Posts Tagged With: rv parks

Backroads Across America: Rafter J Delivers

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The Rafter J-Bar Ranch, pictured above, is one of our favorite campgrounds. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, it offers wide-open spaces, every amenity a family could want (except most sites do not offer TV service), in a setting that rivals the best state parks.

Custer and his army stayed here in 1874 and it later became a stagecoach stop during the gold rush. Some of the original buildings remain. It later became a working ranch until it was converted to a campground in 1964.

For us, it was a nostalgic stop last weekend — we stayed here with our sons in 2001. That was one of our best family trips.

We sit in our trailer this evening in northwestern Montana at a tiny RV park wedged in a river valley surrounded by forested mountains. (I should also add I-90 and the railroad are here too.)

So, it seems like a good time for some notes from the trail:

Beautiful as advertised: Montana. We entered just north of Sheridan, Wyoming and drove the I-90 corridor across the state. Stunning mountain scenery, forests, rock formations and prairies. There were great views of the snow-capped Bighorn and Rocky mountains.

European RVers: In South Dakota, we were suddenly seeing many new Minnie Winnie motor homes, on the road and in RV parks. They seemed to be everywhere, no license plates yet. We found out that Winnebago advertises in Europe for fly-and-drive RV vacations. The renters get the RV for a few weeks at a much-reduced rate and the company gets the motor home delivered to a client. The renters can drive it as much as they want, but agree to deliver it to a city by a certain date.

Driving challenges: Driving a motor home or pulling a trailer can be exhausting. You have to choose your stops carefully. Some gas stations and cafe parking lots won’t work. I’ll take a country road, even if it has small-town stops, over a busy interstate anytime. Winds above 15 miles an hour, unless they are pushing you, are not easy. So, we watch the weather. We stayed an extra day once when 40-mph winds were forecast.

Is it worth it? We say a resounding “Yes!” When we compare RVing to long motel trips and eating out day after day, this life wins. Our own bed, bathroom, kitchen, food. No living out of suitcases. For us, the benefits far outweigh the driving hassles and work of setting up and taking down at each RV park.

Gas costs: Prices were lower once we left the west coast. California was the highest, Texas ($1.98) the lowest. We usually paid about $2.25 a gallon. Also, the cash and credit card prices were the same most of the way. No 10-cent charge for using credit.

Car brands: Once we left the west coast, we saw far fewer Priuses and Subarus.

Flags: We saw the Confederate flag frequently in the South.

Welcome: Twice in the South, when people found out we were from Oregon, they said, “Welcome to America!”

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Backroads Across America: Going With the Flow

All of a sudden the ill winds are flowing all around us.  The threat of extreme weather has blocked much of our westward path…and northward and southward paths too!  We intended to take the better part of a week driving around the coast of Michigan and continuing into Wisconsin, taking in the sights along the banks of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  


Predictions of snow to the north, flooding to the south and rainy, windy thunderstorms to the west had us rethinking our route.  Shifting our minds (and our truck) westward towards Chicago, we discovered a great little local lunch hangout in Ligonier, Indiana.  All was not lost!  Four and a half out of five stars on my Google map app.  The fish really was as good as advertised!

 But then, Google maps let me down, directing us to a “closed for the season” RV park over an hour from where we were supposed to be!  How could that happen?  Surely it couldn’t have been operator error?


But this trip is all about “going with the flow,” so after a few tense miles, we ended up at the Last Resort RV Park.  Really, that is the name (I wouldn’t make it up) and it was sort of our last resort today.


A staff member checked us in and told us we could take whichever site looked good…but warned us away from #72 where the male and female geese were nesting with their little ones. Apparently, he can be a tad bit aggressive.  No problem…we’ll go with the flow!

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Backroads Across America: Big Plusses to Going Small

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Notes from the backroads, week six

We have continued pull one of the smallest trailers, often less than half the size of other RVs. Even after all this time, we feel we have everything we need and we have not even come close to strangling each other.

There are advantages to going small:

–We can fit in virtually any campsite. We don’t require pull-throughs. Plus, back-in sites give me a chance to entertain other campers when I try to avoid backing into Sue as she signals directions.
–We don’t need a full-size pickup truck.
–We are more mobile in urban areas and parking is easier.
–We have less floor to clean.
–Drivers of huge pickups love asking me “So, how does that Tacoma tow a trailer?” I am tempted to answer, “You know, size can be deceiving.” (I would love to hear other suggestions.)
–Our RV storage cost is lower and our pickup and trailer cost less than the monsters.
–We are forced to bring less stuff.
–We have no room to bring along other people or dogs.

Speaking of dogs, it seems like everyone brings dog(s) in their RV. Often multiple dogs. We have seen up to four. Most are well-behaved. (Dogs, that is).

Pet peeves. Barking dogs, cigarette smoke from neighbors, people who share their music and TV with the campground (many RVs have outdoor televisions.). Park staff who use all the washing machines. Luckily, these have been rare happenings on this trip.

Roughing it?

RVers have come to expect the amenities of a fancy resort. We have stayed at many parks with swimming pools. One had a bowling alley. Two had cafes and offered food delivery to your RV. Many pick up your trash. RV and truck washing can be arranged.

RVers also expect laundry rooms and will quickly complain if the wi-fi signal is weak. Putt-putt golf. Fishing ponds and boat rentals. Convenience stores. Propane service. Walking trails. Cable TV, even HD. Table and chairs, with a grill. Dog-walking parks. Playgrounds. Bike rentals. Horseshoes.

Our place in Tucson had a pub. So far, no parks offered happy hour. One did prohibit alcohol. Good luck with that!

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Backroads Across America: A Day at the Beach

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The Isle of Palms near Charleston, SC,  hosts miles of huge beachfront homes fronting small dunes and miles of beautiful beaches. Today, the water was warm, almost matching the near 80-degree air temperature.

We toured Fort Moultrie, which, along with Fort Sumter, was built to protect Charleston Harbor. Some of the cannons could fire balls weighing several hundred pounds up to four miles.

A bridge away on Sullivan Island, we found the buzzing Poe’s Tavern for lunch. Lots of Edgar Allen Poe illustrations hung on the walls. Why was it called Poe’s? Well, he served at Fort Moultrie for 13 months. I had no idea, did you?

We have decided we could be comfortable in one of the homes here, at least for part of the year. That dream settles as I write this in our tiny home just a few miles away, but in a slightly less glamorous setting.

Dreams aside, it sure felt great to splash in the warm Atlantic water!

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Backroads Across America: Crossover Hookups!?

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Notes from the road

Cowboy bar: Get on your motorcycle, drive to Bandera, Texas, in the Hill Country just north of San Antonio. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar is not to be missed.

Backroads? Have we been true to our blog title? Mostly. We found it tough in Arizona and New Mexico. There aren’t as many roads and some go nowhere, which might be interesting, but the rest of our title is “across America,” after all. From Texas on, we have mostly stuck to our non-plan. Texas calls backroads “farm roads” or “ranch roads.” In the Hill Country, there are many deep dips, with markers showing how deep the water running across is…the marks go up to five feet!

Lonely path: We have usually tried to avoid cities, leading us through the middle of the southern states with some long, lonely stretches. We found ourselves hoping for a small town to break up the monotony. The ones we found were often Twilight Zone-like deserted. An RV from Oregon was not a common sight, let me tell you.

State parks: They are great, of course, and we have lucked out by getting some amazing sites. In RV parks, you see license plates from all over North America. In state parks, you rarely see a vehicle from out of state. But, like I mentioned a while back, RV parks are often more convenient. Plus, the swimming pools don’t have alligators.

 Language, accent. Well, this is a sensitive matter. How do I phrase this? Since Texas, when I ask where something is in a store, I usually hear enthusiastic, friendly replies. Couldn’t be nicer. I think. You see, sometimes I am not sure, if you know what I mean. I smile, say thanks, and continue my search.

Crossover hookups?! OK, RVers, what are they? The guy at our RV park in the Texas Hill Country explained that our sewer line was on the usual side, but the water and electric hookups were in the other side of the site. Are you kidding? Nope. He said our lines would reach. He was right, of course, but it was a challenge stringing them under the trailer. Our next door neighbor called it “backwards plumbing.”

 

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Backroads Across America: It’s the East Coast!

Cross country, coast to coast, backroads across America — whatever you call it, we have alas made it to the East Coast!

The Mt. Pleasant KOA (photos above), just east of Charleston, SC, is our home for the next three nights. We will have to cope with 80 degrees and low humidity. This is yet another lakeside campground where you put your toes in the water at risk, although we have looked carefully at all the logs on our walks around the swamps, and none moved.

We spent the last three nights in Georgia state parks and were most impressed. They rival the facilities in our home state of Oregon, except they have even more space per campsite.

Driving on backroads across the middle of Georgia? It was gorgeous: Lush green landscape, thick forests, rolling hills and some beautiful ranches, farms and homes.

We have logged about 4,500  miles in the Tacoma and Rockwood. Coming up on four weeks. So, how is the RV life? Sue says it is “the best way to experience the country.”

 

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Backroads Across America: Alabama Paradise for $11

 

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Perfect spring conditions framed our drive today, which began with the first 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful 444-mile two-lane path from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. We left the National Park Service-maintained trail at Jackson and caught Highway 80 east across Mississippi.

A fellow camper (traveling from Santa Barbara, California) in Louisiana had advised us to watch for the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. So, here we are at one, Prairie Creek, just past Selma, Alabama. What’s not to like! Quiet, lush, spacious sites. Lakeside vistas. Electricity and water hookups. Just $11 with a National Parks senior pass. If we were cats, it would be time to curl up and purr.

 

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Backroads Across America: El Paso wins lowest gas price

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A small Texas town dresses its jail community service workers in classic prisoner garb.

Tidbits from the road:
Temperature change: It was 89 degrees in Las Vegas and just 32 in Williams, Arizona the next night.
Gas prices: El Paso wins the low-price battle at $1.98 a gallon…so far.
High and dry in the desert: Gas stations are few and far between in the Southwest, so we have almost always filled up at every chance. The lower mileage that comes with towing is a big factor.
European views: Four folks from Germany about our age were parked next to us in El Paso. This is their fifth tour in the U.S. in rented motor homes. They love driving this country because of its diversity and scenery. This year, their friends in Germany questioned their trip, though. “Americans are angry, don’t go there,” one German said he was told. He brushed off the warning, saying he likes the people here.
Rough roads: Our Mariposa friends the Chappells drove to Alaska last year. Doug said the roads were so rough a window broke in their camper. The roads in Arizona may not be much better, even on Interstate 40. We were bounced around so much that normally sturdy drawers in the trailer were tossed open, requiring some minor repair. Beware!
Speed: Once we left California, truck and trailer speed limits mirror those for cars. So, the limit is often 70 or 75 and it is not unusual for a truck or RV to be going 75. Really? What are these states thinking? Do I sound like an old man in a pickup?

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Backroads Across America: Thinking Small in Texas

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Small-town Texas was on display today as we drove southeast to the Hill Country, where we are staying for a few days at the By the River RV park in Kerrville.  Our site is on the Guadalupe River and spring green is the color of the month. What a view for happy hour! It is quite a change from the stark desert scenery of western Texas and much of our journey through Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

Brady, the geographical center of the Lone Star state, and Mason were welcome chances to walk and soak up the atmosphere.

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Backroads Across America: Where to Park the RV?

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So, where do you want to park your RV? Nearly two weeks into our cross-country adventure, our feelings about this question have evolved.

Last year, when we first got our wee trailer, Oregon State Parks were perfect. Lots of space, privacy and beautiful scenery. We thought we would stay in these kind of parks on this trip, and we still may do that. But, much of the time, they require planning and booking. That is not what this adventure is about.

So, what do we look for on this trip? Convenience, amenities, dependable facilities, and location come to mind. So, we chose a concrete pad in Las Vegas (shown above), a short walk to the Strip. And the KOA in Tucson, which allowed us to visit with Reg’s college friend. It also had a pool, a great way to unwind after a day in the truck! See the photos above for the Tucson pool, plus a shot of the covered area, with a solar panel roof. Also, in the photo at bottom right, our site offered a patio with table and chairs.

Tonight, we are at another KOA in San Angelo, Texas (top photo) on our way to the Hill Country. We have also stayed at several Good Sam parks. We don’t spend much time at any campground. We have stayed more than one night several times, but are out exploring during the day.

Like our son Andrew pointed out about good coffee, sometimes you just want something dependable when convenience matters. So, you grab a Starbucks when there might have been better coffee a few blocks away. We  are happy with the chain RV parks so far. We know what to expect.

As for the rest of the trip? Who knows?

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