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The last of the U.S. National Park’s fee-free dates for 2015 is almost here! On November 11, 2016 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.

 

We are eagerly keeping an eye on the Weather Channel and thinking of our friends along Eastern Florida. As Floridians we have been through many hurricanes, but it is a completely different experience when you are a Full-Time RVer. In 2004, we dealt with Hurricanes Jean and Francis only weeks apart. Hurricane Jean was our first experience as RVers and we evacuated our rig and sought shelter. After experiencing shelter conditions, we rode out Hurricane Jean at the RV resort, choosing to stay in the recreation building with a handful of other RVers. We saw first-hand the power of Mother Nature. For more information on dealing with disasters while RVing, check out my book, On the Road to Disaster.

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

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/

We ran into some rain this morning on the roadways. Glad to be “home” inside the rig now and not have to worry about traveling during a storm. We’d watch the Weather Channel, but this park doesn’t have cable TV… thankfully we can rely on the NOAA weather radio for severe weather alerts.

All RVers should invest in a NOAA weather alert radio. A nice handheld radio with wall adapter and back-up batteries can be purchased for around $20-30 and in case a storm Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information.

With storm season upon us, it is a good reminder to be prepared!

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!

Looking back…

In the Spring of 2014 we found ourselves making the pilgrimage to George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon (Virginia). It is hard to describe how you feel viewing Washington’s deathbed, approaching his tomb in silence or seeing his ghastly false teeth! And then after touring their home, you sit on the porch overlooking the Potomac River realizing that you have traveled back to America’s early history. It was an awe-inspiring experience – one we certainly won’t forget.

Visiting the local flea market was as far as we got this weekend! We’ll just have to find some new roads another day…

The first of several fee-free days scheduled for 2016 is just around the corner. So consider visiting your local U.S. National Park on Monday, January 18th. Entrance fees to the parks will be waived that day. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

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

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.

Looks like Santa will be saving on fuel this Christmas! 😉

Happy Thanksgiving from the Three Modern Nomads!

In honor of Veterans Day the entrance fees to Florida State Parks (except the Skyway Fishing Pier SP) will be free on November 11, 2015.

The last of the U.S. National Park’s fee-free dates for 2015 is almost here! On November 11, 2015 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.

This campground seems to be operating with a skeleton-crew…

On this date seven years ago…

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

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

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Warning in LA

A few days ago, while driving along the back-roads of Louisiana we came across several of these “Warning: Speed Trap Area” signs. Not sure if someone just wanted to slow down traffic for a few miles or if they were warning drivers of a potential speed trap. Whatever the case, it certainly kept traffic under the speed limit!

It also reminded us of the signs we saw while traveling through Pennsylvania a few years ago. They warned that you were traveling through an “Aggressive Driver High Crash Area”. In addition to the warning signs, some areas had dots painted on the road so that drivers would stay the proper distance from other vehicles.

Regardless of where you’re traveling, remember to slow down – you never know what you’re going to miss driving in the fast lane!

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Aggressive Driver signs in PA

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Chevy and USS ORLECK (LA)

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Chevy and USS ORLECK (LA)

We had an interesting “visit” to the USS Orleck in Lake Charles (LA). You can read more about it in the Our Travels section.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The Silverado following the Silverback

Took some time out to visit the big beaver in the sky… For those not familiar with the toothy critter, Bucee’s is a travel center with locations throughout Texas.

We left Padre Island (Texas) today and are starting another leg of the “big” journey. Although I think someone better clean those bugs off the windshield at the next stop! 😉

Sunday morning we were surprised to see three waterspouts forming in the Gulf of Mexico (Texas). By the time I went back to the RV to get my camera two of them had dissipated.

 Took a break to enjoy the amazing view as the sun rises over the Gulf of Mexico ~ Mustang Island (TX).

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! 🙂

Eagerly awaiting IN MY SITES: Campground Mystery #4? It won’t be long now! Meanwhile, the first three books in my Campground Mystery series, A ‘CLASS A’ STASH, THE PROPANE GAME and DYING TO WORK CAMP are available in softcover, hardcover and PDF format. And don’t forget my book A THOUSAND WORDS: Photos from life on-the-road is available in softcover from Amazon.com!

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

Looking back…

In the summer of 2013 we planned a day-trip to Mansfield (MO) in search of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homestead.  The drive itself was rather memorable as we found ourselves alongside Amish buggies.

The farmhouse that Laura and Almanzo built still stands – frozen in time. A calendar on the wall from the 1950s is a reminder that although times have changed, somethings should remain the same for posterity. Learning about their life and struggles makes you appreciate American willpower. They crossed the country in a wagon with a hundred dollars stashed in a box and made a new life for themselves in Missouri. That very box can be viewed at the museum located on the property.

Most people have heard of the “Little House” series, either through the books and later TV show. Yet most do not realize that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not begin writing down her stories until her daughter Rose encouraged her to. A little corner nook by their bedroom contains a small writing desk where she wrote her stories on paper tablets.

Now, a few generations later, we are reading her stories on electronic tablets. 🙂

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.

The Chevy Silverado on our recent visit to King Ranch.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © The USS LEXINGTON

If you are in Corpus Christi (Texas), plan on visiting the USS Lexington. The Lexington, an Essex Class aircraft carrier, was commissioned in 1943. She was nicknamed the “Blue Ghost” by Tokyo Rose because of several reports of being sunk. At the time of her decommission in 1991, she was the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy.

There are five self-guided tours, each beginning and ending on the hangar deck. From aircraft, exhibits, movie theater, cafe and gift shop, be prepared to spend a day on board. One of the hidden gems we found was a ball cap (of the Lexington) worn by Commander Jerry Linenger on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994.

Admission is $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. Gated parking across the street is $3.50 and requires a token at exit (which you pay for at Admissions). There is no RV parking, so only take your tow vehicle. There is free shuttle service from the pier to the hangar deck.   The tour consists of a great deal of walking and climbing – sturdy shoes are recommended. And don’t forget your camera!

 

Who knew shopping for souvenirs could be so dangerous? 😉

If you find yourself near Corpus Christi (TX), plan to visit Padre Island National Seashore. The park consists of 70 miles of coastline, sand dunes and tidal flats. In addition to being the nesting grounds for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the park also boasts over 300 species of birds.

At the park you’ll find the Malaquite Visitor Center (consisting of small museum, gift shop, camp store, restrooms and pavilion), campgrounds, boat ramp, picnic shelters, nature trails and windsurfing/kayaking rentals. There is plenty to do – from beach-combing and birdwatching to bicycling and fishing.

It can be windy along the beach and can be buggy at times near the marshes. And don’t forget to watch out for Portuguese Man-O-War and jellyfish!

Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle (7 day pass) and an additional $5 if you want to use the Bird Island Basin area. Be forewarned, the park is not all paved. A short drive after the visitor center you will find yourself driving on the beach! And four-wheel drive is recommended for travel beyond the first couple of miles. However, we did see a handful of folks with their RVs along the first section. You might ask at the entrance gate about current road conditions before taking your own Big Rig beach driving though!

Finding new roads in Texas… although this one leads straight into the Gulf of Mexico!

After enjoying some quiet time in Louisiana, we are ready to roll westward again.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Lately, I have been busy uploading more photos to TMN and came across this photo taken at the one campground that really surprised us.

We were southbound on I-77 and decided to call it a night in Fancy Gap (VA). Daylight was fading and when we pulled into the campground we immediately thought this was not the place for a Big Rig. All I can remember from the entrance is trees – lots and lots of trees – and no RVs in sight. The friendly gal at check-in assured us they were Big Rig friendly and we found ourselves being escorted around a curve to a row of pull-thru sites in the woods. The sites in the row were tiered to conform to the mountain, yet they were spacious, level and private. We were actually camping in the woods without the hassles that comes from having a Big Rig! Considering all the ill-designed and obstacle-cluttered campgrounds we have visited over the years, this was a genuine surprise.

Now as we are prepping the rig for the next long haul, I wonder what summer adventures we will get ourselves into. After all, you never know what surprise is waiting for you just around the corner. 😉

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! 🙂

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

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

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

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A ‘CLASS A’ STASH (Book #1)

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