Category Archives: Campground Reviews

3 weeks along the Shenandoah National Park-Summer ’21(Part 1, NY-PA-VA)

[Buckle your seatbelt, this is a long post but can be done in segments!]

Originally our 2021 “big trip” of the summer was going to begin by crossing over the border to Toronto, Canada and proceeding in a leisurely path west along the Canadian highways and byways reaching the “mitten” of Michigan- The Upper Peninsula and then heading south to join up with fellow Avioner’s in Elkhart, Indiana for the annual SAF rally.

The lingering Covid 19 and the pandemic restrictions of travel crossing borders and prohibition to enter Canada put a total kabash on all that. We had to cancel reservations and rethink our plans.

Answer! Let’s go South and experience the Shenandoah’s and Smoky Mountains! I have always said to Kevin, give me campsites with views of water or mountains- preferably both….and my heart sings and my soul rejoices. So in mid December 2020 we switched plans…..South we go instead of North!

PLANNING……..

PRIMARY GOALS: We would do a 3-week adventure with the goal of driving the entire length of the Skyline Drive (toll to get on), the Blue Ridge Parkway and end up at one of our “national bucket list of European-themed USA towns”–Helen, Georgia which boasted a Bavarian/German theme and set in a mountain setting.

Alpine Helen, Georgia- This will be handled in the Part 3 blog post in more details along with best campground near by!

SECONDARY GOALS: in planning this trip we also had some important secondary goals we wanted to accomplish.

(1) Stay at a minimum of one Military Base FAM/TRAVEL camps. I will do a separate blog post about this program in the future and link it back here. There are specific classifications of military or former military that can use these parks. They are not open to the general public.

(2) Stay at as many National Park (NPS) Campgrounds and State Campgrounds as possible to save $$ and see how our 32 foot travel trailer will be in these eastern seaboard, and older campgrounds.

(3) Stay at an Army Corps of Engineer Campground to see what they are like.

(4) Use Luise’s recently obtained National Park Service Senior Lifetime Access Pass to its fullest advantage to save $$ on park entrance and campground fees. (Mission accomplished!you can get as soon as you turn 62)

(5) Use our new subscription to RV Trip Wizard to do the planning, routing and travel assistance. (see my notes later on how we felt this went for this type of trip)

Let’s start with the planning portion. While we are still recreational campers (not full time living yet!) and the constraints of a start and end date- planning is important to get your desired trip in within the time you have been granted vacation from work. I retired at the end of 2020 but Kevin is still working full time (bless his heart).

We had purchased a subscription to RV Trip Wizard thinking this would be the be all-end all to our planning needs. We based this on fabulous multiple reviews from bloggers we follow, fellow travelers, etc.

“The Bad/Ugly” What we found out, or rather I found out was that RV Trip Wizard likes highways….not scenic byways. It constantly tried to route me off of the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway! I tried applying the “avoid highway” setting but that did not work because some of our trip needed highways/intertstates to get from point A to point B.

“The Fix” so what I ended up having to do was to create a Part A, Part B and Part C of our trip—each with its own unique trip plan and had to save each of them seperately. This way I could segment out and use interstates when desired, or the avoid highway mode when needed for the byways and back roads we wanted. It was VERY time consuming, tedious and not at all what I had hoped the program could do. I am totally sure if you are choosing to do long trips using major highways that the software will be fabulous as it does offer a lot of nice features.

“What the Program DID do Well!” there were pluses to using RV Trip Wizard though. That included a great pin point locator of campgrounds along our route with many filters we could apply as desired e.g. National, state, private campgrounds, things nearby to see, gas station locations, etc.

In the end, although I had printed out each PART on paper (yeah about 23 pages worth) I never used one of the sheets nor did we trust to use it as our GPS- so we resorted to our Garmin RV which is also only so-so. Published paper maps from the NPS and state tourism bureaus worked in tandem with our GPS- we only took a wrong way twice!

BTW— We booked 95% of our campground reservations by January 15, 2021 ( for a May 28 departure date) so we would assure ourselves places to stay! Booking this far ahead is critical in our opinion if you have a larger rig like ours, are somewhat picky what type of site you want. You can always cancel a reservation but these days with the glut of RVers on the road- do not wait to make early reservations if you have specific destinations in mind.

SO ONTO OUR TRIP! ….WHEW! Thought we would never get there!

PART ONE- NY, PA TO VA & onto THE SKYLINE DRIVE

SECTION 1 Plan- leave home Thursday, May 28 and drive to first overnight- boondock (about 6 hrs) at Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA. LINK This is a frequent boondock for us because we avoid NYC and RT 95 completely. We prefer to loop through PA going out to Harrisburg and then south. Although the roads in PA have been in perpetual construction mode since the early 90’s we still find this route preferable to going through lower NYS, NJ and MD along RT 95-especially when towing a trailer!

Overnight Day ONE at Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA. Of course we dropped some $$ shopping. Sadly restaurant closed due to low staffing and Covid 19. NOTE- they have dedicated RV parking area to far left of lot and have a dump station , dog walk area, horse exercise pens for RV users too. The lot is not the most level- we used our Anderson levelers while hitched up on our return overnight stay.

ON TO VIRGINIA….FORT BELVOIR ARMY BASE- TRAVEL CAMP! As I mentioned above, thanks to Kevin’s Army service and discharge classification (there are only specific ones allowed) we are able to use these FAM or Travel camps as they are called which are right on a military base (all branches of service) and in many cases RVers are granted use of the PX the Commissary and other on base services. The rates to stay are not necessarily cheaper than the rack rate at nearby private campgrounds, but the security is outstanding, you know you are only camped next to other military folks, and the use of the other base services like pool, hair salons, gyms, etc. granted at some bases is really nice. PLUS..in this case WE CAMPED RIGHT ALONG THE POTOMAC RIVER AND A 1/2 HOUR FROM WASHINGTON DC! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON THE TRAVEL CAMP.

(we will do a complete campground review in the future, watch for the link!)

Our timing for over Memorial Day to be at Fort Belvoir was in hindsight not perfect. DC was a mob scene and most of the museums in DC that we had not already seen where still closed or on severe limited pre-reservation timed entry passes due to Covid-19 still. It was a bummer, but we did spend a great full day at nearby (about 35 min drive) in Fredericksburg, VA. This is a colonial town with tons of history, historic buildings, great restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed a great “German lunch” at Deutschland Downtown and had fun touring some of the historic buildings. Worth the day trip in our opinion.

OH…and did I mention there is a huge IKEA store about 15 minutes from the campground. Yup…dropped some coinage there too another day!

Here we are just down the street from the Deutschland Downtown restaurant and going into the visitor center in Fredericksburg, VA

SECTION 2NEXT STOP- ONTO THE SKYLINE DRIVE TO LURAY, VA

We stayed four nights at Fort Belvoir, in VA then drove essentially west to pick up the Skyline Drive just south of the town of Front Royal (we will cross paths with Front Royal on our way home too!) It was an easy drive west and Front Royal is a good place to GAS UP before starting the Skyline Drive. There is only ONE GAS STATION ON THE SKYLINE DRIVE at Big Meadows (Byrd Visitor Center) which is about a halfway point. PLAN YOUR VISIT……

**Fee to enter the DRIVE is $30 unless you have a NPS (National Park Service) Pass. I have a Senior Lifetime Access Pass so we were FREE!

“Ca-Ching”…first savings on my NPS Senior Pass!

–Info about regular annual pass....Here

–Info about Senior Lifetime Access Pass (you must be at least 62 years young!) ....Here

PRO-NOTE– if you show up after 5 PM or before 9 AM to the entry gates at any of the four entries to the DRIVE you will most likely get in for free and see a note that says….”please pay when you exit” . This, is at least the case right now, with staffing stressed to the max in part due to Covid 19 and previous years drastic funding reductions to National Parks. Be a good doobie…and pay when you leave! They need the $$!

** BE SURE TO GET THE OFFICIAL SKYLINE DRIVE MAP! You will need it as there is little to NO CELL SIGNAL for most of the drive and the map gives you mile markers, locations and services at rest areas and key sites to not miss.

** if you have a CD player in your car or available, the first NPS visitor center ( Dickey Ridge) southbound on the Skyline Drive sells a really nice auto tour CD that narrates what you are seeing as you drive along, allows you to pause it for stops and gives you background history of areas you are passing through. Worth the small cost in our opinion. Sorry…they do not have an app…and with no cell signal-not gonna work anyway! LOL

As soon as you enter the Skyline Drive you will see it is a tad winding in spots, but not too bad and there are TONS of SCENIC PULL OFFS on both sides of the road. The roadway is one lane south (our direction) and one lane north. All rest areas with/without services are accessible from both directions. That being said:

there were many scenic pull offs that clearly were intended to visit when traveling northbound. We were traveling southbound and with our total length of 56 feet—we passed by some because the pull out was on a blind turn or there were too many vehicles already there, making it tough for us to easily get in and out. “

Best time to do pull offs is earlier in the morning. You will find the traffic lightest then too. There are no street lights, so when it gets dark…it is DARK- we recommend NOT doing the DRIVE in the dark due to wildlife, winding blind turns and narrow roadways. (there are no guardrails, no shoulders). We were traveling through on the first full week of June, 2021 and the traffic was very, very light. We were surprised and often had no one within any eyeshot of us for miles. There were many times where we felt we were the only ones left in the world!

We found the Skyline Drive to be a beautiful and very relaxing drive. the drive includes going through lush woodlands, and riding atop the mountains, slicing through carved out divides and circling around the midline of 4000 foot high mountains. No semi-trucks, no commercial vehicles, no billboards, just wooded wilderness, beautiful vistas and lots of “oh wow!”, “amazing” and “look how far we can see!”. It was enchanting and exhilarating at the same time!

Next stop….LURAY Jellystone Campground & Luray Caverns!

We picked Luray Jellystone Campground because it was easy off the SD (Skyline Drive) and had quick access to gas, the caverns, downtown shopping, etc. **There are ONLY FOUR entrances onto the SD so planning where to camp overnight you should factor that in so you are not spending a lot of time traveling back roads to get to a campground if you are only spending a night or two and hopping back onto the SD.

I will not go into detail here on this campground here. Suffice it to say, it was a typical Jellystone. Lots of kids, families with golf carts, sites were ok but nothing out of the ordinary. Please read our campground review for the good, bad and ugly details.

We stayed there two nights, mid week. Would we stay there again? probably only if we had the grandsons with us.

We LOVED Luray Caverns and their “add-on at no charge” other attractions in their complex. Just minutes from the campground on the same highway too. We arrived just as it was opening (I think we were ticket #4 & 5) so it was nice and cool. No worries…inside the Caverns is beautifully tepid cool all the time- a great place to go on a scorcher summer day! Plan to spend the day there is a lot to see and do from the caverns to the Heritage Museum to the Antique Auto Museum and the Toy Museum (not so great, a little tired and forgotten) and for an additional fee, a tree tops ropes course.

PRO-NOTES:

Get there early to have the cave nearly to yourself to stroll!

Just new within the past year, the caverns has gone completely NO STAIRS! They built and extensive ramp with easy grade to access the main entrance and all of the pathways through the caverns are all ramps or easy paths with sturdy handrails. This is a wonderful thing! They are very proud of this accessibility feature and rightly so!

There is a very RV FRIENDLY pull-through Gas station right at the foot of their huge parking lot. Plenty of room for RV parking if you get there in the morning!

My FAV photo inside the Caverns. This is the reflecting pool. What you see on the bottom is water…with the reflection of the stalagtites from above! This is my photo…not a postcard!

When in Luray, take a few more minutes to visit COOTER’S GARAGE and the DUKES OF HAZZARD MUSEUM -owned by Ben Jones an original cast member! It’s just west by a few minutes from the Luray Caverns (on same highway). Its a great stop, we missed on our southbound route, so we caught it going back up north on our return trip. Easy access off of Interstate 81 that northbound or southbound direction too! There is no charge to enter the museum, but they have a nice small gift shop attached that you will want to purchase something to support their efforts. I purchased some locally made jam.

There is RV parking to the east side of their parking lot. We got there just before closing and so the parking lot was virtually empty mid week. The cafe unfortunately has very odd and limited hours so do not count on a bite to eat there. The museum is great with tons of memorabilia and actual cars (or some repro’s) used in the TV show. Dating ourselves, watched it regularly! The gift shop also has DoH stuff to purchase to show you remember when……Daisy Duke was America’s heartthrob!

PRO-NOTE: Even if you have to get there after hours, you can still see these cars as well as others like the ones used in the show displayed outside 24/7!

SECTION 3- BACK ONTO THE SKYLINE DRIVE TO LOFT MOUNTAIN!

We hopped back onto the Skyline Drive (SD) after spending 2 nights at Luray Jellystone. The drive continued to keep us in awe with beautiful scenery, the occasional deer spotting and amazing woodland vistas. The NPS rest areas are excellent, some with snack bars and all with gift shops (of course!) and clean restrooms, 24/7 maps to take, hiking maps, etc. There is usually at least one NPS Ranger during (9-4 pm) who can also answer specific questions about hikes, natural wonders, wildlife, etc.

Below is SKYLAND rest area which also features a restaurant, grab n go snack bar, gift shop and what appear to be beautiful lodging cabins that have spectacular private balconies overlooking the valley to the west. They were doing construction on the exterior to add we believe a large outside dining deck to the restaurant area. Restaurant has limited hours. If you are not camping, or want a night of blissful luxury you may want to book a stay! One of the most beautiful rest areas, however the bathrooms i the rest area itself were down a very large flight of stairs. really?? I must have missed the main floor ones! Check out the link here…

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MILE MARKERS! Skyland is Mile Marker 45, Loft Mountain is Mile Marker (MM) 80. (reminder, below you will see Big Meadow Visitor Center on the map below my fingers a bit. This is the ONLY GAS/DIESEL station on the entire 105 miles of the Skyline Drive! Top off or Gas Up here!

This does not sound like much of a trek, but when there is an awesome view from pull offs along the way and you stop to take pictures and drool….it can take a while believe me! Plus remember…the speed limit on the SD is 35 MPH and that is all you want to go anyway so you do not miss anything or anyone (like a deer or bear!) We did 25-30mph most of the time.

LOFT MOUNTAIN NPS CAMPGROUND

LOFT MOUNTAIN was our first National Park Service campground experience. I had used online booking, reviewed online sites that show photos of the actual sites and thought this would be a good fit. We were Site # F165. Non electric, no services site….which is all they have ANYWAY! I booked this in late December and there were already limited sites available so book early! We stayed 2 nights and rate was $15 per night but with my Senior NPS pass (see above for link) it was HALF PRICE…A WHOPPING $15 FOR TWO NIGHTS OF DRY CAMPING on top of a mountain with deer out our door and spectacular sunsets!

Loft Mountain NPS Campground, atop Big Flat Mountain in Crozet, VA.
Best photo I took in the entire trip! this was from the Amphitheater, not from our campsite itself.

Be sure if you do camp at Loft Mountain campground that you take one of the several paths to the Amphitheater to watch the sunsets! You may get lucky like we did and see Elk literally 5 feet from you on the path! Sadly, again due to Covid restrictions/ and we think low staffing again, there were no programs scheduled at the outdoor theater but we understand there normally would be nature talks, music bands, solo musicians, etc. at least on weekends. We were there June 4-6, 2021.

Below are photos of our campsite itself in the Loop F, site # 165. We would try for other sites next time. This site is fine for a trailer under 28 feet due to the curve and the very un-levelness (is that a word?) of the site. Our power jack barely had enough pole to level us. Thank goodness we had the large red Anderson Jack Block to secure us in place. Even with this, I had nightmares of us falling off our block, and dreamt of a bear using our trailer as a scratching post and knocking us off our “perch”. (read that story “Mr MaGee Goes Camping” to my grandsons once too many times I think!)

While at Loft Mountain on our first full day we did a day ride (no trailer in tow) to Staunton, VA using the southern most entry point to the SD which is ROCKFISH GAP. We wanted to have a nice lunch at another highly rated German restaurant, The Edelweiss. You are getting the theme here about our culinary preferences aren’t you!? ** let us know if there is a super good German restaurant where you live or travel—we would love to check it out!

We also did some walking around the campground looking at sights (including views, deer and elk) but did not do any of the many hikes off of here due to my arthritic knee acting up. We would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are on the SD or doing Interstate 81 as it is right off of there as well. Just use Google!

So this will end our PART 1 from our 2021 Summer 3-Week trip over the Shenandoah Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park. Thank you for taking the ride with us! Here I am pointing to my Shenandoah National Park sticker on our 1987 Avion travel trailer we affectionately call “The Pewter Palace”!

Part 2 will include the Blue Ridge Parkway beginning in Rockfish Gap, through the rest of the Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Mountain Range and on into the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Be well, travel safe, slow down and enjoy the journey!

Sincerely, Kevin & Luisa Sherman

Luray, VA Jellystone-Campground Review & Tips about the Skyline Drive!

We took a 3 week long, 3341 mile trip in the Pewter Palace beginning on May 28, 2021.

After a quick boondock stop at our favorite Cabella’s in Hamburg, PA and a four day stay at Camp Belvoir (Military Travel Camp-see separate reviews for military camps we are very fortunate to be able to stay at) we landed wheels at the Jellystone Camping Resort in Luray, VA on RT 211. We were there the first week in June.

WHY CHOOSE THIS LOCATION?

-Very close to the Skyline Drive/ Blue Ridge Parkway junction.

-Easy access to the famous, and well worth the visit- Luray Caverns (which also has a bonus of an antique auto museum, heritage village and toy museum all on same ticket)

-About 18 minutes from Cooter’s Garage- a museum dedicated to the legacy of the TV show…The Dukes of Hazard. Complete with autos, memorbilia, interviews, personal props, etc.

-Plenty of local retail, including a WalMart Superstore, gas, other boutique type stores in downtown Luray are all within 10 minutes.

Cooter’s Garage- Museum & Gift Shop. Daisey’s Diner was not open when we were there. The diner has very limited hours. There is sufficient parking for RVs if you get there early or just before they close at 5 pm. There is a field to east side for overflow parking.

CAMPGROUND REVIEW-AMENITIES, SITE, CAMP STORE

This campground is a Jellystone so most of the attention is towards families, kids and fun. However, during our visit that is not what we found. We honestly felt that the facility was “milking Covid restrictions” in our opinion by having most of their amenities either closed or on very limited scheduling. (note, by the time of our visit the Governor of VA had curtailed all closure restrictions, mask restrictions, etc. and masks were only required for those not fully vaccinated to enter businesses or closed in public spaces.)

For example, here are our observations.

The Pool Complex: Their pool complex is beautiful but….the four nights we were there, the water slides (evidently weekends only till mid June) and splash pad were not open, only 1 of three pools in the pool complex was open at any given time (appears they rotate which one is open) all others had caution tape strung around them (looked pretty tacky), the pool side snack bar was not open at all. The jumping pillows were open limited hours- so kids liked that. There was no posted adult only swim times, no hot tub and no scheduled activities for anyone/age group that we were aware of. On a plus note…..Their mini golf course was open and in very nice condition- perhaps one of the nicer ones we have seen at a private park. They have tons of golf carts to rent and this seems to be a major event for most campers here. They are very expensive and have a 2 day minimum rental. We have never seen so much cart traffic in a campground. Folks here do not like to walk.

Ariel view from their brochure of pool complex, jumping pillows, fishing pond (catch/release), mini golf, etc. It is a nice resort, but do not expect full service until after middle of June.

Here is a link to their full scope of amenities…there is a lot. BUT-We did not see any evidence any were open except what is noted above. https://campluray.com/attractions/

Campstore Clamp Down! What really was a big turn off for us was as you walked around their very large and well stocked camp store there were signs on nearly every shelf, every hanging display and everywhere we turned that basically said…”Do NOT Touch any items unless you plan to buy them” and this they claimed was due to Covid. This was overdone and in our opinion totally a big turn off and ridiculous! Seriously???? does this mean that the management points to items they want to buy in the local supermarket when they personally go shopping for their families?

Our Site: originally we were booked (online sight unseen) to site # 97, a corner site which is typically our preference. Upon arrival it was clear the site was very unlevel, our streetside neighbor way too close and way to short for our 56 total length. To their credit, when I phoned the desk, they were very pleasant and accommodating and allowed us to immediately relocate to a pull through site #181. Most sites are lightly graveled with spotty grass. They do have upgraded sites on the ends which have concrete pads and better maintained- are they worth the extra $$- for you to decide! Our site was pretty average, nothing grand for sure, no views, width was good and it was much more level, directly across a big lawn where the rental cabins are. It was fine and certainly close enough for us to walk to the pool complex, etc. Without being self contained it would have been a decent hike to bath house facilities.

Location, Location, Location: The biggest factor for us to stay at this campground was its location and proximity to hop off the Skyline Drive and only have to travel a short way on a state highway to the campground. The Skyline Drive does have an entrance fee but once paid is good for 7 consecutive days. The Skyline Drive is beautiful and was our favorite. There are ONLY4 ENTRANCE points to the Drive,

Front Royal Entrance Station near Rt. 66 and 340

Thornton Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 211

Swift Run Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 33

Rockfish Gap Entrance Station at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway).

An entrance pass is required in order to enter Shenandoah National Park, whether you’re driving on Skyline Drive or hiking in from the boundary. All entrance passes are valid for unlimited entry for seven consecutive days, beginning on the date of purchase. Entrance passes may be purchased online or at any of our entrance stations.

  • Shenandoah Entrance Pass – Single Vehicle – $30.00 Unlimited entry for one vehicle and all passengers for seven consecutive days, beginning on the day of purchase. Vehicles must be private, noncommercial, and with a seating capacity of 15 or less.
  • We have my NPS Senior Lifetime Access Pass ($80 one time fee) so for us the entrance was totally FREE. The campground’s location is a great hub and spoke location with easy quick access to Luray Caverns, local shopping/services and all it has to offer and to Cooter’s Garage a fun attraction on the other side of town (still on RT 211 heading west towards Interstate 81). We actually did Cooter’s on our return trip home at the end of our vacation since we were traveling RT 81 Northbound.
One of the first overlooks on the Skyline Drive heading south from Front Royal entrance.

Nuts and Bolts…. campground WiFi coverage was fair to lousy and the park was not at nearly full capacity either! So if you do not have your own internet booster/hot spot you are pretty much out of luck. We did better just using our Verizon MiFi hot spot. Fact–do not plan to have cell or any type of signal when touring most of the Shenandoah National Park.

WOULD WE GO BACK? probably not. I believe there are other campgrounds in close enough proximity to the northern terminus or middle section of the Skyline Drive near the caverns, etc. that warrant our business. Understanding we are not big into campgrounds geared towards young families anymore (used to be and still do when grandkids are with us) but rarely do we use most of the amenities that those types of campgrounds justifiably have to attract families. On our return leg of our trip we stayed about 25 minutes north of Luray, at the Shenandoah River State Park (SRSP). A drop dead gorgeous park, river swimming, kayak/canoe launch, pavillions. SRSP campground is smaller in size, no amenities (pool, etc) but very new and beautifully set up. Super nice, clean bath house, shower facilities and laundry room. I will do a SRSP review in more detail with photos, etc. once i complete it and cross link it here.

SHOULD YOU DO THE SKYLINE DRIVE?

ABSOLUTELY! IT IS A FABULOUS DRIVE, 35 MPH, “WOW” AT EVERY TURN AND OVERLOOK. We thoroughly enjoyed our drive and our time in the Shenandoah National Park for the week! If you are a hiker you could easily stay a month in the Shenandoah NP and not see or do all you would want to!

Happy Travels, stay safe, stay hydrated and enjoy every mile! If you like this post, please comment- subscribe to our blog to get notifications of new posts! We have a lot more coming about our big journey through the Shenandoah’s and Smoky’s including some amazing photography and more campsite reviews of state and national campgrounds!

cumberland bay ny state campground- review

Sometimes, just a “short get away” is the perfect stay!

That was the case when Kevin and I chose a camping trip to Cumberland Bay State Park this autumn. We were super lucky to even get a beach front site with only a week advance booking! Then again, it was September so weather in this part of NY can be chilly—but we had great weather in the 70s during the day and 50s at night. Perfect!

This NYS campground is part of the (Reserve America) NYS system in nearby (2.5 hours north of us) Plattsburgh, NY. This campground sits just north of the city and directly on the huge Lake Champlain which serves as the link boundary between NY and VT to the east.

CLOSE IS NICE SOMETIMES!

We love basically where you see the word “Falls” on the map above. That is Glens Falls NY.

Getting there from our home in Queensbury, NY is a beautiful and easy drive north on I-87 “The Adirondack Northway”. If coming from VT you can take the Ferry that leaves from Grand Isle, VT. FYI- the Adirondack Northway, RT 87 is also our direct way to Montreal, Canada just 3 hours from home. The Northway itself is a beautiful road passing exits for Lake Placid, Ausable Chasm and other notable and beautiful scenic trips in their own right. Those locations really deserve their own dedicated camping trip.

Here are links to the campground and reservation system.

RESERVATION WOES

Please note, unfortunately NYS in trying to do a “nice thing for campers during Covid-19” opened up their reservation booking window through 2021. In my opinion it would have been OK to allow NYS residents to do this, but it was opened for anyone to do. What has resulted is 99% of all decent campsites in the state park campground system have been already booked through next year and I suspect many by out of state campers who may or may not ever really use that reservation. Sadly, i think most of this was to grab up sites…but in reality I bet many of these reservations will be unused or cancelled. I am not alone in this perception. What it has done is closed out many NY state residents from enjoying camping in campgrounds our state tax dollars pay for. Many fulltime RVer’s are discussing this same thing on their YouTube channels and blogs so NYS campers are not alone.

ABOUT THE CAMPGROUND:

Our front yard at Site #46.

The campground sits right on Lake Champlain but also includes a day-use beach area so we suspect during peak summer months this place is going to be a lot busier, noisier and bustling than our sublime autumn getaway. There are only really 6-7 sites that are “direct waterfront” and we were thrilled to get one of these. There is a large 4 foot “sea wall” style barrier between the campground and the beach. There are some places where there is a set of stairs to get down onto the beach as well. The beach is very wide, very well kept. Along the wall there is a walkable sidewalk which many folks used too. We honestly feel that our adolescent grandsons will have more fun at this campground with the beach and bike riding than they did at Jellystone!

Sites 43 to 48 are the only sites that are truly water front with no obstructions of this beautiful view!

We had site #46 which was a great site for our 32 foot travel trailer. It was also the widest of all of these beach front sites too. Our top choice recommendations here are in order: 46, 43 or 47 due to their length, width and scenic value. They are also on lawn but do not have really any privacy buffers between sites.

The sites that are on the same road but directly opposite our site are ok but beware they are quite sandy and not very well kept up as of Fall 2020. Also, some of the sites in this campground are very short so do trust the “max length” notation they have when you are making a site selection.

These sites along the beach row are NO HOOKUPS! In fact, most of the sites in the campground are no hook ups. They have built nice new bath houses around the north end of the park up on the hill. The southern end still use a large older bath house that was OK. The campsites opposite from the beach front sites (shown above) do have electric only. These tend to be where you will see a lot of large 5th wheels.

We boondocked with no issues at all. There is a water fill spigot on the way into the park on the right side of main drive and a very modern, 2 lane, dump station as you exit, or if you are there for longer and don’t have your own porta-dolly and need a mid-stay dump, the access is very good and easy.

While camping we used the main beach house toilets quite a bit besides our own RV bath. The public day use bath house is only a couple years old, very ADK looking, beautiful and very clean and modern. It was only a short walk from our site. there is a very nice children’s playground there too with rubberized ground pad which is always very nice.

The fellow campers at the campground were very nice, all were very cognizant of the need for face masks and social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation. It was very quiet, reserved and peaceful and we really enjoyed just relaxing watching the throngs of Canada geese who came in in the morning then the other water fowl who came in at other times of the day. They seemed to be taking turns!

We stayed four nights (thurs through Sun) and while there is not much to see and do directly around the campground itself or within walking distance, just a 5-10 minute drive you are in the City of Plattsburgh a great place to check out!! The city is home to the State University of NY at Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh) and also an international airport due to its proximity to Montreal so this creates a nice downtown vibe.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN DOWNTOWN PLATTSBURGH!

A DAY TRIP OR OVERNIGHT TO MONTREAL IS CLOSE-BY!

Also, for those who may be staying a little longer and looking for a super terrific full “day trip” Montreal, Canada is only a 1 hour 15 min easy drive by highway. The border crossing will add a little time to this but if you avoid commuter times you should be ok. Downtown historic Montreal is fabulous with great shops, dining, the underground and more! There are not a lot of easy access campgrounds near Montreal so this might be a great day trip or even overnight option! (if you bring your RV over the border, remember there are in-bound and out-bound food restrictions on things like beer (limits) and restrictions on fresh meats, veggies and fruits, etc. Check the border crossing sites before you end up having to throw good food into a bin at the border!)

NOTE: We did not go to Montreal on this trip since the borders in/out are closed due to Covid-19. Besides, we live only 3 hours south of Montreal so we can go anytime once the borders re-open.

Besides…why go anywhere when we saw this each evening while enjoying our own wine, beer, cheese & crackers while we warm up around our portable Outland LP fire pit! This was literally our view from our site. Deep breath……ahhhhhhhh.

We left our picnic table where it was, though they are moveable. We loved meals right next to the waterfront!
Our evening sunsets every night were like this. Simply beautiful!

Just a few more photos of our stay at Cumberland Bay State Park. We had a wonderful time, in fact, we tried to book a stay for next summer and should not have been surprised all of the waterfront sites are booked solid from June through mid-September. Bummer! but we will be back!

Reddy loved Cumberland Bay State Park too!
Trying to show here that the beach is literally at the end of that grass line that you can see!

We hope you do check out Cumberland Bay State Park for yourself and enjoy the relaxation of the park, but also the great offerings in downtown Plattsburgh.

Looking for awesome “Avion-branded” gifts, clothing, camping gear or decor? please check out our exclusive designs at MyAvionMarketplace.com

Let us know if you go! We would love your feedback!

Kevin & Luisa Sherman proud owners of a 1987, 32S Avion!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Hapgood pond CampGround, Green Mountain national forest, Peru, vt

We ventured about 2.5 hours heading east from our home near Lake George NY to spend a long weekend (3 nights, four days) in the Green Mountain National Forest of nearby Vermont in late August 2020. The drive was over hill and dale from our home in eastern side of upstate NY, peaceful through quaint NY and VT villages and bucolic farmscapes. Closer to our destination, we passed Bromley Ski Area which now also has a full compliment of summer activities including chair lift, bike trails and more. There are several notable ski areas along this route in an easy to reach too.

Sometimes its really nice to just have a short hop, skip, and jump to a pretty local place but that feels worlds away from your normal backyard.

Our destination was Hapgood Pond Campground which is under the management and inside the Green Mountain National Forest. The campground is located in Peru, VT. Peru is a very small backwater village with a town green, one quintessential VT general store ( see slide show below) , an 18th C. church on the green (of course) and a handful of beautifully restored 18th and 19th century houses dotted here and there. Just off Route 11 heading NE out of Manchester, VT, this sleepy town is the perfect and close get away. I have a slide show of the general store and more info below.

Nearby, Manchester Vt offers outlet stores, boutiques, ample varieties of unique, locally-owed restaurants and of course, the Northshire Bookstore which is a destination unto itself. This large store is worth the stop even if you are not a bibliophile….they have wonderful unique gifts, new age, inspirational and spiritual gifts and accessories and some quirky retro gifts and great unique kitchen accessories too! Warning, Manchester can be very touristy and busy on summer weekends, we hit it right because of an anticipated rainy Saturday–the rain cleared out by noon and there were not many folks downtown yet.

Hapgood Pond Campground is beautifully set with surrounding pine and forest lands, it has a beautiful and ample pond with great beach for swimming (sadly the one weekend we were there it was a late August cold snap and only in the 60s during the day so too cold for a swim). It has a 1 mile nice hike trip around the pond is worth the adventure. We did the hike on Saturday starting out at 6 PM and the lighting was beautiful and we had the whole thing to ourselves…quite magical. I suspect in peak seasons of summer weekends the trail could get busy as there also is a day picnic area as part of this 27 campsite park. The campground access road is dirt/stone dust, level and well maintained road which is a little narrow but certainly do-able for our 32 footer. Just watch the one right hand bend. We would not recommend anything larger than 35′ for sure. Please also avoid the sites 17-20 which are in a dead end loop unless you tent or have a small pop up trailer. You will not get in or out with anything bigger.

Site # 2, First come, First Served site. No Advance reservations on this one. A great site, easily could fit our 32 foot Avion travel trailer and tow vehicle! No hookups but easy access to vault toilet bath house, public beach and water spiquot.

Campsites: Sites 1-8 are first come first served only for RV/Tent sites. You simply arrive, claim an open site that works for you, fill out the ticket from the main map display and put your payment info and contact info into the lockbox and your reserved ticket on the clip on the site # post. There is an onsite volunteer Camp host whose site is clearly marked as you enter the campground side of the site to the left on the main drive. To the right is the day use only which is also for a small fee.

Most of the first come, first served are very short sites, ok for lets say under a 20 foot camper, perfect for tenters, pop ups or van campers. The creme de la creme for us is Site #2. It is a first come first served but in a great location by the vault toilet building #1, has a water spigot in the site and a really easy access walk to the public beach, pavilion and walking trail, etc. We will definitely look to get this site once we become full timers and with our Senior Pass can book it for like $10 per night…great deal! The rest of the sites are reservable in advance through Reservation.gov website.

This Summer of 2020, Covid-19 and all…..We had reserved Site 26 for three nights, Fri/Sat/Sun in late August ($68.00 total through Reserve.gov) . We needed a restful get away. For our 32-foot length trying to do the online reservations they said they had only 2 sites that could accommodate 30-35 foot rigs. Looking around once we got there, we believe that at minimum sites 24, 26 and 27 (has some overhanging pines we like to avoid) could handle our size of travel trailer.

Below is a photo of our site 26. Nice site, and we would book it again! Amazingly…this is the FIRST campsite in 8 years of RVing that after Kevin backed in, I turned on our LevelMate Pro app and it was PERFECTLY LEVEL SIDE TO SIDE! Wow! that never happens! We only had to level front to back. That was awesome…bravo to the campground staff for their maintenance! Our Verizon hot spot provided some decent upload and download speeds, my cell was pulling 3 bars consistently at our campsite.

Our site #26. Spacious, no pine trees to drop unwanted sap. on a bend in the road so more privacy space on sides than some sites. Directly opposite the toilet house (very clean vault toilet house) and potable water spiquot. Easy, grassy walk to the beach, nice areas to walk a pet.

Site 26 was very comfortable for us. Nice large, deep fire ring, huge long picnic table in very good condition, the site was clean, cleared and with just a little maneuvering Kevin got it backed in. NOTE: the water spiquot and bath house/very clean vault toilets are directly opposite the campsite and close to the road edge enough so you do not have the flexibility of going a little “off road” to angle into the site. But he managed fine. We did take our front hitch storage tray that holds our generator off before trying to do the back in angles.

FYI- You are in a National Forest so…..These sites are NO HOOKUPS! The campground is pet friendly. There is no electric, sewer, cable hook ups! if you are used to these conveniences, this is not a place for you. Our site was quite shady with some beautiful sunny rays during the morning through late afternoon hours, but enough shade that we suspect even in hot summer days the shade would greatly help keep the camper interior heat level down. We did run our generator a few hours each day just to keep the batteries topped off since the are a bit on the old site and not lithium ions. Due to the cold snap and rainy day on Saturday, we never had use of our AC nor even a fan. Open windows and nice breeze was perfect.

Every other camper in the park was super respectful of all Covid-19 mask and other precautions. There was no noise issues, everyone kept their manners and cleanliness in the vault toilets which were cleaned daily, no smells, no trash and very well built *aka no spiders, etc) and ventilated. The best we had seen so far in “government campgrounds”. It was truly one of the most peaceful and restful camping weekends we had in a long, long time. Bless you Vermonters!

There is a palpable difference when you are camping in a National Forest or State campground with very little amenities or activities versus a private campground hell bent on having every bell and whistle, every type of kid oriented activity, playground, pool slides , etc. This National Forest campground was bliss!

Saturday after we ventured into nearby Manchester (about 20 min drive) for lunch and about a 1 hour stroll around to shop. On our way back, we also stopped at the adorable general store in “downtown” Peru where the campground is located. Clearly the store knows its prime clientele is the transient campers. It was the quintessential Vt general store with lovely fresh foods, baked goods, local and Vt made gifts, basic housewares, RVer last minute “whoops I forgot this!” items. I loved it–its cozy, well kept, modern of inventory but quaint in style. The locally made VT smoked cheese we bought was delicious as was the shared chocolate cupcake. They boast take away sandwiches and pizzas to order. Next time!

BTW Hapgood pond is a result of an early industrial revolution era dam put in place to power a mill. A typical story in New England and outlined in the story board near the beach and rustic, nicely maintained pavilions where larger family groups could have a nice picnic together.

Here is a photo slide show from around the park and our hike.

While spending an enjoyable rest, we got a little itchy after a rainy Saturday so by Sunday afternoon the weather was beautiful and we wanted to explore more of the Green Mountain Forest itself. So using our maps we found at the end of Hapgood Pond Road, heading north, then west you come onto Forest Road #10 which is a nicely maintained, unpaved road. It is ample in width and in super good condition (better than some RV parks!) but with very little pull offs and definitely NO TURNAROUNDS FOR RVS! We did this as a day venture just in our tow vehicle, our 2011, GMC 2500 Denali,4WD, Crew Cab and had no issues. However about 1/2 way through thinking this would be a great place for a dispersed camping site persay.. the RED FLAG happened!!!

CAUTION!! midway through our 1.5 hour back road Forest Route #10 there was a very high pitched replacement cement bridge (see in slide show below) that literally went up on an 75 degree angle over a span of maybe 6 feet!! Our RV and anything shy of perhaps a small camper van would have bottomed out royally or gotten stuck on the top of the crest!

That being said, the ride through the forest is one we would recommend. There is an access point to the “long trail” of the Appalachian Trail inside the park and many other trail heads that looked inviting! There are 4 dispersed Tent sites that we saw but none of them were very remarkable or nice. One along the stream was ok, it was at the eastern most end of the road.

The pristine greenery kept us in awe, the long forgotten apple trees in one area reminded us that at one time, perhaps 100 years ago this area was finely tended and was cleared farm land…all now reclaimed by Mother Nature into a thick, native woodland.

This bridge pitch may not look super steep in this photo but it was! Your RV would turn into aTeeterTotter with NO where to turn around and go back!

Our last little adventure was to take a trip up to the NE to Weston, VT which is along Route 11 North from Peru. It took us perhaps 25 minutes tops. Weston is home to the ORIGINAL VERMONT COUNTRY STORE! Since the 1800s the same family has operated this store in this little village. (They do have another store nearer to Brattleboro but it is more touristy I think, they also have a huge website and publish a catalog. They are known for selling long forgotten housewares, candies, cleaning items and hard to find health and beauty items)

We enjoyed our Sunday morning there, with little crowds, a yummy lunch outdoors in their picnic area (restaurant closed due to Covid). They are known for their homemade Mac n Cheese and I had the “Northerner” with BBQ pulled pork or’ top mac and cheese deliciousness. It was enough to have a full portion for dinner later that night. Kevin had a Reuben special and ranked it well among his many tests of this culinary delight from around the country he has had. I dropped some coinage in the store, always willing to support local businesses and off we went to our trip on Forest Road #10 into the depths of the Green Mountain National Forest itself.

Our trip came to a relaxing close on Monday morning as we savored our final breakfast meal and began our pack out regime after I checked my emails for work and did some correspondence. Getting out of the Site 26 was far easier than getting in, but again, we would book this site again now that the “angling” to get in was mastered on the first try.

It cannot be underestimated that sometimes, just a 2.5 hour drive can bring you such a new perspective, new vistas to see, new moon shots to honor and the peacefulness of the forest to reinvigorate the soul.

We will definitely will make Hapgood Pond Campground in the Green Mountain National Forest an annual (or at least biennial) stop on our camping itinerary in the future. We may even stay a week or two once we are retired and spending our summers in New England…so don’t take our Site #2!

Stay safe, enjoy the journey! Reddy certainly did-below she is sacked out on MY lounge chair just like the Queen of the campground she is!

BE well,

Kevin and Luisa

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Adirondacks Jellystone Park- Campground Review

August 2020

By our  grandson’s “popular demand” we booked another weekend trip to our local (45 min north) Jellystone RV Campground ( formerly known as Paradise Pines Jellystone I think).  It had been two years since we had taken them there.  This park is located just off RT I-87 in North Hudson, NY.  Very easy access.  Close enough to visit area attractions of a Buffalo Farm, Lake Placid, The North Pole, Lake George and Fort Ticonderoga on day trips as well as other small lakes and rivers that dot the eastern side of the Adirondacks.

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We booked especially to go on their “SPOOK-TACULAR” Halloween themed weekend which was awesome to say the least.  I did get our site and Avion all decked out and it was a big hit with the grandsons and nearly everyone in the park threw us mega compliments and thumbs up!  Right from the entrance point to the park and all over the park they had huge blow up halloween themed decor which was really great. Many of the campers also decorated their campsites and rigs.  We all got in the mood!

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This campground is a favorite for those with small families, afterall who can shrug a hug from Yogi or Boo Boo right??

The park is a simple 45 minutes north of us into the Adirondack Mountains on Route 87/The Adirondack Northway.  Once you exit for North Hudson, the campground is a minute up the road on the left.

We had site # 15 and were very pleased with this site for our rig.  It easily accommodated our 32 foot long Avion and had full hook ups. There we are on the right

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SITE # 15 ON THE RIGHT…THAT IS OUR SILVER 32 FOOT 1987 AVION!

** We originally booked site 137A online based on the online map.  WHOA!  do not go by that map and do not book that site or site 137 which everyone will walk through!  We did a reconnaissance trip 2 weekends before and 137A is what we would call an “after thought site”.  It appears there are a few of them at this campground where they are trying to SQUEEZE every last inch of turf to fit some level of RV into it.  Not good.  However—The staff was extremely accommodating and very pleasant as we did a drive around the park to view on my phone app to view what was still available.  She gladly rebooked us for Site 15 (there were only 3 sites left!) and we were very pleased with this customer service.

This pricing below was reflective of a 2 night stay.  
Premium Water/Electric/Sewer 1 $206.00
Adults on Site 2 $0.00
Children on Site 2 $0.00
Pet(s) 1 $10.00  (yes, Reddy costs extra, but we love her enough to pay!)
VIP Site Lock-in Fee 1 $15.00  (I opted to get locked into our site, no surprises!)
BYS Fee 1 $10.00  (this is an extra fee paid to the online booking company)
Subtotal $241.00
Total $241.00
Deposit Paid $133.90  (required % when booking online)

We actually ended up adding Thursday night (special rate deal only $50, so we could arrive then or earlier than 2 pm check in on Friday) so we ended up having a slightly higher bill in the end.  But we love getting in there on Thursday before everything fills up and we can set up and relax before the family comes too!

PRO’s:

  1. Very kid friendly park  (lots of kids–hey, its a Jellystone so expect that please!)
  2. Our Site 15 had easy access to bath house/showers and in the other direction the game hall, pool and other amentities (though not much doing because of Covid19 restrictions)
  3. Close to home for us- nice for a change!
  4. Their camp store is one of the best we have every seen for not only gifts and food incidentals, but their supply of RV gear, parts, light bulbs, and all sorts of hardware is better than some RV dealerships we have been to.  Seriously!  they do a great job with that!

5.Decent hook ups, though at this park their sewer runs slow during dumps so be careful!

6.Nice level site, large area in front for kids to ride bikes and play.  Our “lane” was a dead end this time which was much better than 2 years ago when we backed up to the playground (nice) but were on the main entry road for all rigs to come and go (not nice)

7. They pick up your trash at  your site.  Someone is always patrolling and that is a great perk they offer.  We love that feature at campgrounds.

8. We totally enjoyed their adult, larger pool again this timeTip- go early when it opens at 9, stay till about 11 then hightail it back to your campsite before it gets super busy!  Evenings it will calm down again too over dinner time and later.

9. If you do not want to cook, the owner does a lot of BBQing of hamburgs, hot dogs, sausages, etc. and I think even breakfast sandwiches at the main store area.

10. Totally AWESOME Haunted Forest Trail!!!  We cannot say enough for this themed “spooktacular” weekend.  Wow…the trail was long, very high caliber of actor volunteers, scenes and set stages.  The kids were petrified (ages 7 & 5) but we adults LOVED IT!  It also was no extra charge or tickets required.

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CONS:

Overall, this park is tired.  Most of the outbuildings really need repair, roofs cleaned off and a freshening up.  

  • The main bath house and shower pavilion for our whole northern section of the campground is old, still has the same missing formica counter top pieces from 2 years ago and really sorely needs a total upgrade.  The shower area is a little better and at least does have private doors to each stall with changing areas, etc.  NOTE:  there is NO handicap toilet stalls or accessibility features in this bathroom building, perhaps the newer one near the snack bar and main office does have H/C features–so you should check on this if that is a need.

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This is looking WEST from the end of our dead end lane. They do have small Yurts and nice log cabins that line the opposite side of our lane.

  • COVID-19 CAUSES LESS ACTIVITIES….Not their fault but many of the activities that our grandsons LOVED last time 2 years ago like the “bubble party”, the Hey Hey Hey rides with Yogi and the bounce pillow and, dance party, etc. were either not happening or were really transformed and toned down due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.  The hey rides, little train ride and bounce pillow did not run at all this weekend.
  • TIRED MINI GOLF….The boys did get in a round of Mini-golf with us.  But the mini golf area is also not maintained the way it should be.  There was debris and garbage on the ground that clearly had been there for a long time.  The boards of the various # holes were moss covered, rotted away in some sections and so slanted now you cannot take a good hit.  But it is in the shade and they had fun…so we played along.

  • LOTS OF STAFF BUT WHAT DO THEY DO?  Ironically we saw tons of staff at this park.  Not sure why the maintenance seems so lacking.  The Activity Director, Meghan was bright, bubbly and did a nice job with the bingo game that Sarah and I treated ourselves to.  Not sure why they held it on the front porch instead of the open air rec hall but whatever…I WON coverall and took home $21 so whose complaining right??!!
  • DEFERRED MAINTENANCE- again, our picnic tables both at the Yurt and at our site had rotten boards, not maintained. Some adjacent sites to ours did have the metal base tables which looked better.  Our premium site did come with a raised charcoal grill if you needed it.  we used it to set our Weber on!
  • YURTS ARE NOT UP TO PAR FOR THE COST…Our daughter and her husband rented one of the Yurts just across from our camper.  It was small, stuffy and had horrid air fresheners going to mask the musty, closed in smell, 2 sets of bunk beds, a small kitchen kind of set up (no running water) with a microwave, refrigerator (quite big) and a plastic table/chair set.  It did have A/C and also did have zip down window curtains with screens.  They said the beds were like sleeping on boards. They had deep hard foam mattresses.  You have to bring everything else.  They determined the Yurt was definitely not worth the money they are charging.  Also, they had NO privacy since a tiny tenting site was squished in on the side of their Yurt space and they were not quiet campers.  There was no housekeeping done to the Yurt between renters it appears and we felt like we had to do a once over sanitizing.  Yurt renters have to walk to the bath house for all their needs, washing dishes, showers, etc. too.

 

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My daughter Sarah and I snuck away from the kids for some Bingo!

  • KIDS POOL AND SLIDE AREA VERY HECTIC AND FULL….We did not use the kids pool area.  It was WAY over crowded for our personal feelings about Covid protection and need for social distancing.  I did hear someone on staff taking names later on in the day while we were at Bingo so it does sound like they were doing what they could to “schedule” folks to use the pool to avoid too much close contact. They did have sanitizer in the pool area with rags asking each person to wipe down any chairs and tables they used when they were leaving (to be honest, we totally did not remember to do that!)  Perhaps one of those staffers could have been assigned to do this and monitor behavior in the pool areas too??   The children’s area pool with swirling large tube slide is really way too small for a family/kid oriented themed campground like this.  Almost seems like they need to invest in a new large kids pool area, or build another pool ONLY for adult swimmers.  A hot tub would be nice too…but only if it is “adult only” restricted.  We will often search for parks that have those amenities for adults only (yes, ok, we are getting old and crabby!)

Like I had said from the start, we booked this trip to Jellystone because our grandsons asked for a camping trip here again this summer.  Will we go back? Probably not and that was the consensus from my daughter too.  If you do go, any of those sites along the side we were on at site 15 are we believe the best sites in the park.  There are a  lot of other kid-friendly campgrounds that have as much if not more to offer and are better maintained.

Hope this review helps….We appreciate any comments you may have.   Safe journeys!

Kevin & Luisa

Campground Review: Erie KOA HOLIDAY, McKean, PA

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July 2020: We stayed one night as a stop over enroute from attending our annual Silver Avion Rally in Elkhart, Indiana headed home to upstate NY. We wanted to just pull in, (not unhitch), but enjoy a restful evening…and a dip in the pool after a very hot rally week!

Erie KOA HOLIDAY is a very nice campground, and made a perfect respite stop for us after a 6 hr drive heading East from Indiana.

Reasons to like this campground:

  1. The online reservation system of the KOA franchises is very good. Easy to use and you get instant confirmation online. I booked our Monday night site on Sunday afternoon. 🙂
  2. Beautiful lush plantings, expertly maintained. (check out that front of the main building! By far the nicest landscaping we have seen at a campground around their main buildings.
  3. Super easy access directly off the Interstate, but far enough to be very quiet
  4. Sites are well maintained, though they are close together. We were site 42 (yellow right by the office) SITE MAP
  5. They have a small to medium sized in ground pool which was open and the temperature was perfect! It was one of the cleanest pools we have encountered in years!20200720_182815
  6. Very efficient and friendly reservation staff at check in (I believe we had the owner)
  7. They pick up your trash at your site (we love and appreciate that feature!)
  8. They have a beautiful quite large catch and release “Rainbow Lake”…below is the shot I took giving Reddy a walk…..beautiful at sunset!

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As mentioned, we chose this campground because it fell right into our plans to go 6 hours and stop for the night. We arrived around 4 PM. Our site was a pull through (#42) with 30 amp, W & S. MAP It was just down from the main check in building and quite tight among the other trailers on either side but since we do not have slides, and Avion’s are narrower than most we were just fine. I do not think I would want a weekend or week in that site due to lack of lawn or privacy for relaxing outside of your rig, but it did have a fire ring, wood picnic table if desired. for our overnight rest stop and pool dip it was perfect. Price for one weeknight in July 2020 was $62.00 inclusive.

We had a short happy hour after getting set up, then headed to the pool for a cool dip. It was luscious! The Covid-19 pandemic has caused some changes in operations and the owner noted when she gave me our instructions that there is a limit of 25 in the entire pool area allowed at a time. They are going on the honor system during the week (this was a Monday evening) as long as they could but staff would enforce if needed. There is a nice covered pavilion area just off the pool area with tables and chairs and I suspect during “normal activity” times this is a popular spot, perhaps a snack bar, etc.appeared to be there too-but not functioning when we were there.

Their camp store in main building was pretty basic. Some nice selection of tee shirts and some kids trinkets, but the rest was a bit scant, certainly very limited if you were looking for any repair items for your RV. You would need to go shopping elsewhere for them. Their map and website says they have a petting zoo area and snack bar. In our brief walk around we did not see these, but according to their map they do have them. (not sure if open due to pandemic issues)

This is a KOA and therefore, they do cater to families with children. There were plenty visible in the pool and playground area, but we managed to only get splashed on by jumping in kiddo’s a couple times. There were no issues with kids making too much noise in the campsite rows that we experienced.

For Kids they have:

  • playground
  • giant lawn checkers
  • jumping pad
  • rental pedal go carts, hot wheels
  • mining activity, panning for “gems”
  • tether ball
  • volley ball
  • of course…the pool

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Would we stay again?? YES! we do plan to make this a regular stop when we are heading to or from our Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart, Indiana in July each year!

KOA Holidays

Erie KOA

Open April 17 – October 18
Reserve: 800-562-7610
6645 West Road
Mckean, PA 16426

Moose Hillock Camping Resort, NY-Review & Suggestions for Improvements

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:   1= poor……5 stars = Outstanding

  • Location (ease of access, things to do in the area) = 4 (Lake George is 10 miles away)
  • Camp Site Quality (ease of getting into site, surface, hookups quality, privacy) = 4
  • Campground Amenities (onsite pool, laundry, common areas, snack bar, etc) = 4
  • Kid-Friendly = 4
  • Adult-Friendly Amenities/Adult getaway  = 2
  • Pet Friendly (amenities like dedicated dog park, trails, activities) = 2
  • Cell Signal = 1  (2 bars on 4G, Verizon), (Wifi only around pool area)
  • Site # we had this trip  #704
  • Cleanliness:  excellent.  Sites are cleaned after check out, public buildings are very clean, modern and in good working order
  • Cost  $96 per night, 4 night minimum in Summer season (all sites are FHU)

We are fortunate to live in an area of upstate NY and at the base of the Adirondack Mountains where there are a plethora of campgrounds and RV resorts.  Some are older, a tad run down but usable, others are newer or have kept up with upgrades and attract huge numbers of RVers with tons of amenities and great sites.  To name some of the better, largers ones; Moose Hillock-NY, Lake George Escape, Lake George RV Park, King Phillips Campground, Riverbend Campground.  The first two being large resorts with tons to offer, others being more modest but very decent traditional campgrounds but with great access to all that the Lake George region has to offer.

For our annual “grandson getaway” weekend this summer we chose to do a stay at Moose Hillock Camping Resort on RT 149 in Fort Ann, NY. (they say Lake George on their marketing  materials only for marketing purposes, it is not located in Lake George)

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There were several reasons for selecting this campground, one of which was our kids have to drive right by it to get to our house when they are coming from their home in VT- so this made the trip easier for them to drop off and pick up the kiddies.  Secondly, we knew from pictures and reports from friends who had stayed here that their pool is amazing, heated and large and the kids would love it.  Lastly, that the sites are super huge (room for kids to play) and very private from each other.  We hate feeling stacked up like jets on a runway which has unfortunately become more the norm in many RV campgrounds these days.

I am just going to cover a few key things for us about this campground in this review.  Certainly we encourage our readers to check out our review on Campendium, or others in Trip Advisor and other online review sites.

SITES:  Moose Hillock opened about 8 years ago and sits on 182 acres.  It has 749 sites and each one is thoughtfully carved out of the woods with a ton of privacy woods, bushes and topography between each site.  90% of the sites were definitely laid out with big 5th wheel trailers in mind.   We loved all the room around our rig as it made a great space for the kids to play and for us to even park our extra car (was handy to have to shuttle up to pool and to Lake George, or drop off garbage-more on that later).

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A drawback for us regarding the site was that all the roads in the park and the sites themselves are all hard pack gravel.  This surface prevented me from pushing in my lawn flags and also was not a soft, nice ground for kids to play on.  Even walking on our patio mat bare foot was a bit uncomfortable.  On the positive side, the drainage is very good, so no muddy sites like we have experienced elsewhere so i guess comfort versus mud is a worthwhile trade off.

There were no issues with the electrical hook up (50-30-20), but we always use our Progressive Industries monitor regardless to ensure no issues.  Cable worked well.  Cell signal was nearly non existent and only Wifi is available up at pool area.  Sewer hookup was set up for 5th wheelers and was closer to front of site and higher than normal for us.  This caused us to have to pull further forward in the back in site than we normally would have because we have our discharge valve towards rear of our rig versus 5ers who typically have their mid way on their curbside.

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A barely visible neighbor to our north

Site privacy was excellent and certainly the best we have ever had at a privately owned for profit campground.  We could barely see our neighbors curbside a little from our site, but it was not an issue.  The site pad is huge and hard pack gravel with good drainage. We were on site #704 and would use again but it would be nice if we did not have the skunk smell every day and night–so maybe he will move?!  Not sure if skunks were a problem in other sites and we do not leave any food out, nothing in campfire area either but wow…the smell at night even caused me to have to close my bedroom window one night- the skunk had to be right underneath me!

AMENITIES:  Their pirate-themed pool area certainly is the claim to fame for this campground.  I would argue, compared to other campground “resorts” we have stayed at ….this is their ONLY real claim to fame.  The pool is lightly salted water, no eye stinging and hey, salt water is far better for you than chlorine!  It is heated just enough for us to take that initial chill off when dipping in, but not so hot that you feel like you are in a bathtub-which we do not like either and is in our opinion a breeding ground for germs especially when loaded with kids.  So we were all good with pool temp and salt water.  The large 2 story rock backdrop with skull head was a “wow” for our grandsons but they were intimidated by the water slides and would not go down either one.  Kevin and I did go down the big one…gotta say, had been many many moons since I one, but I wanted to show the kids that I could do it!  It was fun!  The pool has a whole side that is a gradual walk in so perfect for any age toddler to grown up.  One side has a nice ledge for adult sitters too which we liked.  There are some faux rocks around the edges shooting streams of water which we and the kids liked.  A night, the whole “mountain” and skull are lit up as well as nice colored lights in the pool.  See best photos of this on their website.

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The max depth of the pool is 4 feet so our 6 year old grandson could touch bottom almost 3/4 of the way in.  There are lots of kids in the pool, this is after all a family resort to be sure.  There are no “adult only” hours or areas sectioned off.  This might be a great idea for them to do as the pool certainly is large enough.  Most of the kids were actually very respectful of the adults but I was surprised at the allowance of floats, tubes and ball play which the latter sometimes got a bit out of hand.  The weather during our stay was not super sunny or hot, so the pool was not to capacity but i can imagine when it is, that ball play could be downright dangerous and maybe they curtail it.  There are NO lifeguards on duty but there are staffers atop the two slides to ensure no foul play or too young venture down where they should not.

Their playground area in our opinion was very lacking considering this is clearly marketed as a family, kid friendly resort.  The playground consisted of one piece of traditional swings and then five or so pressure treated climb on items like a ship, train, tractor with hay trailer.  These were nothing unique or that captivating for our 4 & 6 year olds to be sure.  They spent all of maybe 10-15 minutes in the playground and were bored.  Thankfully there was one bench that we adults could at least sit down on to watch.

They do have a large 400 seat pavilion which is near the pool area and set on a large swath of nice grass.  Due to intermittent showers the whole weekend we did not partake in any of the planned activities but we will assume they were still held underneath the pavilion.  This is not closed in, but since the park has a pretty short season Mid May to Mid October, as long as you bring a jacket in shoulder seasons you should be warm enough.  Their planned activities seem to definitely focus around weekends.  The activities include live bands, musicians, magic shows, science projects and of course the proverbial bingo!  This area is also the only part of the park that has nice paved trails and we saw several kids really taking advantage of it and going round and round this small rotary just to get some bike riding in.  A further testament that the resort gravel and dirt roads are not bike friendly.

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Laundry Facilities:  There are two very clean and modern facilities, again near the main hub of the pool, pavilion and golf cart rental area.  The cost was $3.00 for a wash and again for a dry.  There were no signs for how long the dryer ran for that amount, but this rate is quite a bit higher than other parks we have visited.  The facility I photographed was very clean, nice new machines which had an app feature that you could download, use and directly pay via a stored credit card-thereby avoiding the need to spit dollars into a change machine or carry around tons of quarters to meet the $6 it was going to cost you for one load.  We did see one person using the dryer, i suspect more to just dry soggy beach towels.  This park definitely attracts more regional visitors who are staying a week or so and in fact, many 5ers have their own W/D so i suspect this laundry really does not get a lot of use.  There are NOT a lot of seasonal sites here that are used every day but rather they are weekend get away’s for folks living in the Albany/Capital District area which is only 1.5 hours to the south.

Main Lodge:  The main lodge is located right at the main entrance to the campground.  Registration lines are ample to pull off to go inside to check in.  The staff was very friendly and helpful and reviewed all necessary information.

Also inside this building to the right is an arcade which features top line thrill rides like motocross, Jurassic Park, several shoot em up military modern games (my son in law would have loved) and of course several of those grab the toy game machines.  They also have 2 skee bowl lanes which I love but the signs on them clearly say that they are NOT for prize tickets, so you are just playing for scores, not prizes.  This deflated Lucas, our 6 year old and he moved on.  At least the bells, sounds and lights of other machines were more reward for his $1.  Kevin amused the boys for nearly 2 hours and $20 later on Saturday when I had errands to run into town.

Their snack bar sits off the back side of the building and overlooking the pool which you can see in the photo above.  Pricing was pretty typical for a captive audience (we are talking pirate theme here afterall!) and so for the four of us for lunch, burger, chix fingers, and two grilled cheese sandwiches, one fry and 1 soda was around $33.  Sawyer and I had the grilled cheese @$4 which was decent I thought and the cheapest thing on the menu.  It was fun for the kids to eat at the pool area and under the Hawaiian style palm laden umbrella tables for one time.

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They have a pretty decent camp store full of all the expected essentials and basic RV supplies.  Their gift line focuses around a pirate theme as well as their own logo items which include their signature moose.  Speaking of moose….they do have a mascot but we did not see him/her anywhere the four days we were there.

My suggestion would be they take a cue from Jellystone Parks and do a tractor pulled hayride type of thing through the park at least one x per day on weekends and have the mascot on board for the kids.

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Hay ride with Yogi the Bear at Paradise Pines, Jellystone Campground, North Hudson NY (2018)

(if they do something like this I did not see it on our schedule)More of my suggestions for this park to follow below….

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT: (these are ranked in order of importance in my opinion of importance and ease of adoption)

#1  Provide trash pick up at campsites on a daily basis.  This is fairly routine at most campgrounds we go to these days both large and small operations.  Garbage pickup prevents hoarding of trash outside (we do not do) which begets skunks and other varmints (could be reason for our invasion each night).  Surely at $96 per night and seemingly more than enough staff and workampers this could be done.

#2  Post an adult only swim time in the evenings even if only for one hour, or better yet, cordon off a section of the pool that is for adult swimming only at all times.  Easy peasy to do.

#3  Pave at least the main roads in and out of each loop in campground.  Thankfully it was pretty rainy during our stay, but the roads here must be so dusty when dry.  The rigs along the main loop roads must get filthy (outside and in) and their towels out to dry must as well!  yuck!

#4 Provide some sort of “quiet inside wifi and libary area” either in main lodge or separate building.  There is no table game room, no where to visit if bad weather with a bunch of friends.  Have this also have adult only times so adults that may need to do work while traveling can get good signal and peace and quiet.  There were no area we say with a book lending, dvd lending, etc. either.  Most campground all have something.

#5  Do a tractor pull wagon ride through the camp 1 x per day at least and feature the Moose mascot on board.    The moose could also do cameo showings at the arcade now and then too.

#6 with 182 acres, perhaps they could create a nice paved bike trail system through the grounds for means to safely get to the activity areas or to just enjoy the woods without fear of being hit by a car or falling on sharp, hard gravel.

Some readers may think I am being overly critical of this campground by venturing suggestions for improvements.  Those who know me, know my background in regional tourism.  I am a former Executive Director/CEO of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce & CVB and have been deeply involved in operating both my own local tourist guide service as well as involved in other tourism attractions and have consulted local and regional businesses in tourism marketing, etc.  Add onto that an RV camping background grown over 20 years off and on and staying in many parks in the northeast especially…So my suggestions come with a background of knowledge of what today’s marketplace consumer is looking for and how a business could position themselves from being good, very good…to spectacular!

Hope you enjoyed this candid review.  We did enjoy ourselves at this park? Yes.  Will we stay here again?  maybe, but I would bring the grandsons to other “resort” campgrounds in our area first for their expert opinions to be the judge of which is the best!  The kids did say they would love to visit the NH Moose Hillock to see the pirate ship pool….it does look cool!! 

As always, we welcome your feedback.  If you like our blog, please follow us, check out our other blog posts on how to’s, reviews, must see’s and other tips to RV travel.

Safe Journeys!

Luisa and Kevin Sherman

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Inaugural “Race to the Rally” TCT Supported Event in Eastern Upstate NY

We love rallies…we love folks who appreciate “vintage”…but what we really love (now and then) is NOT having to travel through four states and over two days to get to an event.  So you can imagine our utter glee when Beth Holcomb, a brand new TCT (Tin Can Tourist Club) member took on the mantle of responsibility to create and host a brand new vintage trailer rally only 35 minutes from our home!  Yeah!!!

The event was supported by the national TCT club which also provides its members who are hosting events ideas on hosting a successful rally as well as some required guidelines to ensure that their TCT members get what they expect from great TCT events.  Beth and her husband and events helpers did not let us down!  It was a super rally.

The event was held from August 1-4th at the Whispering Pines Campground in Greenfield Center, NY.  This location was only 8 miles north of Saratoga Springs which of course was humming at full steam in the middle of its annual Saratoga Race Track Season–but our campground was quietly nestled off the beaten track, tucked into a woodland setting complete with a couple nice ponds (bullfrogs were even respectfully quiet to my surprise!)

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Since it was so close to home, Kevin was able to get Thursday off and arrived to set camp already on Thursday afternoon.  I arrived after work on Thursday and commuted back to work on Friday.  It was really nice for me even though it meant I went from my normal 1 mile commute to a 40 minute drive!

All total for this first rally there were 12 vintage trailers!!  WOW!  That is terrific for a first time rally and we all congratulated Beth for her efforts.   She had done a terrific job of providing a lovely goodie bag for each site as we checked in…complete with Saratoga sparkling water, signature chocolate and bag of Saratoga Potato Chips-all yummy!

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Thursday evening there was a welcoming pizza party.  Most units were in by then, with a couple still arriving on Friday.  We were thrilled to meet up with several attendees we knew already from the TCT Sampson State Park rally we have attended now for the past two years.  Ellie and Gail were both their with their rigs.  Ellie has a 1973 Airstream that she has renovated, and Gail set up an adorable outdoor display on her rig and has a terrific set of flags on display.   Gail also was a hit when she wore a poodle skirt during open house on Saturday! (below is Gail winning a trophy too)

Friday was a free day where gallivanting around the area, heading to the track or shopping on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs was encouraged.  Several intrepid hikers also took a hike up to a local historic fire tower(one attendee’s dog decided to go AWOL and take a hike all by itself causing Ellie and several others to go hiking just for him for over an hour!)  I missed all the excitement since I was at work.  Kevin enjoyed camp, relaxing, taking Reddy for walks- oh how she loves camping and meeting other dogs, people and sniffing every blade of grass and tree!

Saturday morning we had a very nice Continental Breakfast with fresh homemade baked  goods made by the campground owner.  The husband and wife team here did a lot to make us all feel very welcomed and comfortable.  Whispering Pines is an older campground but they do have a nice looking pool and although we did not see any, they have a cool fire truck that gives rides around the campground on select days.  As with many campgrounds today there are a fair amount of seasonal sites, but where our rally was “down below” in the flat area adjacent to the small pond and near the main camp store and registration area. Site sizes were decent, some back in sites were short but just fine for the shorter vintage trailers.  We took site 25 since it was a pull through as we were definitely the longest rig set up with 50′ overall between our trailer and tow vehicle.   Their Tamarack Room was a perfect location to have group meals, meetings, etc. and very comfortable and worked perfectly for our rally size.  Their camp store is minimal but in a pinch I am sure you can find most “forgot to bring that” items.  Kevin and I did not use their bath facilities, but I understand that showers are $.

Saturday during the day we did host a “open house” from 12-4 where folks who were in modern campers as well as our rally attendees were invited to tour any of the vintage trailers/campers who were open.  We loved having JP & Sue Barber visit us for the afternoon since they live minutes away.  The Barber’s are fellow living history reenactors (but we tried hard to convince them that vintage camping is where its at- and far more comfortable in dog days of summer!) Open House time is always fun and we love chatting about and showing off our Pewter Palace, but as usually happens, we get so busy we end up not getting to tour other rigs ourselves!  Not to fear most rally go-ers will gladly open their door to other attendees anytime.  We are all extremely proud of our rigs and love to show them off.

We were so thrilled that there was LIVE MUSIC during the open house time.  This was a first for us to have and it really added a festive atmosphere to the day!  You wil see a bit of the music going on in the video down below.

Here is a slide show of some of the other rigs that were present at the rally:

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There was a judging component to the rally and taking away first place was Chad Sherman (we are still checking to see if the other Sherman family there are relatives…probably!)  Here is a video of Chad.  We were blown away by the fact that his parents, his other brother and he EACH have their own vintage rig.  So cool!

Saturday evening we were treated to a yummy Pork BBQ dinner complete with all the fixin’s and a “Historic Saratoga” presentation by the director of the Saratoga Historical Association.  The awards presentations were fun and everyone joined in.

Sunday, for a change since we did not have a long drive we enjoyed the morning.  There is nothing better than enjoying breakfast, fresh brewed coffee outside under our awning in a bathrobe.  I love camping in our Avion!

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We look forward to even more events hopefully happening in our area or into VT or even MA in the future.  Not sure Whispering Pines will be able to handle this rally as it gets bigger since the area we camped in has only water/electric and their bathroom and shower facilities were up the hill a ways for those who are not self-contained.  Having the campground’s Honey Wagon pump us out Sunday morning was a big help and saved us having to weave up into the back end of the campground just to pump before heading out.  But there are plenty of campgrounds in our area and we are sure with the great turn out of this inaugural event that there is pent up demand for more rallies in eastern upstate NY!

Great job to all involved!

Spring- 2019 NY-OH-MI Trip, Part 1 (NY-to Frankenmuth MI)

After a very slow start to spring 2019 (still dipping into mid 30s each morning!), we headed out to Michigan and the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Vintage Trailer Rally in early May.  We did a few stops along the way first though!!

This PART 1 post covers our trip to the Finger Lakes Region of NYS and then on to Frankenmuth MI which is a favorite of ours.  Part 2 will cover from Frankenmuth to the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Rally at Camp Dearborn in Milford MI and our return trip overnighting at a Harvest Host Winery site off RT 90 in NYS.

First destination camping overnight was to the KOA in Watkins Glen NY where we met two of our very favorite bloggers, Steve & Courtney Adcock of “AStreaminLife.com” who are full time RVers in a 30′ Classic Airstream.  We have followed them since their decision to go full time and watched them sell their “house” possessions, prioritize and fit up their Airstream for full time living.  We have learned SO much from them and along the way built an online friendship “off line” that now will be realized in person!  We will be meeting them at the KOA in Watkins Glen as they make a NE trip from their home base of AZ this spring.

Heading out on Weds, May 9 we wanted to beat the weekend rush and travel more in the evening hours en route to Watkins Glens so we did not chew up our entire check in day with driving.  We overnight boon-docked on 5/9 (weds) at a “TEXT” rest area on the NY Thruway/I-90.

NOTE:  The NYS Thruway is a toll road.  We highly recommend using EZPass when in the northeast.  Not only will you save a boodle of $$ on tolls but more and more toll plaza’s are nearly exclusively EZPass and makes getting through them with far less jockeying trying to cut over lanes to the cash lane!  We use EZpass all over the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states!

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If you have to stay in a parking lot, along a highway, we feel these text stops are far better than the large official rest areas.  Typically the lighting is not as bright but still sufficient lighting for safety, there are fewer large trucks, they are more quiet and you tend to not have the “sandwich” feel of being between two behemoth 18-wheelers in a parking slot.  This was the case at this stop as we pulled off at Mile post 256 /west bound.  There are no services in these “text” rest areas and while it does have highway noise, we found it really dies down after 11 pm and stays pretty low key until about 6 am.  This text rest area is just AFTER Exit 33 for Verona NY (which we have stayed at the Turning Stone Campground before, see prior post for review on that).  The rest area offers a nice grass area for walking our dog.  No picnic tables had been installed yet, but there are pads for them, so assuming we perhaps were just too early in the season. It has been a very cold, and wet spring in NYS.  We felt safe here, cell signal was 4 G with Verizon.  No services, so you must be completely self contained.

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Essentially 20 more feet to the left is the 3 lane NYS Thruway, I-90.

After getting a good breakfast on the fly in our camper, Watkins Glen KOA was only another 2 hours away.  Perfect since check in was not until 2 PM.

FYI-I have mentioned this before but we absolutely LOVE our non-electric, stove top powered toaster.  Whether you are a bagel lover, regular toast or toasted muffin affectionado, this little beauty does it all and NO need for full hook ups or for tons of space on your counter (I store two of these in my oven)!  If this photo does not do it for you…here is the video!  Here is the link to the blog post where I include the link to the item where we ordered it off Amazon.

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So on to Watkins Glen NY KOA.  But first…a stop just south of Geneva NY where we visited Fox Run Vineyard in the town of Penn Yan, NY on the side of the rolling hills overlooking Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes).  This whole area is loaded with vineyards and wineries that welcome tourists.  You do have to be careful regarding access and parking areas because after 3 PM these places get really busy and full.  I always look for ones that say they “welcome tour buses” as this is pretty much a key to know their road, driveway and parking areas will be able to accommodate you and your rig. Careful….some want tour bus business, but really are not set up to handle the egress needed.  Using Google Maps in satellite mode does help.  Calling ahead and also checking their website is important.  Fox Run welcomes tour buses and limos up until 3 PM–so that includes RV;s!!.  so their parking lot entrance sign states clearly.  We arrived at about noon with no issues for parking at all.  After my wine tasting, we had a terrific lunch outdoors .   Kevin had fresh baked pretzel with cheese dip, I had:

FLX Tacodilla $11   Two folded flour tortillas filled with taco seasoned bison and Razzle’s Choice cheese, with a dollop of fresh salsa verde and sour cream. Served with a side of mixed greens and Riesling vinaigrette.  It was totally yum!!!

and of course we took advantage of the first day of sun we had seen in weeks and dined on their elevated deck with lake views (they are on WEST side of the main road, so not technically lake side).  This winery business is actually directly opposite Sampson State Park (east side of lake) where we camp for our September vintage RV rally.  No issues at all with pulling through their beautiful gate, or pulling straight around and through in their parking lot.  Their tasting room was well done, pretty basic selection of wine lover gifts, etc., wines are a little more pricey than a stop on our return trip.  Most bottles were around $22-26 per bottle.  I loved their Merlot (so did Courtney when we opened it at happy hour later that evening!) and their Cabernet Sav. It was a great stop and we would recommend it!

Continuing our drive south on RT 14, we arrived just after 2 PM (check in is at 2 PM) at the KOA Watkins Glen.  Of course, this is a Thursday, we were doing a one nighter and the park was essentially empty.  Did i mention that spring has been way delayed??  Its cold, damp, barely spring foliage has started. Check in at campground was fine.  I had requested a pull through since we were only staying one night.  They ended up putting us far, far to other end of campground, way far from any facilities, AND right next to a class A in a diagonal parked slot.  Seriously??  with an entire empty park, our trailer patio would be 2 feet from their slide out.  So we kept going, pulled around to another site with some breathing space on both sides and notified the camp office we relocated ourselves.

TIP:  We tend to always try to book a site on an END of a ROW so that at least you have no one breathing down your back on your patio side.  So we found site #138 and that was fine.  Nice concrete stamped patio, bolted down ADK glider rocking love seat (we knew Steve & Courtney would like that!) and sufficient privacy for sure, plus not too far from the bathhouse, etc.  Soggy, puddles-they could use some more gravel and drainage, but fine, did I mention this was one of the wettest Springs that we have seen in decades??  

We settled in by 3 PM, Steve and Courtney came by for happy hour and we thoroughly enjoyed terrific conversation and sharing of some of our local to us favorite “Oscar’s Smokehouse” brand cheeses, salami, and horseradish mustards.  Time flew and before we knew it is was 8 PM and time to turn in for the night.  Mother Nature agreed, as rains came down again!

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The first photo in the slideshow below is Steve & Courtney’s Airstream.  They had a back in site which was nice, pretty shaded but close to bathhouse and main building.  The site was too short to keep their rig hooked up.  Several of the sites have paved patios.  The sites with white gazebos are back in only and “only for motorhomes” as the map indicates.  I am sure once the weather turns better, this campground is super busy with families. There is a lot to do for kids with water park, paint ball and many activities. We paid $66 for one night, essentially off season for full hook up.  Not cheap by any means.  Camp store was well outfitted, bathrooms and showers nice.  Nice penned dog park too.

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Steve and Courtney were on their east coast national “waterfall tour” of the USA and were staying in Watkins Glen for a few days to catch all the beautiful waterfalls.  Check out their amazing videos and photos here!

We headed out the next morning with Frankenmuth Michigan in our sites.  First, drive through rest of NYS on 390 West to 86 South to pick up I-90 just northeast of Erie PA.  Nice drive, not a lot of truck or vehicle traffic and some beautiful rolling hills.  Not a lot of services, but scenery was beautiful and road conditions very good.  Our co-pilot Reddy was right on the job…ever watchful!

 

Originally we were going to overnight with 2nd cousins of mine in Fremont OH but those plans fell through so Kevin decided he wanted to push through and get to Frankenmuth so we had a full day, fresh start on Saturday morning.  This meant about 9.5 hours of driving for him but traffic was not too bad and he is a professional driver essentially, working for NYSDOT. We don’t recommend more than 5-6 hours if you can help it.

I found a free overnight parking spot in Frankenmuth using my OVERNIGHTRVPARKING app since we were not due to check into Jellystone Campground in Frankenmuth till Saturday.

The parking lot of the Birch Run Premium Outlet Mall was identified, parking lot P  off 12240 South Breyer Rd.  Easy enough to find, dark, empty at 10 PM (overhead parking lot lights are turned off at 11 PM automatically) and we were leaving by 8-9 AM in the morning before stores would be opening up. This app is a little touchy and not very android friendly.  NOTE:  I noticed the last review on the app was from 2017 so I did call the outlet mall # 989-624-6226 to verify they still allowed overnighting with an RV in Lot P.  The person at customer service I spoke to was very nice, said it would be fine and told me that they no longer require formal check in with registration or plate info (like the 2017 reviewer had noted) and that it is “park at your own risk” and they basically turn ta blind eye and simply allow it to happen with out inviting RV overnighting openly.  We did fine, of course, we kept a very low profile, nothing outside, no awnings, we dont have slides, but would not suggest you put them out if you do.  We were not bothered at all.. No one else was in the lot, it backs up to greenery and woods.  You are in between the Viper Bridal Shop and the VF Outlet. (sorry forgot to take pics in early AM before pulling out!).

We headed out of the outlet mall lot by 9:15 AM and drove literally 15 minutes to Bronner’s Christmas Store which is the largest such store in the world!  Over 5 football fields chock a block full of every conceivable Christmas and holiday decoration, decor, clothing, etc etc you can imagine.  Plus the exterior of their lot is very large and they specialize in tour bus business all year long and at night, it is a spectacle unto itself with huge lighted displays.  We had seen the night displays during our visit in 2017 so did not do that this time.  They open at 9 AM so this was our first stop to browse and do a little shopping.  I was good, again, and did not go nuts–though Christmas and especially Gingerbread is MY THING!  I found a really cute vintage trailer ornament and then also a very nice (and light weight) carved wooden ornament that looked very Bavarian so it will fit nicely with our overall theme.  Kevin gave the nod as both were light, and relatively unbreakable!

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After about 2 hours wandering around Bronners, we relocated our parking to a large public parking lot on the east side of Frankenmuth and part of the Bavarian Inn Hotel complex (off Weiss Street) and right adjacent the beautiful, quaint wooden covered bridge that leads to main street.  The weather was decent but cold.  But we took the walk in and did some shopping on Main Street district.  Frankenmuth MI is a big tourist town and so their parking is well equipped for tour buses.  Just keep an eye out for such parking.  Getting there earlier in the day helps too…just be sure you situate yourself in a parking lot so that non-RVers do not block you in. We always choose the furthest most point away from the store or attraction, and at times, we may even put a few orange cones (with our name on them) out in front if in doubt.

We do love Frankenmuth MI!  This is the second time we have been back in two years.  (Our retirement bucket list includes visiting all the towns in the USA and BC that have European themes).  Last time we visited was in August 2017 and it was definitely a prettier time to visit with tons of blooming sidewalk and street planters overflowing with flowers and warmer to sit outdoors, etc. and just people watch and enjoy the architecture of the main street.  But nevertheless, this time, since it was early season, school not out yet and quite chilly the stores and restaurants were not nearly as crowded…a bonus!

TIP: We tried German food this time at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the working Glockenspiel is) and really loved it.  Way too much food, but nice variety and the ambiance in the Edelweiss room where we were was far superior to Zender’s where we ate in 2017. So far, all the restaurants we have tried (and the Cheese house) are great.

This is where I will end Part 1 of our Spring 2019 RV trip to Michigan.  We enjoyed two nights once again at the Jellystone RV Camping Resort in Frankenmuth.  We stay on site 143 {Site Map}which is an end site, opposite the dirt road where dog walking is also possible.  It is far enough from pool area to be quieter but everything in the campground is an easy 2 minute walk.  We totally enjoyed taking a dip in their heated indoor pool at hot tub on Monday morning before we left for our Tin Can Tourist Rally 40 minutes south.  This campground is very walkable to downtown too which we love.  We can walk on sidewalks to downtown and all the shopping and restaurants within about 8-10 minutes.  Easy walk, no hills, all sidewalks and crosswalks and has street lighting if going at night.  We did this walk at least one time daily.

All for now….please visit our Spring 2019 Part 2 post which showcases the many dozens of vintage trailers at the Tin Can Tourist Centennial Rally as well as a free Harvest Host boondock overnight we did at a winery on our way home!  I will have a link to our Harvest Host referral program in that post to save you 15% and gives us a small finder fee which helps pay for the next bottle of wine we buy during a Harvest Host overnight!

Safe travels!

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This trip we took a 1-hr ride on the Bavarian Belle paddlewheeler that goes on the Cass River through Frankenmuth.  Nice little cruise to learn about local history, etc.

Kevin & Luisa Sherman

 

 

Campground Review: Village at Turning Stone RV Park, Verona NY

October 2018– We have just come back from a five-night stay at the Villages at Turning Stone RV campground which is owned by the Oneida Indian Nation who operate the Turning Stone Casino and Event Center complex a half mile down the road. I have a nice short video further down in this blog post that will give you a great idea of what the individual sites look like!

I have posted a very comprehensive review on one of our favorite campground review sites of which I am a member–CAMPENDIUM.COM. You do not need to be a member to check out reviews…only to post them!

Here is the link for my review of the Villages at Turning Stone RV Campground.

I have gone to Turning Stone each fall for the last three years for a convention for work and I have to say this was by far the most enjoyable stay yet! I loved being able to cozy up in my bathrobe by the open campfire at night after being in windowless conference rooms all day! Plus it saved a boat load of $$.

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BEST fire ring ever!!

The RV park is very affordable (our rate, $39.95 including taxes with Good Sam discount) at this time of year. This was for a full hook up paved site overlooking one of their small ponds with tons of room and privacy. Cable TV and very decent internet service.

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PLUS BONUS!! they offer their campers access to their 24/7 shuttle service to get you back and forth to the casino/hotel/convention center complex. More about this in my Campendium review (see link at end of post). So you can gamble (if you like that, sorry but we do not) and go to their restaurants (The Tin Rooster BBQ Restaurant -below photo-has a full size vintage Airstream International inside fitted up with lounge seats for drinks and snacks you can sit in!),

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live shows, cafes, bars/nite clubs etc and never have to drive no matter what time of day or night. They make it easy with a phone call or via the main valet at the casino. They picked me up right at the end of our loop driveway every morning to go to my sessions.

There is not a lot else to do in the immediate area. Rome has good history, Fort Stanwix National Historical Park is there with large recreated fort and wonderful visitor center. Rome also has movie theaters, live theater, restaurants, shopping, etc. and is less than 20 minutes away by car.

We stayed in Loop 100 (1) and site 121 which was awesome, wide and private and backed up to the boat pond area.

Here is a video shot from our campsite.

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Please check out my full review on Campendium so you can also see photos of the bath houses, showers, common buildings, and more. We definitely will be back to this RV park in the future. Oh…by the way, visit my review to hear about the train!

Happy travels from Kevin and Luisa in the Pewter Palace!

One Life….Live it!