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TRAVEL TALES…

Over the years we’ve been to many unusually named places – from Sopchoppy (FL) to Rough and Ready (CA). But sometimes it is the common-named places that are more memorable.

Like the time we stopped to eat outside Louisville (KY) and got into a rather in-depth discussion on how to properly pronounce the city’s name. Several options were thrown out and it wasn’t until a restaurant employee walked by our table that we got the idea to ask a local.

We flagged the gal over and explained that we wanted to know, very slowly if she could, pronounce where we were at. Rather surprised, she looked us over, shrugged and replied, “B-u-r-g-e-r K-i-n-g.”

Needless to say, we don’t ask that question anymore!

 

On this date seven years ago…

We were exploring scenic Highway 391 in the Eastern Sierras (California). Our first stop had us camping just outside Bridgeport, where we were fortunate to visit Bodie State Historical Park.  That morning we woke up to a rather chilly 19 degrees. In fact, in all our travels it was the first time our water hose had ever frozen!

Later that day we were on the road again, traveling from the chilly ghost town to the hellish landscape of Death Valley National Park, where the temperature was near 100 degrees. It was certainly one of the most memorable trips we have had to date.

Over the years we’ve had our own unexplained ghostly adventures… like our time spent at Bodie State Historic Park (CA). Bodie is a modern-day ghost town. When the California State Park system took over Bodie, it left all the buildings as they stood. This is one of the most unforgettable places we have ever been. There is so much history there it consumes you. You can almost feel towns folk walking along the street beside you. Peering through windows you feel invisible eyes staring back. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the Eastern Sierras.

Another place to note is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (MO). This was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. The park is a five-mile driving tour and you are literally driving back through time. In fact, at one point I think I really did! I had gotten out of the truck at one stop to take a photo of two cannons in a field and when I walked past the first cannon I was overcome with chills. I assumed it was from stepping out of the air-conditioning into the ninety-plus degree heat. But after I took a photo of the farthest cannon, I walked back to the first and I got chills and goosebumps again. I stepped toward the cannon to take a photo and swear I heard someone shout “NO” in my ear. Boy, did I hustle myself back to the safety of the Silverado!

Although we have visited Pensacola Lighthouse (FL) several times, we returned to visit last year to see the lighthouse decorated for Christmas. Even though the lighthouse is haunted, I didn’t see the Ghost of Christmas Past – but I did feel a section of cool air as I entered the Keeper’s room. The last time I visited there had a similar experience in that area. And on the previous visit I had also felt someone watching me in the basement. So even after telling myself I wasn’t going in the basement this last visit, I did. However, they had a clothed dummy sitting at the desk at the base of the stairs and it startled me so much I jumped backwards onto the steps again!

Then there was the time we planned a trip to see Appomattox Court House National Historic Park (VA). Those a little dusty with their history may recall the name but not the significance of the location. This was the surrender grounds, where Generals Lee and Grant put an end to the Civil War. The building where this historic moment occurred, the McLean House, still stands. After touring the house we went outside to one of the other buildings. No sooner had we stepped through the doorway when we found ourselves quickly stepping back outside. Hard to explain why we all got goosebumps, but it just felt very wrong in there. We resumed our tour of the park and enjoyed the other buildings without problem. At least for a little while…I have a tendency to lag behind as I read every plaque and take a number of photos. We were visiting the new jail and the other two were already heading outside while I was alone upstairs. I was snapping a few photos of the window when I felt a chill. Looking down I saw I had goosebumps again. I shrugged it off until I heard a cough come from the cell. Then I headed down the stairs as quickly as I could!

But the eeriest thing happened just a few weeks ago while touring the USS Alabama (AL). The battleship is about seven hundred feet long from stem to stern and if you take the self-guided tours it will take about two hours. Parts of the ship were rather warm and stuffy and I quickly found myself finishing the tour alone. Although there were other people touring the ship, I managed to always stay a room or two apart. I was getting a little dehydrated and just poked my head in a few rooms to quickly finish that section of the tour. As I looked in one room, an officer’s quarters I believe, I noted the typewriter on the desk and was about to head to the next room when I heard the sound of an old typewriter. It was just two keystrokes. My first thought was that another room nearby had some sort of voiced display and a visitor had activated it. So I quickly continued with the tour. But after I finished that section of the tour, I saw there was nothing like that. Where did that distinctive sound come from?

Sometimes when you visit historic sites you get more awareness of history than you paid admission for… 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Northstar Mine Museum

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Northstar Mine Museum

Looking back…

In the Fall of 2008 we were fortunate to be exploring California’s Gold Country. One day trip had us visiting the Northstar Mine Powerhouse Museum in Grass Valley (CA). The museum had hundreds of exhibits, including a stamp mill and the largest Pelton Wheel ever constructed.

Along the self-guided tour, I remember thinking how difficult it must have been to work with the huge and often dangerous equipment during the mining process. A hazardous profession dedicated to finding a little lump of glittery color.

After an hour in the museum I was glad to be outside again and cross the bridge to the little picnic area. It was a pleasant day to just sit there and soak up the golden sun.

Today I turn on the television and see others using similar method, once again in search of a little speck of gold. Funny how we have a way of falling back into history.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © BRIDGEPORT

Looking back…

Doing a little Spring cleaning (okay, someone is really optimist for Spring around here!) and came across a collection of glittery vials from the summer we panned for gold along the South Yuba River.

Bridgeport covered bridge across the South Yuba River, just outside Penn Valley (CA), is definitely a must see when visiting Gold Country. Gold panning (“pans and hands”) is allowed along this stretch of the river. A wonderful place for a relaxing day trip, the South Yuba River State Park offers visitors hiking trails, visitor’s center, picnic area and restrooms. A short walk from the main parking area you will find an old cemetery and barn exhibit (with old wagons).

While you are there, stop in to the visitor’s center and pick up a gold pan kit and try it yourself! The volunteers and park officials will be happy to provide you with information on the technique. You will be amazed to see that the water under the bridge is literally glittering with gold flakes! Of course, it’s not enough to buy a new RV, but you’ll find your day at the Yuba priceless. 🙂

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © SOUTH YUBA RIVER

You just never know what kind of history you are going to dig up (hmm… poor choice of words, perhaps!) at a cemetery. Like the time we were gold panning along the Yuba River (CA) and found a small trail leading to a cemetery. The small cemetery revealed to be the resting place of a Captain Thompson and his descendents – a ship’s captain until his crew abandoned ship for the promise of riches in California’s gold fields. And there are those with a voiceless past, like the Yuma Territorial Prison Cemetery (AZ) where there are no grave markers, just rows of rock mounds… It really is amazing what you can learn at these locations. So why not plot… uh, I mean plan, a trip to visit a historic one near you?

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © CRESCENT CITY, CA

Looking back…

In the Summer of 2008 we found ourselves along scenic Highway 101 near Crescent City (CA). We found a nice little campground and enjoyed visiting Redwood National and State Parks, in addition to Battery Point Lighthouse. Although we found ourselves with poor timing and had to return to visit the lighthouse. Battery Point is only accessible from shore during low tide. There are many sites to see along the coast and we look forward to returning in the near future.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © California State Railroad Museum

Looking back…

We spent the summer of 2008 exploring California. One interesting thing about California is the railroad history. Now, who doesn’t love trains? We enjoyed visiting the different depots and train-related attractions. Our favorite was the California State Railroad Museum. It is definitely the largest train museum we’ve ever visited. The museum is located in Old Sacramento or “Old Sac”. This area contains many historic buildings and even wooden boardwalks. It really is hard to imagine you are in a state capital. If you find yourself in Sacramento you should plan to spend a day in Old Sac and visit the train museum.

Slideshow images from our visit: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/california/train-museum/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Eek!

Digging out the Halloween decorations, I have to chuckle… a few are from Washington, some Virginia, some Florida, some Texas and, quite honestly, some I can’t recall what state they came from!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Especially since there are bowls of chocolate everywhere you go and it gives me an excuse to watch Harry Potter movies all month! But for those who have never camped in October, you might be surprised how popular of holiday it is in campgrounds.

Many campgrounds have Halloween activities from carving pumpkins to haunted hayrides. Some have designated site trick-or-treating for the children and most parks encourage families to decorate their campsites. A few places we have been have even held decorating contests.

One year we were in Virginia and the campground celebrated Halloween every weekend in October. Folks were encouraged to decorate. Normally we keep our outside items at a minimum, but that year we decided to go “all-out” and we based our theme on a children’s Halloween party. We decorated our picnic table with costumed “children” having a Halloween party. The table included plates, cups, candy (emptied and resealed wrappers, of course!), plastic toys (spiders, bats, pumpkins) and orange Halloween lights. And the table was even webbed-over by a few rather ambitious spiders adding to the design. The “children” were dressed up, such as a skeleton, scarecrow and, of course, Frankenstein. Our little creations were easy to make – we created their bodies out of recycled water bottles, two-liter soda bottles and one-gallon tea containers. All their costumes were purchased from the local thrift store for less than ten dollars. When the party was over – the “children” went into recycle bin and their clothes get washed and donated back to the local thrift store.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Little Frankie

One year we spent Halloween in Washington and that year it was a little too wet to put out decorations. Although that was an unforgettable Halloween for us – we hiked to Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park. It was 31 degrees! Oh, and did I mention that we were camped beside a cemetery and the week before they had an attempted grave robbery? No? Well, I’ll have to save that for another time! 😉

Another year we were on the road, exploring scenic Highway 391 in the Eastern Sierras. That was another October of extreme temperature changes for us. We went from 19 degrees (our hose froze) outside Bridgeport (we were visiting Bodie SHP) to over 100 degrees at Death Valley NP. Traveling from the “cool” ghost town to the hellish landscape of Death Valley was certainly an experience!

And then there was there year that we were in Florida and the monkeys…oh goodness, I could go on-and-on! I wonder what memories we’ll make this year? Although I do know it will involve at least one bag of KitKat’s! 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Some of the best places we have discovered have been a result of our “Get Lost” days. A Get Lost day, is where we just do that! We grab the road map (you know, those paper things they had before GPS… well, we still have those!), pack a lunch and take off in one direction and see where we end up!

One such trip was heading through the mountains in California to Downieville and the Sierra Buttes. Although I will point out that if you are heading into the unknown, make sure your fuel tank is full! 😉 Downieville is a quaint little town and it is a very scenic drive. A few smaller towns along the route are rather interesting… one of which I regret not getting a photo of the “Dogs Playing in Street” sign!

Our Get Lost days have turned into some incredible site-seeing trips. So next time you have some free time, plan to Get Lost! 😉

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

My absolute favorite stop in California is Bodie State Historical Park – it is a modern-day ghost town that has been left exactly the way it was. When the California State Park system took over Bodie, it left all the buildings as they stood.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Hwy 395 goes along the east-side of the Sierras. This route is definitely one of the most scenic drives you can experience in the mountains.  The drive to Bodie SHP is a rather long 18 miles off of the main road. There are warnings against taking recreational vehicles as there are limited parking spots and the road is very rough. The last three miles of the road is nothing but dirt and stone. This section of road is extremely rough. In fact, the heavy-duty toolbox in the bed of our pickup truck (which traveled tens of thousands of miles unfastened) moved from its spot almost 6 inches. So if you are traveling in a RV, you should park it at a local campground and make the trip in your tow vehicle.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

The above photo is actually one of my favorites. I was looking in the school house and the reflection from the window revealed the beautiful scenery behind me and offered a view from the school’s other window to see buildings on the other side of the street. It was one of those past, present, future moments for me. 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

This is one of the most unforgettable places I have ever been. There is so much history there, it consumes you. You can almost feel towns folk walking along the streets right beside you. It is a must-see for anyone visiting that region of California.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

This place is absolutely amazing and the history of “the bad men from Bodie” is fascinating. If you find yourself headed to the east-side of Yosemite National Park, take the hour drive northward to Bodie SHP. You won’t be disappointed!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

More photos can be seen at: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/california/bodie-state-historical-park/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©
Smoky haze over the American River at Coloma (CA)

Looking back…

In 2008, we spent most of the summer  in California Gold Country. At that time there were fires burning throughout most of the region and the lack of rain coupled with a heat wave didn’t help the situation. I remember days where temps reached near 100°F and despite the heat, you still had to wear a mask because the smoky haze made it difficult to breathe.

But we didn’t let Mother Nature stop us from exploring beautiful California or go panning for gold. I took the photo above near the Marshall Gold Discovery SHP, just off Highway 49. Just across the bridge is a pull-off and a place to pan (“pans and hands” only) for gold. It was almost 100°F that day and it felt good to take off our shoes and step into the rocky river to pan.

So if you find yourself in that area, take a break from the curvy highway and try your hand at panning. And if seeking the shiny stuff isn’t your thing, there is a rafting outfitter nearby and you can take a cool trip down the American River.

So this is what they mean by throwing your money away! 🙂

I took this photo in Lincoln (CA), which is just outside Sacramento. We actually passed it and had to find a place to pull over so that I could walk back and get a photo. You just can’t pass up a sign of the times! 😉

Since Hollywood still hasn’t picked up on the idea of using a campground as the basis for a reality TV show and I still get a few emails each month asking about a third installment… Well, here are a few more unusual events we’ve experienced Full-Timing.

This is one we have only shared a few times because it is rather odd to bring up in a conversation. We were staying at a campground in Washington. Little did we know at the time of our arrival that the campground was located beside a cemetery and that we would be camped next to it. (You can read more about this at Campground Living: Better than Reality TV .) It was at the tail end of October, so the campground was dead (okay, pun intended) and it was just us and the current hosts camped in the park. On the third night, we were asleep when we heard activity outside. Peering out the windows revealed a woman with a flashlight and shovel roaming the cemetery across the chain-link fence. Now our first thoughts were some crazy Halloween prank, but after opening a window and hearing the woman talking to herself about getting back “the ring”… well, we grew a bit concerned. Our cell phone didn’t work well in the area, so we weren’t sure what to do until there was a knock at the door!  Normally we don’t open the door at night, but a peak out the window revealed the duty host. She heard the woman’s vehicle and saw some sort of activity and wanted to know if we had any idea what was going on. Of course, we had no clue – why would someone be at a cemetery in the middle of an October night with a flashlight and shovel? Hmm… Anyway, it was decided to contact the park owner and ask her how to proceed.  Eventually the owners arrived with the local law. The short of the story is the woman wanted her mother’s ring – she had died several years earlier. The woman was roaming the cemetery looking for the plot to dig up the ring. So forget the walking dead, it’s the roaming heirs you need to watch out for!

Your neighbors are dead-quite when you camp by a cemetery!

This reminds me of the Full-Timers we met at a RV resort in Florida who can’t part with their dearly departed pets. They have their pet ashes in little urns under their bed. Having lost a pet, I understand, but that’s a little too creepy for me. And it also serves as a reminder that if you buy a used RV to check under the bed storage area!

A question I got emailed after posting the second “Campground Living” asked if we have seen other “trophies” at campgrounds. No we haven’t – thank goodness! But there was a funny episode involving a bear.

Bear or Big Foot fur? Next time I see a bear, I hope to have the camera handy!

We were staying in California at the time and a bear made its way across the road near the campground entrance. You would think most people would go running for cover… well, this poor bear had a parade of people following it!  No, I wasn’t one of them! I ran to get the camera. Meanwhile, the bear headed down the hill, toward the lake and then high-tailed it into the woods again. Unfortunately by the time I grabbed my camera, it was long gone. But I did get a photo of some fur left behind. Although, it could be from Big Foot for all I know! And no I didn’t keep it for a souvenir! 😉

That brings me to hairy men! We stayed a RV park in Texas and were getting settled in when our new “neighbors” moved in a site from us. They erected a garage-sized tent with sides! We were in a RV-only (no tents allowed) section of the park. We assumed they were having some sort of weekend outing and had permission…but imagine our surprise when a  flat-bed trailer arrived and unloaded a custom golf cart (with speakers), large-screen TV, stereo, sat dish, tables, chairs and a Tiki bar! All these items (except the golf cart) made their way into the tent. Then came a mini van which unloaded several boxes of bottles to stock the bar. And as the day went on, the lonely tree on the camp site became a sign post, which they decorated with beer signs and tacky outdoor lights. Oh, and who can forget the flags? Not one, not two, but five full-size flags were flying by the end of the day.  Of course they put a cheap metal spotlight on the flags so they could be seen a mile away at night.  After a night of loud music and unregistered cars pulling in all the vacant sites around us… we learned this was no weekend outing. These folks were calling the RV park “home” for a few months and that a handful of the “neighbors” were welcomed at the bar – at all hours. Now we have seen a great deal while living the RV lifestyle, but this was a little more than we could tolerate and we quickly moved on. I guess camping beside grave diggers and black bear routes have spoiled  us a bit! 🙂

So Hollywood is really missing out not using a campground as the basis for a reality TV show. But I guess if they did make one, no one would believe it was reality anyway! 😉

If you ever find yourself near Penn Valley, California… and you’re just itching to try your hand at panning for gold… make sure you spend a few hours at the South Yuba River State Park.

The highlight of the park is the covered bridge. Amazing photos and information about its history can be found in the visitor’s center.

During the summer, the park hosts gold panning demonstrations. You can purchase inexpensive equipment in the visitor’s center and pan for gold right under the bridge. Don’t be shocked when you look into the water and see gold glitter! Although it’s not the “big stuff”, it is fun to see a pan full of gold water. 😉

If you do pan, you should take water-proof boots as the water is very cold after a few minutes. And if you take a picnic lunch,  keep it in your vehicle until you are ready for it. We found the squirrels were hoping to “pan-out” with our picnic while we were panning! 😉

There is some old equipment and buildings in the park which add to the history of the area. Within walking distance is an old cemetery. There are several hiking trails, one is even wheel-chair accessible.

There are different parking areas, but the main area down by the bridge is paved and has adequate room for tows and smaller RVs.

For more information: http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=496

We panned for gold right at this spot!

I have been working on updating TMN’s pages the last few days and must confess… it wasn’t until today when I planned to move the photo pages, that I realized just what a crazy camera person I am! I literally have tens of thousands of photos now!!!

While I sort through all these flash drives and re-capture some wonderful memories, please be patient. My “plan” is to have pages offering a sampling of some of the amazing parks and sites this beautiful country has to offer under each State in the Photos section.  I will slowly work on uploading photos of states already listed, then add on those I do not. 

For those who subscribe to posts, you will not be getting the new page updates via email. So you will have to make sure you stop by now-and-then! 🙂

PHOTO: Photo above is from… well, no, I’m not going to tell you! You’ll just have to stop back later and find out! 😉

Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City, California is well worth a visit! The lighthouse is actually on a small island just offshore. The lighthouse is only open (during season) when the tide permits folks to “walk” over. On our first visit we actually missed it, but fortunately there are so many other scenic sites in the area, that we had no problem returning later in the day. 🙂

NOTE: Information and driving directions to Battery Point Lighthouse can be found at: http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=58

Incredible place to see if you journey West… I took over 300 photos during our visit! 🙂

Cedar Creek SilverbackToday a health emergency was declared in the United States because of the recent spread of the swine flu. For Seasonal and Full-Time RVers on the move to their summer stays, this is an issue we don’t take likely.

Many Seasonals and Full-Timers winter along the Texas-Mexico or Arizona-Mexico border and either make shopping trips across the border or come in contact with those who have. And the winter RVers are a mix of American and Canadian citizens.

So not only is there a concern of being exposed to it crossing state lines, but from Mexico or the US into Canada. With cases reported in New York, many of our Canadian Seasonal friends who spend a month in New York before returning home for the summer are worried about it.

There are precautions you can take to prevent yourself from getting and spreading disease. My family and I actually became more conscious of the spread of diseases several years ago when I was undergoing cancer treatment. I couldn’t be around anyone sick or exposed to other diseases during that time. It changed how we viewed the “outside” world.

Here are some things you can do to protect your family from disease while you are on the road.

Have hand sanitizer in your vehicle. Make sure you have a small bottle for each person (put it in each person’s door or the center council and mark their name on it). The best kind to have is the ones that require no water. Each time people get into the vehicle, they should clean their hands. If the person handled other public items prior to getting in (such as touching a door or shopping cart), make sure he or she wipes off their door handle, door lock or window area (anywhere that is touched) with a handi-wipe.

They make convenient little containers and packages of handi-wipes. Some are even designed to fit inside your cup holder – talk about “handy”! Also make sure to have a liter bag in your vehicle to dispose of dirty handi-wipes and facial tissue. We dispose of our liter bag every stop and put in a new one.

Have individual handi-wipes in your purse, pocket or backpack and use them! Do not rely on public restrooms to have filled soap containers or even hot water. I am surprised when I do come across a fully-stocked public restroom.

If you are an RVer currently on the road, it’s best that you don’t rely on public restrooms. Use your own RV if you can get access to the bathroom. Some RVers don’t like using their own bathroom during transit because they don’t like carrying extra water or don’t want to have anything in their holding tanks.

You don’t have to have your water tank filled to use your toilet. You can use purchase hand sanitizer that requires no water to wash your hands and place a gallon (or two) jug of water in your bathroom sink to use to flush.

If you’re worried about “stuff” sitting in the bottom of your empty black water tank, place a bag of ice in it before you leave. This is a great way to clean your tank sensors – as the ice rocks back and forth it breaks up material and then melts leaving some water in the tank. This is not a great deal of water weight to be carrying either, but enough to have in the tank if you use your bathroom without having freshwater.

Another thing to avoid is eating out while you are on the road. We’re RVers – we’re self-contained! We shouldn’t rely on McDs or Flying J to feed us every hundred miles. Make some sandwiches before you leave and either place them in your refrigerator or in a cooler in your tow. Pull over at a rest area or find a parking spot wherever you fuel up and have a picnic. If you must stop to have that Whopper, then use sense. Make sure you have your handi-wipes and use them!

One thing that bothers us is the lack of sanitation in restaurants. Ever have a sickly cashier walk over to get your fries? Ever see the cook come out of the restroom wearing his or her apron? Keep your eyes posted for potential problems. And if you can, call them out on it. Let the manager know you saw the cook going into the restroom with an apron, let them know they aren’t washing their hands, etc… It could save someone’s life!

When I had to go out in public during my cancer treatment, I wore a surgical mask. Yes, they look geeky, but if you find yourself in an area where there is any type of sickness, you’ll be glad to have one. They can be found at most pharmacies or medical supplies. I bought my last box of disposable ones at a Harbor Freight store for under $3. We keep a handful in our vehicle and I always have one in my purse. You never know when they will come in handy. Last summer during the California wildfires, we found the smoke particulate levels very high (they gave daily reports on how bad it was) and if we had to be out in it, the masks worked great.

Something we recently started doing is when we stop for the night, we spray Lysol inside our truck. The next day or whenever we are ready to leave, we spray our fifth-wheel with Lysol before hooking it up.

Most RVers do have their own cell phones and computers; however, if you don’t and have to rely on a pay phone or visit a local library to log-on, remember to use handi-wipes over the phone and number pad and the computer keyboard and mouse.

These are just a few ways to protect your family while travelling. With the spread of disease and major health issues today, this is a concern you shouldn’t take lightly.

Right now with the scary economic situation, many folks are looking into becoming RVers. The RV lifestyle is a cheaper way to live, yet there things to keep in mind before making that lifestyle leap.

Even if a Full-Timer doesn’t own a stick-house, doesn’t mean they don’t have monthly payments to make on their rig and/or tow vehicles, as well as credit cards, food and medical expenses and any other regular bills. Even used RVs can cost more than the average house. And unlike thirty-year mortgages  for stick-houses, you can usually only extend your payment to ten years on a RV.

Campgrounds or RV resorts vary in monthly or annual rates – some can be as low as $150 a month (in Texas, if you’re curious!) and exceed $2800 a month (Key West). Keep in mind this is just “rent” you pay to park your RV. It should include sewer, water, garbage service and electricity. However, electricity may be metered – so you may find yourself with a monthly electric bill. Extra amenities, such as Cable TV or SAT TV, WiFi and park activities are usually free, but many parks are now charging modest fees for monthly and annual stays. Always check into this before committing to a particular campground or RV resort.

And don’t forget you need fuel and propane. Right now the prices on both are going down, but that is always subject to change and does vary area-to-area. We paid $5.29 for diesel leaving California and are now paying $1.89 for it in Texas. Big difference! Propane in Washington was $3.50 and in Texas we have been paying $2.20. So it makes budgeting difficult.

Yet you can save money while RVing or living the RV lifestyle! The most popular is to be a Camp Host or work at a campground or RV resort to get a free (or reduced) site space and utilities. Often these positions come with additional perks, such as free Cable TV, WiFi, discounted propane, laundry allowances and even pay. This alone can say you hundreds to thousands of dollars each month and basically give you free living.

If you find a camp hosting position that provides discounted propane or provides a propane allowance (meaning you are allowed so many free fill-ups per month), then that helps reduce propane costs. Another way to save on propane is to shop around. Some campgrounds provide propane services and often this may be more expensive than traveling a few miles into town. If you have a motorhome and rely on a propane truck to come into the campground to fill your tanks, you should consider getting a spare that you can take elsewhere to refill until you can drive your motorhome to propane dealer. For example, our motorhome neighbors who have to rely on the propane truck are paying $3.50 for propane and we take our tanks into town (6 miles) and pay only $2.20.

Another thing to mention is if you are not paying for monthly electricity and have everything on propane (hot water heater, refrigerator, furnace) then you should switch it to electricity to save your propane. If your not in an extremely cold climate, consider getting a ceramic heater to help reduce use of the furnace. If you are paying for monthly electricity usage, then you may want to do the opposite and switch them over to propane. It depends on what it is costing you in the long run. Do the math and see which is best for your situation.

You can save money on fuel several ways. First and foremost – pay cash! Most fuel stops are now charging for credit card purchases. It may be faster to put your credit card in to pay, but if you’re barely making your credit card payment… the interest is going to increase your fuel costs even more… so keep this in mind when you pay at the pump. Secondly, consider joining frequent fuel-er programs. Many are worth the saving involved. Most larger truck stops and travel centers have some sort of program. And often there are additional perks to these programs. For instance, Flying J has a frequent fuel-er program, but if you upgrade to the RV card you also get a discount on propane! And the more you fuel up, the more savings you get. Some programs include other services, such as store purchases and restaurant visits. Nothing beats a fuel stop than the clerk telling you that you have a free pizza owed to you or you just saved $15 with your card! And if you are planning to make a long haul through remote regions, consider purchasing a few fuel cans. When you arrive at a place with cheaper fuel, fill them up. This way when you travel and see the insane “only gas station for 300 miles” prices, you can toot your horn and keep driving by.  Even if you aren’t making a long trip, filling up your extra tanks before prices rise (especially at the holidays) can save you a few extra dollars. Just make sure your extra tanks are secure and if visible, have some sort of chain-lock through them. If your rig or tow vehicles don’t have locking gas caps, you should look into that as well. While parked in the campground you can save money on fuel by car-pooling with a camping neighbor. This sort of arrangement is always appreciated and can be alternated between neighbors. If you’re close to town consider using local transportation, such as a shuttle or bus service or ride your bike.

Camping supplies can be costly, especially if you buy them from a camping store. Shop around! For instance, those quick-flick lighters RVers love to ignite their gas stoves can cost $5 in a camping supply store, $3 at Wal-mart and only $1 at the Dollar Tree. It’s pretty much the same thing – may not be the designer color you want – but still fits the same purchase. If there is something camping-related you need – such as a folding bike or lounge chairs – check your campground bulletin board. Often RVers upgrade (or downsize) and have items to sell or even giveaway. If you need some sort of part for your rig – contact your RV dealer and see if you are still under warranty. You would be surprised how many people forget that certain items are guaranteed longer. If not, ask the dealer about a customer discount. Sometimes they will take a percentage off your bill for purchasing a RV through their dealership. They recognize your patronage and want to keep you as a customer.

Campground pecans - free food!

Campground pecans - free food!

Food expenses have been a recent concern for folks as fuel prices have fluctuated. Many campgrounds offer coupon exchange areas (usually located in the laundry areas). Don’t be too proud to use coupons! And if  you have extra, share them with your fellow Campers. If you belong to a wholesale or discount club, make sure you really are getting a deal. Sometimes you’ll find that they are actually higher on bulk items. If bulk is a better deal, but you have no extra space, consider going in with a neighbor on the deal! Most Full-Time RVers belong to either Costco or SAM’s Club and love sharing deals with other Campers. And sharing a meal or having a weekly potluck with your camping neighbors is a great way to help cut food costs.

Also, take advantage of local farmer’s markets and flea markets. If you are getting ready to move on, stock up on the local fare. While in Washington we bought twenty pounds of potatoes for only $2. Before we moved on, we made sure we had plenty. Our next stop we found that twenty pounds potatoes would cost us $6. When we left California, we made sure we had plenty of citrus and olives on hand. Before our next move we will have about five pounds of Texas pecans (free for the picking here in the campground) ready to go with us.

Living the RV life can be more affordable if you keep your eyes on the road ahead and wisely manage (and limit) your expenses.

 

Bodie State Historic Park, CA

Bodie State Historic Park, CA

I recently read an article on places you “must” visit in the United States before you die and I was shaking my head in disbelief. The writer focused more on expensive lodging (and wine) and it read like an advertisement in a hospitality trade magazine.

I always wonder how much travelling the writers of these “must visit” articles have done and the reasons they pick various destinations. The usually do not explain their criteria for choosing these “must visit” sites.

Of course, that prompted me to think of places that I personally recommend folks visit! My criteria for these are based on the following: historic significance, photographic opportunities, expense and remoteness.

I think historic significance is very important. It makes your trip more than just a vacation; it makes it a learning experience. Opinions vary on the subject of what is beautiful, so I think a photographic opportunity is a good way to describe an area. It may not be breathtaking to someone, but they’ll find their camera memory card full when they leave! With the economy these days, most folks have found a tighter budget, especially dealing with travel and vacations. These destinations are either free or have a modest admission charge. They also have other sites or attractions nearby that are affordable to the average family. Remoteness is another criterion, as some of those “must visit” destinations are so far off the map that they are not practical for most families to visit. These destinations are accessible to anyone – no need to parachute in or trek 30 miles through the jungle to get to it! And most are great spots for RVers and families to spend some quality time.

Many state or national parks are either free or involve a small fee. If you plan to experience a few of America’s incredible parks, take advantage of purchasing an annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass ( http://www.nps.gov/ ) . If you are 62 or older, it only costs you $10!

Here are 49 destinations – one in each state that that I have visited (sorry Hawaii… haven’t got to you yet!) that I recommend seeing if you get the chance. A few states have numerous sites of interests (like lighthouses).

 1) U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville – AL (Great museum and exhibits; also home to the U.S. Space Camp. This is very educational for all ages.)

2) Gulf of Alaska, Seward – AK (Take a glacier cruise and experience glaciers, whales and the most beautiful scenery you can imagine! If you take the train from Anchorage, make sure you allow enough time to explore Seward before or after your cruise.)

3) Grand Canyon National Park – AZ (After touring the park, I took a helicopter tour – amazing!)

4) Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro – AR (Hunt for precious stones and diamonds at the only diamond site available to the public. Keep what you find!)

5) Bodie State Historic Park, Bridgeport – CA (A modern day “ghost town” kept exactly as it was when the state acquired it. Be prepared to spend the day to enjoy this amazing look at our past!)

6) Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez – CO (Anasazi ruins that you won’t forget! Dress for walking though.)

7) Lighthouses – CT (There are a handful of breathtaking lighthouses that shouldn’t be missed!)

8 ) Lighthouses – DE (The thing I like about this region of the U.S. is the lighthouses and there are some interesting ones in DE.)

9) Orlando / Kissimmee / St. Cloud – FL (There is so much to see and do in Florida, that I couldn’t narrow it down to that “one thing”. This region is great because it’s only 2 hours from the coast and pretty much anything you like to do is nearby! From theme parks to flea markets to nature walks and great food – it’s all here!)

10) High Falls State Park, Jackson – GA (Interesting history how this area became a “ghost town”. Now it’s a beautiful park with great places to hike and camp along the river.)

11) Ghost Towns – ID (Many people don’t realize that Idaho has a number of ghost and mining towns left to explore. A few of the state park sites offer gold panning as well.)

12) Super Museum, Metropolis – IL (Yep, Superman! Kids will love it and adults will remember the good old days. IL is actually a “super” state, with the Dick Tracy museum.)

13) Shipshewana – IN (From flea markets and shopping to experiencing the Amish culture, there is something for everyone here.)

14) Covered Bridges / John Wayne’s Birthplace, Winterset – IA (If you enjoyed the movie and book about Madison County, it is definitely a must see. Although a few driving tours are not good for RVs or big rigs. If you like trains, you may want to head over to Boone and hope on the B&SV!)

15) Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway – KS (From sandhill cranes to bald eagles, an amazing route!)

16) Mammoth Cave National Park – KY (A must see if you enjoy exploring caverns. They offer a variety of tours and have senior rates. If you aren’t a cave person, then the next spot to see in KY would be Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.)

17) North & South Toledo Bend – LA (This region has so much to see and do it would keep an active family very busy for several weeks. From historic sites to aquariums to outdoor activities!)

18) Lighthouses / Bridges / Waterfalls – ME (Too numerous to list, but if you haven’t visited a lighthouse, you haven’t experienced ME!)

19) Assateague Island National Seashore – MD (See the wild horses at Assateague Island, but remember they are wild and are not tame animals. Respectfully observe from a distance.)

20) Salem – MA (Rich in history and plenty to see and do!)

21) Mesick – MI (Go mushroom hunting! Although it is not recommend for big rigs to go into the parks. Find a campground to unhook your tow. There is nothing like getting up before the deer and tromping in the woods for morels!)

22) Voyageurs National Park, International Falls – MN (A water-based park that is great to canoe or kayak.)

23) Gulf Islands National Seashore – MS (Before another hurricane hits the Gulf coast – go see it!)

24) Meramec Caverns, Stanton – MO (Missouri is a great state for touring caves and families will love this one. It’s open year-round and we actually toured the caverns in the winter.)

25) Wild Horse Island State Park, Kalispell – MT (Don’t miss this park on your way to Glacier National Park!)

26) Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park – NE (Lots of birding opportunities in NE, but don’t forget about the past!)

27) Hoover Dam / Lake Mead / Las Vegas – NV (RVers will be stopped by Homeland Security to search your rig before crossing Hoover Dam and once at the dam, be prepared for congestion as you navigate the winding way down. Hoover Dam tours are rather expensive for families, but watch the movie VEGAS VACATION before you go so you know what you missed on the “dam tour”. 😉 )

28) Shaker Village, Canterbury – NH (Lots to do in NH, but this is a great stop that is often overlooked.)

29) Lighthouses – NJ (Plenty of really neat lighthouses in NJ, especially Cape May.)

30) International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roswell – NM (Roswell is really a neat tourist stop that has a little bit everything. Their museum and art center is also well worth a visit!)

31) Sleepy Hollow – NY (Where else can you visit Headless Horsemen Bridge, Sleepy Hollow cemetery and Sing Sing Prison Museum on the same day?)

32) Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City – NC (Catch the train along the Tuckasegee River and through Nantahala Gorge, then visit the outdoor center and go white water rafting. It’s a beautiful area and incredible drive.)

33) International Peace Gardens, Densieth – ND (Why not visit Canada while you’re there? Park also has building remains from the World Trade Center.)

34) National Museum of the USAF, Dayton – OH (Great museum and lots to do around the Dayton – Cincinnati region – from great food to flea markets and King’s Island.)

35) Museums, Tulsa – OK (A variety of great museums in Tulsa that appeal to all ages.)

36) Sea Lion Caves, Florence – OR (See Stellar sea lions year-round and get an amazing view of the OR coast and Heceta Head lighthouse – which is just “down the road”.)

37) Lancaster County – PA (Really worth visiting and especially experiencing a buggy ride!)

38) Heritage Walks – RI (They call their historic walking trails “heritage walks”. A lot of great historic buildings and sites to see – especially like Southeast lighthouse at Block Island.)

39) Myrtle Beach – SC (Great destination for families and RVers – plenty to do for all budgets! We usually state at Ocean Lakes Family CG – it’s like a city itself and right on the ocean.)

40) Badlands National Park – SD (If you can’t make it to the Grand Canyon and are already heading for Mount Rushmore, then you must stop at the Badlands. And while you are in SD, don’t forget to visit Wall Drug or Corn Palace!)

41) Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge / Sevierville – TN (This area is not only beautiful but great for all families. From scenery to outlet malls, to trolleys and fun centers, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – this region in the Smokey’s offers a little bit of everything.

42) The Alamo, San Antonio – TX (Many sites to see in Texas, but a visit isn’t complete until you visit the historic Alamo and experience San Antonio’s River Walk.)

43) Arches National Park, Moab – UT (We actually visited this park in the winter and it was incredible with the snow! If you don’t like crowds, winter is perfect for visiting this park. Just be prepared for the winter weather and pay attention to the local forecast.)

44) Connecticut River Byway – VT (Scenic byway that goes for hundreds of miles and has plenty of covered bridges to keep your camera busy!)

45) Blue Ridge Parkway / Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro – VA (Start at Waynesboro, VA and head south along “America’s Favorite Drive” to enjoy the Parkway, Shen Valley and continue south to the Great Smoky National Park ending in North Carolina. And don’t forget to explore the historic towns along the way!)

46) Olympic National Park / Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles – WA (If you only visit one place in WA, this is the place. ONP has so much to offer – from the Hoh Rainforest to Mt. Olympus. You need at least a week in this area – more if you want to hike and explore everything the Olympic Peninsula has to offer. And don’t forget to catch a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC for a day trip to Canada.)

47) Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park – WV (Great place to hike and explore the past!)

48) Botanical Gardens – WI (Surprisingly, WI has some great gardens. And most U.S. botanical gardens have reciprocal agreements for members. So if you belong to one botanical garden, see if you get in others free or for reduced cost.)

49) Yellowstone National Park – WY (Spend at least a few days to enjoy the area and take advantage of activities, such as fishing and hiking. We especially enjoyed a small bus tour which focused on the geological formations.)

Feel free to add your own “must sees” by commenting. And if you’ve been to Hawaii – don’t hold back! I want to know where to go when I finally get there! 😉

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park, WA

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park, WA

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