road service could come out.

Even though states have laws regarding getting over for disabled vehicles, not one vehicle did for us! I can’t believe how thoughtless people are on the roadways these days. Kudos to Eddie the repair guy for braving that speeding traffic while working under our rig. He even guided us in to the local Goodyear dealer so we could replace the spare with a new tire. Fortunately we are safe… buffing and ordering a new fender is not a problem. Easy fixes compared to our safety. 

For those who follow TMN, you probably recall our May Day blow-outs on I-35 and I-30 several years ago and know we are experienced at replacing tires and fenders. We just wished Cedar Creek would discount the fenders since we buy them annually. HAHA ;)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © B&O Civil War display

If you find yourself in Baltimore, make sure you plan a visit to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. This is the birthplace of American railroading! They have some of the oldest railroad equipment on display that truly transport you back to early days of railroading.

During the time of our visit, they were celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a special exhibit “The War Came By Train”. A very interesting series of displays from different views.

Although we have been to bigger train and transportation museums, this one stands-out with the incredible roundhouse. A must-see for train enthusiasts.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©Roundhouse

In addition to the numerous trains and rolling stock on display, there is also a model train gallery, working model train exhibits, dining ware exhibit, clock and code exhibit, snack bar and gift shop. In addition, you can ride the train for one mile.

Admission to the museum is rather high and unfortunately we went during an event and it was even higher. So call ahead to make sure it’s standard admission. The train ride is an additional charge, although I honestly wouldn’t recommend this because the view is very disappointing.

Parking is free. They advertise RV and Bus Parking, but the museum is located in a section of town filled with one-way and tight-cornered streets. We found ample parking for our dually in Lot B. So make sure you have a map in the event your GPS fails to keep up with the web of streets.

For more information: www.borail.org

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©B&O Exhibit

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

If you have been in a campground, especially during a flag-holiday, you have probably seen those rotating PVC-pipe flag poles. We have seen some really creative ones. People have taken the basic pattern and added a section for a name plaque or solar lights (great in parks with no street lights so your flag is lit in the evening) or have painted the pipe either black or silver.

Usually you can find at least one person in a campground who makes them. If you want to make one yourself, there are free instructions online.

You can find everything you need to complete one at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. A good quality U.S. flag will cost you $20 – $30. Less expensive ones may fade or fray, so keep that in mind when you purchase one.

When placing your flag pole at your site, be mindful of your neighbors and the landscapers. We have seen folks place their flag pole a little too close to their neighbor’s site and when their neighbors opened their car-door they emerge into a tangled flag! Also try not to place the flag in a lawn mowers path. In addition, remember to remove your flag pole during rain and wind storms.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Boat Flag

It is hard to believe that Memorial Day Weekend is here! And that means it is officially camping season. So if you haven’t already dusted off the camping gear, packed the RV or made cabin reservations at your favorite park… you are a little late. But don’t fret! Some parks may still have openings for a night or two during the holiday weekend because of last minute cancellations – just call ahead and check on their availability.

No matter where you are spending this holiday weekend, please have a safe one and remember those who have fought (and still are!) for our freedom.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © HOOPER STRAIT LIGHTHOUSE

If you are near the Eastern Shore of Maryland, you should plan to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. This waterfront museum consists of 18 acres and is definitely worth a visit if you love boats and the water.

They not only have the Hooper Strait Lighthouse on property, but Point Lookout Tower, several boats and larger historic items; in addition, they have a boat shop where you can see apprentices working on projects, several museum buildings with multiple galleries/exhibits, a wharf, a boat-tour of the Chesapeake, Mitchell house, cabin, heirloom garden and more. Oh, and did I mention driving under the drawbridge? ;)

Admission to the museum is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors. The cost actually includes two-day admission so you don’t have to hurry to see everything. We easily spent 3 hours there and probably would have spent longer if we hadn’t other plans that day. They have benches near the lighthouse and it was peaceful just sitting there watching the boats and birds across the river.

Parking is not a problem for tow vehicles, however, you might call ahead and see if there is an event before you take the RV as Big Rig parking could be an issue during busy times.

The town of St. Michaels is very quaint with seafood restaurants and shops along the main street and waterfront.

For more information: http://www.cbmm.org/index.htm

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Niña

In February we made a trip to see the Niña and the Pinta docked in Perdido Key (FL). Unfortunately between the heavy rain and limited over-sized parking, we weren’t able to visit the ships. Imagine our delight when we visited St. Michaels (MD) today and not only got to see the ships  but also had a chance to hop on board. I’m looking forward to crossing paths with these two tall ships again. :)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Pinta

NEW!!! DYING TO WORK CAMP: A Campground Mystery (Book #3)

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HS Cooper

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