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We recently enjoyed a lovely day at Eden Gardens State Park. Located between Destin and Panama City Beach, the park is a charming retreat to “real” Florida.

Eden Gardens is an old historic homestead that includes a 1897 mansion, reflection pool, gardens and plenty of moss-draped oaks to transport you back in time.

There are also nature trails (although remember it is Florida and you should wear proper shoes and take some bottled water if you plan to hike) and a great view of Tucker Bayou.

Admission to the park is just $4 per vehicle and for an additional fee you can tour the mansion. If you plan to tour the mansion, check their website for current tour dates and hours.

http://www.floridastateparks.org/edengardens/

 If you haven’t been taking advantage of the free admission at over 300 U.S. National Parks, then don’t fret! National Park Week continues on through April 24, 2011. 🙂

Find a park near you at: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park

 

A recent outbreak of severe storms across the U.S. has reminded us to re-check our storm supplies and start thinking about Hurricane Season. As Full-Time RVers, we are always concerned about severe weather. Although RVs can withstand moderate winds, they are not intended to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm.

All Campers should invest in a NOAA weather radio or weather alert radio. A good one can be purchased for around $30 and in case storm Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information.

If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather or possible flooding (which caused much loss last summer season – especially to those tent camping) then you should find out where it is best to seek shelter or what evacuation route (i.e. flood, hurricanes) is closest. Make sure you know where to go and have a little family meeting. Even if you are just on a week vacation, discussing a plan with your family for just five minutes could end up saving your lives.

Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations. Some campgrounds may recommend their restroom or recreation buildings for shelter. Many have concrete buildings that would be a solid structure to go to if there isn’t time, such as in the case of a tornado. But if you have time and know that severe weather will affect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.

We actually stayed at a casino RV resort that had sirens to alert RV guests of a possible tornado and they would dispatch their casino shuttles to pick up everyone from the campground and take them to a secure area of the main casino building. The “plan” was actually printed on the back of the registration tag so that everyone had the information at check-in.

If there is a situation where you are told to evacuate – you must! If it is a volunteer evacuation or if you want to leave on your own accord with your RV, make sure you have: Fuel, Cash (if you can get quick access to it because ATMs do run out of money prior to disasters), Canned Foods, Water, Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio, Personal Information (i.e. insurance papers), Cell Phone (and extra batteries and the charger), Camera (in case you need to document anything afterward for insurance), Medicines Needed (and prescription information if they need refilled while you are away), First-Aid Kit, Laptop Computer and an Overnight Bag (with clothing and toiletries). The overnight bag may be needed if you find yourself stranded and are suddenly forced to leave your RV. If you have pets, a bag for them with Food, Treats, Toys and any Medicines.

If you are taking the rig, you will want to make sure your tank is filled with water, holding tanks emptied, propane tanks filled and RV and tow batteries charged. You might not arrive at your evacuation destination. We know too many RVers who have evacuated only to find themselves stuck only two or three hours from where they left. And most times, especially if it is a hurricane, you find yourself in a worse situation! So if you have adequate time, be prepared.

Storms bring out the best and the worst in people. After one hurricane, many of us gathered other folk’s belongings and secured it back on their property. We also shared food and supplies with other Campers in need. We helped cleaned up debris (as much as we could) and offered generator usage time for those who didn’t have generators.

We have also witnessed the worst in people.  As soon as travel restrictions were lifted, scavengers were driving through the RV resort looking for aluminum scraps (especially off older RVs and park models). For those who weren’t able to return or were away for the summer, their belongings that were scattered were targets for scavengers to steal.

Although RVs are self-contained, they were not designed to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm. So take some time to make a plan for your family this camping season.

hscooper - c2011

Winter camping at an early age was rough... yeah right! 🙂

I was going through some older photos the other day and realized that I was pretty much born to Camp! 🙂

I have photos of us tenting (although I’m not posting pictures of me running around in diapers! 😉 ) and then in later years upgrading to travel trailers and finally motorhomes.

Above is a picture of the old Trek we had when I was around ten years old or so. Even then we didn’t hesitate to winter-camp! I remember having to put on my blue thermal shirt and pants under my regular clothes because it was so cold. But it was always fun sledding, cross-country skiing or just playing in the snow and coming in from the cold and finding my mom making some hot chocolate on the stove.

And then there was the Coachmen (pictured below) we had in my teen years. When we went on vacation we would pick out a handful of states in a region and just go. No plans, just head down the highway and see what there was to see. Sometimes vacation didn’t coordinate with the school year, but my mom would make sure I got the assignments in advance. I would do them during the trip and return to school with them finished. It was actually fun, especially if our trip somehow matched the homework assignments – such as a history lesson on the Old West, while we were in Arizona or New Mexico.

I guess I was born to Camp. And now that Camper has grown into a modern nomad. 😉

hscooper - c2011

School work was more fun on vacation. Yep, seriously! 🙂

Since I first posted “Campground Living: Better than Reality TV” , I have received a number of requests for other reality TV-worthy “episodes” we’ve experienced at campgrounds. And yes, like Hollywood… I can offer a sequel!

We were in a campground in Texas where Tenters camped along the river and RVers had full hook-up sites above. Imagine our surprise when we heard all sorts of commotion coming from below.  Further down in the tent area a Camper’s tent and all his gear had been thrown in the river. You could see some of it still floating (part of the tent, sleeping bags and coolers) as the river current was moving it too quickly to sink. He was running and shouting along the river, apparently hoping someone could save his gear. It turned out to be quite an ordeal, as the sheriff was called and began searching the campground for the culprits.

That reminds me of the RV resort we were staying at in Florida. A seasonal RVer with a fifth-wheel got his tow vehicle repossessed right before he was going to head northward. We moved on shortly after so I don’t know how that issue was resolved.

While staying at a campground in Virginia, we were surprised to see a travel trailer back in beside us with a mobile kennel of-sorts. Their pickup truck was filled with wire, dog cages (two with dogs) and a huge dog house. They unhooked the trailer and began erecting a fence with the dog house in the center. The caged dogs were placed inside, as well as the dogs already in the trailer and the one they had riding inside the pickup truck. They told us their dogs just loved going on vacation and being outdoors. That really surprised me considering they spent the weekend barking at everything they saw and heard outside! (I like dogs, but most campgrounds do have rules about leaving them outside for long periods, especially unattended or for constant barking.)

Several years ago I was riding my bike around at a campground in South Florida. After passing the pull-thru area I realized there were two tents set up beside a fifth-wheel. It is unusual to see tents in pull-thru sites but I didn’t think anymore of it until I made my next lap around and saw the little fences set up at the side of each tent. Inside the little fences were pot-bellied pigs. Again, I didn’t think much of it… okay, at first I was a little surprised… but pets like to travel too. 🙂 But the next day when I rode by and saw them dressed up… well, that had me wondering… did they pay the daily pet charge or extra person rate? 😉

I have to say that one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen happened at a family campground in Virginia. We didn’t know the folks who set up camp a few sites down from us were on a hunting trip. Imagine our surprise when we pulled up our dining room shades only to see a dead deer hanging from the tree on their campsite. Fortunately, that week’s free campground movie wasn’t “Bambi”.

Yes - that is exactly what you think it is! 😦

Honestly though, I’d miss seeing these things (well, not necessarily a freshly killed deer hanging from a tree) if we weren’t full-timing. Forget the TV, we just pull-up our window shade and see who or what pulls in beside us ~ now that’s entertainment! 😉

PLEASE NOTE: I originally posted this without the photo, but after receiving a few emails doubting a campground would allow that… well, I decided to go ahead and post the photo. I do apologize if it bothers you.

I was hoping to see Anchorage again... but there's always next summer!

Economic conditions, rising fuel costs and environmental factors have left us and other Full-Timers wondering which road we should take – quite literally.

Our summer plans were to head westward once again and spent some time in the Pacific Northwest and then heading to Canada and Alaska.

Yet that is the benefit of the Full-Timer lifestyle. We aren’t stuck in a particular town, state or even region. We are mobile and can move on or just remain in the same area.

Sometimes we have planned to travel an area only to find we are faced with detours or just… well… find ourselves turning down a different road.

Like life, we don’t always end up where we had hoped or planned to be.

However, I truly believe that there is a reason we find ourselves on the backroads of life. Sometimes you see some amazing things and met some equally amazing people – Opportunities you wouldn’t have had travelling down the super-highway.

So we will remain on the East coast just a little while longer. I know there is another adventure to get “lost” into this summer. And who knows, it maybe the most incredible one yet! 🙂

Who knows what adventure awaits this summer!

If you find yourself in Panama City Beach for Spring Break… well, don’t forget there is more to the area than beautiful beaches. Located off Hwy. 98 (Back Beach Road) you’ll find the Man in the Sea Museum.

It is a great way to experience the history of underwater exploration. There is a small admission fee and the museum is open everyday except Mondays.

More information can be found at their website: http://maninthesea.org/

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