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!
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 $$.
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.
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!),
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.
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!
Sampson State Park, Romulus, NY was once again the site of the Annual Northeastern Tin Can Tourist Rally September 12-15, 2018. This was our second year attending and we were fortunate to have Thursday as our travel day this year so we could enjoy the evening festivities that night AND be able to select an awesome campsite more in the “hub” of the action.
(Avioners sure to read all the way to the end to see photos of fellow Avions at the rally too!)
Reddy helped co-pilot…of course! (ha ha- you should have heard her snoring!)
We arrived (after a five hour trip) at around 1:30 PM and selected site #53 this year. It was a great choice because we could park parallel to the street, be more in the center hub and also an quick walk down the slope to the concert and happy hour tent and bathroom building (which saves on black water tank use) since this state campground only provides electric hook ups. They have a communal dump station and fresh water fill at end of campground drive. More about that later in another post.
Towing this 28 foot Avion is a breeze. Kevin continues to remark how you hardly know it is there. We average a cruising speed of 60 mph which we feel is safe and comfortable for us, our truck and the trailer. The weather was warm, mid to high 80’s and expected to be that for the entire weekend which for this time of year is very warm. We like 70’s thank you!!
Once at the campground Kevin proceeded with his normal set up routine and I with mine. I have the responsibility of decor, outside amenities and helping with the flag install. This was the first time we were officially using our new flag holder which holds 5 flags. Sadly not all of the ones we ordered came in on time, but we did have our American Flag and our TCT (Tin Can Tourist) flags. I will be doing a specific post on how we repurposed things from Lowe’s to make our flagpoles since the cost of ready made ones were crazy expensive!
Many of the vintage campers had already come in and more rolled in as we were setting up our campsite. Here are some great photos!
These rallies are chocked full of great people and many opportunities to socialize and get to know each other, and their RV’s better. Rarely can you take your pet for a walk, or saunter to the Rec Hall or lavatory without sparking up a conversation with someone else who is passionate about their vintage rig. We feel right at home!
Thursday evening we had a pizza party in the Rec Hall which is reserved exclusively for our TCT group use all weekend. Yes, we indulged in Pizza and it was yummy and plenty pot luck salads and desserts! (these “canners” know how to party and cook!) We also indoctrinated several new TCT members (flash back for me how i totally messed up the theme song last year when we were newbies!) Everyone had a blast!
Friday morning was a coffee and donut informal gathering back at the Rec Hall. These are always great ways to move around, sit with different people and share tips, travels and tales about vintage RVing. Friday and Saturday we also were each allowed to have a “flea market table” at our sites if we wanted to. Luck will have it we still have plenty to sell and were able to sell quite a bit of stuff which essentially paid for our entire trip! Nice!! and it clears out more from our RV garage and home that we need to downsize.
Friday night there was a happy hour under the huge social tent which is set up in the middle of the campground making it easy for everyone to get to. (it is also next to the bathroom pavilion which is doubly handy cause lets face it, there is quite a bit of libations flowing! Happy Hour was at 5 PM with pot luck appetizers. I made cantalope melon bites wrapped in prosciutto then put on skewers with mozzarella balls, and a sprig of fresh mint. Then laced with Balsamic glaze, these little beauties were gobbled up by the over 30 attendees in a heartbeat. They were yummy and perfect for a warm, very warm September evening. A little later we all strolled en-mass up to the Rec Hall at 6 PM for the Famous Mac N Cheese and Chili Cookoff Dinner competition. I did not partake in competing this year, but I brought a tossed salad. Once again, the wonderful food selections were amazing and plentiful with 13 varieties of homemade chili and nearly that many Mac N Cheese casseroles. Add to that tons of various salads and a whole table of desserts and no one would go “home” hungry! We sure did not! It is so great not having to plan to make all your own meals for four days! Wow!
Friday night beginning at 7 PM there was a great bluegrass four piece live band under the social tent. We went close by for a while then moved up to our camper and could enjoy the great music wafting over the lawn while stoking up our own nice campfire. We were only perhaps 100 feet from the tent so it was like our own private concert. We were tired after a full day of flea market sales and giving tours!
(this photo above is actually Saturday night’s impromptu Happy Hour , not on the schedule but we all said….”why not”??!!
You are beginning to see a theme here…..Canners like to party…and EAT! (did I forget to mention that at every evening meal and happy hour there is wine and other non alcoholic beverages!)
Saturday was no exception, first a pancake breakfast in the Rec hall, Come dressed in your favorite RV Jammies contest!…… then Saturday night the catered Chicken BBQ with again a myriad of pot luck dishes and desserts. Check out these photos above!
In between during the day on Saturday we all hosted three hours of an OPEN HOUSE TOUR where most of us have our trailers or RVs open for public visitors and fellow canners to tour, talk with the owners and share stories. I did not count how many visitors we had but it had to be at least 80 people. Some were vintage camper owners who had gotten nixed out of being in the TCT loop because the event sold out this year in 31 minutes! Next year, there is talk to expand into a second loop at the campground so more TCT member can get in on all the special events, etc. that comes with your official TCT event registration package. That would be good.
One outstanding RV this year was just two sites away from us. Called “THE ROCKET” this 42 foot 1956 trailer is right out of an I Love Lucy story! Check out these photos. This was a “field find” with trees and yuck growing out of every crevasse and has been completely and faithfully restored and used quite regularly for camping. It was set up in a Christmas theme this year and totally awesome!
Saturday night was capped off with the awards for Best Lights, Best of Show and Best PJ’s awards being given out at the Chicken BBQ dinner. Fun times and great conversation!
Below is the vintage Airstream that won Best in Show….beautifully restored we believe the owners are from Canada. As participants we do get a list of everyone who has attended with their year of rig, name, address and email so we can keep in touch. Nice again!
Sunday we decided to loaf around our camp in the morning and cooked breakfast (our favorite meal when camping) and savored a beautiful morning having breakfast in our PJ’s at our picnic table. I love morning coffee, etc. outdoors….so nice! By 11 AM most were leaving and so were we. We stopped at the campground at Turning Stone Casino in Verona on our way back to scope out our reservations for the end of the month….we will be out camping again from Sept 28-Oct 5 while I attend a convention at the Casino event center.
I would be remiss without thanking publicly Ed and Miriam Moore who have orchestrated and coordinated this rally for at least the last 5-8 years. They are lovely folks who try and succeed so well to make everyone happy and to plan so many great aspects of this rally. The Moore’s announced they are retiring from coordinating after this year and their successor has yet to be announced, but will have big shoes to fill. It will be nice for Ed and Miriam to be able to actually fully enjoy just being participants next year!
I HAVE SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST! There were FOUR (including us) Avioner couples present at this years TCT Rally and we understand next year a few more are going to make every effort to attend. Since this is an Avion blog I will leave you with the photos of our Avion buddies at the rally!
So this draws to a close the fun time we had once again at the Northeastern Tin Can Tourist Rally at Sampson State Park. Clearly as we get more time to travel we will make attending other TCT rallies in other states a priority. We love the club and all it is about and encourage our fellow Vintage Camper lovers to get involved in TCT!
Maybe it is because we really would love to be camping every day if we could…but we are finding that when a weekend comes where we are “home-bound” we get antsy and all we seem to want to do is watch travel video’s, You Tubers who are living the full time life (oh we are so jealous!!!)…and plan for projects, trips AND CAMPGROUNDS that we want to bring our Pewter Palace to!
Some of these campgrounds are literally in our backyard. We are fortunate to live just outside of NY’s Adirondack Park. A public/private land mass of 6 million acres. Much of it is designated Forever Wild, Wilderness Land and also there are vast tracks of beautiful woodlands, mountains, rivers, lakes and ponds. Sounds heavenly? it is!!
So this past weekend we hopped in the car (it was supposed to be rainy on Saturday anyway) and took off to explore about 2 hours north of us-some of the NY State Campgrounds to see what potential they may hold for our camping getaways…that are not too taxing on the budget or with limited time off.
Here is our check list to help you when deciding to check out campsites and campgrounds for future reference:
Before you start hunting for the PERFECT site in a campground scoping mission:
When to Scope? Do not go off season….go peak season so you can see what the campground is like in full swing! If you are going to be there in slow or off season then it only gets better….not worse! (more on specifics to watch for later in this blog)
Bring your camping guide book (I like to write directly in the margins what sites and comments we want to remember) and printed maps. We have learned that there is very limited, if any cell coverage in the ADK areas where campgrounds are located so your GPS and ability to access their websites when on site is nil.
Bring a pad and pen to jot down notes on things you observe along the way, restaurants that look good or that you stopped at for a meal and enjoyed. Note interesting side trips or shops (for me its Antiques and Local Crafts!) along the way that you were unaware of.
Note things like very steep inclines/declines getting into some places. (Far easier to monitor this buzzing around in just your car than when towing your rig!)
Bring a Tape Measure if you want. Does not hurt to even bring a 50′ or longer (depending on your rig size) retractable tape measure if you really want to be sure you can fit your rig and park your tow vehicle in a site you have fallen in love with (of course, please do not do this if the site is taken when you visit—you might get some wild looks!)
Stop at the ranger station, explain you are there to do a pre-camping check of sites to select a few that you would want to book in future. Let them know what size/length rig you have so they can forewarn you if some areas are not for you.
Pick up the site map at the ranger station, double check on their daily and weekly rates, length of max stay, and how far in advance you can book sites. I say this because not all websites are always up to date. NYS is pretty good and in fact they are doing some reconstruction of specific sites in every campground and have a list online as well as have them marked in the campgrounds–so you don’t get your heart set to find out its unavailable!
REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: you really cannot do this MISSION by yourself. I have tried and it is really unsafe and not easy and far more time consuming. So grab a buddy and one of you drives and watches out for pedestrians, bike riders and pot holes and the other one of you read the map, jot down site numbers and orients the driver on where to turn next!
So we planned strategically, using the point to point method and we were going to follow a continuous path in a northerly direction checking out any and all state campgrounds along the way on our path. We had two specific ones we had checked out online and they were the main target. But we like free wheeling a bit too so we also planned for a few stops at shops, for dining and for any other private campgrounds along our way that seemed interesting. For this trip, we were checking out specifically Lake Eaton and Fish Creek.
PREVIEW TIP- VLOGS, BLOGS AND PHOTO MONTAGES:
Many campgrounds, even state campgrounds have video’s on line now done by either amateur You Tube camping folks or in some cases by somewhat professional folks who have done a great job noting campsites themselves within parks. Here are a few of our very favorite ones that we always preview ahead of doing any “Scope Mission”. It is definitely worth the time to do!
VLOGGERS: These Full Time RVers do great campground reviews and incorporate a terrific bike ride with Go-Pro style narrated tour of the campgrounds that they visit. They travel all over the USA.
WheelingIt (online and on YouTube) Paul & Nina have now moved to Europe to begin RV adventures there, but their website remains an excellent resource of Vlog posts and videos from all over the USA. They even did a review on Sampson State Park in NYS where our Tin Can Tourist Rally is each September! Cheers!!
These folks are just one of many who do campground reviews, so just search You Tube for the campground you are thinking about and check out what shows up.
PHOTOS COLLECTIONS of campground actual # camp sites from around the country close up and by number for easy reference are awesome. This site below is by far THE BEST resource to get a feel for campsites and to armchair surf specific campsites by Site # before you even go through the gate! They categorize by public and private campgrounds, have numerous links, etc. and it is our GO TO site before we travel to anywhere with our camper.
How to know what is best for you, your preferred camping experience
Trust your gut!
Again, be sure you have a buddy doing this with you so one can drive and the other is navigator.
What to Look For- Positives and Negatives–BE OBSERVANT!
How friendly is the person staffing the entrance booth?
What is the physical condition of buildings, pavilions, bath and shower houses? If they are not maintained well, then chances are the campsites are not either.
Is the signage directing you around the campground adequate? one way roads to lessen traffic is always preferred.
Check out the public spaces like beach, pavilions, communal fire pit, playgrounds. Are they in good repair? being used? Dip your toe in the water, or at least look to see if it is a sandy beach or slimy.
Is there a boat or kayak access area? Can you find a campsite waters edge and be able to launch your kayak right from there? Boat rentals? Do they have life preservers available or do you have to bring your own? Place to park your boat trailer if you are bringing one? Fishing dock?
Do they sell fishing licenses at office (NYS they do not so you have to purchase at a local store…how far away is that??)
Visit at least ONE of the camper bath houses with toilets. Are the flushable? pit? condition? smell? hot and cold water? soap or at least sanitizer? Bugs/spiders, critters? ditto for the shower buildings- do they have lockable doors? separate showers for each person? or one room with stalls with curtains. (Lake Eaton, Fish Creek, Luzerne Campground and Scaroon Manor all had very nice to very decent facilities)
Other campers…do they wave hello or at least a nod when you drive by them walking or in their sites? no one wants an unfriendly campground—at least we do not.
State campgrounds do not have planned activities for the most part but some will have specific scheduled nature talks or history walks by a camp host or ranger. Check into that.
Dump Station. Is it working? easy to access with length of your rig? away from where your campsite is….(wafting fumes is not our idea of a pleasant weekend!)
Garbage Dumpster Area. Is is cleaned up? accessible? do they recycle? Some note in their rules they REQUIRE Clear bags! remember to bring them!
What to AVOID!
Rig Length and Width: We have a 28 foot bumper pull travel trailer. Add to that our 3/4 Ton Pick Up Truck and we are over 50 feet in total length. We are narrower than many modern rigs…only 8’5″ wide. The size of your rig and total length needs to be an important consideration.
Campsite roadways and sites themselves: As you drive through the campground, be very mindful of sharp turns, narrow roadways. How are people parked? Are tow vehicles left to park on side of the road because the sites are too shallow? Are visitors cars to spend the day with camping friends making getting around the campground difficult? Low hanging tree limbs?? (again we are far lower than most modern rigs so we always feel sorry for Class A’s and 5Vers because they are so tall and a ripped rubber roof is a real bummer!
LOOK FOR THESE CAMPSITE SPECIFICS:
A site that is on a bend in the road. This site will be easier to back into because the angle of the road creates an automatic angle for backing in rather than having to angle your rid and tow vehicle. You therefore can drive just past your site and then put her into reverse and back in nearly straight back. We prefer sites on the right with the roadway bearing a curve to the left. That’s just us and what we prefer. Remember that angling may not always be possible due to trees, neighbors vehicles or a large rig parked in a site opposite yours. MOST of the campsites we saw at four state campgrounds this weekend were back in sites with very narrow roadways. Fifth wheels and motor homes have it a little easier with this, but at 50 feet in length for us and a bumper pull, maneuverability is key to getting into a site without pulling your hair out before you even get started camping!
Is the firepit/fire place and picnic table in good condition? Not insurmountable but nice to have something useable. We have had to balance our Weber grill on a boulder before because there was no where to put our grill. And our evening fire was on the ground with that same boulder as a spark shield and backing plate.
What is the land like at the site? Sand? soft loamy mulch from leaf and bark rot? What is the drainage pattern? We find that going to look at sites right after there has been some really good rain is a great thing to do! See which ones are in “flood zones” and avoid! Are there a lot of rocks protruding up where you will be constantly going back and forth from your rig to your chair and tables?? that will wear you down, is a trip hazard and could also wreak havoc to your patio mat if you chose to put it down. If sandy or soft, you may wish to bring a few boards to put under your leveling blocks and/or stabilizers. This site below at Jellystone Campground in North Hudson NY was very sandy and after a week there, we had become slightly unlevel because of it despite having boards and levelers, pads.
Sun or Shade? Which do you prefer? We like trees but we also like to get sunlight through each day if the sun is shining. We find that being in too dark of a site with tons of trees brings us into melancholia a bit, and also nothing ever dries out like swim suits, damp cushions or chairs, etc. I also have solar powered fairy lights and other lanterns and without sunlight they will not work. Also, you run the risk of rolling up a damp awning. Not good!
Room for your unhitched vehicle or visitor vehicle to be safely parked? We have a long truck and always are sure to look where we can park our vehicle for easy access but also so that more times than not, it also provides a privacy screen for us from road noise. Especially when we have the grand kids with us, we like to have a bit of a wall between the roadway and our “outdoor living room”.
Where is the Water? Where are the Bathrooms? always important to locate and see how far away they are from the site you are selecting. All of the NYS campgrounds we visited (and most all others) have NO hook ups at all so you will be using a portable water jug to refill water tanks if needed or use from atop your picnic table and using the public toilets for “big business” to cut down on filling your waste water tanks too quickly. You can also get one of those rolling portable honey wagon tanks and take that to the dump station. We are going to look into this because we do plan to camp for a week or more and know that our black tank can only handle about 6 days if we use our camper bathroom exclusively.
Pine Pitch? We try to avoid heavily wooded sites that are covered with pine trees. They leak sap onto your rig and your awning.
Low Hanging Limbs or dead limbs and trees (widow makers)– these may prevent your tall rig from fitting in, or any rig from being able to extend your awning. Dead or rotted limbs or trees could be literally the downfall of your camping experience if they crash into your awning or worse…your rig!
How close is your neighbor? We prefer ours way more than arms length. There is a trend at private campgrounds to pack folks in like sardines. Luckily, most state campgrounds that we have here in the ADK’s at least have very decent space and privacy between sites. But always good practice to really see how close your neighboring sites are. Again, our ideal site backs up to the woods, and has perhaps only one neighbor on our street side of the camper so we get the most privacy. Not that we are not friendly, I just like to have my coffee in my bathrobe when camping! Obviously if you are camping next to already known friends with their own camper then close is nice!
Cell Signal? is that a deal breaker for you? check it out during your Scope Mission from a variety of sites that look good to you. or is there a booster somewhere near the ranger station or public gathering areas- chances are no but worth checking out. Along these lines, telephone?? we saw a good old fashioned telephone booth today at the Luzerne Campground. You need to know how and who to reach in case of emergency.
Fire Wood Restrictions?Bans? in NYS you are only allowed to bring your own wood in from a max of 50 miles from the campground. This has created quite the cottage industry for small time entrepreneurs who you will see dot the roadway leading to the campground entrance. They often are selling a bundle of decent stuff for $3-7. Stock up. You can bring Kiln-dried wood with you from further away but it should say it is on the wrapping. Also, when checking into your site day of your trip, be sure to be aware of any fire bans or restrictions due to dry conditions. They normally have that posted at the gates.
S’Mores…..remember you cannot deface, remove or tamper with any trees in a state campground or most private ones…so bring your own S’More Sticks…and enjoy!
Hope this blog has been useful to you and welcome your tips and tricks to picking great campsites!
Site # 221– “elite” category FHU site, waterfront to Alpine Lake.
Price points: $62-70 per night
Arrival time: around 3-3:30 PM. Friday, (too late-read post to find out why) Check in rules are 1PM, check out is noon (nice!)
Discount programs: they only accept Thousand Trails or Encore member discounts. They do not accept AAA, Good Sam or Passport America.
Pets and kids.…friendly to both, and there are lots of them.
Monday.... we decided the weather forecast looked decent enough for the upcoming weekend to catch a quick camping trip just to relax and so I could finish putting up and installing all the decor goodies, etc. I had purchased over the winter months for our trailer. Tuesday we went on a scope out mission to tour the campground and to jot down various # sites at this campground. It is a nice, rural drive about 40 minutes from our home. We make it a practice to try to visit campgrounds first when possible INSEASON to get a real feel for what the park is like in full bloom (people and rigs that is) rather than off season when sites are empty, facilities winterized, etc.
So we came up with about five sites that truly interested us for their views, size and privacy to some degree. The sites we would recommend are: parallel sites 218-220, 223, back in sites 207, 208, then along the lower south shoreline, back in sites 15, 16, 17- all these having water frontage. I have only two basic requirements or must haves for most of my camping excursions….water or mountain views or preferably both in the same venue from my campsite! To me, then it really feels like a relaxing change of pace. We tried to book our top pick on Tuesday night while we were there, but were told by a nice staffer at reservation desk that she has to keep those waterfront “elite” sites open until Friday mornings in July and August in hopes of getting someone to book at least a 7 night stay. Ugh…ok, so we were told to call back on Friday morning and if one of our choice #’s was available we could book it for the two nights we desired.
Friday came around, weather forecast still looked good. Reservation desk opens at 8 AM. At 8:03 AM I was dialing. BINGO! our site #220 was available! Yeah! “book it Danno” (those of you old enough will understand that phrase). We were happy campers….till we got there around 3 PM.
Hmm….no check in packet was ready for us..a sign all may not be well. Oh, ok, found us on the computer….site 221. Ah….no, that is not the site that is on my email confirmation or that we wanted and was told was available at 8:03 AM this morning and confirmed by Susan (who by the way, ended up we find out was the assistant manager). So now I am upset, I just had my heart set on a water view for the weekend. In luck!!…says a new and very pleasant young desk worker who was trying very hard to calm me down and doing a good job of it. She had two other sites in the same locale available and we could have our choice of either one (221 or 223). So, ok, not prime, but comparable with a few more trees blocking the lake, but livable and not sandwiched in like other parts of the park or among the many, many seasonal set ups that have everything from Tiki bars to 8 person fire pits to full blown landscaped (some nice, some junk) or the topper…the triple length dining canopy with count ’em four picnic tables together end to end right next to the road (whoa, that must sound like a rock concert or a NASCAR Tailgate party when they get ripping on a Saturday night!).
So off we go to our site road which is on a narrow peninsula causeway with a pond on north side and Alpine lake on the south side. We stop shy of the first site, 221 to scope it out and also look at 223 which was to be available. Whoops…no, someone with a large trailer had already claimed 223 and it was no longer an option. (still wondering how the computer did not know this and wonder if they actually were supposed to be at another, less priced, site and hijacked the site to be next to their friends in 222) So, #221 was it, or go home. Home was not an option for me at that point—but then again I was not going to be the one to have to “thread the needle” trying to back our Avion into our site with TWO HUGE 5th Wheels as bookends on either end. Wait…it gets better.
We got attitude from the lady in the 5er that was in 222 because she had to fold up her “rear porch” because it literally extended into our site where our tow vehicle was going to be parked. Mind you, they already had their awning out facing the water and each campsite does come with a very nice cement patio which they already had their dog pen and chairs on. To quote her, “this is why I wanted lake view so i could sit on the porch and see it”. Oh well, pack it up folks- which they did with some grumbling. About this time, a staffer from the campground showed up to assist Kevin with backing in instruction—I am sure it helped that we figured out, he also was the owner of the campground so our 5er figured they better not push things. Hey, all the campers on the street pay the same price for their sites. If a huge fifth wheel with 4 slides and towering what seemed like a full story above our Avion needed or wanted a porch (which is like four feet off the ground!)…they certainly always have the option to purchase two sites…then no issue right??
As it was, if we had allowed them to keep their porch down, we literally feel like we would be having them for breakfast, lunch and dinner under our awning each meal. Not to mention, we would not have been able, nor any one else save a mini Rpod get in to 221.
The folks in 220 (the site we had reserved) were actually really nice. They explained they had booked the site back in January. We suspect that they had actually booked 221 but because that big “porch” 5er was already parked, our nice neighbors could not maneuver their 5 slide huge fifth wheel there either. They let it slip that when trying to get into the site they backed over our sewer hook up. Nevertheless, they were nice and good neighbors for the weekend. We were impressed that with four teenagers we did not see them all hunkered down over ipads or cell phones or blaring music. Instead the kids were out fishing, kayaking or biking–nice job raising kids to disconnect during camping (LOL…wish i could get Kevin to do that—he was on his ipad a lot and I am just as guilty on my phone posting photos, etc. to facebook)!
Well so now to the good part. The campground is nice (busy…but it is summer afterall) and the amenities are nice. So many of the other campgrounds in the region are minimal, run down and do not offer much. There are a couple higher end resorts, this one is kind of upper/upper middle but not quite at the top. The pool is well kept, there are two of them. One is only max 3 feet deep. Graduates from 1 foot to 3 foot. Great for toddlers, our grandkids would have loved it…..we did too because we were the only ones in there for a while and even once some young kids came in it still was less busy than the main pool The main pool is a little wider, same length but deeper. Nice thing is this is one campground that actually posts there are “Adult only” hours from 8-9 PM nightly. Sure wish more campgrounds did this rule! The chairs, lounges and umbrella tables were plentiful and the entire area was very well maintained and landscaped. In fact, the landscaping throughout the campground was very good for this region.
The main lodge, which is waterfront has a very decent snack bar restaurant with everything from pizza to quesadilla’s, ice cream to jalapeno poppers. I had a chicken Caesar salad, $9 which was very decent. Kevin had a burger with toppings and chips, again, $9.
They serve lunch and dinner x 7 days per week and breakfast starting at 8 AM on Sat/Sun only. The breakfast special was two different kinds of omelets for $7, add homefries and bacon for an additional $2. Not bad, but we prefer breakfast in camp and relaxing in our PJ’s and bathrobes enjoying the quiet view of the lake. The pizza smelled good later that night as we took a 7 pm dip in the nearby pool. The restaurant was packed for dinner from what we could tell on Saturday night.
Other amenities: The laundry facilities were just OK. Did not seem large enough for the amount of total sites on property but when we were there on Saturday afternoon, none were being used so perhaps its fine. As I mentioned there are a lot of seasonal sites and I suspect a lot of folks do laundry mid week at their homes, not at camp. The main shower room was a hike from our campsite and next to the laundry room. It was decently clean but not spotless. What i did not like was that the shower stalls only had flimsy curtains for privacy. They did each have a bench to put your towel, but that was right next to the shower so not sure how dry your towel is going to stay. I prefer showers to be separate with their own exterior entrance with a lockable solid door rather than feeling somewhat like a high school locker room. The shower stalls were clean. Kevin said he tested one of them and it ran 6 minutes before you would have to reach outside the curtain to reactivate the button to turn it on again. Not a great system but I understand why they must be timed to prevent from being left on by pranksters or absent mindedness.
Beware of visitors! The sites along the lower lake level, southern edge of Alpine Lake are all back in’s and because of their being literally on grade with the lake I would be careful when tons of rain is forecast. You may end up with a very soggy site, or worse, your tires sinking. You will most likely always end up with two legged visitors….Canada geese. There is a large flock of them on the lake and while they look majestic gliding smoothly along the lake, they make a total mess with their poop along a lot of the walkways, roads and yes….lakefront low lying campsites. We could see from across the lake on our high ground, many of the low lying sites having to constantly shoo away the geese who were coming to visit their campsite. Signs everywhere say please do not feed them. No kidding-they might try to hop onto your picnic table if you are not careful and put on a bib!
Beach and fishing areas: We did not try out the beach area- it is large and roped off so fishing folks do not enter, but one thing is for sure, both lakes (or some may call them ponds) on either side of our site road are good for fishing. We could see the little devils rabidly groping at flies as the sun set in front of our campsite. Not sure if they stock but there were lots of folks enjoying fishing. Some put their bass boats in the pond on our north side and could use the beach to pull them up for mooring. The campground does have kayaks, peddle boats, sail boards for rent as well as golf carts if you are so inclined. BTW a lot of the seasonal folks have their own golf carts and the roadways are quite busy with back and forth traffic. I can’t say I blame them. This is a large park and if you have one of the seasonal sites far back it is a long hike to the pool, lodge and other activity areas which are clustered near the main entrance.
Other amenities at the site include a few activity pavilions, a camp store (not the best we have seen, but decent) staff is friendly and do their best to make you feel welcomed. The park does offer a daily trolley ride service ($4 pp) if you want to spend the day in Lake George without bringing your car and dealing with parking meters, etc. In July and August the trolley also goes to nearby Saratoga Springs in case the horse race track is your thing. Saratoga also has awesome boutique shopping and really good restaurants in their downtown. We did not partake in any of their organized activities but could hear the DJ clear enough on Friday night (was on the calendar as a movie night with DJ on Saturday night- so not sure what happened there). Quiet times appeared to be enforced while we were there however other reviewers have said that noise after hours has been a problem…I suspect they were on that seasonal row with the four picnic table freight train!.
Oh, BTW…yes, they have dinosaurs too….but honestly they are out of place in the ADK’s and they need a bit of TLC at this point. Not sure why they are here, but could be a throw back to when the park first opened in the early 1970’s when kiddie themed type stuff was big in this part of upstate NY. (There is a giant chipmunk next to the lodge restaurant too).
So despite a rough start not getting the site we paid for, we still enjoyed a lake view site, relaxing time and will plan to come again to Alpine Lake RV Resort. Next time though we are going to hold out for sites 207 or 208 which are opposite the beach, on the high ground (sans Geese) and back in sites. This will make for a far easier in and out no matter how packed the park is.
Hope you enjoyed this review! Let us know if you plan to visit this campground in the future!
2018 will go down as the winter that never ends…yes, it is April- long past the Easter holiday and we are still getting snow. We had chatted with Chuck Cayo (a.k.a Avion guru) over the winter about bringing our Pewter Palace to his repair and service business this spring so we could have a punch list of things done including the installation of a new ZipDee awning system, replacing our old Carefree system and vinyl awning PLUS installing new awning systems all way round the rig.
Chuck is the grandson of one of the two original owner brothers of the Avion (and Cayo) corporations in Benton Harbor, MI. We were in luck and Chuck said he had a window of scheduling that could put us in the ques for Mid April. Perfect! By then, Kevin would be off of his extremely rigorous and mandatory 24/7 “on call” status with NYS DOT (yes, overtime this winter was big with so much snow…but I also once again became a “snowstorm widow” not seeing him sometimes for what seemed like days on end!)
So we booked it in figuring also that perfect weather would be our guide. NOT!!! We hit the road a little earlier on Friday than originally planned just to be able to scoot out of NYS before yet another sleet, snow and rain storm came barreling through.
NY, PA TO OHIO BORDER: We got as far as over the Ohio border and found an excellent rest area/truck stop directly off Interstate 90 Westbound at exit 223. This Flying J truck stop has about 8 dedicated RV parking spots on the left front area of lot. Much quieter there than in back with big rigs. There is a Denny’s restaurant that opens at 6 AM. Nice breakfast. And the Flying J store and bathrooms were great, spotless with store having very good variety of foods, snacks and beverages even at 10 PM when we arrived.
As we approached through OH and into Indiana and Michigan the next day we caught a storm of rain, and some snow….yeah…it followed us! Ugh! There were some high winds (25-35 MPH) but Avion’s are so aerodynamically designed that honestly Kevin said that the wind is really a non issue. We cannot say the same for other RV trailers and Class A’s we saw along the route who were blowing all over the place!
A great thing we also learned was that the state of Ohio has really become RV Friendly in that they have been upgrading some of their rest areas and creating some dedicated RV overnight parking WITH ELECTRIC HOOKUPS! there is also potable water and a dump station area onsite at these special rest areas. You can pick up the info flyer on these at any of the rest areas. There is a self-pay kiosk where you pay $20 for an overnight with electric and put the chit on your dash so you don’t get rousted in the middle of the night. Bad part in their planning was the sites are quite short and close together. We are talking a parking lot folks! But honestly, with the 28.7 feet of our trailer plus our Chevy Suburban’s length we were hard pressed at the first one we checked out to be able to fit our rig. And God help us if someone pulled into either side of us because the first rest area were all straight back in’s (no angle to pull out or in) so to make that “J” turn to get out with approx. 48 feet of rolling metal- would be impossible. The photo below shows that back in only lot. Fine for small bumper pulls, vans, small class B & C’s.
Below is the flyer detailing some of the info about these special rest areas. Again, only in OH on RT 90 (wish NYS would take cue and do this!) and it is only for ONE night stays. Good in a pinch, esp. if it is so late at night that its too late to get to a campground and you want an easy off, easy on in the morning. We suspect these spots are very full in season!!! They are first come, first served. The Rest Area as Mile Post (MP) 79 on the Westbound side did have 8 pull through sites on angles which was a little better, but again we just fit nose to tail. BTW–the OH rest areas are beautiful! huge, have pay showers if needed, and you can eat off the floor they are so clean. Decent offering of typical fast food Starbucks, Burger King, etc. Nothing to write home about food wise for this gal.
Of course the 90 degree turn in Cleveland OH is always fun! Check out the very cool building on the right but then please………Take it slow please!!!!
AT this point it is lightly snowing…
On through Indiana for a bit, still is amazing when going through the Elkhart area to see all the many manufacturers of RV parts, trailers and motorhomes just finished their assembly line and waiting to be shipped to dealerships all over the US. Elkhart is the RV capital of the world (no kidding!) and if you want to stop there, you can even go on factory tours that are scheduled (advance reservations are suggested because of set times/days of the week they are done). We did not stop this time, but had visited the RV Hall of fame during our last visit to this area last summer when we attended our first Silver Avion Fellowship Rally. The RV/MH Hall of Fame sits right off the left side of the highway as we were heading west. Easy in and out, plenty of RV parking. Worth supporting and definitely worth the visit to see some of the really rare, early tent campers on Model A’s etc right through to modern styles.
On to Michigan and nearer the “Motherland” by every passing mile! This was now Saturday, April 14 and we had made reservations to stay in Coloma/St. Joseph KOA just north of Benton Harbor MI. We had always planned to get to MI early enough on Saturday to visit the ORIGINAL AVION FACTORY AND HQ in Benton Harbor first. Onward we went, despite frigid temps and blowing winds and the occasional snow flake or two…
We had reached out to a historical facebook page of folks who love Benton Harbor history. They, along with the wonderful book published by Bob Muncy about Avion’s were key to us finding the original location. Bear in mind, to those who live in IN and MI this pilgrimage may seen downright ridiculous, but for us, who are so literally obsessed by “everything Avion” we just had to find the original site, buildings, and location of where our “baby” was born!! And we did!!!
1300 East Empire Ave, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Thanks to some clues from those facebook folks, google satellite image maps (comparing them to Muncy photos) we found the Avion Maternity Ward–still intact, but now a Cheese Factory/Importer was in the manufacturing plant and next door, the Avion HQ and Sales room was empty but perfectly intact as it was in the heyday! This was an awesome experience, brought chills to our spines (disregarding the weather!) and truly was so cool to park our rig right in front of both buildings. Kevin was in his glory!! It was so cool! Good we were there on a weekend as there were no cars to jockey around in the parking lots!
On to our KOA in Coloma/St. Josephs. Nice campground, easy access. We had the honor of being their first “American” campers of the 2018 season….yes…it is now snowing a bit with the rain! It got down to 29 degrees that night. We did have to take a different site than we were assigned because as nice as this campground is (and the owners were very nice!) the campground lies very low and many of the sites were flooded due to rains for the past few days. Since the rain was supposed to continue through our stay we did not want to have to test out the Avion’s buoyancy much less need a tractor pull competition to get her out of mud. The owners understood and were accommodating for sure.
We ventured into Coloma for dinner, cute downtown, neat boutique type shops including one very original 5 & 10 Store that functions much like it did in dime store heydays. The owner obviously loves retro and loves his G & M Variety store. You can get everything from fishing tackle and slogger shoes to makeup and very nice home decor or hardware items….and penny candy, etc. still too!! The set up is just like original dime stores (just minus the little old/ancient sales ladies following you around every corner and every aisle for fear you were going to steal some pair of socks or something)…it was very cool!I only wish it has fountain service where we could have gotten a yummy grilled cheese or roasted hot dog on a grilled bun! (ahh the memories!!). We ate at the local brew pub in downtown. Decent, but nothing out of the ordinary for us. Back to camp, bundle up and relax.
Sunday we spent day tripping in our car going to visit Holland MI. Sadly, lesson learned not much is open on a snowy, cold Sunday in Mid-April. We hit a terrible snow storm enroute and were very happy to not be towing anything. Eight cars spun off the highway in one hours worth of the trip, no DOT trucks in site. Waylaid at a great Antique shop which worked out well to let the snow pass by and melt off highway a bit. Holland was a bust, most was all closed and we got there so late due to 25 mph max on highway during storm. We did eat at a great restaurant in one of the shopping mall areas. I think the name had “Annies” or “Ann’s” in the name. Also a “wooden shoe” antique mall on outskirts heading out of town was worth the stop. Prices for antiques are alot better in MI compared to NY!
Monday morning it was up bright and early and off to see Mr. Chuck Cayo in Watervliet which was only about 15 minutes from our campground. We arrived to find the door to the main shop locked. oh no……the service door was open and in we went to meet one of his helpers “Bill” who explained to us that Chuck had been hospitalized on Friday due to emergency medical situation—clogged artery! Nearly took him to the big Avion lot in the sky! YIKES! So Bill assured us Chuck was doing well, but would be in hospital for at least the rest of the week. He took our three page (yes, three page) punch list and keys, we parked our baby the Pewter Palace, gave her a hug around the beam and wished her well. We also took time again to check out the other Avions in the lot for sale or for repair. Always fun to see after market creative fixes, additions, etc. and variety of rigs.
We had told Chuck we just need her back for Mid to Late June….seems like so far away…we miss her already but know she is in very good hands! Till June little lady!!
The city of Elkhart, Indiana may not mean anything to someone who has never owned or camped in an RV. However, for those of us who have fully ingested the “bug” Elkhart, Indiana is the RV Manufacturing capital of the WORLD! No kidding!! Really! In this blog post I include many links that bring this history of RVing to life!
Here is a sneak peak of the RV/MH Hall of Fame exhibit area! See more links below!
For decades upon decades countless brand name RV manufacturers have set up their company production lines in and around the Elkhart area. If you visit, you can plan to take a factory tour if you want too but check ahead because they are only offered at certain factories on certain days of the week and times. Because of this, a multitude of outsourcing smaller manufacturing businesses have populated the area producing everything possible for those large brands like Fleetwood, Winnebago, Forrest River, Thor, etc. Things like smaller plants that make the windows, the cushions, the hitches, the extruded plastic AC covers, electrical and plumbing fixtures. It was comical being at a stop light and seeing flatbed trailers stacked with 15 shower stalls, trailer frames, stacks of windows being rolled down the road to finish off someones new trailer or motorhome! The majority of all the RV’s from tiny pods to large 45 foot diesel pusher Class A’s are made in Elkhart.
SO–it is no coincidence that the RV & Manufactured Homes Hall of Fame is located in Elkhart, easily seen and reached by Interstate 80. Don’t get me started on why the MH does not stand for Motor Home…but it actually stands for Manufactured Houses which to some degree is also represented in this museum (especially a small MH outside the building that is open for a tour- more of a sales pitch for the builder than anything I feel) . I suspect it was during lean years of funding for the museum that they had to expand their scope to include manufactured houses into the museum’s mission. It is just my humble opinion, but doing this inclusion of manufactured homes into an RV museum was a disservice to the tens of thousands of RV owners whose homes (whether part time or full time) are truly on “wheels”. Manufactured homes may be indeed built on an assembly line like an RV but by no means do they function nor are intended to be moved from spot to spot weekly, seasonally or for that matter ever…once put on their foundations.
Neverthless, when we were venturing to our very first (and not to be our last for sure!) Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart in the summer of 2017 we made the pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame and enthusiastically became Life Members! (Actually this was more a fiscal decision than anything because they made it easy to justify a Life Membership versus us just paying for admission to the two of us for the day–a difference of about $10 if i remember correctly. So now we can go anytime we want!)
Here is a link to the museum’s website so you can do your own “touring”!! WE DO encourage you to visit this museum, support its livelihood and share with your friends. Its exhibits truly do paint an accurate and colorful vision into the thread of our own Americana!
One of the reasons, we justify for return visits is that the museum was in the process of expanding their parking area to the north of the building and supposedly this will allow for even more boondocking (or limited hookups) for the RV family of which we are a part of and supposedly special events, perhaps even themed rallies (by year of RV or brand perhaps?!!). On the second floor of the museum is an archive library which although very unorganized by Library Science codes (our librarian friend Robin Stiles would throw a fit the way someone has tried to organize their collection–NOT!)we did find quite a treasure trove of Avion files including manuals, advertising pieces, etc. The archive section of hanging files is fairly easy to use- someone thankfully put those in alpha order so at least the “A”s were easy enough to find. As for the stacks..not so much–we scratched our head for a half hour trying to figure out what method someone had employed to categorize the shelves and shelves of RV manuals, books, how to guides and more…to no avail. Sadly, there was no volunteers present in the library that day either- perhaps that could have helped. BTW- in our exit survey we did comment that we highly recommended they tap a college intern who was studying Library Sciences or a retired librarian who would get in there and reorganize the stack system so that folks could find things. Even if they did not go by Dewey Decimal system…alphabetical like the hanging file folders would have been better. And then please…label the shelves or areas! Ok enough of my rant, I should talk, my files at home are not much better!
For the purpose of this blog post, i am going to literally add in all the photos we took while on tour at the museum into a flip book on our website at some point-but it is time consuming (so will be perhaps a 2019 winter project). For now, here is a great link to the exhibit area of the museum. The photos are arranged by vehicle type so will be pretty easy for you to scour and select. Check out the other link below which actually lists by rig their complete inventory with description and photo. We spent over 4 fours and really enjoyed going in and out of many of the vintage trailers and RV’s of all types, names, shapes and sizes. Some homemade, some “state of the art” when produced in the 1920’s, 30’s, -70’s.
At some point, when I have time—I am also going to include a “flip book” of the Avion brochures and sales pieces that we found that were right around our rig’s year which is 1973 onto the resources page of our http://www.ThePewterPalace.com website for easy access anytime. For some reason (maybe the Avion Coach Corp was feeling a fiscal pinch in 1973) we have a hard time finding that particular year or even 1975 brochures, etc.
Interestingly enough, this was also the year (1973) that the Avion Coach Company made the most significant change to their body style and design. So you would have thought this would have been a major push to new marketing. The transition between the front and rear sections from ’72 to ’73 is very noticeable. It went from the more traditional fan sections of aluminum nose to the more “bread loaf” style like ours is with only three sections. You will see the difference immediately in the photos below..
PRE-1973 AVION Nose and Rear construction:
Below is our 1973 with NEW AVION design rolled out that same year (affectionately called the “breadloaf” style) design which afforded more interior headroom, less seams that can leak too!
Not only was this a major exterior change visually, but it also greatly opened up the living space in the nose and rear bathroom areas extending headroom on both sides. When we were at our Silver Avion Fellowship Rally going inside the 1960-early 70’s models you can really tell. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some purists who love the earlier styles and while we do love them too as they are truly the classic look…we appreciate the bit wide open more space of ours especially since we will be living in ours full time when we retire. When you are dealing with less than 200 sq. feet of living space on a full time basis—every square inch of floor and head space counts. I would also go so far as to say, anyone who is over 6′ tall would definitely want the newer (tongue in cheek, ours is 45 years old this year!) style affording more headroom and less a feel you have to crouch to get into your dinette area.
(our 1973 Avion, dubbbed “The Pewter Palace” in winter storage in Queensbury, NY for the LONG winter of 2017-2018)
So back to our trip to the RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum. Surely, for anyone interested in “vintage” anything, this is a great place to visit. Also, if you own a vintage Shasta, Scotty, Winnebago, Bolus, Silver Streak, Airstreams or any of the other dozens out there, you will want to visit this mecca of motor and non-motor recreation vehicles.
Spend some time in the archive library to find and take photos (no they do not have a place to pay for copies to be made either—zheesh!) with your cell phone or camera. Fellow RV’ers and the actual manufactures or collectors of such ephemera have been very generous in donating volumes of great stuff to peruse through–so please do check it would when visiting and leave yourself enough time…and storage space for photos on your camera.
Enjoy and hope to bump into you someday at the RV Hall of Fame! If you are an RV hobbyist or depend on your RV full time to keep a roof (albeit mobile one) over your head—please support this museum and its mission in any way that you can. This is a core part of our American History experience and the American experiment!
You would think we would have better things to discuss with the holidays approaching and time spent now daydreaming (or really planning) for our 2018 Avion Adventures!
But honestly, with our Pewter Palace in winter storage, it seems like a good time to discuss those not so popular things like….black tanks and sewer smells!
We are fortunate in that our 1973 Avion has both a grey water and black water tank. Up to and through 1972 Avions were built with only one discharge tank (held black and grey combined). yikes! That would not do for us at all–Especially once we start full timing. These tanks, when our rigs were built were not the size that most modern trailers are. In fact, our grey water is 25 gallons and our black is also 25 gallons. Through our experience, we pretty much can get a little over a week with our grey water (assuming no showers – we use the campgrounds shower, and not dumping dish water on the ground outside rather than down the drain). We can get about 5-7 days with black water tank, again, depends on if we are spending most of the day away from camp either siteseeing or going to work.
Lets remember, that up to that point (1972) these rigs were totally produced for the leisure market and living full time in them was virtually inconceivable. Were there some full timers in the 70’s? I suspect so, but nothing like the ever increasing rage and trends that are going on now. The internet has certainly made it all so much easier and seamless-even for those who telecommute now for work. Full Time living on an RV is really quite simple and easy.
Also, I would bet that most travel trailer campers also were using private or public campgrounds that at least had some hook ups with at minimum, dump stations. We still see a considerable amount of campgrounds, especially those in more rural locations having just electric and water intake available at the actual site you have, and then you have to drive to the dump station to empty your black/grey water. The NY State Campground we were at this summer for the Tin Can Tourist NE Rally (Sampson State Park, nice place!) had water and electric at our site, but a communal dump station area for discharge. Many, many state and national campgrounds and parks are still this way. Lets face it, the cost for putting separate lines to a campground with over 200 sites would be outrageous in today’s costs.
So back to the original intention of my blog post. Black water…..how to manage it as efficiently as possible with NO smells.
When we had our 1998 Class A Itasca Motor home, we constantly had issues with “smells” which were sewer gases leaking from (I guess) improperly constructed vent tanks. it seemed more prevalent when we were on the road down the highway but none the less, we still could “smell” when we had to dump. We tried a variety of toilet treatment chemicals purchased at a variety of camp and RV stores…all supposed to offer the best in waste breakdown and prevention of smells. We tried the gadget on top of the roof that was a directional rotating wing type cap that was supposed to help. I guess the swivel vent did help a little.
But guess what…back in 1973 the engineers of the Avion’s knew what they were doing. To date, we have NEVER had any of those smells in our Avion! And remember, we just got done living in her for three and a half months full time, stationary. We have the vintage, standard fixed cap on the vent pipe that comes up thru the roof. Yes, we do have a more modern (but still plastic) toilet but the fact that the black water holding tank is directly below the toilet I think helps to prevent issues. You literally can “see” when your tank is getting filled…ok, not a great site to behold- but a good check and balance anyway.
BUT…what I truly think has really made the different is using this! UNIQUE Brand RV Digester (remember…we do not get paid for any endorsements…this is just our feedback to help fellow RVers)
Our rig came with a bunch of the traditional and well recognized brands of other digesters, but i really wanted something different to avoid past issues. In doing research and with checking LOTS of reviews on Amazon, this one consistently rose to the top…pardon the pun.
This stuff is so eco-friendly too! (My daughter would hopefully even approve!) Reviews note that Unique RV Digester is also proven to “unstop clogs, dried out and caked on gunk”. Glad we did not have that issue…but truly, we see lots of posts on RV FB chat sites where especially vintage RVs have sat for so long unattended that their sewer systems have to be pretty yucky. Supposedly, if you load your tank with the prescribed amount of this stuff….let it sit, then take your rig on the road for a little hula dancing down the road this stuff will unshake and degrade the sludge and make it possible to drain and start reusing your system effectively again. There were many testimonials to this effect on Amazon and honestly, I was quite impressed reading them.
Many Avion owners (and other vintage trailer owners for that matter) have realized the fact that well…those “monitor panels” really do not work well or at all after decades. The sensors they use on even more modern units to signal when your tanks are getting full leave much to be desired. In fact, their lousy.
Unique RV Digester, in some cases has even proven itself to clean the detectors and get those lights working again. That did not happen to us…but no problem…like i said–we can give it an “eye spy” and see when our black water/sewer tank is gonna need an emptying. Nothing like an eye witness right??
What I can tell you is that the Unique RV Digester solution has worked beautifully for us. We have NO Smells, No clogs, and everything drains beautifully. We did follow the initial start up instructions and for the rest of the season were on the “maintenance” dosage after each dump. We also put a little in our grey water too, just to help breakdown any food particles and grease that may have slipped down when doing dishes.
An added funny….you know part of what we love about RV camping is meeting other folks, sitting around a communal campfire and sharing stories, jokes and fun times. Well, wouldn’t you know, when we were at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally this summer in Elkhart Indiana the conversation turned to RV Black Tanks. (Don’t ask how we got there!!) but lo and behold, a fellow Avioner mentioned this same UNIQUE RV Digester with the same gusto and recommendation we had. He also has been a long timer and it was great for Kevin and I to hear others have had such success and recommend it too.
So armed with this first season going so well, we have stocked up on our Unique RV Digester and are ready for smell free travels!
Hope this blog post helps fellow Trailer and motorhome owners too. If you want to order this stuff…here is an Amazon link. They do track you down and the company will offer you coupons for future purchases. Read about their company, they are pretty cool too!
Our first big, long (1889 miles) trip with our Avion, LeGrande 28 footer took place from July 28 until August 6, 2017, a total of 10 days on the road. We traveled from upstate NY where we live, out to Niagara Falls NY, crossing over into Ontario at the Peace Bridge, then to London ON for one night in London ON, then crossing over into Michigan over the Blue Water Bridge (below)
into Huron Michigan then to Frankenmuth MI for our first multi day campground.
After three nights in Frankenmuth Jellystone Campground (below), we drove south to Elkhart, Indiana for our very first annual Silver Avion Fellowship Rally.
NOTE: This post is going to be pretty much exclusively about the Avion Rally because, well simply it was so awesome to see so many Avions “nesting” in one roost and we met so many great people that it deserves its own post! We will make other posts about the other stops on our trip.
The campground is large, has easy to navigate streets to get to most sites (more on that later) and a large indoor meeting hall which makes ideal space when hosting rally activities like pot lucks, etc.
Like I mentioned the variety of years, models and lengths of the Avions that were at the rally was so cool. I think we topped out at about 23 rigs and about 50-60 people. Some came in early on Weds, others arrived on Thursday like we did. Some came as late as Saturday. This location evidently is an easy haul for many current Avion owners.
It stands to reason…Benton Harbor, Michigan is only about a 1.5 to 2 hour drive north of Elkhart and this is where all the Avion’s were made in the day. I am sure that there was a huge regional marketing effort, many workers from the factory enjoyed also owning them, and there were dealers here too. Ours still bears the original tag of the dealership that sold her back in 1973 located just 3 hours northeast of Elkhart! Our baby has come home!(via two trips through Alaska, out to California at least 6x’s, Florida every winter for a decade and thousands of other pleasure miles around the west, mid west and continental USA- all by the three previous owners at some point in her life)
Along the way to Elkhart we did make a slight detour to swing by to visit Cayo Repair, owner Chuck Cayo being the son of Avion Corp Founder. (sorry they do not have a company website, only a minimal FB presence from link above) Chuck is known as the guru of Avion’s and Avion repair. He has grown up with them, and thankfully from what we understand his son has gotten involved in the repair and restoration end which ensures hopefully at least through our lifetime we have a lifeline!
(Cayo deserves a separate blog post too very soon!) Back to the rally!!
Elkhart is home to the largest assemblage of RV manufacturers and secondary feeder manufacturing market industry in the USA. It is no wonder you see lot after lot, factory after factory all making frames, windows, gaskets, furniture, bedding, you name it…until the final product is assembled and shipped to your local RV store for sale. It all comes from this mecca! It also is no wonder then, that the National RV Hall of Fame Museum is located right here in Elkhart. A few years back they included the “manufactured houses” (a.k.a double wides) into their mix. In our opinion, selling out to greed for more sponsorships and the two simply do not mix, but hey–we re not trying to keep a non profit museum afloat in tough times either. After we got ourselves settled Thursday evening and had some libations with fellow Avioners, we drove a short 15 minutes to the RV Hall of Fame museum. We spent a solid 4 hours there including time spent in their pretty good archive library.
The museum is pretty cool and it is obvious it is being supported by brand names such as Thor, Winnebago and others. We honestly did not spend any time at all with the new modern RV’s but went right to the very large exhibition space that begins with the very earliest and first “RV’s which were no more than homemade trucks or cars that had been retrofitted with some pull out storage compartments which then made room for a bedroll. From the early 1900’s right through the 60’s, 70’s 80’s were some of our favorites.
Here is a great shot showing the scope of the types of rigs they have which are in various levels of restoration. Most are nearly in perfect condition, but some, perhaps some that have been more recently donated still need some work and you can see that they are doing their best to tackle.
There are aisles and aisles of great things to see all set up very professionally with dioramas, period appropriate props, etc. which really adds to the feeling that you are in the moment when that particular RV/trailer was being used. A good amount of the trailers from the 1930’s and up you can actually walk onto!!
I have tons of photos of many or most of the rigs in the museum, like I said we were there 4 hrs! Here is a great funky hippie era mobile! One RV had shag carpet like what ours was originally sold with! Can you even imagine keeping shag carpet clean when camping?? What were they thinking?
Another day trip we did not far from Elkhart also includes a foray to visit several RV parts outlets (Bontragers, Factory Surplus RV and Johnson’s Surplus), where entrepreneurs by over production or discontinued parts from the RV manufactures so one can go picking to find replacement parts, etc. for those campers and motor homes that have been produced in more recent years. Of course, no parts available specifically for a 44 year old Avion, but we were able to find the frosted plastic 4 x 4 lens covers for our overhead lights in bedroom and kitchen areas so that was good. If you have one of those newer and cheaper made campers, these places could be a mecca for you. Or for those talented enough to make your own custom camper, they have everything you would need from axles to windows, cushions to cabinets.
But wait! There is more! The Elkhart and surrounding area, even back up a short way crossing over the Michigan border has tons of Antique and Resale shops! Big malls, little ones in historic general stores (which is what i found!) and everything in between. For those who love the Amish arts and traditions (and foods) the area about 35 minutes east of Elkhart in Shipshewana, boasts a huge Amish community and shops filled with quilting supplies, arts and crafts for sale and many Amish-style restaurants. We have been to Amish country in PA before but never have we seen so many buggies in our lives in one place. At one point I counted 12 buggies on the road we were on. This is a boon for the tourism in the area and worth the visit if you are a quilter—they even have a regional “quilt garden” trail you can follow where flower beds have been created and designed following well known quilt patterns on a large scale! Very unique! Sorry to say, I was driving and so we do not have any photos of buggies.
This trip has definitely driven home to us (pardon the pun) that traveling with a towable trailer and being able to unhitch and take your own vehicle on day trips, into town, over back roads really is very nice. When we had our Class A 32′ we did not have a tow car and felt extremely limited in our ability to explore the areas we were camping in . Not so with our Avion bumper pull…..it is great!
So after spending almost two days exploring the area off and on, we also had some great times at the rally including social meal times, Saturday morning Tech Talk, and cocktail hours spent roaming from one rig to another and of course, listening, learning and asking questions of seasoned owners of Avions. One member, Dean had been employed at his father’s Avion Dealership for pretty much a span of 30 years and Dean, at perhaps in his late 70’s (or early 80’s?) at this point is a virtual encyclopedia of Avion tech info and stories . Here is one of the group photos, Dean is in the red t-shirt.
Sadly because I had to be at work on Monday, we had to leave on Saturday afternoon and missed so much of the good party time of the weekend. Next year if we re able to attend the rally we will be sure to do our vacation time AFTER the rally so we can stay through till Monday morning and not miss one ounce of the fun and great people.
Along the way at the rally we met fellow newbies, Hal and Cathy King from North Carolina. We hit it off very well and enjoyed seeing their 60’s era Avion which they have decorated so great. We had brought some roof vent screens that someone had given us and we played them forward to Hal and Cathy since they fit their rig. It was so cool to see inside different rigs to see how folks have redecorated, or in some cases preserved the interior to exactly how they were when originally sold. Along with other shots taken by other Avioners, here is a photo of Hal and Cathy at the bottom, Cathy is in the pink shirt. Kevin and I discussed how fun it would be to team up with other owners, including Hal & Cathy and do small trips to destinations together. Helen, Georgia which is another one of those Bavarian themed towns is one we have planned to get to and this might be the perfect rendezvous spot for them and us! (Kevin and i have set a goal of visiting every Bavarian/European themed town in the USA)
(Above photos are from the Silver Avion Fellowship FB site and taken by various attendees)
PS: The Elkhart Campground, site of the Rally has some very good features for large group gatherings but it also has become obvious that they have tried to fit in too many sites in the safari area and have effectively cut off the ability for anyone to drive down the angled in lanes to have a turn at end of each row to keep rigs exiting in the correct direction. Those turn areas now are sites. So effectively, you pull in on an angle to your site and the options you have when leaving is to completely back out (not gonna happen) or to hope you have enough room to turn against the angle of all the rigs and get out. This is what we had to do, since we had to leave early on Saturday. Not easy,but thankfully there was enough room to our right we could do that. If our neighbor had been a big 45 ‘ Class A rather than an Avion we would have been in real trouble. Greed makes people stupid.
We had such a good time and would encourage any and ALL Avion owners (or wannabees) to attend this annual rally. To keep up with the event planning for next year, ask to join this group!
We finally got a chance for a get away from tag sales, house painting, work stress and the like and hit the road in our Pewter Palace to a fabulous resort campground in MA- about 4.5 hours (traveling not more than 60 mph + heavy traffic).
We have Kevin’s sister, Valerie staying with us for a few weeks and this was a great opportunity to do some camping, site seeing as well as do some Mayflower genealogy while we were at it (more on that later).
After researching several campgrounds in the eastern section of Massachusetts and reading traveler reviews, etc. we chose Normandy Farms Campground in Foxborough, MA. This campground is huge, but the service, cleanliness, amenities and access to where we needed to go where perfect!
Honestly I can say that I have never stayed in such a well run campground. The bathhouses (with laundry and showers–BTW free showers) were spotless and had A/C.
Here are some shots of the facilities around the park.
The activity areas, of which there are many were well kept, groomed, beautifully landscaped and included every outdoor sport one could imagine from fishing, basketball, bocce, horseshoes, pickleball, 4 swimming pools (one indoor heated, one outdoor heated–yes 82 degrees at 10 am was luscious! 3 hot tubs (2 were inside, one was combo with
heated outdoor pool #1), a sauna, a snack bar where you could even get a full New England Seafood Dinner or Boil down to a modest cup of chili or an ice cream cone–and everything in between for very fair and reasonable prices. (hint, to order the larger seafood dinners/lobsters they ask you to give them a two-hour heads up so they can have it ready for you- as i suspect someone is sent out on staff to get the fresh lobster for your order)
We arrived later on Sunday than anticipated due to just plain old heavy traffic on the Mass Pike from all the weekend Bostonian’s heading back to home from their weekend get away to the Berks or our LG area (LOL!) Sadly we missed the live music and happy hour bar in the adult only loft of the Recreation Activity Lodge (but wow, what a place!). They have the same again on Thursday night but we were checking out on Weds. Check in starts at 3 PM, check out is by noon.
Reservations were easy to make online, their website is fairly interactive and you can get a good feel right away for what is available and in relation to other sites in the campground. When we go back, we will try to get Site # 311 or A-6-A. They offer some nice privacy and easy to get in and out of. Site 311 is on an end, right near where we were but offers a nice buffer of plantings from the road and also still easy to access the nearby bathhouse. Site a-6-a is on a nice rise and is close to the really awesome playground so if we are there with the grand kids that would be a great spot. It is also close to Pool #1 which we liked very much because it is heated and has the outdoor hot tub which we prefer.
Above is site 311 which is a full hook up pull thru and where we will try to get anytime we visit Normandy Farms Campground. The trees and bushes to the left serve as a really good screen from the road and so you will only have folks on your backside.
We all spent the whole day in Plymouth MA on Monday. The drive from the campground is easy and about 35-40 minutes. We visited the Mayflower Society Mansion Museum which was quite impressive. Kevin and Val got in for free since they are direct line descendants of Wm Bradford and several other Mayflower passengers. Val is a very dedicated and exacting genealogist who has done amazing work documenting the Sherman family history (and also has done my Craige & Gronemeyer history too). We did some shopping, ate outdoors on a 2nd story deck (seafood of course) and I did some antique hunting while Val and Kevin visited Pilgrim Hall and saw Wm. Bradford’s original bible which is pretty neat to think that in three more years, it will be the 400th anniversary of that Bible landing in the new world!
Back at the campground (it is large with well over 400 sites) most of the sites are premium and full hook up, but they do also have a couple of Yurts, large tent rentals and several cabin rentals which all looked really nice (about $125-$148 per night in peak season). But we LOVE our Pewter Palace and she towed like a dream, we set up with no issues and totally enjoyed our time spent here. The campground is constantly patrolled by staff to ensure rule management, there are lots of young pre-teens and teens but honestly we can say that on many occasions over our three days here we kept having to remark how absolutely quiet the place was. I don’t know if we just lucked out and had really quiet folks on all four sides of us or what, but whether it was 8 AM, 2 pm or 8 PM you could hear a pin drop outside.
We loved that and even though we were not thrilled with the lack of foliage screening between sites (they do have very large boulders between sites and a strip of grass. The boulders also serve as your fire back. A tire rim is provided for fire ring – not quite what one would expect for this high end of a campground (we thought we would have an actual grill) but no worries because we bring our Weber 1200 series portable gas grill. We did have a very tall, large oak tree between our pull thru site and our neighbor which gave us some very nice afternoon shade. We also learned from observation that when we are booking sites to be sure that we book a site that has our curbside facing south/south east so that the sun is behind our rig at high noon and late afternoon so that the awning really does its stuff and we are not fighting with sunlight stealing real estate under our awning. Just food for thought and this campsite fit the bill and made us mindful of this for future.
We used our awning with no problems, i installed my solar powered fairy lights for the first time–a tip from our full time RV online friend, Courtney on AStreaminLife.com . I will do a post just on them soon too with where to purchase, etc. These little babies glow for a minimum of 6-8 hours each night without fail!
The weather was terrific while we were in MA (we kept seeing reports of bad rain and hail back home LOL) but Tuesday late afternoon, a rain and thunderstorm did roll in with very heavy wind gusts which forced us, and our neighboring rigs to roll up all of the awnings. Our neighbor to the rear learned the hard way, after his cross bar broke and the awning collapsed. Since our awning hardware is original and over 40 years old we did not take any chances. As always, the reminder and rule # 1 in camping is –roll up your awning if you are going to be daytripping or away from your campsite for any time….a broken awning is no fun and costly! PS: we knew we did purchase awning tie down swivel posts (like the screw in dog posts) but found them when we were packing up to head home…we will put them in a more accessible place next time! They probably would have done the trick but better safe than sorry. The weather (and shade from the oak tree) was enough that we actually just kept the awning rolled up for rest of the night on Tuesday and all Weds morning before pack out.
Even Anna and Reddy loved their stay at Normandy Farms. We loved the excuse we had to take them on multiple walks during the day so we could also take a gander at all the other rigs in the campground. Great exercise for the whole family! Only four Airstream’s in camp, no other Avions 😦
We will definitely be back to stay again and highly recommend this campground if you want to enjoy the cape without the crowds, visit Boston (train station in town, not far away) and Plymouth.
Thanks for sharing the road with us and our Pewter Palace!