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It is hard to believe that summer is in full-swing and the Fourth of July is right around the corner. With the Fourth in the middle of the week, many campgrounds are celebrating the holiday over the next two weekends.

If you are heading out to your favorite campground this holiday, make sure you obey the rules regarding fires, fireworks and quiet times.

No matter how you are spending this holiday, please have a safe one and remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © WELCOME

Don’t forget to show your support and make a flag for your campsite:

Rotating PVC Pipe Flag Poles

Smaller Flags for RV Parks

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Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©RV AND TRUCKS
Hmm… now where did we park it?

We saw a handful of accidents this week – more than we usually do on our travels. If you are planning to travel this Memorial Day Weekend, please drive safely!

If you have been putting off a trip to your local U.S. National Park, don’t pass by this year’s Get Outdoors Day (June 9, 2012). On this day, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©HOME IN DEATH VALLEY
Death Valley National Park

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 NOTE: Don’t forget some of your local state and county parks this summer!


Flag at the Keeper’s Cottage at Cape San Blas Lighthouse

For those of us living the “campground life”, it has been slow start to the summer season. But Memorial Day Weekend is right around the corner and that means it is officially camping season. Hopefully nicer weather and lower fuel prices will encourage everyone to visit their favorite camping spot.

No matter how you are spending this holiday, please have a safe one!

NOTE: Make a flag for your campsite this holiday:

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/rotating-pvc-pipe-flag-poles/

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/smaller-flags-for-rv-parks/

Yellowstone National Park

If you have been putting off a trip to your local U.S. National Park, clear your calendar for this year’s remaining fee-free days. On these dates, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

April 12-29, 2012
(U.S. National Park Week)

June 9, 2012
(Get Outdoors Day)

September 24, 2012
(Public Lands Day)

November 10-12, 2012
(Veterans Day weekend)

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 NOTE: Don’t forget some of your local state and county parks this summer!

Grand Canyon National Park


Clear skies in the forecast for tomorrow's long haul...

A few days ago we got up in the dark AM hours to hit the road… 8 hours later… we found ourselves setting up at another RV park.

Unfortunately, a thunderstorm was rumbling in the distance and we had to set up as quickly as we could before the rain came pouring down.

Imagine our surprise on the following day when we realized our 50 amp electrical cord was damaged… but closer inspection revealed this wasn’t our electric cord! This cord appears to have been clamped at one time as well as being extremely faded on the RV plug (female) end.

Now at the previous campground we took the truck and did some all-day sight-seeing one day. The day before (at this same campground), a man came around to our site to install an electric meter at the pole. Our first thought was perhaps the maintenance man removed our cord and somehow damaged it. But again, at closer inspection we realized it wasn’t ours at all.

Even if the maintenance man somehow damaged the cord and tried to fix it with a clamp, then removed the clamp… the impression dug so deep into the cord and the fading of the plug at the RV (female) end could not have happened overnight.

Although at this point it didn’t matter, we needed to have a safe electrical cord. Of course, when you need a RV part, there are no dealers around! Fortunately we found a mobile home repair supplier with a selection of RV parts about 50 minutes away. They did not have a replacement cord, but had a new 50 amp (male) plug for us to fix this one. It will have to make do until we can get to a RV dealer or supplier and replace the entire cord.

We have heard crazy stories and experienced equally crazy things during our RVing years, but this… well, we are still amp’d up over this.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Fortunately the forecast is for clear skies… 😉

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Entrance to Fort Pickens

If you have the time and find yourself in the Florida Panhandle… make sure you head to Santa Rosa island to visit Gulf Islands National Seashore to see Fort Pickens.

This picturesque fort was built in the 1830s and named after a Revolutionary War general – Andrew Pickens. Fort Pickens has an interesting military and human history.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Outside Fort Pickens

As times changed, so did the military uses for the fort. Concrete gun batteries and other structures in the park reflect different periods of military history. Apache prisoners, including Geronimo, were held prisoner here in the late 1880s.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©INSIDE THE FORT
Concrete shelf supports to hold mine equipment or extra ammunition

Vehicle entrance to the park is only $8 and your entrance receipt is valid for 7 days.

Gulf Island NS at Fort Pickens does have camping and can accommodate Big Rigs; however, you may have trouble parking at the fort itself. Although there are 3 or 4 spots labeled for RVs, you may find cars blocking your way. There is additional parallel parking near the fishing pier with an amazing view of the lighthouse.

For more info: http://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©FORT ARCHES
Arches help distribute the weight of the fort on the sand

On the road again!

What’s bright orange and goes “RRRRRrrrrr” at 7:00 am and then goes thud at 7:01 am? That would be a wood-chipper parked in the site across from us this morning, followed by me falling out of bed!

I’ll go out on a limb (You knew I would work that one in!) and say that the landscapers didn’t know about the “quiet time” hours until 8 am. However, it would have been nice if management would have told them for the sake of their sleepy guests…

Regardless, I’m wondering why suddenly healthy trees need to be removed. No doubt, some crazed Camper (I’ll be good – I won’t say some silly Sap!) complained about limbs, leaves, pinecones or some other nonsense on their insanely white chemically-treated RV roof.

Sorry, Woody! No vacancy at this campground!

Now I don’t chain myself to trees, but I do appreciate and respect them for all they do for us and fellow creatures. I enjoy their shade in summer and their heat in winter. I enjoy watching the little green buds in spring and the big flashy colors in fall. I enjoy hearing and seeing the birds and squirrels carry out their daily routine around them. Who can’t but love trees?

And I certainly understand that in some places, like campgrounds and RV resorts, trees may stand in the way (I let that one slide!) of new development or sites… yet, I can’t help but wonder about existing trees that appear healthy and are out of the road (literally).

Assuming there wasn’t a sale on tree removal and wood-chipping services this week, my guess is that complaints about tree “stuff” on RV roofs and awnings had prompted their removal.

And this is rather sad.

There are tree-less places with level concrete sites for RVers who are anti-tree. They are called Walmart parking lots.

For those of us living the “campground life”, it has been a rather busy start to the summer season.  Despite fuel costs, it is great to see families RVing and spending time together.

And the Fourth of July is just around the corner! Some of my favorite Fourth’s have been while RVing. One year I recall us being in Colorado, enjoying the cooler weather while decorating our campsite with flags. It was quite a contrast to the rich green mountains that surrounded us. But also a reminder of what a beautiful country this is.

One recent favorite was touring 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.

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.

NOTE: Show your support and make a flag for your campsite this holiday:

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/rotating-pvc-pipe-flag-poles/

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/articles/smaller-flags-for-rv-parks/

 

When our fellow Campers learn we are Full-Timers, we usually get questioned about the lifestyle. Many have experience camping and towing a RV, but they don’t realize there is more to it than throwing a few things in the rig and heading down the road.

Your current RV may not be ideal for you if you decide to go full-time. One of the first things to consider is driving your rig. Are you okay with driving and towing long-distances? Can you back up? Not all campgrounds have pull-thrus and if you rely on GPS, you may find yourself backing down a road during your trip. (Yes, that story may make a top posting one day! 😉 ) If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will need a pickup truck that can tow your RV. Keep in mind the towing weights when considering a truck/RV.

If you decide on a motor home or diesel pusher then you may require a vehicle to tow behind. And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger one. Every time you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your home into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a tow vehicle.

Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it? Too many times have we seen a spouse need someone assist with transporting their rig when the other was ill or hospitalized.

Is your RV the size you need to be a Full-Timer? If you are going to go full-time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage space, as well as enough room to function. We have a two-bedroom fifth-wheel. Everyone has their own space – no crowding, no struggling to store things. Smaller rigs may seem too small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle? Quite honestly, some roadways are just not made for larger RVs. I think we have been along most of them! 😉 So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

Another thing to keep in mind is that everything you own is in the RV and you will need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. We have seen folks crawl up their roof to the add-on storage tote and pull-out extra rolls of toilet tissue… we know folks who have to store their clothes in an outside compartment… This is just not practical.

There are extra things that will eat your storage space, such as a washer and dryer. Keep in mind that the majority of campgrounds have laundries so don’t feel pressured to get a washer and dryer in your rig. A dinette booth versus a table is another space saver. Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage. So be aware of your needs and available storage areas.

Slides help make your RV a “home” and the more you have, the more room adds to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t always slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. We were in Arizona in the middle of desert and a campground we stopped at put us on a site with the only visible tree within a mile radius, which, of course, blocked a slide! 😉

Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Slides have limited electrical outlets (if any) or no furnace/air-condition ducts. Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were blacktop boondocking a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when planning on going full-time.

How far are you going in your rig? Are you going to be on-the-road Full-Timers or are you going to find 2-3 places to set-up camp a year? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down. I remember we made a sharp turn on a clover-leaf exit and the refrigerator snapped open. Imagine our surprise at the rest area when we entered and found groceries on the floor… not to mention a broken jar of dill pickles.

If you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the means to protect your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have polar package that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… It is definitely something to keep in mind if you decide to go full-time.

That’s some of the things you should consider before leaping into Full-Timing with your current RV. The best thing you can do is think about what you need to suit your family and make a check-list. Your “weekend” RV may not be practical for the life of a Full-Timer. So keep some of these things in mind before you consider Full-Timing in it.

Redwood National and State Parks, CA

Hopefully you had a safe and relaxing Memorial Day at your favorite camping spot… but don’t completely unpack the RV just yet! If you haven’t visited one of the many amazing U.S. National Parks keep in mind the upcoming fee-free day on June 21st.

On this day, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply. Again, that’s June 21, 2011 the first day of Summer – don’t forget to mark it on your calendar! 😉

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

A growing number of RVers have discovered some of the most reasonable camping in the country can be found at casino locations. Even if you are not a gambler or crazy about all-you-can-eat buffets, you should give it a try!

Our first experience at casino camping was actually staying at a KOA right beside the casino. Although it was within walking distance, a shuttle from the campground was available at any time. At check-in we not only received discounted buffet coupons, but also casino free play! (If you are not familiar with this, “free play” is what some casinos give new players to get started. It is actually “money” on a players card you are given to play free. Many casinos offer this with amounts ranging from $5 to over $20. You never know… $5 and the right game may win you a new RV! 😉 ) And after we went into the casino, we were rewarded with free gifts (mugs and shirts) for just signing up! As you walked through the casino there were self-serve drink stations where you could get sodas, teas, coffee, ICEEs and flavored waters for free!  And if the ICEEs didn’t lure you in, the free popcorn did! 😉

Of course, this was a KOA campground beside the casino and all the amenities – Full hook-ups, WiFi, Cable TV, Big Rig Friendly concrete pad pull-thru site, etc… were available. Yet it made us realize that not only where casino campgrounds a great place to overnight, but also get a cheap meal, souvenirs and be secure.  

Casino campground in California

The larger and modern casinos which offer their own RV parks are normally designed for Big Rigs as the goal of the casino is to keep you there. They don’t want you to have to unhook, so sites are long and wide and usually the pad is concrete and level. And since most casinos are in remote areas, they know you don’t want to feel too isolated and often offer Cable or Sat TV in addition to high-speed WiFi. Overnight rates that would often run into $60-70 at other campgrounds may be as little as $20 at a casino campground! In fact, we have stayed at some that were less than $20 and received additional nights of camping free! There was one we even stayed at for 10 days (all the amenities, plus a pool and tennis court) and it cost under $100. Although casino campgrounds do have limits to the length of stay allowed.

Smaller casinos (especially those in the Western US) may not have a RV park, but might offer an area for RVers to camp away from other casino patrons. We have seen areas simply fenced off that have water and electric and allow RVers to stay overnight free or for a few dollars. The only concern we have in this type of situation is how often the casino’s security patrols the area. We had visited one in Arizona with this type of camping area and it did not interest us at this particular location. However, most are patrolled regularly and some even have a guard-house nearby the designated camping area.

Some casinos don’t have a RV park or area for camping, yet allow overnight parking. If you aren’t sure if they allow overnight parking, you should contact the casino first. Even if you’ve purchased a casino camping directory or visited a casino camping website, you should verify it with the casino as policies can change at any time and special rules may apply.

Casino campground in Louisiana

If you find yourself overnighting in a casino parking lot, you should follow the rules of overnight parking. And, you should be especially considerate of where you park at a casino. Don’t take too many spaces, yet make sure you allow a proper distance between you and your RV neighbor. If there are no other RVs there when you arrive, remember you are setting the standard!

If the casino has special instructions for overnighting (such as providing your license/vehicle information or obtaining a window tag ) make sure you tend to that right away. They may also have additional information about how long you can stay and they may also have their own policy/rules regarding blacktop boondocking.

Some casinos may not allow overnighting (especially those which offer RV parks). If they don’t allow it and you just want to patronize the casino for a few hours, contact security or customer service and let them know you are in the facility and are not planing to boondock.

Camping by a casino in Nevada... where are we? Oh yeah, way back there! 😉

 Even if you are not planing on gambling, there are other ways to patronize casinos. Many offer not only buffets, but also cafe, speciality and formal dining restaurants. Some of the best pizza we’ve gotten has been from casino eateries! 😉 A growing number of casinos offer special performances and  shows (sometimes tickets are reduced or free for folks staying with them) , spa and hair salons, gift shops, gas stations and convenience stores.

And some have set up reward systems so that if you sign up for a free players card, you earn points for free items or discounts. In California, several of the casinos we stopped at had discounted fuel for those with players cards! And if you had earned points on it from playing, shopping or eating at the casino, you got more of a discount.

So the next time you see a casino, you may want to consider giving casino camping a try. You never know, they may have a buffet, free tee-shirt or discounted fuel just waiting for you. 😉

It’s late at night… you’ve been driving all day… traffic was bad… you had trouble finding the campground… you set-up outside as much as you can… you enter your RV and try to finish settling in for the night… But then the smell hits you. Yep! You’ve stepped in some doggy doo and carried it in on your shoes!

Sound familiar? No? Then how about when you get ready to step into your tow vehicle  to explore the area and find a pile of poo in your path? Or have an oddly-wet tire? Oh, and did I mention you are several sites away from the dog walk? Sound more familiar to you now?

There is something about camping with dogs that makes some dog owners, in my opinion, Crappy Campers. They completely disregard the rules and regulations of not only the campground, but sometimes also county and state laws (usually regarding leashes).

Don’t get me wrong, I love animals and certainly don’t blame them for their owner’s directions (or lack of them). Many campgrounds have posted rules and often supply a sheet or handout to pet owners. Common rules include leashes and lengths (usually six feet), designated dog areas, waste disposal, constant or frequent barking or dogs being left unattended (caged or tethered outside without someone present).

We have stayed (and worked) at campgrounds that even make the owner sign-off that they will comply with the rules or be asked to leave without refund. One campground we were at even listed each rule and made the owner check-off each one to show that it was read and understood before they signed it. In addition, they were charged $5 per pet, per night. And to make it really hit-home, they received a carbon-copy showing that they acknowledged the rules!

Many campgrounds are going dog-friendly, yet have strict rules to keep it safe for people and other pets. Unfortunately people abuse the rules. It not only shows lack of consideration for other people and dog owners, but also their own pets. A park we stayed in California was prone to bears,  mountain lions and other bigger animals (even Big Foot tales at that one!)  and at registration you had to give your pet’s name and breed/color information in event they were spotted being carried off!

And, unfortunately, those that do not follow the rules may also find their dog stolen, attacked by another dog or animal, run over or possibly dead.

So please, don’t be a Crappy Camper this summer. If you love your pet you will follow the rules and quite possible prevent me from having poo on my shoes! 😉

UPDATED: I no sooner click “post” on this when I see a woman with a little dog leaving a “deposit” on our campsite… Good grief! 😦

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.

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! 😉

Don’t let rising fuel prices keep you grounded this summer. There are plenty of places to travel, right in your own “backyard”. And if you find yourself on 1-10 in Crestview (FL) or in the Destin/Fort Walton region, then you’re just a short distance from the Air Force Armament Museum.

The museum is free and open every day except Sunday and federal holidays. If you find yourself arriving early, don’t worry! There are over 20 planes to view outside the museum.

For more information and directions, visit their website at: http://www.afarmamentmuseum.com

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Washington is just over 7,000 acres. The visitor center overlooks the Columbia River. When petrified wood was discovered in the area the park was created as a national historic preserve. The Forest  is a registered national “natural” landmark. Although we didn’t camp there (just stopped for the day), they do have camping year-round. It is an amazing drive along the Columbia River and you’ll find rock shops nearby to stop and buy souvenirs.

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

 

 

Somewhere in Oregon... I think... 😉

 

1) Do you live in a RV for 12 months out of the year?

If you answered YES, continue below. If you answered NO… you must live in a house, apartment or condo for a portion of the year. Sorry, but you aren’t a Full-Time RVer. You are just a Seasonal RVer. But don’t worry, there is hope for you yet! 🙂

2) Do you have a rental storage facility or a place where you keep items too large or numerous to store in your RV?

If you answered NO, continue below. If you answered YES… then you are not yet ready to be a Full-Time RVer. You can tell people you are a Full-Timer, but deep down, you really aren’t ready to part with the holiday decorations, extra clothes, “cool” 70s furniture or stuff you bought at yard sales the last 30 years…If you sit down and calculate the current resale value of the items you have in storage and your monthly/annual storage bill, you may find yourself making a trip to the local flea market to sell those “costly” treasures. With the storage gone, you’ll have the money to get those wheels moving and be one step closer to being a real Full-Timer.

3) If you made it this far, CONGRATS! You are a Full-Timer! But let’s see how devoted you are to the lifestyle… Do you periodically find yourself wondering which state you are in?

If you answered YES, continue below. If you answered NO, it sounds like you may be a Full-Timer who is stuck in the same area. Don’t forget that RVs come with wheels!

4) Can you remember the last time you visited an airport (to fly somewhere) or the last time you slept in a hotel?

If you answered NO, you are a real Full-Time RVer! CONGRATS! If you answered YES… don’t let any other Full-Timers know or they’ll tease you! 😉

After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

We have winter camped in the Pacific Northwest and dealt with wind, snow and ice storms… but we never thought we would have to prepare ourselves for winter camping in Florida. With fluctuating  temperatures this season, we have had to watch for signs of excess moisture which can lead to mold and mildew.

Each closet and storage area has a Damp-Rid (http://www.damprid.com) container which is checked (drained and refilled, if needed) every two weeks. We have talked with other RVers who prefer to not have a “spill-able” container (lower half of the container collects water, while the top half or basket contains Damp-Rid flakes) and they prefer other methods, such as placing charcoal briquettes in a shallow pan or bowl.

Some folks prefer to use a dehumidifier. We don’t use one as we have heard so many stories against – from “sweating walls” to the chore of emptying it every day and even finding the space to place one.

If you find yourself with a moisture problem, you should evaluate your storage areas. Boxes draw moisture and eliminating those by placing items in sealed plastic containers or SpaceBags® (https://www.spacebag.com) will help. Also make sure your storage areas are not too crowded to allow some air flow. Inside storage closets that contain clothes or paperwork should be left cracked open while you are settled in an area.

Check around your windows for moisture. And if you have a roll of silver sunshade shoved into each window, you should keep an eye on those for mildew, especially around the edges.

Watch your humidity inside and either run your air condition when you can or crack open a window or vent to keep the humidity low.

If you are prepared for it, you can keep moisture under control before anything develops to “dampen” your winter camping experience.

After the winter "Southern Storm" that went through the SE states. (FL)

Hoh Rainforest outside Forks, Washington

If you have been putting off a trip to your local U.S. National Park, clear your calendar for this year’s remaining fee-free days. On these dates, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

April 16-24, 2011
(U.S. National Park Week)

June 21, 2011
(First day of Summer)

September 24, 2011
(Public Lands Day)

November 11-13, 2011
(Veterans Day weekend)

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 NOTE: Don’t forget some of your local attractions this summer either! 🙂

Sites to See With Small Admission Fees

Several months ago a campground we usually stay at in Texas had river flooding. The sheriff came through and told folks that the river was quickly on the rise and they had to evacuate within the hour. What our friend told us still gives me chills… but basically it was as horrible as one could imagine and one man died trying to hook-up his rig before the water came.

That could have easily been us – any of us -whether you are a weekend camper, seasonal camper or a Full-Timer. After the initial shock of the news, we had a serious discussion of what we would do in a similar situation.

After some brain-storming, we made two scenarios. The first one being a “Grab and Go situation” where we have to evacuate with our tow and abandon the RV and the other being an emergency “rig evacuation” situation.

The first thing we did with each situation is make detailed lists. The lists have been printed out and I have laminated them and placed them on a metal ring. This way no matter how tense of situation (I certainly don’t promise to keep a level head in an emergency!) we know exactly what we are going to do and will not forget anything.

GRAB AND GO SITUATION

Our thought on a Grab and Go situation was that we would be able to pack our pickup truck with enough items to actually live out of the truck if we needed. Items like tarp and tape could make us a shelter either on the back of the truck or from the sides of the truck. Disaster involves everyone in an area and we would not want to completely rely on outside assistance or resources.

(This is just general information from the list as ours is rather specific/detailed. You can make yours as customize yours for your own needs.)

Gather these items first and make sure they are loaded in the tow vehicle:

Cell phone/Charger

Files/Important Documents/Safety or Lock Boxes

Medication (and health-related items, such as diabetic supplies, cane, eyeglasses, neck supports, etc…)

Purse/Valuable Jewelry

All Keys

Laptop Computer /Cords / Flash Drives

Food Kit* (and extra from pantry if time)

Med Kit*

Clothes Kit*

Bottled Water / Sodas / Juices

Flashlights / Batteries

Tool Kit

Area Maps

Camp Stove / Propane/ Cooking Kit

Bedding / Blankets / Pillows

Tarps / Masking or Duct Tape

Heavy Duty Raincoat / Boots (if needed in the situation)

* We have experienced winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires while being Full-Timers. So we actually have a food kit, med kit and clothes kit made up at all times. Our 3 kits actually consist of 2 medium totes. One is devoted to food supplies and the other is filled with medical and hygiene supplies and clothes. The clothes items (for 3 days) are stored inside the tote in Space Bags® (which I recommend to all Full-Timers) to save space and keep them weather-proof. I recommend travel-size items (such as toothpaste) in your kits to save space. Twice a year we remove our items to use and replace them with new items. We joke it’s time to “eat our rations”.

Prep camper second if there is adequate time:

(If the situation is hopeless and you know you will not be able to return to your camper or there won’t be anything left to salvage, such as a flood, then we plan to skip this and quickly evacuate)

Slides in (even if you have to skip securing items to get them)

Awning up (if down)

TV Antenna up (if down) or Satellite Dish (put away)

Appliances unplugged

A/C-Furnace Off

Propane values shut-off (don’t worry about a little food in the refrigerator – not worth it!)

Unplugged and unhooked outside (electric, sewer, cable)

Outside compartments locked

Outside stuff of value placed inside (if some type of storm, secure all outside items if adequate time)

RIG EVACUATION SITUATION

Our thought on a Rig Evacuation situation was that we would be able to hook-up our rig and leave in a short period of time; however, we wanted to ensure our “Grab and Go” items were packed in the truck in case there was a problem and we needed to unhook rapidly later in the evacuation (such as a blocked road or a structural/mechanical problem).

We would first gather items from the Grab and Go list and make sure they are loaded in the tow vehicle. Then we would prep the camper as we normally would, unless there was not adequate time. If time was limited, we would not worry about how items were packed in the cupboards (like wrapped dishes, etc.) If the situation was extremely urgent, once our slides were in we would just reinforce our cupboard pulls with duct tape (we’d worry about the mess later!) and loose items would be placed on the beds or sofa.

We figured that in an extreme situation, we could be out with our rig in thirty minutes. A rather frantic thirty minutes, but with the list and pre-made kits, we could do it.

It took us awhile to think about this and I can’t imagine trying to think about what to do and take in a hurried situation! I recommend anyone who may find themselves in an evacuation situation to take at least a few minutes with your family / traveling companions to think about what you would do. Those extra minutes could possible save a life.

If you have been in a campground, especially during a flag-holiday, you have probably seen those rotating PVC-pipe flag poles. Lately we have been seeing 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 not, here is a link with directions: http://www.missouriscenicrivers.com/PVCflagpoleplans.html

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, we remove our flag pole during rain and wind storms.

NOTE: If you have designed your own and would like to email me a photo to post here, I would be happy to include it along with your name and information. 🙂

For those smart enough not to cancel their reservation along the Florida Gulf this summer – they were in for a treat. Most of the summer saw warm temps, sunny days and plenty to do without a lot of crowds!

One of the things we enjoyed doing the last several weeks is visit some of the “forgotten” lighthouses along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Within an 80-mile stretch off of Highway 98, you can visit four spectacular lighthouses. Starting westward at Port St. Joe, there is Cape San Blas lighthouse. There is a fee if you would like to climb it.

After returning to Highway 98 and heading eastward, you are in for a treat on your journey to Cape St. George lighthouse on St. George Island. This lighthouse is visible from the bridge and has a wonderful park and keeper’s cottage. There is also a fee to climb this lighthouse.

Heading eastward on Highway 98 once again (okay, maybe after we had ice cream cones across the street from the Cape St. George lighthouse), we found ourselves enjoying the view so much we actually drove by the Crooked River lighthouse just west of Carrabelle. So make sure you pay attention to the historic signs and banners as you approach Carrabelle. This lighthouse has a cute little museum and a wonderful gift shop. There is a fee to climb it, however you can only climb it on certain days.

After Crooked River lighthouse, continue eastward to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse is actually inside the refuge and the main road actually dead-ends at the lighthouse. There is day-use fee for admission through the refuge. You can only climb the lighthouse during special events. However, there is an observation deck which gives you an amazing view of the area and great photos ops (like the photo I took above).

If planning to visit all these amazing lighthouses in one day, I recommend you leave early in the morning so you have ample time to visit the lighthouse gift shops and museums. If you intend to climb, wear sturdy walking shoes or sneakers. Most lighthouses have strict policies regarding open-toed shoes and sandals.

This is Florida and even folks in the best shape will find themselves breathless on a lighthouse climb. Take your time and if anyone in your party is not climbing, give them your purse or backpack to help lighten your load. Stopping at windows (especially open ones), can give you a nice rest stop. Just be mindful of the rules regarding right-of-way for stairwell traffic.

If you are staying west of Port. St. Joe, don’t forget that all these lighthouses are in the Eastern Standard Time Zone.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no parking at any of these locations to handle a RV. You could take a smaller motorhome to St. Marks and Cape St. George, however, you may find parking and turn-around space limited during busy times.

Detailed information and driving directions to these lighthouses can be found at a great website called Lighthouse Friends. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/

I took these photos while sitting in my lawn chair the other day… just goes to show you that sometimes it’s worth paying for a premium campsite! 😉

PHOTOS: The Guadalupe River (Texas) is a great recreation spot for toobers (that’s how they spell it here!), kayakers and rafters. As you can see from my photos – be prepared to see anything! 🙂

Waltons Mountain Museum
Waltons Mountain Museum

Children are getting out of school, summer is around the corner and money is tight. What’s a family to do about vacation?

There are many wonderful places with small or no admission fees all over the country. In fact, if you probably take a look, a few are in your own backyard!

The first thing to do is visit an area’s local tourist or visitor center website. Often they will list attractions, recreation and events and have links to other websites that contain more details.
Vikingsholm Castle

Vikingsholm Castle

 

Don’t forget to look for small museums, historical sites and botanical gardens!  Often these places have discounted admissions on families or larger parties, free days or reciprical agreements with other attractions (offering discount rates or free admission). And there are still places that offer free admission, but appreciate donations. Although you should leave an appropriate donation or the suggested donation amount if one is posted.

You may find yourself enjoying the less popular attractions as they are less crowded and their volunteers are eager to share information about the location.

So before you rack up $50-70 a person heading to Disneyland or Six Flags this summer, surf the net! Consider driving to the Waltons Mountain Museum ($6), visiting the International UFO Museum & Research Center ($5), trekking to Vikingsholm Castle ($6.50 to park) or discovering the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit for free on a Tuesday…

If you don’t have a RV or tent, don’t fret! Most campgrounds offer cabins with basic bunks and beds to deluxe cabins completely furnished. Often even deluxe cabins cost less that a hotel stay. Ask if they have discounts, as most campgrounds will offer a free night if you stay longer than 4-5 days or during the weekday.

Vacations don’t have to be expensive to be fun. There is a great deal in this country to see that is educational and fun for the whole family that won’t break your budget!

International UFO Museum and Research Center

International UFO Museum and Research Center

NOTE: Waltons Mountain Museum is in Shuyler, VA (around 160 miles from Washington, DC); the International UFO Museum is located in downtown Roswell, NM; Vikingsholm Castle is located inside Emerald Bay State Park on Lake Tahoe (California side); the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit is located in Fort Pierce, FL on the beautiful Indian River Lagoon. This is just a few of the thousands of attractions across the U.S. that are inexpensive and family friendly.
 
Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Although many campgrounds today are advertising they are “Big Rig Friendly”, most campgrounds are not. Many campground were designed decades ago when RVs were smaller and did not have slides. For those RVers who have larger rigs or multiple slides, these older campgrounds can make arrival and departure a very frustrating time.

If you find yourself in a tight situation (such as these folks in the photo who came within inches of hitting a truck parked on its own campsite, while backing into their assigned camp site), there are several things you can do to make the situation a little better.

At check-in, be honest about your rig length. Yes, some campgrounds still charge for larger rigs – but there is a reason for that. Bigger rigs get bigger sites! Don’t say you are 30 feet in length when your rig is 35 feet! A few feet can make a major difference.

If you have any slides that are problematic (deep, long or perhaps double-sided) ask the reservationist if there are trees, high electric boxes, lamp posts or other obstacles on your site. If they are uncertain or do not know, ask to view the site first.

Pull-thrus are the preferred sites for Full-Timers because often you do not need to unhook your rig and these sites are usually close to the entrance. However, they are often bordered by smaller trees (“awning eaters” is what I call them!) or lamp posts for late-night arrivals.

When you are assigned a camp site (or if you are allowed to find one on your own) get out and walk it. Look for your hookups. Make sure the electrical box contains enough amps (especially if you paid a higher price for 50 amp service) and that – if applicable – it has Cable or Sat TV hookup. Locate your water and sewer hookups.

We have noticed that some older campgrounds still have shared water hookups. To temporarily correct this, they have placed a Y-connect on it. Make sure that if your water is shared it has such a connection and if it does not, contact the campground office before you get set-up. If you have your own Y-connect, you can use that, but keep in mind that if campers are (or will be) beside you, you will have to turn off their water and disconnect their hose to get your Y-connect back when you leave.

If there are any movable obstacles in your way, such as a picnic table, make sure you drag them out of your way.

The next step is to discuss the site with your spouse and/or family. If it is a back-in site, make sure that your spouse or family members help you. They need to remain in your mirrors and also in the back corner of the rig to watch for any problems. Some RVers use radios to communicate. This is okay, but often hard on the driver trying to maneuver the rig and maintain contact. Larger rigs sometimes have back-up cameras. This is good, yet someone watching outside is still recommended.

Maintain communication with your helpers! Discuss the terminology you will use. Does “HOLD IT!” mean you are going to hit something or you should just stop? What does “straight” mean? Should the driver try to straighten the rig or do you really mean he should “follow” the rig and it will be straight? This may seem trivial but to a driver this is crucial information. And remember to maintain mirror contact at all times. If they can’t see you behind the rig, they cannot hear you!

If you are arriving at a campground at night you will find yourself having more difficulty getting in a campsite. Why? You’re tired from a long day and everyone is cranky. Plus, it is dark and you cannot see everything. Do not let that add to your frustration. Make sure everyone has flashlights and walk the site as you would during daylight hours. Move obstacles, locate hookups and potential problems. See where you want to put your rig and have your family stand on both sides of the back corner of the rig (yet in your mirrors) with flashlights. Use the light as a guide where to center the back of your rig. If you are traveling alone or with just a spouse, place two flashlights on the ground where you want to have your rig.

A great set of flashlights to get are Craftsman rechargables. They stand-up and when the batteries are weak, you can recharge them. We have helped people back-in after midnight, in blinding rain, during wind storms and heavy snowfall with these flashlights. They are very heavy-duty and well worth the cost. They can save you quite a bit of frustration during late-night arrivals!

Once you are in your campsite and level, walk around and verify if your slides will clear any identified obstacles, especially electric boxes. If you cannot judge or if it appears close, carry a small tape measure with you and measure out the width of your slide from the RV. We have a slide 40 inches deep. May not seem like much, but since the slide is over 10 feet long, that can make all the difference in the world with a tall electric box! So if anything appears close, measure before putting your slides out. Do not let a damaged slide ruin your trip.

Most often when you arrive at a campground you will find a few folks who will flock around you and “try” to help you get into you campsite. If this makes you nervous, all you have to do is let them know their offer of help is appreciated, but you and your family have a system.  Most are very understanding and will return to their own site or stand aside so you can get into yours.

If you do arrive at a campsite that is too narrow or not long enough, let the campground office know immediately. Do not try to damage your rig or cause yourself a lot of grief trying to fit in a site that is too small. Most are very understanding of RVers needs. And if you find another vehicle or RV on or encroaching on your assigned campsite, ask the office before you do anything. Occasionally some Campers will spread out more than they should. Although most are apologetic and will move, some will not. Try not to put yourself in a bad situation with your new neighbors. Ask the campground office about what should be done in this situation, as this is something they need to be aware of. You may try to handle it yourself, but if your neighbors have extra vehicles on your site, they may not have paid for extra vehicles (or extra people) and the campground office may not be aware. Some campgrounds restrict the number of vehicles and/or people allowed per campsite.

Fitting in a campsite does not have to be a hassle each stop of the journey. Ask for a large enough site to accommodate your rig and walk over the site before pulling or backing-in. Locate your hookups and any obstacles. Have your companions help you and communicate with each other. If you have a system or plan at each stop and you will soon find “fitting in” less of a hassle.

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

In My Sites
In My Sites
A Campground Mystery
By HS Cooper
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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

Dying to Work Camp
Dying to Work ...
A Campground Mystery
By HS Cooper
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THE PROPANE GAME (Book #2)

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