Category Archives: Travels with the Pewter Palace

2021 Silver Avion Fellowship Rally- Elkhart, Indiana – Why Attend a SAF Rally?

SAF Happy Hour gets HAPPY!

If you have not been to a SAF (Silver Avion Fellowship) Rally you are really missing something special!  The Elkhart, Indiana Rally is the “Mother Ship” original rally that has now birthed other rallies to spring up in Texas and Arkansas to host rallies at least annually as well.  Every rally across the USA gives a huge warm welcome to fellow Avioners regardless of age of rig, condition or for that matter…if you don’t have one yet- attending a rally and staying at a local hotel, etc. to come to the rally to chat with current owners can be super valuable.  We all love to talk Avions!!

The Indiana SAF is held in mid-July annually and as of this post it is traditionally held at the Elkhart Campground which is easily accessed by major interstates.  On average 30-40 Avions of various ages, lengths, models and condition flock to the campground filling at least one of the full hook up site fields!  The campground is also very convenient to the RV Hall of Fame (a must see!), great antique shopping, grocery stores and any other retail you can imagine right in Elkhart.  Another short day trip is to Shipshewana, IN which is home to one of the largest groups of Amish and Mennonite communities- the area is chocked full of amazing stores, antiques, livestock and goods auctions, gorgeous gardens, even a Quilt Garden Trail and much much more!  Just watch out for buggies!

Not to be missed when you attend the rally is a trip “upcountry” to Bontragers and Johnson’s RV Salvage/Overstock type stores.  Since Elkhart, IN is the “Capital of the RV Building Industry” a lot of overstock parts, gently used parts, and salvage are snatched up by these two retailers to sell the general public.   It is said if you cannot find what you are looking for at one of their locations…its not available.  We have enjoyed going but in truth, we have found very little useful to our vintage trailer besides generic parts and RV supplies that typically can be found at any RV parts store.  But it’s a fun adventure anyway! We actually prefer to go to the Johnson’s location that is only about 10 minutes from the campground and located on a main drag right in Elkhart- just google it when there!

WHAT WILL I SEE WHEN I ATTEND THE ELKHART SAF RALLY?

Yes! It’s AVION HEAVEN MAIN STREET!

The Indiana rally starts on Thursday but at least a third of the attendees start rolling in from Tuesday forward.  By Friday evening, everyone has arrived.  The rally ends on Sunday at campground check out, 11 AM.

When you arrive the rally coordinators will warmly greet you (and everyone else will wave to you as you come in!) and give you your packet with schedule, a rally sticker for your rig or keepsake, info sheet on local retailers, restaurants, –and yes, directions to Bontragers and Johnsons!

Here is a slide show from the 2021 Elkhart SAF Rally!  Maybe you recognize someone you know?!!  If not, come to the rally and you will be one of the gang in no time!

THERE IS LOTS TO DO RIGHT AT THE RALLY!

  • Morning Coffee and snacks with topic chats from fellow Avion owners (Saturday and Sunday morning). A great place to get answers to your questions, offer tips (trials and tribulations too!) and hear about resources around an informal cup o’ Joe. Some owners have had their Avions for decades, others have worked in or owned Avion dealerships! This is time to really pick some brains!
  • Welcome Reception/Happy Hour: BYOB but refreshments are available and many bring a bottle of something to share too! Dive into some nibbles, meet fellow Avioners and get the low down from the rally hosts on schedule highlights, additions or any changes.
  • Saturday Evening Dinner: Once again the volunteer kitchen crew do a bang up job putting out a great buffet dinner (yes, all of this is included in your very affordable rally fee!) Bring your own plate, cup, bowl and utensils and dive in!
  • Evening Entertainments: This varies from year to year, sometimes its a costume dress up affair, other times its a techy online version of Trivial Pursuit, there is even a super hilarious mystery gift round robin exchange where I think its more fun to watch the antics than even getting a gift! Some years (since Avioners love to have fun) there are more than one of the above!
  • TECH Talk! This is a more formal, scheduled time that anyone is welcomed to join in the event hall to pose questions (or you can submit them in advance which is appreciated) and our panel of Avion Guru’s will do their best to answer your questions. There is also plenty of time again to share tips, resources and how to’s with fellow owners. This event is really a “must do” for first time owners or newbies to Avions! Don’t miss it! Special time and attention is given to first timers!
  • “Walk About Trailer Tour”- Wanna see inside some of the Avions at the Rally? This is your chance! Look for the “walk about” on the schedule and take a stroll with attendees to go inside any trailers on tour! Its totally optional to open your rig up for tour- we have had everything from “works in progress” to total gut and modernistic rehabs! Its a great way to get decorating ideas, discuss specifics about their rig and enjoy putting a face to the Avion!
  • Informal Happy Hours at Avions! Be sure to get the scoop and find out who may be hosting an impromptu Happy Hour right at their rig. Bring your chair, a dish to share and your own liquid potions! Rock back, enjoy the camaraderie that IS an AVION RALLY!

If this isn’t enough, the campground has a nice pool, and other amenities and of course, don’t forget that visit to the nearby (10 min) RV Hall of Fame to see vintage camping rigs dating back to the early 1900’s, kitchy ones from the 40-50’s and groovy ones (yes, shag carpet) from the 70-80’s!

At the 2021 Rally a small group  of us opted to do a private group authentic Amish/Mennonite dinner at a Barn!  It was fabulous!

SO DON’T MISS OUT ANY LONGER!    PLAN TO ATTEND AN UPCOMING SAF RALLY IN INDIANA, TEXAS OR ARKANSAS!!  OR ALL THREE!!  BUT HOW?? 

Simply really!  Each of these rallies has their own dedicated Facebook group page where all the specifics about their rallies (date, where, how to register, highlights of events to happen and a direct way to contact the rally coordinator(s) if needed.  Folks are very responsive so reach out!

Remember, any Avion, any age and condition is welcomed!  Don’t own one yet but want to?  That’s fine too just let the rally coordinators know and they can fill you in on how to attend and may have some suggestions for local lodging or if the campground has rentals or cabins.  In most cases registered attendees to the rallies make their own camp site registrations when contacting the campground directly.  Discount rates typically are given for rally dates.

These Facebook group pages are by invite, so go to the site and click on the button to ask to join!  Yes, that simple really!!

We hope to see you at an upcoming Avion Rally!  Once we go full time in 2023 we plan to visit the rallies in TX and AR but in the meantime, we have also joined their Facebook pages to get to know folks virtually!  

As always please feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions you have and please visit our YouTube Channel and our online market place for all things Avion!  Many thanks!

Safe travels, 

Luisa & Kevin Sherman

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

RV Fresh Water Hook up Safety Tips

The Good, The Bad…the Ugly!  It may not be the most glamorous topic for discussion, but keeping you and your family healthy has a direct correlation to continued enjoyment of the RV travel hobby.

The UGLY! Cross contamination of the fresh water spigot tap can cause serious illness—and contamination of your entire fresh water system!  It can happen very easily, without your knowledge or even innocently on your part and it DOES happen!

Here are just a few possible CAUSES OF CONTAMINATION to your fresh water tank:

HOW DOES CONTAMINATION OF FRESH WATER HAPPEN?

Campground issues…..these are out of your control!

  • Campgrounds are not regularly testing their potable water supply (yes, it happens*)
  • Local municipal contamination, causing an emergency “boil water” advisory- especially prevalent after major storms.
  • Fresh water pipes could be broken underground before they get to spigot.
  • Improper placement of fresh water spigots by campground ownership

AND THE BIGGEST/MOST COMMON REASON??  Fresh water spigot tap contamination from a previous camper!

What YOU and OTHER CAMPERS do DOES makes a difference!

  1. Lack of proper procedures during their black water tank flush process
  2. Improper series/order of steps when hooking up or breaking down camp- we have seen people cleaning/rinsing their septic hose by turning on the fresh water spigot and rinsing under the water flow.  Do you have any idea how much bacteria is splashing back up on to that faucet outlet??
  3. Improper storage of your fresh water and sewer hoses
  4. Broken, cracked, frayed hoses or couplers on hoses

There are countless conversations on facebook, YouTube and other blogs about first hand witnessing of unsanitary (for you and them) practices or lack thereof.  This is serious business, ecoli infections can kill someone!

TIPS TO BE MORE SAFE WHEN USING CAMPGROUND DUMP STATIONS AND FULL HOOK UP SITES:

  1. Always wear clean disposable gloves when doing your sewer dumping and DO NOT leave those gloves anywhere but in your own trash bag!
  2. Put a small spray bottle of H2O with a mild bleach solution in your outside fresh water compartment. I bought a 4 inch travel size one with spritzer nozzle at Wally World for a couple of $.
  3. Spray your bleach water solution EACH and every time you hook up and break down!  Spray it on…both ends of your fresh water hose, the spigot at the campground pedestal/faucet before you hook up your hose.  Spray the ends of your fresh water filter(s) too.  When spraying spray around the outside and into the openings of hoses, filters, and spigot.
  4. NEVER set the open ends of  your fresh water hoses or filter ends on the ground!! NEVER NEVER! Have a helper hold them.   If you must set stuff down because you are alone, then take a clean new plastic kitchen garbage bag and put that on the ground near the water spigot and lay your items on it like a carpet.  Throw bag away after use.
  5. DO NOT store your water filters  in your basement storage areas. (may be ok for modern campers with large storage areas where you can have lidded plastic totes)  Way too much dirt, germs and debris can find their way into them.  We store ours in a clean dish pan in our shower floor or kitchen sink.
  6. If the weather has been wet, use a paper towel or sponge to slide down the length of the fresh water hose before storing to take off mud, dirt, bugs, etc.  Be sure you get all or 99% of the water out of your hoses before storing.
  7. Always screw the two ends of  your fresh water hose together so nothing can get in there while not in use.  Would not hurt to again spray with the water/bleach solution before storing.
  8. Using your water/bleach spritzer spray off your dump valves regularly.  Keep them properly greased/lubed up as directed by manufacturers recommendations.  Keep your storage bays as clean as possible.  
  9. Store your “stinky slinky”, septic hose in a separate area from your fresh water hose and equipment.
  10. Have a box of gloves, a bucket of clorox wipes and paper towels always handy in that basement bay or next one over.
  11. Consider always carrying a gerry jug (we have two 6 gals) with you filled with fresh water you know you can trust.  Just in case the water from your campsite smells a little off, has high iron or sulfur content even though it may be potable.  Your AM coffee will thank you!
  12. Install an under counter fresh water filter below your faucet.  There are many types from electronic to flow through traditional. We have one on our dedicated drinking water faucet.  It is so good it even removed the pink dye color from the winter antifreeze!
  13. Consider buying a Berkey Water Filtration system that sits on your counter.  Found on Amazon or their dedicated Berkey site.  Not cheap but great peace of mind.

and remember…..

Dump the black water tank first….then the grey water!

Put at least 4-6  or so gallons of water (depends on size of your tank or how long you will be not camping)  back into your toilet and add your black tank digester.  We prefer Happy Camper or Unique brands.

You do not need to use RV toilet paper….any Septic Safe labeled T-paper is fine as long as you use sufficient water each time you flush.  What I tell my grandsons is if you do #2…then hold the pedal down for as long as it takes you to slowly count to at least 6.

*I recall reading numerous reviews about a campground in south western Arizona that had multiple complaints and even was shut down by their local health department due to fouled fresh water being run through pipes to their campsites. It pays to read campground reviews before you park! (NOTE: we always have at least 4-6 filled milk jugs of our own home water with us on any given trip. If anything, we use them to “flush” when boondocking or using our toilet at a rest area.

Here’s to happy and SAFE camping!

From 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

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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