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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! 🙂

Once again we put up two trees in our fifth-wheel. I blame it on all the souvenir ornaments we buy. Well, that’s my excuse anyway! 😉

Memorial Day Weekend is… HERE! 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 – just call ahead and check on their availability. And don’t forget to take along and proudly display The Flag!

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

If you find yourself traveling I-10 near the Louisiana/Texas State Line, make sure to stop at the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange (TX) to see Blue Elbow Swamp. The Center has a boardwalk that extends into Blue Elbow Swamp and you can view a variety of plants, trees and wildlife.

Blue Elbow Swamp is part of Tony Housman State Park and Wildlife Management Area. The area has a fascinating history that even includes cannibals. Yep! So take some time to forget about highway traffic and take a relaxing walk in the swamp. 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Well, the Big Bear has found its way to that bumpty-bump-da-bump highway again (otherwise known as I-10 westbound). I think it’s time for the Chevy Silverado to find us some new roads! 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Marine One

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Marine One @ the National Museum of Naval Aviation

Need something to do this holiday weekend? U.S. National Parks will waive entrance fees February 14th – 16th in honor of Presidents’ Day. From Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace to LBJ National Historical Park, there are some great presidential parks and historic sites to visit.

If you want to spend a little more money on your Valentine, consider visiting a site like George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And don’t forget to look in your own backyard. Many museums offer presidential “surprises” like the photo above of Marine One at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

And don’t forget to mark the opening of National Park Week (April 18th-19th, 2015) on your calendar as the next fee-free days for U.S. National Parks.

Looking back…

In the first months of 2008, we found ourselves camping in Port Angeles (WA) between Olympic National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We could see the mountains of British Columbia (Canada) in the distance. Behind us was Olympic National Park. It was an amazing location with gorgeous views.

During the day the beach was active with surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers. Yes, surfers in Washington! They surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the colder months and aren’t afraid to don their wet suits and brave the cold for a few seconds on their boards.

As winter progressed we were very fortunate with snowfall. Just a few times and not too heavy, although the cold winds remind you that winter can be unforgiving. I did love seeing the snow fall on the beach. Close to shore it stops  – about two feet above the sand/water.

It was amazing what we saw at the beach in winter. One day we saw a small octopus had washed up and three bald eagles were tearing into it! If only I had my camera at the time – what a sight! And in addition to periodic whale sightings, we also saw submarines heading out to the Pacific Ocean.

So where ever we end up each winter, I try not to complain too much about the cold weather – knowing that somewhere along the Strait there are surfers eagerly awaiting to head out into the icy water. 😉

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! 🙂

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Two trees in our fifth-wheel

It’s that time of year again! And up go our two Christmas trees… yep, 2 trees in 1 RV!

The last of the U.S. National Park’s fee-free dates for 2014 is here! During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. So grab a picnic basket, field guide, some hiking poles and head to your nearest national park this Veterans Day.

November 11, 2014
(Veterans Day)

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

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Northstar Mine Museum

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Northstar Mine Museum

Looking back…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 © HOOPER STRAIT LIGHTHOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort McHenry National Monument

If you find yourself near Baltimore, don’t forget to take a day to visit Fort McHenry National Monument by the harbor. 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!

Entrance into the fort is $7 per adult; children under 15 are free. You can visit the park without paying admission – although you will only have access to the picnic grounds, visitor’s center, gift shop and movie.

Now the area is not Big Rig friendly, so don’t even think about taking your RV! If you are staying in the area you can take the water taxi or drive (but follow directions carefully as there is a great deal of traffic).

For directions and additional information, please visit their website at: http://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © I-95 North

For some reason… everyone wants to got northbound this time of year! Although they shouldn’t be in a hurry. I think we didn’t get past 5 mph in a few sections of it. 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort Barrancas drawbridge

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort Barrancas drawbridge

If you find yourself near Pensacola (FL) make sure you plan a day for Fort Barrancas. The fort is actually part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, however, it is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Admission to the fort is free, although citizens need to show proper photo ID at the entrance gate.

Fort Barrancas has a fascinating history. A shot fired by a guard at the fort on January 8, 1861 is sometimes considered the very first shot of the American Civil War! The fort and other structures there were built by different groups over time. There is a great deal of history to step into… or see-through… did I mention the Confederate ghost? 😉

The area also consists of the Spanish Water Battery (Bateria de San Antonio) which has an underground passage from the fort. The tunnel section from the fort to the water battery is very dark and steep, so make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes. The fort itself is very dark in sections and you may want to carry a flashlight with you while exploring. The Spanish Water Battery has several steps going up (although you don’t need to climb them to appreciate the view).

There are also trails and a picnic area near the visitor center. And an additional treat is the view at the Overlook of Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island across Pensacola Bay!

A short distance down the road is the Advanced Redoubt. The Redoubt is unique for the time period because it was designed solely for resisting a land-based assault.

Parking at the fort is limited; however, there is a small area dedicated for RV/bus parking. The fort and visitor center is only open on Saturdays. The Advanced Redoubt has more parking and is open daily. Tours of Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt are scheduled on Saturdays.

For more information visit: http://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm and https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/national-museum-of-naval-aviation/

 

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 ©

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! 🙂

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

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/

Before we headed out on-the-road for our winter travels, our Suburban water heater went out. A trip to the local RV store (in Florida) for a new one and a quick (okay, maybe not that quick) installation left us thinking that was the end of our water heater woes.

Imagine our surprise when we get on-the-road and had no hot water! The thermostat on the new Suburban water heater was faulty. We called the RV store where we purchased the new water heater and they told us that since it was brand-new they would contact Suburban on our behalf. Later they called us back and told us Suburban said we would have to contact them directly regarding replacement parts/costs. The RV store gave us the information and we called Suburban.

Not only did Suburban deny our new one was faulty, they even questioned whether we had a bought one! Our conversation with Suburban left us boiling – all over a $40 thermostat.

We tracked down a replacement thermostat on our own and thanks to Camping World (in Texas) we managed to repair the brand-new $600 faulty Suburban water heater we just bought! No thanks to Suburban.

So be aware if you have to replace or repair a Suburban water heater – you’re on your own because Suburban only knows how to give their customers the cold-shoulder.

Silly RVers! Always playing with their hot water heater!

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.

Oh, what a hot summer… funny how most of it I’ve spent thinking about some of the “cool” places we’ve visited – quite literally! 😉

One of my most memorable would be our winter visit of Arches National Park. If you think the sandstone arches and unusual rock formations are amazing in the summer, you will definitely need to visit the park in winter.

If you visit the park in the winter and plan to walk the trails, make sure you are prepared for changing weather conditions.

For additional information: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/index.htm

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/

 

We have recently been onI-10 and I-75 (Florida) and have seen diesel prices from $4.01 to $4.27. It didn’t bother us as much this time… we didn’t take the rig! Yep! These Full-Timers decided to do the “hotel thing” for a change. I guess you could say we took a vacation from the campground-life for a few days. 😉

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! 😦

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows what adventure awaits this summer!

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)

 Just a quick 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 those yearly check-ups that usually get overlooked unless you are putting your rig in storage or winterizing it.

 Hope 2011 brings you safe travels! 🙂

 If you are a RVer who doesn’t have the storage space or site space for a large flag pole, you may want to consider a garden-size or beaded flag kit.

 I made this beaded flag (left) four years ago and it has been a great  for RV parks where site space is limited. It takes a little patience to make a large flag, but well worth the effort.

Most hardwares, garden centers and hobby shops have a section for garden-size or holiday flags. They require little storage space.

NOTE: If you make a beaded flag, I suggest buying the pony beads in bulk. A great site with beading instructions can be found at Craft Designs 4 You .

The other morning we woke up to a very chilly 28 degrees. For some folks that may be a warm December day, but for those of us in Florida – Brrrr!!!

Our concern the night before was the water line. We have winter camped before (our low is 17 degress in the North Olympic Peninsula – Washington State) and the only time we have had a frozen hose was actually a warmer temp of 30 degrees (Bridgeport, California – just down the road from historic Bodie SHP).

 We had just bought several more Funnoodles® (those pool floaties RVers use to cover their slide edges after the first time they hit their head on the edge! 😉 ) and thought those would be ideal at protecting our water hose.

 After cutting them in half, we placed them along our water hose all the way to the spigot. They fit perfectly and look better than the traditional blankets and duct-tape method.

Our line didn’t freeze and we have decided to make sure we always keep a few extra Funnoodles® in our storage area. And who knows… maybe one day we will actually use them at the pool! 😉

Imagine our surprise the other week when we went to put on the new license plate yearly decal and we discovered our current one was removed! Not only did the license bandit(s) take the current year’s decal, but also the last two years underneath! Fortunately we had special screws in the license plate and that wasn’t removed.

Two days prior we had noticed some cobwebs along the back ladder rack and dusted them off. The plate had the decals at that time. So we had narrowed the time down to which two days the decals were removed. Unfortunately we had been gone most of that time. And with the holidays, our “neighbors” had been out-and-about as well. Reporting it proved useless, but at least we left a paper trail.

Since then we have purchased a clear license plate cover (make sure it’s clear, not smoke or some other tint as it is illegal in some states) to guard our plate and decals. And for the time being, we are making daily “walk arounds” to check.

This experience has made us realize how easy it would be for someone (even outside contracted landscapers, maintainance, park visitors, etc…) to remove license plates and decals from RVs parked at a resort, especially those rigs which are sitting empty for an extended period of time.

If you have your RV sitting in a  resort full-time or seasonally, you may want to check your license plate and decals. Ask a friend or “neighbor” to check regularly.

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.

rig in brf pull-thru

At least one campground in our directory truly is "Big Rig Friendly"

Have you pulled into a campground advertised as “Big Rig Friendly” only to arrive and see a maze of overgrown trees and sharp turns? Or perhaps you were lured in by the promises of “Free WiFi”… until you found out that the wireless service only extended to two campsites – both of which were already occupied by permanent residents?

Normally we gumble to other RVers and put a big X across their listing in our campground directories so that we know to avoid that campground next trip. Yet the last year of travel has left us with two directories filled with big X’s and seriously questioning the standards campground directories have.

One of the campgrounds we recently stopped at in Biloxi, MS was advertised as “Big Rig Friendly” with pull-thru sites. After passing the campground twice (they had 2 sets of directions in both directories and naturally both were wrong – as well as the omission that the campground entrance was wedged in-between two businesses along a busy highway). Once we did find our way, we were rather taken back by the appearance. This “campground” appeared to be a mobile home park with no RVs or RV spaces in sight. Although it was difficult to be sure as there were so many large trees that it blocked the sun and our headlights came on! After driving around half of the park, trying to avoid trees and keep low-lying limbs from damaging our roof, we found the office only to be “greeted” by a woman who told us within five minutes of conversation that she hated working there. Then after she escorted us to their Big Rig pull-thru, we had to tell her no. The site was on a grade and not even close to being level. We figured it would take all our blocking (and more) to even keep the door open.  Not to mention the two trees that would have prevented our slides from coming out!

 Another one we stopped at in Marianna, FL sounded peaceful and a good place to stay for a day or two. That was until we pulled up to the office “Stop” sign and an extremely rude woman came out saying who had to move off the road (it was a two-way road and there was no parking anywhere in sight) so that her residents could get out. We weren’t in anyone’s way and there was no one coming at the time. Then while we were trying to figure out how to leave, a car headed out on this two-way road and she flagged them down and they stopped beside us. We figured a way to turn around and leave, but now she had this vehicle blocking our path to turn around.  After they left she returned her attention to us and had the nerve to ask us what we wanted! Somewhat reluctantly we asked if they had any big rig sites (as advertised) for the night. She said there was and pointed to a wooded area. We couldn’t see any RVs in the area and asked if we could see the site first as we are long and have 4 slides, one of which is a double-room. She said, and I quote her directly, “Oh, you can’t take that thing back there.” When I questioned if we couldn’t get our rig back there to look that must mean we wouldn’t fit in the first place, she ignored me and started off on how people with 45’ rigs towing boats and cargo trailers had been back there. So we just started up the truck again and left her standing there. It’s folks like that we encourage more of us to overnight at truck stops and Walmart parking lots!

 Campgrounds may have “Big Rig” sites, but that does not make navigating the campground “Big Rig Friendly”. Dodging trees and low-lying limbs and turning corners on narrow streets (especially with obstacles like little street lamps, fixed trash bins and concrete curbing) is not “Big Rig Friendly” – it’s a nightmare. Especially if you have been on the road all day and eager to set up and rest!

There needs to be some national standard in campground directories. The days of rating a campground on how clean its shower house is just aren’t enough for modern RVers. We need someone to set some guidelines for these campgrounds, especially those who are using terms such as “Big Rig Friendly” and the promise of WiFi so loosely.

Until then, we will continue X-ing our way through the country and warning other RVers of those campgrounds.

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

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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

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