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If you haven’t visited your local U.S. National Park recently, don’t forget that September 24, 2016 is a fee-free day. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, most parks will be free. To find a park near you, visit their website and click on “Find Your Park” in the top left corner.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © US Flag

Can you believe that the last of the Big Three summer holidays is almost here?! For most folks, this is the last time they will head to that favorite camping spot until next summer. Whatever your plans, have a safe weekend!

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/

Don’t forget to visit your local U.S. National Park August 25-28 2016 in honor of the National Park Service’s Birthday. The National Park Service was established in 1916, making this their 100th anniversary. To celebrate entrance fees to all the parks will be waived. So make sure you mark you calendar!

August 25-28 2016
National Park Service Birthday

As I have posted before, when you decide to make the move from a stick-house to a recreational vehicle, there are many things to consider. Prices vary on RVs, but most are very affordable with the majority being much, much cheaper than a stick-house.

After price, the next thing to consider is how comfortable you are with driving. Are you okay with driving/towing? Can you back up? If not, you may consider contacting your local RV dealership and see if they recommend a driving school (or perhaps they offer lessons) for a newbie RVer. If that isn’t an issue, than you need to consider other driving issues such as a tow vehicle. If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer (and, of course, a truck-camper) then you will need a good pickup truck to tow your RV. If you decide on a motorhome (Class A, Class C or a van) then you may require a vehicle to tow behind (either on a trailer or tow dolly). And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger motorhome. 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 “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?

What size of RV do you need? It depends on if you are going to be Full-Timers or Seasonals, as well as how many people are living in it. If you are going to go Full-Time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage, as well as enough room to function. Smaller rigs may seem to 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 with where you plan to travel? Quite honestly, some roadways (especially in the mountains) are just not made for larger RVs. So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

And let’s mention storage again. Like size, this depends on if you are going Full-Time. If everything you own is in the RV, then you need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. There are extra things that will eat your storage space before you even get it home. Do you really need a washer and dryer? What about that dinette booth versus a regular table? Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage that you may need.

RV slides are probably the best RV-addition and the more you have, the more room adds on to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t 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. 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. Do your slides have electrical outlets or 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 boondocking (or dry camping) a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when RV shopping.

How far do you plan to travel in your rig? 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 and broke the jar of dill pickles in the refrigerator. If you are going to take your rig down the road make sure the cabinets and refrigerator have good locks, that sliding doors have snaps, etc… Also, 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 “extras” as far as it goes to protecting your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have “polar packages” that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… Well worth the extra money.

Most salespeople will push whatever they have on the RV lot, but if they know you are interested in a new one (especially custom-built) they will push the extra features. You don’t need most of them, yet there are a few that you should consider. A generator is a must in my opinion – especially a propane one. It will cost extra money, but you’ll find it money well spent during your first major outage. No smelly gas tanks to drag around – just regular propane which you’ll use in your RV anyway! And make sure you get a switch to turn the generator on from inside your RV. Those stormy or cold nights you are without power, all you have to do is crawl out of bed, flip the switch and your generator is on. No fuss and anyone can do it! Another extra is the polar package (if you are traveling far or in colder regions). Flip a switch and your water tank will be heated! No wrapping hoses or dripping faucets.

Now, that being said, let’s get serious. What happens if you or one of your family members becomes ill or disabled even for just a short time? Could they be able to navigate the RV with a cane, walker or small wheelchair if they needed to? When considering our custom-built fifth-wheel the only thing that we considered might be a problem someday were the three steps leading upstairs to the bathroom and master bedroom. Just three little steps. Well, today I currently find myself dealing with cancer treatment and those three little steps might as well lead to the first base camp at Everest. Luckily, an added rail-guard has helped alleviate that big trek up the stairs. A fold-able walker allows me easy movement upstairs, while a small wheelchair allows me movement downstairs. But we never planned this – who does? Fortunately our RV had the room to accommodate me during this time. So plan ahead – consider you or a family member navigating your RV while ill or disabled. It will require some adjustments, but at least give you the peace of mind that you are together in your home.

And don’t forget to think of  everyday things you’d like to have in your perfect RV. Do you like TV and movies and want to sit and watch them from a sofa or a recliner? Do you like plants? They have optional greenhouse windows in RVs… Entertain? They have wine racks and mini-bars… Think about what you NEED and what you would LIKE to have and write them down. Make a check-list for each RV you visit, that way you see how close it comes to your perfect RV.

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

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

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/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

After ten years of Full-Time RVing, we have encountered our share of bad parks. Every unpleasant experience puts a giant X on their park listing in our campground directory and earns the offending park an unfavorable online review.

Sometimes the problem is simply the park’s location. Like the one in Texas that bragged on being the place to get plenty of rest, only it didn’t indicate in the ad that you had to sleep during the day because the campground was located beside railroad tracks that were active at night. We were also lured in to one park in Mississippi that promised Southern charm, only the appeal wore off as soon as we realized we were at the end of an airport runway. Although one of the worst locations we’ve stumbled upon was in Florida. A small, seemingly quiet park appeared to be a good place for a few nights’ rest. The first night was so peaceful we actually considered extending our stay a few more days. Luckily we didn’t because that evening we were awakened to some bone-shaking music until the wee hours of the morning. We were unaware that the backside of the park bordered a nightclub that had been closed the previous evening!

Even if the location is ideal, sometimes it is the condition of the park that affects your stay. Usually the offender is meager Wi-Fi or poor cable TV. We’ve certainly had our share of that and while it is no problem for a night or two, issues with this during an extended stay reflect poorly in our online reviews. These are generally simple fixes and if nothing is done to correct the problem it indicates poor management. A few years ago we overnighted at a park in Florida that offered a Wi-Fi “hotspot”. When asked at check-in, we were told that it was under a tree in the middle of the RV park! Another problem we occasionally encounter is water pressure, albeit that it is normally too high. Imagine our surprise when we stayed at a park in Pennsylvania that had the water pressure at twenty. However, the management insisted that such a low number was safe!

Though sometimes it is the staff members who make you feel unwelcomed. Like the time we pulled into a park in Maryland and found the office closed and no after-hours check-in board. As we started to leave a staff member appeared on a golf-cart and started screaming at us that we were going to jackknife as we swung the rig around to exit. She literally kept screaming “jackknife” over and over. In reflection, I wish I would have taken a video of the maniac screaming at us – that would have gone viral! And the time we stopped at a campground in Virginia and politely asked the clerk for a Big Rig pull-thru for the night. She said people like us needed to “just go to a truck stop” – so we did! And lest we forget the park we overnighted at in Arkansas. The cable TV didn’t work and we immediately reported it to the office since we were being charged additional for it. A work-camper came over to our site, never even looked at the frayed cable at the pedestal. He just said, “I don’t think you need it tonight” and left!

Occasionally it is the park guests who bring about an unfavorable stay. Clearly it is hard to be quiet when your slides are on-top of each other in some of the older parks. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be a good neighbor. Like the time we were staying in Washington and the woman camped beside us wanted to know what antenna TV channels we got. Instead of coming over to our site and knocking on our door, she opened her slide-window, took a cane and pounded on our door. Imagine our surprise when we answered the door to see a cane poking out a window at us! Or the folks in Virginia who parked their golf cart under our master bedroom slide because they were, well, frankly, morons. And don’t get me started on the park in Texas where the neighbors built a Tiki bar on their site. By the third day the “bar” included a large flat screen TV, karaoke machine and additional seating. They expanded beyond their tow vehicle space and then started parking on our campsite. It was senseless to complain as we saw the park manager had become a patron of the bar! We found another park for the remainder of our stay in the area.

From dry camps to high-end RV resorts – we certainly have had some memorable reviews! After all these years, we have learned to take the bad with the good. Thankfully with so many online review sites, we have a way of warning other travelers. So don’t be shy about taking recourse by writing reviews. And, remember, if you visit a RV park in Maryland and a maniac starts screaming at you – get it on video!

A New Year reminder to change your smoke detector batteries and test your carbon monoxide detectors in the RV! And if you are a Full-Timer, don’t forgot to schedule those yearly rig check-ups that usually get overlooked while you are on-the-road.

 Hope 2016 brings you safe travels! 🙂

During the summer we were visited by the Grinch, not once, but twice. This Grinch had attempted to take items we had stored under our rear slide. Fortunately each attempt resulted in us waking from the clatter of the cable-lock being pulled. The Grinch didn’t realize our stuff was securely locked to the underside of the fifth-wheel. And it wasn’t just us; other Campers had a late-night visit from the Grinch. Lucky for the Grinch other Campers were more trusting and woke to find their Yeti coolers and other items missing.

Imagine our surprise when the other night we had yet another visit from the Grinch! Thankfully our items were secure and the Grinch ran off when the scare lights were turned on.

What can you do to deter the Grinch? First of all, lock all your outside compartments when you leave your site or go inside for the night. And if you aren’t near your RV, don’t leave your compartments wide-open. Don’t consider it a hassle to lock everything; consider it assurance that your stay won’t be ruined by a Grinch!

Another thing to do is secure your items when you go away for the day or plan to be gone longer. If you have bicycles, lawn chairs and other items scattered all over your site, who is going to notice if one just disappears? Take time to gather your items and put them in a secure spot – such as under your fifth-wheel hitch or by a picnic table. If you have bicycles, coolers or other loose items, consider locking them to your RV hitch, bumper or a picnic table. And if you know you are going to be gone a while, ask your neighbor to keep an eye on your site.

With camping toys being so expensive these days, don’t reward the Grinch! Take a few minutes to secure your stuff.

If you have been putting off a trip to your local U.S. National Park, mark your calendar for with the 2016 fee-free days. On these dates, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply. So what are you waiting for? Unwrap that new 2016 calendar and start planning!

January 18, 2016
Martin Luther King Jr. Day

April 16-24, 2016
National Park Week

August 25-28 2016
National Park Service Birthday

September 24, 2016
National Public Lands Day

November 11, 2016
Veterans Day

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Gulf Islands National Seashore - Fort Pickens (FL)

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Gulf Islands National Seashore – Fort Pickens (FL)

If you haven’t visited your local U.S. National Park recently, don’t forget that September 26, 2015 is a fee-free day! In celebration of National Public Lands Day, most parks will be free. To find a park near you, visit NPS’s website and click on “Find a Park” in the top left corner.

National Public Lands Day is the largest volunteer event to help clean up public lands. Want to lend a hand on that day and earn another free day (coupon)? More information about NPLD can be found at the Public Lands Day website.

The last of the summer holiday weekends is just a few weeks away. For most folks, this is the last time they will head to that favorite camping spot until next summer. Except us Full-Timers – everyday is a camping holiday! 🙂

Don’t forget to visit your local U.S. National Park on August 25th in honor of Founders’ Day (the National Park Service Birthday). To celebrate entrance fees to all the parks will be waived. Already have plans? Well, stop by the National Park Foundation’s website and sign the birthday card.

August 25, 2015
National Park Service Birthday

A friendly reminder to change your smoke detector batteries and test your carbon monoxide detectors in the RV at the first of the New Year! And if you are a Full-Timer, don’t forgot to schedule those yearly rig check-ups that usually get overlooked while you are on-the-road.

 Hope 2015 brings you safe travels! 🙂

If you have been putting off a trip to your local U.S. National Park, mark your calendar for with the 2015 fee-free days. On these dates, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

January 19, 2015
Martin Luther King Jr. Day

February 14-16, 2015
Presidents Day weekend

April 18-19, 2015
opening weekend of National Park Week

August 25, 2015
National Park Service Birthday

September 26, 2015
National Public Lands Day

November 11, 2015
Veterans Day

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website.

If you don’t have any plans for today, don’t forget that entrance fees to U.S. National Park are waived on September 27, 2014 in honor of Public Lands Days. Or mark your calendar for the last fee-free date of the year – November 11, 2014 (Veterans Day). During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

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

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

August 25, 2014
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 27, 2014
(Public Lands Day)

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

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

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

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

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

Photo by H.S. Cooper © PVC Flag Pole

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

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

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

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

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort McHenry NM – Star-Spangled Banner

To kick off U.S. National Park week, the National Park Service is waving entrance fees. In addition, some other special offers may apply this weekend.

April 19-20, 2014
(U.S. National Park Week Begins)

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

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 may think you are a Full-Timer and can tell people you are but deep down, you really aren’t ready to part with the holiday decorations, extra clothes, “cool” 70s furniture or stuff you bought from 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, bus or train station and/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 die-hard Full-Timers know or they’ll tease you! 😉

If you don’t have a yearly pass to your local U.S. National Park, then mark your calendar for at least one of these fee-free dates. During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

January 20, 2014
(Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

February 15-17, 2014
(Presidents Day Weekend)

April 19-20, 2014
(U.S. National Park Week Begins)

August 25, 2014
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 27, 2014
(Public Lands Day)

November 11, 2014
(Veterans Day)

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

 And please don’t forget to support some of your local and non-profit attractions in 2014! 🙂

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Leaving the RV resort

I took this photo as we were leaving the RV resort this morning. Hmm… that was a whole state ago!  Not sure where we are? I’ll try to keep the TRAVEL section updated in the weeks ahead. 🙂

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rose O’Neill home and statue

So you planned to take that dream trip across the country to a national park or visit that must-see museum only to find out it’s closed… What’s a family to do about vacation plans now?

There are many wonderful hidden treasures across the USA and if you take a closer look, a few are probably right 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. Don’t forget to look for small museums, historical sites and botanical gardens! And there are still places that offer free admission, but appreciate donations. Your support of these smaller attractions and non-profit organizations helps keep them open. You may find yourself enjoying the less popular attractions as they are not as crowded and their volunteers are eager to share information about the site with visitors.

So before you begin to panic about your upcoming travel plans, browse the web! Like TV shows? Find out about your favorite and visit places from the show, like the Walton’s Mountain Museum (Shuyler, VA). Enjoy history and art? Check out Rose O’Neill’s home “Bonniebrook” (Walnut Shade, MO). Love sci-fi? Drop by the International UFO Museum & Research Center (Roswell, NM). The possibilities are endless!

If you had planned to stay in a park lodge or campground, don’t fret! Most private campgrounds offer cabins with basic bunks and beds to deluxe cabins completely furnished.  Ask if they have discounts, as most campgrounds will offer a free night if you stay longer than a week. Although private campgrounds are a bit higher priced than national and state parks, consider ones with additional amenities like playground, scheduled activities/events, ice cream socials, free breakfast, Cable TV and WiFi to get the most for your money.

This is a beautiful country and there are plenty of ways to experience and explore the USA outside of it’s national parks and museums.

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Walton's Mountain Museum

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Walton’s Mountain Museum

  

THE PROPANE GAME by H.S. Cooper

THE PROPANE GAME by H.S. Cooper

The second book in my Campground Mystery series is now available in hardcover, softcover and PDF version! Find out what trouble Full-Time RVer Molly Miller gets into in THE PROPANE GAME.

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Molly Miller, sole winner of a $500 million lottery jackpot, has begun to settle into her new full-time RVing lifestyle in Emerald Bay, Florida. Surviving both gun-toting jewel thieves and a visit from her parents, she hopes to establish a quiet routine at Emerald Bay Campground.

When a famous mystery writer leaves her pug in Molly’s care, she quickly discovers that her RVing lifestyle will be anything but quiet. Between her mysterious Canadian neighbor’s obsession with propane and the arrival of a pair of rabble-rousing square dancers, Molly has her hands full at the campground.

With the help of her new four-legged companion and the local sheriff, Molly begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her Canadian neighbor. But will it be in time to save those she cares about from danger?

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © US Flag

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

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/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rainy Wednesday

I knew I shouldn’t have put my raincoat away…

Photo by H.S. Cooper © GNS - Fort Pickens

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Gulf National Seashore – Fort Pickens

Looking ahead… there are a few more fee-free days at U.S. National Parks. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for at least one of these dates. During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

August 25, 2013
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 28, 2013
(Public Lands Day)

November 9-11, 2013
(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: And don’t forget to support some of your local and non-profit attractions this year!

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Flowers and Flags

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

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

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/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © By Outlaw Run SDC

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © SDC view by train

If you like rolling hills and coaster thrills, consider planning a trip to Silver Dollar City just west of Branson (MO). Silver Dollar City is an 1800s theme park with a handful of roller coasters, water-themed rides and toe-tapping shows. There are a number of craftspeople and specialty shoppes, in addition to some older attractions to see. And don’t forget the train ride! 🙂

With the numerous shows schedules and rides there is just no way to enjoy the whole park in just a few hours. So if you are one of those folks who want to see and do it all, plan on a second-day visit.

Like other theme parks, admission and food costs are high. But free parking is available and they have tram service from each parking lot so you can save your feet for the hilly park. If you are just passing through the area and want to visit, they  have designated RV parking.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Geyser Gulch at SDC

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fire-in-the-Hole at SDC

Photo by H.S. Cooper © STORMY HIGHWAY

Photo by H.S. Cooper © STORMY HIGHWAY

The highways were just a little stormy yesterday… So glad not to be on the road today with wind advisories and threats of rain, sleet and possible black ice!

On the Road to Disaster by H.S. Cooper

If you haven’t thought about what to do in an emergency situation while on the road, consider some pre-planning with your family before making those travel plans. For more information on preparing for natural disasters, check out my book On the Road to Disaster.

Although it’s hard to escape flu-season, there 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). Each time a person gets 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 handy-wipe. Also make sure to have a liter bag in your vehicle to dispose of dirty handy-wipes and facial tissue. We dispose of our liter bag every stop.

Have individual handy-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 with the slides in. 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.

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 or an easy-fix meal before you leave. Pull over at a rest area or find a parking spot wherever you fuel up and grab a bite.

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? And people licking their fingers and picking up utensils at buffets… Ekk! Keep your eyes posted for potential problems. And if you can, call them out on it. Let the manager know what you saw so they can take action – it could save someone’s life!

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 handy-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 a major flu epidemic today, this is a concern you shouldn’t take lightly.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © CHRISTMAS TORNADO

On Christmas afternoon we found ourselves in the midst of severe weather and potential tornadoes. Instead of watching holiday movies, all eyes were on the local weather!

The RV resort lacked adequate shelter facilities, so when the tornado warning went into effect, we grabbed our hardhats (I knew that souvenir hardhat from Hoover Dam would come in handy), a couple stiff pillows and flashlights, and then made a mad dash to the Chevy Silverado. We buckled ourselves in and drove to a low ditch-area near the park entrance. Moments later we saw that other Campers had the same idea.

Fortunately the storm passed quickly over the resort; however, a park less than two miles away had a tornado touch-down. Thankfully no one was injured but several homes were destroyed.

Sometimes you have to make the best of a bad situation. Keeping alert of the weather and having a type of RV emergency plan can keep you and your family safe.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © DEATH VALLEY NP

It’s time to dig out that new 2013 calendar! The first of the entrance “fee-free” days of the year is scheduled for January 21st in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. On this day entrance fees to U.S. National Parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

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

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

A friendly reminder to change your smoke detector batteries and test your carbon monoxide detectors in the RV at the first of the New Year! And if you are a Full-Timer, don’t forgot to schedule those yearly check-ups that usually get overlooked while you are on-the-road.

 Hope 2013 brings you safe travels! 🙂

Photo by H.S. Cooper

Photo by H.S. Cooper © McLean House at Appomattox Court House NHP

I know, I know! I keep posting these dates… but do you go? Don’t delay another trip to your local U.S. National Park. Mark your calendar for at least one of these dates and GO! During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

January 21, 2013
(Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

April 22-26, 2013
(U.S. National Park Week)

August 25, 2013
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 28, 2013
(Public Lands Day)

November 9-11, 2013
(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: And don’t forget to support some of your local and non-profit attractions in 2013! 🙂

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 © DIGGING FOR DIAMONDS

Looking back…

In the spring of 2009, we visited Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. While we were there the entire state was under severe storm warnings, flood warnings and tornado watches. But if you’ve been diamond hunting before, you know the best time to find them on top of the furrows is after a good rain.

We were a sad, muddy mess, but had a great time regardless of the weather. There had been several good diamonds found during our stay. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any diamonds ourselves, but found some great pieces of mica, quartz, jasper and other “gems”.

If you find yourself traveling the state, you should plan a day trip to the park.  Who knows, you may hit “pay” dirt! 😉

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 ©

The last of the Big Three (July Fourth, Memorial Day, Labor Day) summer holidays is almost here! For most folks, this is the last time they will head to that favorite camping spot until next summer. Whatever your plans, have a safe weekend!

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/

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © RAINY FLORIDA DAY

Just a rainy Florida day… watching the Weather Channel and trying to figure out what Tropical Storm Isaac is going to do! If you RVing in an area that may be affected by this storm, please don’t take it lightly. Although RVs can withstand moderate winds, they are not intended to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm. Monitor your weather alert radio for changing conditions and follow evacuation orders. Safe travels!

Weather, Weather Everywhere

Evacuation with the RV

Weathering the Storm

Preparing for Disaster

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©Gulf Islands National Seashore (FL)

If you haven’t visited your local U.S. National Park recently, don’t forget that September 29, 2012 is a fee-free day. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, most parks will be free. To find a park near you visit: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm and click on “Find a Park” in the top left corner.

National Public Lands Day is the largest volunteer event to help clean up public lands. Want to lend a hand on that day and earn another free day (coupon)? More information about NPLD can be found at: http://www.publiclandsday.org/highlights/fee-free-day-and-coupons

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

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