Category Archives: Travels with the Pewter Palace

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

Our ’73 Avion is Sold!

Update 6-20-20.

Yes, We have sold our beloved 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande! This hard decision only came because we have just recently purchased a 1987 32S model that has a little more space for grandkids and visiting family/friends from out of state when we go full time living and will be traveling around the USA and Canada in our Avion beginning in 2023. Ironically, we have found out that the 28′ actually has more storage capacity than our “new” to us 32′!-more downsizing is on the “to do list”!

So our 28 footer has found a new home and new owners Val and Michael. Ironically we bought this trailer from someone on VT in 2016 and now 4 yrs later she is moving back to VT to a lovely active family who no doubt will enjoy her like we have and make many great memories!

Keeping Away Mice!

It’s winter….not much to do but dream of our future travel and do frequent garage checks to ensure no unwanted four-footed visitors are enjoying our Pewter Palace as much as we do!

On many of the forums, being winter, there is lots of discussion about keeping varmints, specifically MICE out of your rig. Be it stationary camping-anywhere but especially boondocking, a few nights, or tucked away in storage for winter…these pesky rodents can get into even the smallest of crevices!
 
found on Google…you can chose to believe it or not…(we do!)
“Bobby Corrigan, noted rodentologist and award-winning pest management consultant, states that if you can put a #2 pencil into a hole, a mouse would be able to get through it as well. Others like to use the dime as an example of the width a mouse can exploit.”
 
Our preventative steps to rodent prevention:
  1. Sealed up any unnecessary gaps between vent stacks, electrical inlets, etc.
  2. Use Fresh Cab sachets  all around the rig including: bottom of every closet, under bed storage, bath cabinet bases and in winter all over the place. They have a very mild lavender and pine scent and are 100% natural.  Also–safe to use around pets!

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3.  Maintain fresh supply of BOUNCE fully scented dryer sheets under mattresses, in closets and cabinets (next to the FreshCab), in between stored linens and clothing.

4.  When on shore power (and through winter in our storage garage) we maintain a white (or clear) colored bulb LED rope light that goes in a complete loop all around the ground underneath the perimeter of our rig.  Mice and other varmints like rats hate light.  See photo below, this is in our year round storage garage.

5.  When boondocking we use solar powered spot lights that we put out each morning anywhere we can collect the most sunshine, then position them to shine overlapping each other on the ground at the edges of our four corners of our rig….yeah….pretty much making a “lit stage” under our Avion.

 

Others who RV have mentioned things like the ultrasonic pest plug in devices, Irish Spring Soap, etc. but we have found our combination above has served us well so far both in our Class A for 5 years and now our Avion travel trailer since 2016.   Of course, a cat would help to, but that is not the direction we are going!

FYI-We also have spent over 30 years of weekend camping in historical reproduction canvas tents with sleeping bags and all gear on the ground and we have always found just even the Bounce dryer sheets have done an amazing job of keeping spiders, mice, crickets, daddy long legs at bay for sure!

More about Fresh Cab and other Earthkind company products.  100% natural!

 

PS:  in our storage garage we DO maintain large rat/mice bait traps with poison in them because we also store a lot of household and camping supplies and equipment on shelves in our garage.

If you have any sure fire, time tested ways you have found to repel mice let us know!

Safe and Mice-free journeys!

From Kevin & Luisa

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Which Camping Club is a Good Fit?

2018-07-03 17.37.10There are a lot of camping club membership programs to chose from.  Each RVer has to do research and soul searching to find what fits their current and future needs best.  We spent years researching and deciding before pulling the plug to join the clubs we have so far to save $$ on camping fees and support.  

I am not going to go into every club membership here in detail.  A simple search of YouTube and the web will provide our followers with plenty of opinions by full time and part time RVer’s, and those who weekend (or vacation) camp only.

What I will focus on in this blog post are the decisions we made, that we felt worked best for us at this point in time.  Each of you will have different needs, preferences, geographies to consider for traveling–so only you can make a decision that is best for you.

What we have in our “travel club kit” currently is the following:

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Good Sam Club (regular membership, not the roadside assistance membership)

Why? for the discounts at Camping World and at participating campgrounds

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AAA with  RV Plus  ( you MUST have the RV Plus to get adequate RV/towing covered)

Why?  for roadside assistance, RV towing, and discounts at campgrounds, attractions, dining, hotels, general travel discounts at retailers.

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KOA Membership Small annual fee, you build points with stays but in truth you would have to do a lot of KOA nights to really make the points amount to much.  Meanwhile we do get discount on every booking at a KOA we do with this membership.  KOA’s are fairly consistent and we happen to have a few of them at points on our regular vacation travel routes- so why not stay a little cheaper?  You can purchase these memberships directly at the campground or when making a reservation online they will ask you.

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Jellystone RV Park membership: (basically same set up and reasons as KOA has)

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Passport America:  We made the decision to purchase the LIFETIME membership.  This membership gives you discount at participating campgrounds all over the country.  There typically are # of night restrictions and many parks do not offer the discounts peak season, weekends or holiday weekends- understandable.  Discounts vary from park to park.  The reason we bought our lifetime membership pass now is that while we are both still working and have good cash flow, and can purchase at 2017 rate…why not?  Now its paid for, and one less monthly bill coming in once we are retired and our incomes are more stretched.

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Thousand Trails:  This is the big kahuna!

You can purchase an annual pass…currently on their website that is $599 per year for one “zone” e.g. Northeast.

We also chose to purchase the VIP lifetime, nationwide membership package. BUT we did not buy “new” and we did not by the annual zone type pass.  We went through a resale broker who came very highly regarded by several full time RVers we have been following for years including RV Love who has an excellent video on this and other camping membership clubs.

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By going through a re-seller, we used Campground Membership Outlet,located in Florida the process was pretty simple for us, but it did take a few months for TT to get their act together for the final processing and to send us our membership documents, etc.  Campground Membership Outlet has been in business over 20 yrs and we felt far more comfortable going through them than purchasing from a private seller on Ebay or Craigslist.  Yes, these plans are for sale on those sites too but buyer beware as there is a lot of fine print you need to be aware of and to be sure you are getting a legit membership.  The staff at CMO, Kim & Chad were excellent to work with and sent us explanations of what currently plans they had in their inventory at the time we were looking.  This inventory is going to change since it all depends on what current members are turning their packages in for resale.  Our package originated from someone who bought in the 1990’s.  We were able to purchase a membership package for $1,000’s less but actually with better perks and less restrictions on # of overnights, less restrictions on nights out of network before you can book again and a much better 120 day advance booking window. We felt it had advantages over the annual zone pass.  Thousand Trails is a national network (though there is definitely limited participating campgrounds in the middle sections of the country.  See the map graphic below and check out their link for more info.

There a lot of research and comparing that needs to be done when you are looking into Thousand Trails.  We have heard their TT direct sales people are pretty high pressure…(another reason we liked going through the resale broker).  And yes, depending on the resold club membership package you purchase- you can also resell your membership down the road if desired and recoup some of your initial investment.

With a Thousand Trails membership you do incur the initial investment, and you do pay an annual maintenance fee.  Ours is right around $550-600 per year.  This too is locked in with only up to a 3% raise after 5 yrs.  Again, even before we go full-timing, right now if we do 8-10 nights of camping  at a TT campground we have more than paid for our annual maintenance fee.

Why did we purchase the LIFETIME membership package now in a lump sum? 

  • We saved money compared to contemporary plans which are only going to go up in cost each year.
  • We have the disposable income now  while we are both working full time
  • With inflation who knows what these packages will be once we do retire
  • The longer we wait, the less of those more lucrative older plans that are available because they are being snatched up by many full time RVers.
  • We live debt free now and want to continue that once we full time. Honestly, we have heard some folks who have purchased new plans paying upwards of $10-15K for their memberships.  YIKES!  P.S.Thousand Trails corporation does do financing but again, we did not want to have those monthly bills after we retire.
  • We use our membership now to save overnight camping costs, but more importantly we crunched the numbers and once we go full time we will literally pay for our entire package  (ours was $3500) by the very first year we are full timing after less than 100 days of overnights in participating TT campgrounds.
  1. Thousand trails participating campground fees for us now range from free to $5.00-$8.00 per night versus rack retail of $35-65 per night for the same park!
  2. With our package we can book up to 120 days in advance, stay up to 3 weeks at the same campground, get a newspaper and 2 free coffees per day
  3. Our children can use our membership to rent a campsite or a cabin rental with hefty discounts for up to 2 weeks each year.
  4. We can also gift this membership package as a legacy inheritance to our children when we no longer can be on the road- and then they have it for their lifetime.

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There are add on packages (some are shown on map above as blue and gold) that also include the Trails Collection (gives you access to Encore RV Resorts).  We have chosen  not purchase this collection yet, but will as soon as we launch full time. Encore RV properties do tend to be nicer, with more amenities and are in some prime resort areas. There is one here in the Lake George Region (Lake George Escape Campground)- but even with our current plan we can stay there for a significant discount which is ok for us right now without having invested in the $200 per year additional cost for the Trails Collection.

Full disclosure…from what we have heard and experienced ourselves, not all TT participating campgrounds are equal.  In the basic TT plan, many are older parks, some certainly not what we would consider a “resort” level by any means…but when you are staying in a full hook up site for free (our program they are free for us!) to under $10 per night..we are certainly willing to deal with some cobwebs in the bathrooms, some peeling paint on playgrounds (or no playground) and perhaps worn down gravel driveways.  The way we look at it, once we full time we will plan to spend 2-3 weeks in a TT campground cheaply (do our laundry, take long showers, pump out our tanks, refill our water, perhaps dip in a pool or hot tub) then roll on out to either boondock a bit…or use the money we saved by staying in a TT campground to book a week at a luxury RV resort stay at a future date.  Works for us!

In closing, again, this is our plan and may not be right for you.  Only you can decide by doing the research needed.

This year, in 2020 we will also become life time members of ESCAPEES. 

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This is a national club with a lot of member support, great online forums and meet-ups, conventions with workshops, etc.   It is not just for full timers, though many full time RVers belong to it and love it.  Reason for this is they host rallies and RV caravan trips, club members get excellent discounts on certain RV equipment needs and they too have their own RV parks where we can stay for really cheap for a great stop off point along our wanderlust trail.

Once we know our full time launch date we will most likely add Coach-net RV Roadside Assistance membership since it is deemed the most comprehensive and best for national travelers.  We plan to continue our AAA RV plus however, just to be sure we are covered in all geographies and to continue to get their travel discounts  no matter how we are traveling.

We also are members of Tin Can Tourists and Harvest Host too….but those and others are for another blog post in the future!

Happy travels from Kevin & Luisa Sherman in the Pewter Palace!

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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!

2019 Tin Can Tourists Centennial Rally-Mega Avion Sightings!!

2019 marked the 100th birthday of the original Tin Can Tourists club and we were excited to be part of honoring its rich history.  The best part of THIS particular rally was that there were 17 Avions!

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More about the history of this international club can be found here at Tin Can Tourists can be read here on their very interesting history page.  

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We joined TCT in 2017 when we purchased our 1973 Avion travel trailer. Its super affordable at $20 per person per year.  This grants you access to their forums, newsletters, TCT swag, and of course, to attend TCT rallies that are held all over the USA! This club promotes safe, fun camping and camaraderie among fellow campers. It does focus on antique, vintage and classic camp trailers but is open to all modes of wheeled campers, motorhomes, and car/tent campers and no longer has a mandatory vehicle age to join as long as members support the goals and mission of the club.  It’s no wonder that the club theme song is “The More We Get Together”.   We certainly can attest to them holding up these goals.  So far we have attended TCT rallies 2 times in the Finger Lakes of NY and this trip put us square one in their large Centennial rally which was held at Camp Dearborn in Milford, MI and have had terrific times.  We will look forward to hopping around the country once we are full timing and attending more and more TCT events.

We started our adventure out to TCT by first going to Watkins Glen NY to meet up with fellow “aluminum lovers” Steve & Courtney Adcock, full time Airstreamers who go by “AStreaminLife.com“.  Then we spent two full days in Frankenmuth, Michigan one of our favorite unique get away spots since it is a Bavarian themed little city.  You can read about this part 1 of our Spring 2019 trip here. 

We arrived on Monday, May 13 at Camp Dearborn in Milford, MI.  This massive city-owned park has a very unique history itself and is filled with a variety of camping options.  TCT uses this camping site annually for their Fall rally which is well attended.  But this spring Centennial Rally had over 170 rigs registered…for a total of over 350 attendees which was terrific.  Even more terrific was the sheer variety of the rigs that converged!  I took so many photos that I am going to put most of these into slideshows on this blog in an effort to save space.  However some of the trailers were just SO notable that I have chosen a select few to post their photos individually as well as our photos to show what a great time we had and our campsite.

Our campsite at Camp Dearborn all set up….Site 98 (paved site, huge 8 person table, fire ring with full hook ups, 30 Amp service, special rally rate I think of $37 per night) which was right on what could be considered the 100% corner intersection which was awesome because we had such nice sweeping views of the campground and no one on one side of us since it was a corner lot.  Also, the bath house is right across the lane if that is important to you.

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We had been experiencing some very chilly and rainy weather along the trip, but as soon as we got to Camp Dearborn it seemed the Sun God decided it was time to give us a break and it reached into the mid to high 70’s nearly every one of the 5 days we were at the rally.  Perfect camping weather!

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Here we are in our original vintage “Avion Travelcader” knitted caps.  We purchased these on Ebay and they were a hit for sure! Back in the day, all Avioners at rallies wore them!

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These great gals were camped in site behind us.  Wendy (on left) was from GA and had flown in to stay at her first vintage rally with her sister, Laurel (camper owner and from PA) who owns a 2015 reproduction Shasta camper.  These gals were terrific and we have made lasting friends.  Looking forward to seeing Laurel again at the TCT at Sampson State Park in NY in September!

The Centennial rally boasted a nice selection of group activities each day.  Not too many to where you feel you are on a hamster wheel but each evening there was a different nationality themed dinner.  (actually we would have liked to see a few more “how to” or other types of learning/sharing workshops during the day as options to attend).  Italian, French, Canadian, Polish Buffet dinners all were good.  It was actually fun standing in line with 100’s of fellow “Canners” and those lines moved fast but allowed all of us to get to know each other.  The “big tent” was also the site of live band music 2 different nights, a few slide shows, safety workshops, new member welcome and the Centennial Rally Dance which touted a “Roaring 20’s” theme that we dove into (well, I dove….Kevin came along for the ride as a wonderful husband will do!)

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Here is a slide show of some of the unique campers that I took photos of.  These certainly are just a sampling of what was there.  Kevin and I enjoyed taking full walks around the entire massive campground on their paved roads at least 1 x per day to see what had just pulled in since some folks started coming in on Monday like we did, but others continued to come in all the way up to Friday afternoon.  So each walk held new surprises to see!

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One of the special features of this particular Centennial Rally was that any vintage rigs “Made in Michigan” were specifically featured and showcased.  TCT did that by issuing each of us a special commemorative sign that we had out and could keep.  Also one evening a guest speaker did a great presentation on Michigan “wheeled” industry from car making in Detroit to RV trailer making history.

Even our dog Reddy got into the act by wearing her “Avion” sweater I had recently crocheted for her.  She also loved her stroller since at age 11 her arthritis gets the best of her on long walks we did around the rally.  Many thanks to Avioner Rhonda who has now given me a Travelcade patch to sew on Reddy’s coat to complete the look!

With this “Made in MI” focus, 17 Avion trailer owners descended on this rally and it was so completely awesome to see Avions of all ages, sizes, and levels of renovation!!  We met several new Avioners who we had only known of by mutual facebook posts (so nice to put faces with names!) , but also got to get even better reacquainted with several Avion owners who we had met 2 years ago when we attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart, IN. (which we are attending again this summer!)  Truly building these relationships with fellow Avion and other vintage camper lovers is such an important part of our zest for this hobby.  We learn, laugh, share and support each other.

HERE IS THE AVION TRAILER SHOWCASE!!

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We stayed at the rally until Sunday morning and then pulled out to take a fairly easy time home.  We (well, Kevin did) drove 7 hours through MI, OH, PA and into NY along Interstate 90.

As part of our trip home we overnighted at a winery who is a member of Harvest Host which is a membership organization that allows wineries, museums, golf courses, historic sites, organic and regular farms an opportunity to showcase their facilities by allowing Harvest Host RV members to stay overnight on their property.  These are typically boondocking overnights and only fully contained RV’s (motorhomes and trailers) are allowed.  No tent camping is permitted.  Some hosts we have seen do have some limited hook ups, some will allow a few nights if requested.  The impetus of this is that the RVer will support the business by taking a tour, a tasting in their winery, purchasing of goods at their site store in lieu of being charged for a camping stay.

We stayed at Merritt Estate Winery, a Harvest Host member which is a nice place, but admittedly, their parking lot and accessibility could be really challenging if you are not coming in at a very “off” time, e.g. early in morning or definitely before 2-3 pm.  After that time of day, if there are any trucks, vans or cars in their parking lot- where they want you to turn around in is going to be really tough unless you are a small camper van or small class A.  When we got there, they had not moved a large white truck or van of theirs out of the parking area where they wanted us to turn around in .  They say they are tour bus friendly but I suspect that the buses disembark their passengers at the top of the driveway, not below in their small parking lot.

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We did enjoy having a nice quiet picturesque site and the wines were good and gift shop had some nice cheeses and I bought three bottles of their wine…so we more than paid for our site in the end.  But a Harvest Host site is a nice alternative, and this site was only about 10 minutes off I-90 which made it also convenient.   Below is a slideshow of some more pictures of our overnight at Merritt Estate Winery.

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A word of warning to fellow Harvest Host members, PLEASE check out their Harvest Host site using Google Satellite before committing to go.  Call the host on the phone and clearly discuss what kind of space and turn around area and access they have.  These owners (normally non RVers) do not understand the turning and backing capabilities of RVs.  Our combined rig and trailer is just under 50 feet long and cannot spin on a dime.  One Harvest Host site in OH we had checked out enroute to MI would have been a disaster trying to use, although the owners were very willing to have us stay over.

If you are interested in joining Harvest Host, please use our exclusive 15% discount codeYou save money and we get a small referral fee credit (that we put towards future purchases at Harvest Host site gift shops to support their businesses)

Hope you have enjoyed our Part 2 of our Spring 2019 trip in our 1973 Avion. Here is a link to Part 1 (Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes to Frankenmuth MI) if you want to check that out!  If you want to be sure to get notifications of future posts and travels, please subscribe to our blog!

Thank you!  Safe travels!

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Luisa Sherman

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!