Whether you are living full time in your RV or doing just vacation travels at this point, one thing remains a constant. How to keep organized, how to fit “what you need” into a small space, how to maintain the organization you do set up.
Notice I said “what you need” NOT what you “want”. It is a hard pill to swallow- especially for those of us who have surrounded ourselves with tons of mementoes, family heirlooms, and “things” that seem to make us feel whole, cozy and satisfied in our sticks n’ bricks abodes.
My mind has been slowly but surely turning itself into preparing for that “full time mode” earnestly for at least the last 2 years. I think my grown children are still in shock that I could go from a 3000 sq ft home ( + huge storage barn) chocked with antiques, clutter and an overabundance of stuff collected for over 40 yrs of my adult life- to having all our stuff currently in a 1 bedroom 725 sq. ft. apartment!
I can credit the Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of dealing with tidying for increasing my mindfulness of living simply and with what you need rather than what you think you need/want. It becomes easier and easier to get rid of our “stuff” so it can bring pleasure, usefulness and joy to a new owner and move us ever closer to our ultimate goal of only owning what we can carry on our 8 wheels (trailer + truck) .
Am I there yet? Oh no, to be sure–when I just look around our tiny downsized apartment. We still have too much but at least right now, most of it is organized and up for sale online, or in totes marked “donate”. I try to donate a bag of clothes and/or a carton of items each week.
SO LET’S GET INTO SOME BASICS!
Some key basics of downsizing and living small that I have gathered over the past few years from fellow RVers, research and just plain living are these:
(1) Everything has a place to be stored and MUST be returned to that place immediately after use. Translation-—No more piles to be put away later– and everyone in the household must buy into this behavior!
TIP! Below is what I have done to ensure that each of us put back items used back to where they “live” for future use. Labels have especially helped remind us both what goes where! I use easy to remove green painters tape on these fabric bins (with metal frames to with hold their shape well-from Bed Bath & Beyond) this way if contents or uses change, I can easily replace with new tape labels and the painters tape does not leave any residual stickiness (at least not yet!).
(2) When at all possible items- especially in the kitchen and closet should have at LEAST 2 purposes/uses.Translation—- be creative, learn to do without to find ways to repurpose what you have rather than be lulled into marketing ploys to buy the next new gadget for your kitchen. You do not need half of the kitchen gadgets that Camping World tries to tell you that you do!
Rubbermaid waffle style shelf liner 6″ squares make great pads between dishes to prevent rattling BUT they also make great jar opening grips!
Our foldable, lidded storage ottoman’s are perfect shoes while the other holds my patio solar lights, picnic table cloth and string lights that we use each time we set camp. They are right by the door for easy access but also double as extra seating inside or outside (can hold up to 250# each) and pulled over to the sofa make great footrests or to hold a tray of snacks during happy hours indoors! Hey, great– that is at least 3 uses! Amazon link to see the ones we have. We have the charcoal grey.
A roll up dish draining rack makes a perfect extra countertop space during meal prep or plate set up. This is truly one of the best pieces of equipment we have bought in the past 8 years of RVing. I use it at least 2-3 times per DAY!
(3) Size Matters! Be aware of the sheer size of some items. Will they fit into your RV cabinets or drawers? Things might fit fine into a sticks n’ bricks kitchen cabinet or closets- but RV cabinets and closets are much smaller, often have curved back walls (like our Avions!) Translation—-Look for things that collapse, things that can nest into each other, smaller versions of household items, things are that a lower height on one end so they conform to the curve of your roof- magazine storage bins are a great example of these-just flip them around so the short side is towards your outside roof wall in those upper cabinets!
TIP: Here is a link to a great set of collapsible food storage containers that I use. I use them also as bowls per say to whip up things like tunafish, egg salad, etc. too! IMPORTANT NOTE: Square and rectangular storage containers fit far better ( than round bowls) and efficiently in refrigerator shelfs and storage cupboards!
(4) A Great Storage Idea for your Bathroom! Perhaps one of the hardest area of our Avion to store stuff in has been our bathroom. It is a side bath and therefore narrow and without the storage closet and cabinets we had in our rear-bath ’73 Avion. Our undersink cabinet has a lot of plumbing challenges, the shelve heights cannot handle normal sied bottles of shampoo, mouthwash, etc. and the vanity to the right where the hamper once had been also presents its challenges and certainly does not make items easy to get to (I store reserves of T-paper, paper towels and shopping bags when lifting up the hamper lid on the counter)
Recently, I happened upon a collapsible mesh toy storage hanging system at my local dollar store. It seemed the perfect thing to hang from our clothing rod in our shower to keep everyday toiletries, shampoos, etc. handy and in easy reach. After using it now on a 2 week trip–it has been great! Here is an amazon link to similar to what I purchased (for $3 at my dollar store!) Mine has all three openings on the same side so check out your own local dollar stores first!
(5) Become more mindful of what you use every time you go camping….AND even more importantly what you don’t!Translation—-start a bag or box of items you find you are not using—and during each camping trip put at least a few things in there to put out at your site with a FREE marked on the carton, or donate them to a local charity. Obviously the same goes for clothing- layering is the name of the game!
Hope this little article has given you some helpful tips and inspiration! Below–I have put many of our regularly used items into a helpful shared list I created on Amazon several years ago. The link is below to find that list! (note, this is not a sponsored store, we do not get any residual from any purchases you make- its there to purely be helpful!)
CLICK THIS LINK TO OUR RESOURCES PAGE, THEN SCROLL DOWN JUST A LITTLE TO FIND OUR Amazon LIST LINK!
Lets face it, you can have a great route planned, your RV all geared up, food stocked, LP topped off, campground reservations made BUT
BUT!!!! if your ride is uncomfortable, unsafe or not helping you with towing along the way—the TRIP CAN BE UNCOMFORTABLE, UNSAFE AND COULD END IN DISASTER for you, your truck and your beloved RV!
We purchased our 2011 GMC 2500 HD Denali Crew Cap truck in 2018. It had just under 28K miles and in super condition. It is a 4×4, 6 Liter gas engine with a 6-speed transmission and a 4.10 rear axle. Here is a promo video of it when it was being sold by the dealership we bought it from. It was a search on CARFAX that finally landed us our “Merlin”– so nicknamed because it was magical how our “must have list” of truck features was finally found….albeit in New Jersey! So after calling them and putting down a small refundable “on hold” deposit with a CC, we made an overnight trip to NJ from our home in upstate NY traveling 5.5 hours to arrive as soon as the dealership had opened that morning.
OVERVIEW OF UPGRADES & SYSTEMS WE HAVE IMPLEMENTED SINCE PURCHASE:(Below this list we go into each upgrade in more detail with photos, etc.)
Installed Sumo Springs Front & Rear Bump Stops, Bilstien Shocks and SuperSprings Low Leveling Metal Springs on the rear to assist with suspension and overall handling.
Installed ROCKSTAR Rear Mud Flap System to prevent rock chipping of trailer
Installed DECKED Storage System in Truck Bed to increase storage capacity
Installed Front Grill Guard to prevent excessive damage to grill and engine in case of accident or wildlife damage (affectionately called our “Moose Guard”- we live in the Adirondacks!)
Installed Class 2 Hitch Receiver to hold spare tire or front storage flat rack on the front
Installed WEATHERTECH Interior Mats to maintain carpet
Installed Window Film in Cap to provide privacy and security of stored items or if using for overnight sleeping
Purchased and use the TST brand, 507 model TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
Purchased and use the GARMIN RV specific GPS system
Removed our back seat, covered back panel still utilizing the seat hooks and use bungy straps to secure items we use at every camp set up (other than boondock 1 nighters at Walmart, etc.)
Still to be done before we go full time in Spring/Summer 2023: Installing a Meckman 400 AMP Alternator(to recharge our Lithium Ion Battleborn Battery system as we are driving)
LET’S GET INTO THE “WEEDS” OF THE DETAILS! we have included “where to buy” links where possible. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you have on any of the information we have in this post!
SUMO SPRINGS, BILSTIEN SHOCKS & SUPERSPRINGS INSTALL TO SUSPENSION:
Why? We improved the ride and alleviated any “squatting” of our truck by adding additional suspension aids.
What? The old/original bump stops were old and very rough. Sumu springs have a dampening cushioning effect which takes the rough ride out of the vehicle because they are open foam and they engage softly and become firmer with weight- hence a better ride when your truck is heavy and towing a heavy trailer. We installed them front and rear. We then added the SuperSprings to the rear. They mount to the leaf springs on the back of the truck. These add support and weight carrying capacity to the leaf springs. This helps alleviate the “squat” to the truck when hooking up our Avion travel trailer. Use the link above to view the product and see a company video about these Supersprings and their application and purpose.
2. ROCKSTAR MUD FLAP INSTALLATION:
Why? After taking a long trip from our home in eastern upstate NY to MI we found a plethora of super small rock chips in the front of the 73 Avion we owned then. They happened literally the last 15 minutes of the trip. We had to go through a road construction zone where the crew was milling up the road- we were going less than 15 mph when it happened! Now with these mud flaps we get far less mud, grime, and rock chips on our precious Avion (we now own an ’87 and use a Hensley hitch which is different than the GenY hitch in photos shown)
What? We got lucky that our local auto detailer (who had rehabbed our Avion rock guard and spare tire cover) had this ROCKSTAR mud flap system for sale in his shop- so no shipping fees! He was ready to retire it from the showroom since it was a few years old. We got it for less than half the going price for the same guard system. This is the full bumper type that is installed, not just flaps screwed on. The system CAN be completely slid off and removed if desired but it is very heavy and awkward for one person to do. We have it installed by sliding it over our 2.5″ hitch receiver which a 2″ hitch insert in it-the guard is fastened to that insert and locks in place. Besides…we think it looks pretty jazzy!
Considering installing mud flaps? Please read our more in depth article that covers installation tips, etc. Read more….
We cannot say enough about this system. Yes, it is pricey, and we also paid to have it installed professionally by our local auto detailer. But we have found over and over again it is a lifesaver. It has actually increased our bed storage capacity since it covers over the wheel wells making a flat surface area to allow for more large storage totes. It’s flat surface can now even fit a double sized air mattress easily to do overnight sleeping in the truck bed very easily and comfortably- + added bonus, you are not laying on metal truck bed. The 2 full slide out drawers serve as awesome, double LARGE tool boxes-easy to pull out and access everything easily and within sight. Kevin recently purchased some of the DECKED tool boxes that are made to fit inside, this is an option but not necessary. Previously, he used other canvas tool bags, tool cases, etc. before this just fine. These drawers negates the need to have multiple tool kits packed in the truck cab or loosely flying around the storage with other RV gear. Your tools are all in one place and always quickly available-which for us is key!
Another plus of this system for security purposes, is that anyone looking into your truck bed through the windows will only see a floor. They will not see any tools (which tend to be eye candy for many). You really cannot tell that there is a DECKED system installed since the tailgate covers the drawers completely. There are also two small, easy access storage compartments on either side end of the floor top. We keep bungies, flares and other safety equipment in them for easy access.
Hey…it even has a built in bottle cap opener in the center!
4. & 5. INSTALLED FRONT GRILL “MOOSE” GUARD & HITCH RECEIVER FOR OUR SPARE TIRE:
Why? We have seen way too many front grills demolished by deer & moose hits and vehicle accidents. We live in the NY Adirondacks afterall! We also know that our full time RV life will include many areas where there are very large moose, caribou, deer, bison, etc. as well as crazy drivers.
What? In order to better protect our truck’s major asset—its engine and grill–we installed this beefy grill guard 3 years ago. We did have to remove the factory tow hooks off the front to do the install, but the grill guard has built in hooks on its beefy frame. Because the guard was heavy enough steel, we had a local welder install a hitch receiver on the front so we can now put our spare tire mount on the front. We will carry our bikes on back of the Avion. We actually have found the weight added by the grill guard and the spare tire has helped to equalize our our truck’s weight distribution especially when hooked up to the Avion and its tongue weight.
Bonus! This front grill guard also makes a dandy beach towel drying rack!
Here is a link to one we found that is very similar to ours on Amazon
6. Installed WEATHERTECH interior mats
Why? Let’s face it, as RVers we spend a lot of time in our vehicles in all sorts of weather, juggling all sorts of drinks, snacks and foodstuffs while plying the highways and byways of our country.
What? Our local auto detailer loves us! We purchased these from them as well after carefully reviewing a whole lot of online sources and reviews. These mats are molded and custom fitted to this model year-they fit perfect, do not slide around and are so easy to remove to hose off. They protect our carpet from dirt, grime, stains, mud, snow, ice, etc. Once we go full time in Spring 2023 this truck will be our home, this will be our everyday, only vehicle. We want to do the best we can to maintain its condition and cleanliness.
We installed this film early on after purchasing our truck. We used household window privacy film purchased at Lowes. It was very easy to use and install. We have found that since the side slide windows have built in screens- we have not been able to install it there as the screening is unable to be removed easily. We thought this was going to be an issue however, now that we have put in our big black totes (with yellow tops from Lowes/Home Depot) they essentially block any views in from these side windows. What you see is black tote side- so hence not really an issue anymore. To date we have only covered the two odd sized large side windows in film for privacy when/if we sleep in the bed overnight or to provide some security of goods we have in the back. We have NOT covered the back window yet because we still keep some totes out of the bed and can use the rear view mirror in cab to view rear when not hitched up. Once we go full time and the back truck bed is fully loaded we may also install a limo film over all the windows.
Link to Lowes- the actual film we used. There are many other great design options available. Just be aware some are more transparent than others which may not give you the privacy you may want.
Note- even though this is sold as household window film we have had excellent results using it in our truck bed cap. It has held up well, no fading, peeling or failure due to swings in weather temperatures, etc.
8. TST Brand, Model 507- TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEM
Another key safety factor (has saved our butts twice in just the last 2 yrs) is getting a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. We have installed the monitors on BOTH our Truck AND our Avion Travel Trailer. Some only install on their trailer. In our opinion that is insufficient, as evidence by, on a trip out to Indiana from upstate NY we got a signal our rear passenger side truck tire was losing air. As it turns out, the valve stem had gone bad. It was 9 PM at night and luckily we were on an interstate highway that had a large truck stop and the shop is open essentially 24/7 to assist truckers. We limped in before our tire became too flat to travel-thanks to the TPMS warning! It was fixed in less than 15 minutes and we were on our way.
Here is a great vendor (TechnoRV) that we have purchased other equipment from. The link below is a current model, similar to what we have but with some improved features:
Note- When we purchase new tires (we do at least every 5 yrs regardless of miles or condition) we will then order a new, current model TPMS system and we will be purchasing the type of sensors that are “internal sensors” that are mounted inside the rims, then the new tires are mounted and balanced-making the sensors less susceptible to weather conditions, with more longevity and less maintenance.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:If you purchase the type of sensors that mount on the tire valve stems–Due to the extra weight that the actual screw on monitors make onto valve stems it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you switch out stock valve stems(rubber/plastic which even over time crack and degrade due to weather, sun, salt, etc.) with metal valve stems. It is not a big deal but will greatly enhance the longevity of the system all around.
Presently, we remove our sensors after every camping season and store in our house since we store our trailer over the winter months. We replace with new batteries in each sensor at least every other year to ensure they are fresh and sufficiently charged. The monitor sensors come with a little locking clip that is used when they are put on and removed- this prevents theft for the most part. Our system is about 4 years old now and we may replace with a newer bluetooth wireless type before going full time- but ours is working fine. We have run the wire cable in the cab of our truck and Kevin prefers to keep it on his side of the dash when driving- I am responsible for the GPS and monitoring road grades, etc. on my side of the dash.
*You can also opt to have the sensors actually installed inside your tires if preferred. Currently, we like having the option to take them off in winter months when trailer is not in use for right now but may do the internal application once we go full time. Afterall, you should be replacing your tires every 5 years anyway.
9. GARMIN GPS SYSTEM ( OR OTHER GPS SYSTEMS)
We happen to have a Garmin GPS RV System- there are multiple screen sizes available now . It is about 4 years old and hopefully newer models have better voice command and display features. For our needs it works for now. We will tell you we do not always rely solely on this system and Luise will often be running her Google Map directions on her cell phone simultaneously especially when in more urban areas where it is easier to use the search feature quickly. Please do NOT rely solely on Google Maps when towing your RV! An RV GPS is programable to your trailer’s height, length, weight and width and the routing will steer you onto roads you can do. We live in the northeast where there are lots of old bridges and tunnels with weight limits and low heights from RR overpasses, etc. Google will send you down a virtual rabbit hole!
We have found our model of Garmin is very POOR in the audio command module. “She” rarely understands our most basic commands by voice and it is extremely frustrating (hence using Google on cell phone instead to ask quick search functions). This model Garmin also really in our opinion requires a passenger to use while on a trip. There are many times where Luise will need to scroll through settings to find things we are looking for and also to toggle between showing map and the split screen of Map/Road Grade features if we are on exceptionally hilly/mountainous terrain. Our model is one that handles truck/RV settings. This is very important! You must preset the parameters for your trailers height, weight, width, and length in order to have the system run best and safely for your towing needs.
*The grade feature really came in handy on our trip on the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkways through the Shenandoah Mountains in 2021. Using the grade setting showing gives you some very good advance notice of when there will be significant climbing or downward grades allowing some preparation. Plus its really fun to see just how high in elevation you are at any given point on your trip!
On the second photo above you will see where we are using the setting that shows a photo image of an exit ramp driving view which we really like especially when coming up on multiple lane intersections or ramps. It gives the driver a clear vision of which lane you should plan to be in. It is nice when this works, but not all exits have been photographed to show this feature in our experience. When a photo is not available, a closeup of the exit ramp or intersection in graphic form will show up on that right side of screen.
Below is a good photo showing the road grade & elevation visual on the right side of the screen. You have the ability to spread out this graph based on how far in advance you want to see it by miles. We have it condensed so what you are seeing is probably the next 10-15 miles (yes, we went from over 5K elevation with a peak grade of 21% grade to a low of 1700′ elevation of 3% grade with a few mountain peaks in between on the Blue Ridge Parkway!)
10. RECAPTURING SOME STORAGE IN TRUCK CAB- REMOVING REAR SEATS
Removing our back crew cab split bench seats are a bit of a consternation for us. On one hand we would like them to transport grandkids when/if they camp with us or taking guests with us into town, etc. on a day trip. In truth, those occasions are very rare and we suspect that once we go full time, it may only happen a couple times a year. In reality, gaining some amazing storage back there that is super easily accessible on a daily basis has won out- at least for now. We removed the split seats (may put one back in since we typically will only have one grandchild at a time camping with us). Along the back wall of the truck cab, Kevin installed a 1/4″ sheet of luan type board sheet to encase the back but allowed the U shaped bench seat hooks (that hold the seats in place) and these are what we use to hook bungy cords to. Stored in this space we can put items that we use a nearly every 2+ night camp. This includes; our 2 folding recliners, 2 everyday chairs, a folding table, our large cooler and a small cooler for drinks, a first aid and emergency roadside kit and bag of snacks for the roadtrip. We have found it very handy to have this space available- especially if we have set up camp and/or plan to be away from camp for the day, or it starts to pour rain and we want to get our chairs and small Weber gas grill inside and under cover quickly! (Has happened many times!) Once camp is set up and this above equipment is set outside, this space in the truck also provides a great place for us to store our Ebikes folded up safe and sound.
Campground Review: We traveled to this FAM camp enroute to the annual Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart, Indiana from our home state of NY in July 2022. We had never been to the site before, reviews were full of pro’s and con’s but we had decided we wanted to experience as many FAM camps as possible on our travels.
Why FAM CAMPS? FAM camps provide added security (you must go through gate checks and have specific military clearances to get onto the bases), and they often have gas stations, commissaries and exchanges where groceries and other goods can be purchased easily and sometimes less expensively too. Cost wise, they are typically on par or a little less than area private campgrounds- but sadly they often offer far less amenities along with that lower price.
Access and the Area: We did have to venture slightly out of our normal interstate highway route to reach this campground. RT 11 was a beautifully maintained and constructed highway and a true pleasure to drive compared to I-90! As far as what is in the area…not much. We did do a day trip ride to the nearest Amish community of Mesopotamia which boasts a cute historic general store, vintage gas station still in operation, town green and huge handmade horse and buggy sculpture- but nothing else. That was about a 50 minute ride through farm country. We also went south through Youngstown to visit the Magic Tree Pub which was a great restaurant featuring an amazing on site baked huge pretzel and a variety of hearty dips. It was worth the trip!
The Base Itself: The base itself is an Air Reserve Base, quite small and by far the smallest one we have seen. There are NO services to speak of on base as one would expect. No Commissary, No Exchange, NO onsite gas stations. Just a very small quick mart of sorts that was even very limited compared to off base ones. They did not even sell bagged ice. There were no barber shops on base, we had to go to a local mall about 20 minutes away.
Reservation Staff: The gentleman running the FAM camp was certainly personable enough and did well with pre arrival communications, etc.. He was friendly and efficient.
Base Gate: Using main gate, there is a visitor check in building to the direct right. Our recommendation is to pull forward into the right hand lane of the gate as if you were going through. But stop! The visitor check in building has a very small parking lot and not good for RVs to turn around in to get back out to the gate entrance. Our guard allowed us to park our rig there so we were not blocking the other entrance lane. We walked through the fence gate to the right to the check in building to get our ID check and credentials printed. Kevin’s is easy as he has his military credentials, I have to get special paper pass which must be on my person at all times and shown each time with his military pass if you come and go off the base. All good and off we went to the campground itself AFTER checking in with the FAM Camp staff office. They will give you the base pass to be kept in your vehicle windshield as well. Parking to get into the FAM camp office is BAD! Thankfully we arrived when the parking lot opposite his office building was pretty empty and we were able to navigate around in it and park and get back out. There is no shoulder to park on the road and no where by the FAM camp office building near the main gate to park either. Read the instructions sent to you in an email about checking into the FAMcamp office.
The CAMPGROUND PRO’s:
Rate: Our Stay was at a rate of $15 per night for FHU asphalt paved site, pull through. Super cheap for FHU. All services worked fine, decent water pressure, no issues with power or sewer.
Onsite Bath House: at the end of the FAM camp as you approach the sites so not super close but easy quick walk. Super clean, air conditioned, newer building for sure. Showers were clean, private and well maintained. There is a small library shelf as you enter the building- what is there is what folks have left and it was very minimal. There is a dumpster at the rear end of the campground near the metal storage building.
Quiet & Friendly: with the exception of one plane leaving at about 8:30 AM our last morning we heard nothing from the base airplanes, etc. As soon as we arrived we did have two different folks come up who where walking their dogs. They were chatty and friendly and welcomed us. Others waved from their rigs over the course of our stay. This camp is used by DOD civilian contractors as well as military. Some clearly are there for long stays, one camper had a cover on it.
The campsite area itself:
No Useable Patio: The site itself where the RV is was paved but the “patio” is nothing more than chunked up road debris rubble full of asphalt chunks (sharp), gravel and sand. It was horrible and even with our small patio rug down I could feel the chunks of asphalt through my sandals-even after I had (by hand) thrown a lot of the larger chunks to the side. There were some areas of grass along the site but that was not the designated patio areas.
No picnic tables, no grills or fire pits (do not think the latter are allowed anyway)
Camp host?? It appeared the first pull through site MAY have been a camp host as evidenced by permanent looking structures, on ground large heavy blow up pool, a 28+ foot boat (covered up) on their pull through drive and lots of stuff all over the grassy area and asphalt pull through. We did not see or was greeted by a host. We did see one fellow on a golf cart drive around 1 time during our stay but he did not stop, wave or anything. Interestingly the rules of the campground specifically call out NOTHING is to be placed on the grass at the campsites. Ha ha.
Lack of Privacy: The pull through sites are close together. The back in sites have a little more room and grass around them. There are no trees, no bushes, no landscaping. You are essentially camping in an open parking lot.
No base services/amenities: As previously mentioned above, there are no other services on the base, no commissary, no exchange, no barber, no gas, not even bagged ice. No pool, movie theater, etc. like larger bases may have.
Would we stay again? Quite frankly, no we would not unless there was some very compelling reason we had to be directly in this area. There are way more FAM camps that offer more-even if you pay a higher premium to camp.
A useful quick guide to getting support from fellow Avion Owners !
In this article:
Tips for finding and using online Facebook and other Avion Owner Forums,
6 Basic Tips for New-to-You Avion Owners,
Links to Avion Rally Event Sites,
Resource lists including a printable “check list” for setting up to camp and preparing to tow your Avion.
At the end of this article we have a great downloadable/PDF document we are happy to share with you- “Our Avion TAKE OFF & LANDING Camp list”. We have also includes links to Avion Facebook and Rally Event groups and also links to several of our other blog posts and videos to help you out on your new journey as an Avion owner!
The great news is, you have taken the first step to buy what we all concur is one of the most iconic designs and best made campers ever–AN AVION!
Of course, owners of other vintage campers will tell you theirs is the best- we have to politely disagree! LOL.
We know it can feel pretty overwhelming!
Where to start?
What questions to ask and to who?
It’s not like you can call up an Avion Dealership anymore right? (click hereto see what we feel is one of the best and most up to date articles on the Avion History. The article is published by the non profit national vintage trailer/RV club called The Tin Can Tourists (TCT)- which by the way you should join, its very cheap ($25 p/yr/2022) and the club hosts rallies around the USA and has great resource info, newsletters, etc.) There were 18 Avion’s at the TCT Michigan Rally in 2019!
How to determine just what needs fixing and what does not?
Are there ways to connect to other Avion owners with experience?
What is super important is that you have purchased an Avion and there is a huge Avion Family out there rooting for you and there to help! If you are also brand new to the world of RVing and camping- we definitely have your back! There…do you feel better already? Hope so!
DID YOU KNOW?
We AVION OWNERS rock!!
SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE: oh yeah!!!! We are SOCIAL! 🙂
There are no less than 5 online Facebook Pages solely dedicated toAvion travel tips, repairs, buy/sell forum and general owner share pages? Hey there is even a FB Avion owners group to exchange Christmas & Holiday Cards with each other! There are Avion Rally groups too!
YES! and each of them has some overlap but each has its own purpose too—so we suggest you ask to join ALL of them. I have posted the links to each of them at the end of this article.(sneaky huh…I want you to read on first!)
AVION INSIDER TIP: while each of the Facebook group pages do have their own generalized specific purpose- sometimes you may have a post that is worth sharing/posting on all the FB pages- that’s OK, but my personal recommendation is to use that “broadcasted ” share sparingly. WHY? well most of us Avion owners do belong to all of the FB groups so if we start seeing every one of your posts like 4 times in our feed we may start to tune you out a bit. So, in my opinion, be selective.
If you have something to sell, put it on the sell page group first.
If you have a repair question, post on the repair/restoration page first- wait for answers, if none after a week- then go ahead and post on the two Avion owners group pages to cast a bigger net.
if you have some great travel tips, campgrounds or general info to share- post it on one of the “owners” themed pages
An exception to all this is if a piece of info you have is “time sensitive” for example a new rally announcement, or rally registration reminders or God forbid you are traveling and stuck with a breakdown–you should definitely should be broadcasted on all pages!
Here is a great example of the above:
TRUE STORY! In 2018 Kevin and I were doing just a nice Sunday drive just over the border into western VT from where we live. We decided to check out some campgrounds for future stays. Lo and behold one had a wrecked Avion in its back storage yard. It had an intact rock guard and we wanted a spare!! I posted out on all four FB pages from the campground parking lot in VT asking fellow Avion owners if a rock guard from an 84 would fit our 73? Within 3 minutes I had folks responding that it would! We borrowed tools from the campground owner and drove away with our spare rock guard treasure!
Again, just my opinion to be selective on what you post where. I think it better supports each of the group pages in their own right to exist if you post questions etc. on the Facebook page that best suits your question or information-however, some Avion owners do choose to put 90% of their general posts on all the page groups-and that works for them so its ok by me too! We’re all easy to get along with!
REMEMBER—WE ALL HAVE BEEN NEW, FIRST TIME AVION OWNERS AT SOME POINT!
Based on a plethora of posts made by fellow Avion owners who have all been in your shoes (a brand new owner) at one time or another here is a short list of what we have seen as recurring tips, suggestions and worthwhile bits of info for brand new Avion owners!
6 BASIC TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED:
(1) Take your time!!!! Do not rush to completely gut the inside and start from scratch. Live with the interior a little (unless totally ruined by mold or deconstructed already). Mr. Clean Magic Sponges, Awesome Spray Cleaner (at dollar stores) are great for cleaning interior walls and ceilings. Howard’s Restor-A-Finish is excellent for reviving cabinetry.
We have seen so many people go for the complete gut job only to run out of steam, money or time and have to forfeit their RV dreams and sell their now gutted rig (less of a resale market!)
(2) If you do decide to gut the inside of the trailer, put the cabinets, etc up for resale on one of the facebook sites and/or on Ebay! There are 1000’s of fellow Avion owners always in the market for Avion parts, door handles, locks, windows, hinges, and hardware-no matter how small and insignificant it may seem all are in demand. Cabinet trims, lights, cabinet pulls, louvered doors, sinks, tub bases, mirrors, etc. all have a chance at a new life in someone else’s Avion. Please try to recycle rather than take it to the dump. These items are NOT made today and many are irreplaceable!
(3) Give your baby a bath-But Do It Right! You know how good you feel when stepping out of the shower or after a nice warm tub bath! Your Avion will feel the same! BUT—there are definite do’s and don’t to bathing an anodized all aluminum body camper! Once your Avion is clean you will have a better idea of condition. Please listen to our instructional podcast first before doing your first wash down!
(4) Secure from the Top Down! Just like a sticks ‘n bricks home, your roof condition and ongoing roof maintenance is vital to the longevity of your Avion. First on your agenda of “to do list”, after a first bath, should be repairing all the exterior (side and roof) seams, and ensuring that the roof seams, places where vents, A/C, etc are on the roof also have good seals to prevent water penetration in between your exterior and wood interior.
(5) Install a Deadbolt Lock NOW! Time after time we see the tragedy of a door swinging open while and Avion is being towed or camped in a super windy location. Reminder, these doors are not being made anymore! The old, original Bargman locks are nice but they do NOT provide enough security to keep latched. Avion’s have a certain amount of flexing of the aluminum body that happens when being towed. We and many other strongly recommend installing a deadbolt lock in ADDITION to your door handle lock. We also bungy cord ours It is safer for you when camping inside and certainly safer for your door when trailer is being towed.
(6) Reseal and Secure Window Seals if Cracked, Missing or Falling Off! Just like the exterior seams, the windows in many Avion’s that have not been maintained properly have seals that have failed. Many times, the seals have pulled away from the corners and where spliced. This is another major area where leaks happen. On a priority list, windows rank right up there with exterior side and roof seam repairs. It can feel daunting to do, but with practice, it can be done in a couple weekends. Good news is, once they are redone, you should not have to muss with them for at least 5-8 years or more!
Read our blog post on how to do, tips, resources for where to get materials to replace the seals.
As promised, here are valuable links just for you!
Below is our “Take Off & Landing” Checklist. You can download and print it out to carry with you too! Bear in mind, depending on the specific equipment you may have – some of the steps we outline may be a bit different. Use this checklist as a general guide to help you practice the art of setting up a camp and breaking down your camp and hitting to road accordingly.
ONLINE FORUM PAGES:There are a couple of active online FB forums that have great resources and people in them. Just another platform to look for answers and post questions! See we are all in it to win it and help! these are by subscription, so you will need to ask to join!
SilverAvion.com(I believe this is a static site now but has excellent resource material and links to manuals for various years, etc.)
DEDICATED AVION FACEBOOK PAGES:
Use the simple search of “Avion trailers” on social media and you will be amazed! here are some that we belong to and comment in fairly regularly on Facebook: (note, most if not all of these are monitored very well and do require you request to join)
These are facebook group sites so again, ask to join. Many of us travel to these rallies from all over the USA. You can be a member of for example the Texas group but live in NY (like us!) Avioner’s know how to have fun, learn together and break bread—so come to a rally!! Check out our post on the Indiana Rally we have attended for years now! Read more….
One of the first things anyone says when they visit us in our Avion is how “homey” it feels, comfortable, cozy and not sterile like many “off the lot” modern RV’s today.
Often, the next question we get is…
“it must take you a long time [when setting up camp] to put out all of these décor items (some would say clutter or chachkies! ) and knickknacks and then store them all away again”.
Actually—no! Everything you see in our coach stays in place where it is displayed. I do not have to move anything except dish soap bottle on the kitchen counter, our authentic cuckoo clock, and the soap dispenser in the bathroom!
In the photo above you will see I have opted to keep the upper and lower curtain rails in place and just have narrower side curtains. These curtains are wide enough to create privacy for the curved front windows when the center pull down shade does the rest at night. Notice I use the bottom curtain rail to store some things during travel time too! ( I DO take down the white vintage ’70’s swag lamp and it sits in the left corner of the front counter when we roll down the road)
HERE IS A QUICK LIST OF TIPS & PRODUCTSI USE TO KEEP THINGS IN PLACE IN YOUR RV—EVEN WHEN TOWING DOWN THE ROAD!
A 6″ wide shelf behind the sofa creates a great storage space with metal framed fabric bins!
The photo above shows three of the five storage bins I purchased at Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2021. They have a wire frame for durability and are perfect for storing those things that we use routinely when traveling including: TV and other remotes, LED lanterns and flashlights, Binoculars, Travel Journal, Travel brochures, etc. and a vase of artificial flowers I often put outdoors on our dining table. We are still able to pull out our jack knife sofa when we have guests staying over. * I left about 5″ in between two of the bins. This is where I tend to put my beverage water bottle or travel mug of coffee when relaxing on the sofa when we are set up at camp. Source, 2021
Using forms of “anchor” putty’s to hold things in place are perfect for RVs. Read on to read ‘my reviews’ on three products I have used.
The photo slideshow above shows various items in our RV we leave out and do not move during towing. Things like a ceramic beer stein with flowers that sits on our front kitchen counter, our mid-century modern looking table organizer (link) with a vintage 70’s table lamp and other items set in place. In our bathroom, my mother’s china cup and saucer- now a home for a gnome sits on our bathroom vanity and back in the living room/salon even our faux “stag head clock” in our living room–all stay out and stay put every day we travel.
We have clocked multiple trips over 3000 miles each, up mountains of 17-24% grade roads to 5K elevations (and back down) as well as dirt roads, washboard roads and surviving way too many roads with pot holes and frost heaves!
Review of THREE putty brands I have used: and my recommendation!
Quake Hold (Museum Putty)
This is my “GO TO” product! It is great and what I have used successfully on the ceramic beer stein, the gnome in the tea cup, the dinette table shelf organizer and our faux (plastic but very real looking) stag head wall clock. I also put this behind each corner of any framed pictures I put up on picture hooks. It keeps the pictures level and keeps them from potentially swinging and marring stained walls or wallboard.
Pro’s: Terrific holding power, re-useable, no smell, no staining on walls. Holds up well under all interior temperature conditions we have been in so far (-10 to 95 degrees). It allows you to remove items from their hold by twisting and pulling at the same time. You will truly be impressed by how secure it makes things and how hard you have to twist/pull to release its hold. I have not had any issues with its color staining any surfaces.
Con’s: it is a light off-white in color )they call it “neutral”- so it is not completely invisible when used under items. You can see this from my photos as little white stuff sticking out from underneath Honestly, it is really hardly noticeable. Through trial and error I have found the best holding power is when you allow some of the putty to be on the outside of the edge of your item as well as underneath for those items that sit on flat surfaces. For framed photos, etc. held vertically you do not need to do that. I simply put pea sized blobs under each frame corner.
Rock N’ Roll Clear Gel Putty
As the packaging says, this GEL is really only for glass and china type stuff. They do also now make a putty similar to Quake hold but I prefer the quality of Quake Hold better. I have tried this Rock N Roll Gel and found it does not hold as well as the Quake Hold. Also a real ‘con’ is that this stuff MELTS when your rig gets hot inside (aka if you are away for the day not using AC/or when stored at home when not camping and temps rise above 80 degrees. Source* (*note, this is not where I purchased from so I cannot validate reputation of online source)
Pro’s: it is clear, highly pliable. Does work well on glass or mirror items (not sure how many of us have crystal figurines on display in our RV’s though)
Con’s:It melts when temp inside RV gets hot. It melted and puddled under some items on our dinette table. Does not do well on vertical applications in my experience. (yes, I tried to use it behind corners on picture frames, only to find it melting and running down my wall one summer day!- ugh) Because of its propensity to melt, I no longer recommend this for RV use.
Museum Putty Wax
I have used this on a variety of surfaces from metal to wood to ceramic and it does work but I find it not as convenient as the white putty Quake Hold above- nor does it have the same holding power for heavier things, especially those made of wood and/or sticking to a wood surface.
Pro’s: it is somewhat clearer and less conspicuous when used than Quake Hold putty. It does a decent job of holding not too heavy items. Somewhat easier to twist/pull items you need to reposition. Does not stain finishes.
Con’s: Due to its consistency, I find it harder to get out a blog from the container- I use a bottle cap with its serrated edges to dig into the container to get out sufficient for use. It is simply too hard to dig any out with your fingers. It is a wax base and therefore may also have a tendency to melt in hotter environments. For this reason I would not recommend a vertical application either. In my experience it does not work well on wood items but works ok on plastic, ceramic and glass.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST….WHAT TO DO WITH “RUN-AWAY” PAPER TOWELS!
How many times have you opened the door of your RV after a day of travel to find your paper towels have unrolled and are strewn across your kitchen floor?
These ARE THE ANSWER!
Viva Paper towels do cost a little more but they will not unroll after a day of road travel. They are also darn good paper towels and very absorbent so in truth you will use less overall. We currently have this vertical paper towel holder but in our old ’73, 28 foot LaGrande model we had a traditional horizontal holder above the counter and we never had unrolled paper towels with Viva brand– AND I did road test others like store brands and Scott’s brand and other name brands and none did the job of staying on the roll on the road!
PARTING TIPS….. FOR HANGING PHOTOS, FRAMED ART, ETC and other WALL DECOR ITEMS:
Most folks already know that 3M stick on hooks are a Godsend for RVers. We use them all the time!
BUT I have found that if you really want pictures or things of any weight like barometers, framed art, etc. I use these stick on Velcro strips. Specifically, the type that have the lock-n-grip type, not the traditional type that has soft fuzzy on one side and teeth on the other. I use the heavy duty type of Velcro that have teeth which interlock when put together. I always purchase the one that is rated for heavier than my item really is. These work really well and so far (knock on wood) I have found that I can also peel off the Velcro strip I may have secured to our Avion wall board since it is a vinyl composite board, not paper applied to wood. I have also used the Command Brand similar type too on less heavy hanging items, apply as directed.
DISCLAIMER: As with all the products we have discussed here, it is best you test out products first. For wall applications, your interior walls may have had some sort of after market application that could make it different than ours. Please don’t send me a bill for any broken item! [smiling]
Well, that is my review of keeping things in place! We all love to have a homey feel in our home on wheels! Hope you have found this little article helpful!
Let us know what types of tricks/products you have found help with this issue! To be sure, a simple search on Amazon nets many companies touting great sticking power of their putty’s and other products.
Please visit our YOUTube Channel and please subscribe! We have great videos on many topics from renovations, tips, other favorite gadgets, as well as travel videos and campground reviews. We appreciate your support of our efforts to help others along the way!
[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!
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.
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 $$ and see how our 32 foot travel trailer will be in these eastern seaboard, and older campgrounds.
(3) Stay at an Army Corps of Engineer Campground to see what they are like.
(4) Use Luise’s recently obtainedNational Park Service Senior Lifetime Access Pass to its fullest advantage to save $$ 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!
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!
SECTION 2–NEXT 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!
–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 JellystoneCampground & 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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
Lack of proper procedures during their black water tank flush process
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??
Improper storage of your fresh water and sewer hoses
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:
Always wear clean disposable gloves when doing your sewer dumping and DO NOT leave those gloves anywhere but in your own trash bag!
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 $.
Spray your bleach water solution EACH and every time you hook upand 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Store your “stinky slinky”, septic hose in a separate area from your fresh water hose and equipment.
Have a box of gloves, a bucket of clorox wipes and paper towels always handy in that basement bay or next one over.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Are you bothered by the beam of light that comes through your roof vent in the morning—saying “wake up its 6 AM??”
Even though we have MaxAir Vent covers in the smoke plexiglass color we still find that the morning light coming in really robs us of some extra ZZZZ’s! So I looked for an inexpensive way to fix this issue. We do have modern Fan-tastic in our Avion, but this fix could be used with other types of roof fan vents too! A quick look on Amazon and even just Google shows there are all sorts of sizes available out there.
Then again, you could wear a sleep mask but we find them a little uncomfortable and can be hot.
Key to choosing a window shade is that it should have perforations so that you can still use the fan feature when your “shade is drawn closed”. Here is an image similar to what we purchased, on clearance at Camping World for $6.
First thing I did was cut off the actual retraction roller bar part. I did not want to have to screw that into our ceiling and felt that I would not be able to get a strong enough bond to take the pressure that was needed to “pull” the shade across our vent screen area. I left the other end intact which had a stiff rod through it and a small fastening area (on left end below). I felt this would add some stability as this would be the end that will be unrolled/rolled up to stow the mesh.
I used the Scotch brand traditional velcro squares below. I did NOT use the heavy duty click together type which the velcro adheres far more permanently to your surface and these are usually what I use for far heavier items.
I then applied 3 pairs of 1″ white velcro squares on the cut end of the mesh.
When I work with velcro I match up the two parts of the velcro first, then remove the clear plastic sheet to expose the sticky side on one side- afix into place where I want it. On this project that was all done on the kitchen counter. Then when I am ready to install I peel off the clear plastic protector on the other ends and push entire thing into place. This method takes the guess work out of trying to line each piece up properly.
This cut off end will be attached to the rear edge of the vent shroud trim piece. I did not use removable velcro squares but you can find them in 3M product lines, though they might be rectangular and thinner- they will work. The mesh piece is not heavy so HD velcro is not needed. In the photo below you can see the 3 sets of pairs of velcro.
NOTE: I chose to put the black side of the mesh towards the roof vent. I felt that having the white exposed to our bedroom would make the mesh far less noticeable on the ceiling –as I plan to just roll it up and stow it on the ceiling. If you prefer, with using the velcro squares it is just as easy to take down completely when not in use- but the velcro will wear out quicker. The instructions on the package if used in a car application said the white to the outside, black to the inside of the car.
When you go to install the velcro squares to the fan trim piece be sure that trim piece is really clean. Ideally clean with a little rubbing alcohol first, and dry to ensure a great seal of the sticky back velcro.
Next step for me was to hold those velcro tabs in place a bit just to ensure they are well bonded to the plastic wide fan flange. I let the mesh hang for about 15 minutes as part of this process.
Next step was to hold up and extend the shade, using the original tab on the end that has the bar reinforcement in the hem. I held it up as taught as possible but not so tight to put pressure on the 3 sets of velcro on other end nor to obstruct or push against the rotator motor that hangs down.
Once I found that right point, I installed one more sticky back velcro square to the ceiling and one to the top side of that tab so the mesh would stay in place covering the vent screen area. There is still plenty of “air space” gap on each side so that the vent works properly. Using velcro here makes it easy to open the mesh to take down or to make adjustments on the fan controls if necessary when mesh is deployed.
Pictures of the complete install are below– Since the white side faces down and it is so light weight, I rolled it up and secured it with two blue laundry clamps, like clothes pins that I had handy. I will buy some small white ones to use permanently. As it stands right now, we plan to keep the mesh rolled up and on the ceiling and unroll as needed. Not the prettiest of hacks, but we believe this will surely solve the problem of sun beams on our face!
Total project time, about 15 minutes.
Pull down style car window sun blocking mesh screen
Scissors (to cut off retractor bar end and trim mesh if needed)
White Velcro sticky back squares (3M makes removable ones too!)
If you do this project, please let us know and post pictures of your own to inspire others!!!!
As always, stay safe, have wonderful journeys and hug your Avion!
WHY? People have had the windows on their Avions blow open and get broken off of the rig when a gust of wind hit their rig while going down the road or in a bad wind storm. Don’t let this happen to you!
When we owned our 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande Model we noticed that one of the three prior owners had put on some “make do” hardware that held the windows more solidly closed while rolling down the road or during winter or very bad weather (rain or wind). Below is one of those “make do” clips but overtime it was only functional with our little slip of a wood shim in it! So the time to find a new “fix” was due!
CAUTION! These old Hehr windows especially the “awning type” which are the one piece large windows that crank open from the bottom out…CAN AND DO have the potential to catch a wind and fly open when rolling down the road at 50+ MPH. In case you do unfortunately lose a window or purchase a reno project Avion, Hehr does still make awning style (and Jalousie) windows and some online companies also carry a limited amount of dimensions. NO ONE in our research makes the rounded front curved windows that flank your center front window so please baby those fixed windows- we also have them in the rear bedroom of our ’87!
*note, since purchasing our 1987 32S Avion (jalousie window style) we do not have this issue with rattling or fly open accidently windows but we still make double-triple sure they are fully secured before we begin towing because if open even a little bit the wind could catch the smaller pane of a jalousie and pull it open to and strip your window crank system in the process. It seems the issues of rattling windows is more prevalent with the awning style windows found on pre mid 80’s models.
Additionally, some of our window torque operators (those little metal boxes that your crank handle fits into to raise the window out) were less than perfect, wear out quickly due to soft metal gears inside and did not always “snuggly” hold our window shut.
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT WINDOWS HAVING A MIND OF THEIR OWN??
They are cheap, come in boxes of multiples and made for a decently attractive but functional solution to ensuring our windows were all securely closed to prevent accidental opening during trailering.
We put a stainless steel screw into the pre-drilled hole and the “pin” which is intended to fit into a round hold in a bookshelf wall is actually what holds the window closed. (sorry evidently did not take a photo of this before we sold our 73 Avion!)
Part of our routine before we got underway for a trip and then when we arrive to set up at our campsite was simply to take a cordless power drill and unscrew the stainless screw to be able to rotate the clip away from the window frame to allow the window to open. We did not remove the clip entirely, merely rotated out of the way so it was ready to be deployed again to do its job once we were packing up and making ready to leave our campsite.
Last but not least….we cannot stress enough the importance of a “WALK AROUND” safety check BEFORE you tow your RV 2 feet! The walk about is Luisa’s job so there is a second pair of eyes on the hitch area and all its hook ups, etc. This Walk-Around will be where you check to see that all of your windows are secured down, if using clips like we outline above, they are engaged and tightened, awnings latched/locked in place. I will be posting a complete other “walk around” post to go into more details on this very important safety standard of practice.
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.
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.
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 GapEntrance 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.
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!
Adventures with a Vintage Avion Luxury Coach Camper