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Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

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

Looking back…

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

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

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

St. Marks NWR

In addition to Florida State Parks “fee-free” days, don’t forget that September 11, 2011, entrance fees will be waved for those presenting their library card or for those donating a family-friendly book.

September is literacy month and what a better way to celebrate it by taking the family to a Florida State Park! Pack a picnic and grab an identification guide (and binoculars) or another book your family can enjoy together.

Camp Helen SP

For more information visit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information:

Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Islands of Adventure view from Dr. Seuss Landing

We figured we would make our pilgrimage to the Orlando theme parks before the heat of summer set in. One of our favorites is Universal Studios and usually it is very crowded with 30+ minute waits to the rides and shows.  However, this time we found our longest wait a whooping 5 minutes!!! I felt sorry for those purchasing Express passes, as it certainly wasn’t needed during our visit!

And with the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure… well, this fan (yes, I admit it!) wanted to make sure she got a chance to visit Hogsmeade! Again, walking through the park wasn’t so crowded… until… you arrive at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. People of all ages from all over the world standing in awe at the crocked rooftops of Hogsmeade and waiting in line to eat at the 3 Broomsticks. It was wonderful! 😉

"Downtown" Hogsmeade

I do recommend that anyone going to any major theme park this summer keep a few things in mind. One is wear comfortable walking shoes. You have to walk and stand and after a few hours, paper-thin sandals will no longer make your feet look “cool”! Another thing is that you need to keep hydrated. Several of the parks have deals where you can buy a souvenir cup and get discounted refills at various food vendors. And if you are staying at a campground (or hotel) that offers shuttle service, keep in mind that if you get tuckered out before the shuttle comes…. you have a long wait on a hard bench in the Florida sun… So consider paying the parking fees and be able to leave when you are ready to. RVers and oversized trucks are usually only $5 more than a standard vehicle.

Blues Brother performance at Universal Studios

Disaster Ride at Universal Studios

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! 😦


A recent outbreak of severe storms across the U.S. has reminded us to re-check our storm supplies and start thinking about Hurricane Season. As Full-Time RVers, we are always concerned about severe weather. Although RVs can withstand moderate winds, they are not intended to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm.

All Campers should invest in a NOAA weather radio or weather alert radio. A good one can be purchased for around $30 and in case storm Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information.

If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather or possible flooding (which caused much loss last summer season – especially to those tent camping) then you should find out where it is best to seek shelter or what evacuation route (i.e. flood, hurricanes) is closest. Make sure you know where to go and have a little family meeting. Even if you are just on a week vacation, discussing a plan with your family for just five minutes could end up saving your lives.

Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations. Some campgrounds may recommend their restroom or recreation buildings for shelter. Many have concrete buildings that would be a solid structure to go to if there isn’t time, such as in the case of a tornado. But if you have time and know that severe weather will affect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.

We actually stayed at a casino RV resort that had sirens to alert RV guests of a possible tornado and they would dispatch their casino shuttles to pick up everyone from the campground and take them to a secure area of the main casino building. The “plan” was actually printed on the back of the registration tag so that everyone had the information at check-in.

If there is a situation where you are told to evacuate – you must! If it is a volunteer evacuation or if you want to leave on your own accord with your RV, make sure you have: Fuel, Cash (if you can get quick access to it because ATMs do run out of money prior to disasters), Canned Foods, Water, Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio, Personal Information (i.e. insurance papers), Cell Phone (and extra batteries and the charger), Camera (in case you need to document anything afterward for insurance), Medicines Needed (and prescription information if they need refilled while you are away), First-Aid Kit, Laptop Computer and an Overnight Bag (with clothing and toiletries). The overnight bag may be needed if you find yourself stranded and are suddenly forced to leave your RV. If you have pets, a bag for them with Food, Treats, Toys and any Medicines.

If you are taking the rig, you will want to make sure your tank is filled with water, holding tanks emptied, propane tanks filled and RV and tow batteries charged. You might not arrive at your evacuation destination. We know too many RVers who have evacuated only to find themselves stuck only two or three hours from where they left. And most times, especially if it is a hurricane, you find yourself in a worse situation! So if you have adequate time, be prepared.

Storms bring out the best and the worst in people. After one hurricane, many of us gathered other folk’s belongings and secured it back on their property. We also shared food and supplies with other Campers in need. We helped cleaned up debris (as much as we could) and offered generator usage time for those who didn’t have generators.

We have also witnessed the worst in people.  As soon as travel restrictions were lifted, scavengers were driving through the RV resort looking for aluminum scraps (especially off older RVs and park models). For those who weren’t able to return or were away for the summer, their belongings that were scattered were targets for scavengers to steal.

Although RVs are self-contained, they were not designed to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm. So take some time to make a plan for your family this camping season.

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!

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

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