Category Archives: RV Adventure

First RV Trip of the 2018 season

Waiting patiently
As many of you, we have been waiting since our  RV Thanksgiving trip last year to get out into the world again.   After winterizing the motorhome last November my wife and I sat by the window waiting for the first chance to get outside without frost bite.  We are finally going on our first RV trip for 2018 to a local campground about 20 miles away.

Lake Guntersville State Park view from our site.
View from our campsite

We unplugged from house shore power, cleaned the drains, and removed the cob webs and drove about 20 miles away to Lake Guntersville State Park RV campground.   This is our favorite local campground as well as a good place to de-bug anything that may have happened over the winter.

As expected, we had a few issues but nothing to diminish the thrill of being back outdoors.  Our site had a great look at the lake on one side and the mountain up to the Lodge and golf course out the other side.  What we didn’t plan on was this being the states “Spring Break” for schools and there were lots of others who had the same idea.

What went wrong

Our only incident that caught us by surprise was a small water leak coming from our ice maker.  My wife noticed the carpet was wet in front of the cabinet that had the ice maker and I immediately unloaded the cabinets and turned off the feed valve.   It turns out that it just needed a refresh of the silicon plumbing tape around the inlet.  I just happen to keep enough plumbing tools and spare parts with me for this very reason.  While I was at it I replaced the water pressure regulator at the faucet as well.

After we fixed the leak

We tested for other issues that may have been caused by winter’s cold temperatures.  We checked the toilet, washing machine, and all the sinks, toilet, and shower.  Then, our Ubiquiti wi-fi amplifier system  pulled in seemingly unlimited internet bandwidth for streaming our favorite news and sports channels on directvnow.com.   Our site was  .4 miles from the wireless access point and it got enough signal to browse and stream TV.   Something we do when RVing is to play games like scrabble or cards.  Those things are a lot of fun, but we don’t seem to find time when we are at home.

The wife and I went on several nature walks and saw one huge buck at the golf course late in the evening, and as much as we could in the low light we think we counted 18 deer in and around the lake area.

We didn’t do much cooking or lounging outside because it was still a little windy and cool to be comfortable.   However, we sure did enjoy our first adventure for the year.    Our wonderful experiences have made us look forward to doing this at least a couple of times per month.  The RVing season in our area is usually from late March through late November.   Until the temperatures turn back to  freezing and force us back to our homestead we are “On the Road Again”.

See you out there somewhere soon!

2017 Thanksgiving RV Trip to Gulf Shores State Park, Alabama

beachSunsetAfter having spent time earlier doing a traditional Thanksgiving with our family, this is our second year to relax at our annual Thanksgiving RV trip and enjoy white sandy beaches this season at the beach in Gulf Shores State RV Park in Alabama.   This RV park is spacious with very large, level, asphalt sites.   There is a large space between sites for parking, playing, storage, etc.  My wife and I enjoy this park because of its close proximity to the beach and short drive to many wonderful seafood restaurants.   Gulf Shores is only about 6 hours drive time away from home for us, so it makes for a good one-day drive without having to dry dock overnight to get there like we did earlier this year getting to Yellowstone NP.  This year the temps were between 40’s at night, and up to 70 and sunny during the day.

Our experience “so far” is the Fish River restaurant and the Shrimp Basket in Orange Beach are our personal favorites.   We haven’t tried all the options, but of the ones we have tried these made the top of the list.  They are ranked highly based on affordable and delicious food, not the atmosphere or ambiance.  We like to relax and enjoy a nice meal without having to mortgage the farm.

We travel with a 40 foot Dutch Star diesel pusher and tow a Honda Civic.   Our traveling friends who we have shared many miles in this wonderful country, went with us this year and last year.  They pull a 36 foot 5th wheel with a dually Dodge Ram with all the bells and whistles.  If you read some of my last few blog posts you will see photos and read about our travel adventures.

The rates we paid are $43 per night.  This includes access to the beach and other park amenities.   There was plenty of moderate to lengthy walking trails.  One of which we measured as a little over 4 miles.  They are all level and well taken care of, including wooden elevated walkways over the swampy areas.   The walkway also branched off to go over to the beach, but the cross-walk over the highway wasn’t yet complete.

There were quite a few out of state residents that were obviously setup for lengthy stays which speaks highly of the park ( in my opinion ).  We met some full timers that were there with a new Dutch Star and two motorcycles and their tow vehicle.  Very nice folks that sold everything and were just traveling the country with their black lab.

This year we ventured out in the toad to visit the Navy Flight Museum in Pensacola Florida about 45 minutes away.   It was fascinating and had a wonderful tour guide that had actually piloted several of the planes in the museum.  The display of the Blue Angels was hanging from the building structure and the pilot said they were actually further apart in the display than they actually fly.   You will find this to be well worth spending a day there.   There were also movies, and “4-D” theater to show a 3D movie with seating that will make you feel as if you are flying along side of the Blue Angels.

Enjoy these photos.

http://www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park

http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/

2017 Breakdown in St. Louis I-70

UPDATE: We got our $59.04 back from Good Sams Roadside Service after they told me there was a 15 mile tow limit and made me pay for the extra 9 miles to the mechanic.   I called later to speak with management because other folks on forums, and facebook were telling me there was no 15 mile limit.   Good Sams Roadside Assistance agreed that there was no such limit.   They asked me to fill out a reimbursement form and mail it in with the receipt and a letter of explanation.  2 weeks later we got a check.   Still not too happy about the confusion and having to fill out forms and use snail mail to get my money back, but it is better than NOT getting my money back.   They never explained why they left me stranded for 2 days with no offers other than wait until Monday.

towingWell,  in 4 years of traveling literally all over the country, we experienced our first breakdown on the side of I-70 in Wentzville  Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.  I will share our exciting experience in hopes that it will help prepare others.  Looking back on how everything worked out for good in spite of a bad situation, I am very thankful for the lessons learned and there are a million ways it could have been much worse.

My wife and I, along with our friends following with their fifth wheel behind us, were on our long journey back to Alabama from a wonderful 7 days at West Yellowstone Montana and this was our final day of the 5 day return trip.  We expected to be home on Saturday evening when suddenly a light came on indicating a serious voltage overload from the engine alternator putting 18 volts into our 12 volt engine batteries.   I immediately glanced in the mirrors and pulled over to the side of I-70 at exit 188.2 which happened to be at the bottom of the on-ramp to the interstate.   Traffic was heavy at 9:30 on that Saturday morning ( key-point is “Saturday Morning” ).

I always have tried to double and triple prepare for everything.  We have Good Sam Roadside assistance, and FMCA has a roadside help line, and our regular vehicle insurance has a towing option.   In the heat of the panic, with us and our friends both sitting on the side of the road, I immediately called the first number in my list of support options.   FMCA answered and assisted for about an hour and a half of mostly being on hold while they made calls.

FMCA told me a price to have it towed to the place of their choice would be 368 dollars, and I really had no options so I gave them my card number.   In about an hour, the tow company called to confirm the need for service, and asked what type vehicle it was.  It is a 27,000 pound diesel pusher 40 feet in length.    The towing company said that the address that FMCA had given them to tow it to was a neighborhood, not a business.   The tow company called the FMCA specified point of delivery to find that it was an individual that worked on trailer repair only and not motor homes.

WELL!   This started things all over, and FMCA finally said they had no other options, and no one would be able to help me on a Saturday / weekend.  It would have to wait until Monday.  I complained and said I can’t sit on the side of the interstate for 2 days waiting on support and moved on to my second option.

Good Sam’s RV Roadside assistance was my next option.   To make a long story shorter, after another couple of hours, they ended up telling me the same thing.  No one was willing to help me on a weekend.   By this time it is about 11:30 in the morning.

I took it on my own to try to idle the motor home to the next exit which was about 6 miles down which was fortunate enough to have a PILOT/Flying J.    After Idling down the interstate with flashers on and traffic blowing by, we made it safely without blowing anything up.   I parked immediately inside the parking lot, but didn’t notice that I was blocking the CAT Scales that the semi trucks were using to weigh.  The store announced that I needed to move and this turned out to be a blessing after all.   I went to the lady that was the day shift manager, and she was very understanding and helpful.   She let me know that there was a HUGE Camping World just down the road at exit 212.

So to keep from rambling, let me summarize that this was the saving grace that got me to the repair shop next to the Wentzville Camping World.   I called Camping World originally, and they could not work me in until Mid July  and this was June 24th.   They recommended Clarke Power Service right next door to them who they normally refer for overflow work.   Clarke Power Service had a 24 hour emergency number and they sent a tow truck, and repaired my motor home, and life is now back in balance with motor home fixed, and home.

In Summary:

*Clark Power Service, and their recommended Tow Truck service is number one in my book.  Very Professional office front end support and excellent technicians that went above and beyond to double check everything including fluids, and crank shaft reconnect ( had to be removed to tow ).

* Weekend day shift manager at Flying J on exit 188 on I-70 is a super-star that was friendly, helpful, and had a way of calming things down when she could see I was about to have a nervous breakdown.   She recommended the place that ultimately saved the day for me.

* Good Sam’s PLATINUM SERVICE reluctantly and begrudgingly paid for the first 15 miles of towing after I had found the tow service, and the repair shop that was willing to work on my motor home.  Their reluctance was based on the fact that it was “outside their network” of companies they were willing to work with.    I had to ask to speak to the CEO or whatever level of manager would be able to rectify my dissatisfaction with insurance that tells me I am not covered on weekends and holidays ( I am not happy with them ).   They don’t mention in their coverage that they only help on weekdays, and only for the first 15 miles.    KEEP IN MIND, We just left Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota where there is nothing for hundreds of miles,   15 miles wouldn’t have been very much help!!!!

* FMCA was going to send me to a back yard trailer repair in a neighborhood,  only thing that saved that disaster was the diligence of the tow truck company to call and check the delivery location before sending the truck to my breakdown spot.

* Last but not least is our friends who stayed with us to help through this entire ordeal when they could have and I even recommended that they drive on home.   I thank God we have friends that help calm us down, help us think through how to work this out, and the stayed around to make sure we all got home safely.

2017 Yellowstone Cookout Wagon Ride

Since Sunday was a bust due to 2 different cases of  “Buffalo herds in the road” delays that cost us 3 hours of time just sitting still in traffic.  We decided to make the most of Monday.   We rode the entire Northern Circle around Yellowstone from Madison to Gibbon Falls to Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower Roosevelt to Canyon Village back to Madison and then out the West Entrance.

In all we have driven the “toad” a little under 700 miles so far, since we left our home town of Arab Alabama.   Honestly it doesn’t seem like we have been driving that much with all the breath taking scenery and wildlife to enjoy.   There is the expectation and hope of seeing a new type of animal at any turn.

We stopped tonight at Roosevelt Lodge to take a wagon ride out to an open valley campfire and cookout.  It was probably as good of a steak as you would get anywhere.   The “fixin’s” were especially good.  We had steak, potato salad, cowboy beans, corn, slaw, watermelon, apple crisp for dessert and a choice of soft drink or tea.  I was reluctant to sign up for this and my expectations were low but I was very pleasantly surprised.   During the eventing we saw a black bear hiding in the brush, a coyote came a little too close for comfort, and a few buffalo passed by the eating area without giving us so much as a glance.

Please enjoy the slide deck of Sunday and Monday at Yellowstone and a ride into Idaho, just to say we did.

 

2017 Yellowstone with Friends

Let the adventure begin. ( day 1 – 3 )

Headed to Yellowstone with friends
Headed to Yellowstone with friends

We headed out on Friday the 9th of June with adventure on our agenda.  We planned and planned and now is the time to execute that plan.  We left Arab Alabama and made it to O’Fallon MO at around 8:00 pm and they were very RV friendly, then on to Sioux Falls SD Flying J for the next night.  The first two days have gone according to plan with the exception of a few items.

Didn’t plan on the car battery dying.
Didn’t plan on getting into a CAMPING WORLD parking lot that was NOT suitable for big rigs, and thought we were going to have to back our way out of the only Entrance/Exit on the whole 10 acre lot……
Didn’t plan on driving West right at the (seemed like) 4 hour sunset through St. Louis .

HOWEVER, God Is Good, and we arrived on time, as planned, and in good condition ( except exhausted ).

Some of the photos getting to Mount Rushmore at the end of day 3 of our 2 week adventure.   It’s been a great experience so far.  From the success of getting through Nashville and St. Louis traffic to the first night stay in O’Fallon, to the reverent and respectful lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore and everything in between.

Day 3-5

Now we are at Day 5 of our adventure and we are parked and setup in the KOA at West Yellowstone.  Temp will be 30 degrees tonight, and snow was on the ground driving down from Bozeman MT to our KOA.   It was a long 6 hour drive but we took our time, and even worked in a nap on the way.

Here are some more photos of our adventure so far.  You will see Badlands rock formations, buffalo, Mount Rushmore, Needles highway, Custer State Park, Sioux Falls (falls), Wall Drugs, and other random photos of our Walmart setup and the 50 state celebration at the North Dakota sign.

Driving from Bowman North Dakota to Miles City Montana was very intense as a storm moved in with very heavy winds and rain blowing sideways.  A road sign said “BUMP” when it should have said  “MOON SIZED CRATER” ahead.   There were 5 of those “BUMPS” in the dark with heavy winds and rain affecting our drive, but we made it without incident.

Day 6 touring Yellowstone

We woke to a brisk 35 degrees and were amazed to see snow on the mountains around us.  Being from Alabama we don’t see snow after April at the latest.  A necessary task had to be done, but not how I wanted to start the first day at Yellowstone.   The Civic “toad” battery died on us twice coming out here.   There was NO WAY I was going to drive into the middle of Yellowstone where I know there is no phone signal with a weak battery.   Fortunately there are several auto parts places and mechanic shops in the area.  We bought the battery and borrowed the tools from NAPA to replace it in just a few minutes.   Richard and I then went back to the campground to pick up our wives to begin our trek out to see God’s magnificent creation.

We first stopped and made the obligatory photo of us beside the “Welcome to Yellowstone” sign, along with all the other folks doing the same thing.  We saw a heard of Buffalo just a couple of miles into the park.  We stopped and took photos, and moved on to the Soutwest Basin areas.   Old Faithful just being one of many geysers in the southern quarter of Yellowstone.   We saw “Firehole Falls”, “Canyon Drive”, “Lower Geyser Basin”, ” Firehole Lake Drive “, “Midway Geyser Basin”, “Biscuit Basin”, “Black Sand Basin”, “Upper Geyser Basin” and “Kepler Cascades and Waterfalls”.   On the way back we saw more buffalo, and a couple of very large Elk (I think).  Richard said Moose.  We will probably never know but we have photos in the following slide deck.

 Day 7 (2nd day at Yellowstone)

We ventured our earlier today knowing we had a longer drive today.  We drove an estimated 200 miles.  During the trek we rose to the Continental Divide at elevation 8262 feet.  We saw snow, waterfalls, more Bison, Elk, chipmunks, and Geese.  The Bison ignored us and expected us to wait for them to cross the road, or if they were laying down by the road then just roll the window down and take a picture.  On the other hand, you pretty much have to watch in the trees, and far off the road to find an Elk/Moose.   When you stop to take their picture they are very bashful and run away.  We started into the park with 1/2 tank of gas, but there were 3 different gas stations available that we saw and filled up at Grant Village.  Enjoy more photos of today.

Day 8 (3rd day is resting)

No Yellowstone today, just rode around West Yellowstone, did laundry and locked us our of the RV, no big deal.  Our friend had the door open before I could get the locksmith on the phone.   BTW – that lock is fixed to not lock itself anymore.

I simply walked outside before shower, etc to release the gray water only to find out that Norma had gone to the laundry with the Toad.   I walked to the laundry hoping desperately that she had taken her camper keys with her, but to no avail.  She had only taken the car key.   So a little jiggling, prying, praying, and wiggling we got back in with no injuries or broken windows.   CAUTION : KEEP A HIDE-A-KEY IN THE TOAD !!!

Day 9 ( 4th day at Yellowstone )

We got up early and had a good breakfast at one of the local flavor diners.  Then filled the tank up knowing it was going to be a long day of driving.  Our route today was to be to go to the Northeast Entrance (furthest point from where we are staying.   The pinnacle of the nature views is located at Lamar Valley which has an abundance of wildlife variety and quantity.

Some of the other areas we saw today were, Canyon Village visitor center and wildlife exhibit, Mount Washburn, Tower Roosevelt, Petrified tree, Mammoth Hot Springs, and others that I can’t remember already.  But they are all worth the visit.

We say eagle, moose, black bear, grizzly bear, deer, prong horn sheep, prairie dogs, ram, elk, and oh yes!  How could I forget the 1 or 2 thousand buffalo/bison.  We met people from Phoenix City Alabama and from Mississippi who were friendly and out here experiencing the language barrier issue that we are having.

I can honestly say that the animals are great but the landscape and natural beauty is breathtaking.  When you round a curve or top a hill and see what lays in front of you it will make you gasp at how gorgeous it really is here.   After the 6 plus hours of drive time today to see everything, we are all exhausted, but happy and blessed to have enjoyed the day.

Enjoy these photos.

Day 10 was a bust

Best laid plans…..  We had everything packed up and left the campground early to go to Tetons via Yellowstone.  This should have been slightly over 3 hours to get to Jenny Lake at the Tetons National Park.  Well, what we didn’t plan on was two extremely long Buffalo herds taking their time walking down the same road we were driving on.   After 2 delays and we were into the trip about 3 hours, and hadn’t made it to Old Faithful yet, we voted to turn around and just take it easy at the campground.  We had a nap, went shopping for gifts for our grandchildren, and went to eat at a very nice little local restaurant named “Connie’s”.   We also found a nice creek with a thinking bench to sit and watch the rippling water flow across the rocks and made such a peaceful sound that I wanted another nap.

2017 Trip to Yellowstone (plans)

  • Summary view of trip to Yellowstone
    Summary view of trip to Yellowstone

    First Stop O’Fallen MO WalMart
    Exit 217 to WAL MART – Quick Easy access – turn left and go under I-70 bridge onto Hwy K. and WalMart will be on the right with a turn lane into the entrance

OFallenWalMartParking
OFallenWalMartParking

OFallen-MO-WalmartParkingLot

 

  • Second Stop Sioux Falls Flying J  –  158 spots available – CALL TO RESERVE  TWO SPOTS BEFORE ARRIVING

    Phone: (605) 977-1438  to reserve a spot for overnight parking.
    Interstate:
    I-29 Exit 83

2-SiouxFalls-FlyingJ-Arrival
Exit instructions – If you see I-90 – You went too far.
  • While in Sioux Falls Flying J – Drive down to Falls Park for photos and a picnic dinner.
4-SiouxFalls-to-do
Route options to Sioux Falls Park to see Falls, and picnic
  • Flying J – photo of fuel pumps and RV Parking Area in front of the Store.  Denny’s Available for Breakfast and coffee
3-SiouxFalls-FlyingJ-Arrival2-photo
Pull into parking at Flying J USE FIRST ENTRANCE
Screenshot -SIOUX-FALLS-FLYING-J
Areal view of the Flying J for reference
  • Third stop – after leaving Sioux Falls on Sunday Morning – a 4 hour drive to Wall Drug / Badlands National Park
    STAY ON GLENN STREET to left on 5th, IF POSSIBLE – MAIN STREET LOOKS CROWDED WITH CAR PARKING !!!!
6-Wall-Drug-Parking-Area
Exit from Interstate – Better option is to stay on Glenn Street to 5th Ave – turn left and drive straight into the big rig parking
5A-optionalRouteToWallDrugsParking
areal view of the dirt/gravel parking for big rigs.  YELLOW LINE IS COMING IN FROM GLENN and 5th AVE.
  • Return to GLENN ST from 5th AVE – stay on Glenn St.   Turns into 240 hwy that goes directly into Badlands National Park.
5-exit interstate 110 off I-90 to Wall Drug.
Wall Drug – straight drive to Badlands
ScreenshotWALL-DRUG-exit110-to-Glenn-St
preferred drive into the parking lot – STAY OFF MAIN STREET WITH BIG RIGS
  • 4th POI – Rapid City KOA – quick setup or just park,  then go visit lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore.
7-Exit-61-off-I-90-to-Rapid-City-KOA
Exit 61 off of I-90 to Rapid City KOA stay on Byp 16 to HWY 44
8-MtRushmore-from-RapidCityKoa
30-35 minute drive from KOA to Mt Rushmore
9-Rapid-City-KOA-to-Mt-Rushmore
Closer view of KOA getting to Mt Rushmore

9A-MtRushmore-Drive-to-Park_from_campground

Mt Rushmore Parking to Seating areal view.
Mt Rushmore Parking to Seating areal view.
optional drive around needles highway to several other attractions
optional drive around needles highway to several other attractions
  • Leaving Rapid City Monday Afternoon – WE NEED TO FIND OUT OF THEY WILL ALLOW US TO LEAVE OUR CAMPERS FOR DAYTIME TOURING.
  • Heading to Bowman North Dakota – just to say we were in North Dakota.
  • We may need fuel – closest one is to turn right on HWY 12 and about 1 mile to http://www.frontiertravelcenter.com/
    Otherwise – we would turn left and drive into the sunset.
HWY 85 North out of Rapid City to Bowman ND
HWY 85 North out of Rapid City to Bowman ND – Then Turn Left on 12 unless we need fuel.

 

  • We may need fuel – closest one is to turn right on HWY 12 and about 1 mile to http://www.frontiertravelcenter.com/
    Otherwise – we would turn left and drive into the sunset toward BOZEMAN MT WalMart.
Turn Right Onto 12 if fuel is needed.  May be the last one for a while.
Turn Right Onto 12 if fuel is needed.
May be the last one for a while.
  • Next Stop to Bed Down is Walmart Supercenter in Miles City Montana.
    3205 Stower St, Miles City MT 59301
    Plenty of parking. Lots of other RVers. Quiet. Easy access. May 2013: Good place to stop. Aug 2011: Plenty of parking, stayed at the end close to the the steakhouse, everybody was on other side. Easy access, plenty of food places to eat at.
4 hours from Rapid City so we can spend morning and afternoon looking around Needles, and Custer.
4 hours from Rapid City so we can spend morning and afternoon looking around Needles, and Custer.

MilesCity-Walmart-Exit

MilesCity-Areal-View

MilesCity-Haynes-to-Stower

MilesCity-Walmart-ParkingLot

  •  Leave Miles City MT, and head to KOA at Yellowstone –
    Address: 1545 Targhee Pass Highway , West Yellowstone, MT 59758
MilesCity to Mountainside KOA
Miles City to Mountainside KOA

 

  • Get Through Bozeman Exit 309 off I-90

BOZEMAN-Exit309-to-WestYellowstone-HWY191

Bozeman-to-Yellowstone-turn-left-to-stay-on-191

West-Yellowston-turn-right-onto-20

Super8-KOA

WE-R-HERE

Notes and Photos to and from Myrtle Beach 2017

Atlanta Typical I-20 trafficTrip with family to Myrtle Beach SC from Arab, Alabama was fun, but every trip we take has some “adventure” to it as well.

(1) Getting through Atlanta is always a challenge no matter what vehicle you are driving.  But add 41 ft + a tow car is even more “adventurous”.

(2) Who Knew there are TWO Myrtle Beaches in South Carolina.  North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach.  Both have a 5th Ave, but only one of those 5th Ave addresses has a KOA…  Turning around in a small store parking lot was not for the faint of heart.

(3) Diesel Pumps at car fuel stations is not designed for 41 ft with a tow car.

We left on a Monday night after work in hopes of getting through Atlanta after “rush hour”.   At 10:00 pm, we were successful in that only about a million cars were on the road with us, which is low volume for Atlanta.  We stopped 1/2 way at a Pilot / Flying J and had most of the parking spaces to ourselves.   It was close to 11:00 pm when we arrived at the Pilot to sleep for a while.  We slept well, and got up around 5:00 am to eat at the restaurant and get on the road again.

Arrived at Myrtle Beach KOAThere was confusion in the address I told my wife and she was navigating with our cell phone using Google maps.  It successfully got us to 5th Ave North Myrtle Beach.   Which is not the same as 5th Ave North Myrtle Beach !   What ???    It depends on where you put the comma.  Before North, or after North.   Anyway, we called the KOA number and the nice lady was very patient with us and obviously knew every landmark in both Myrtle Beaches.   She even said “you wouldn’t believe how many times this happens”  😉  made me feel some better.

Pirate Adventure Dinner and Show

We got to the correct address and checked in at the KOA.  got hooked up, and went our to see the sites with our kids and grand-kids.  Which was well worth all the excitement of the drive.  We ate at some wonderful places, but the most memorable was the Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show.  The food was good but wasn’t the best part of the evening.  Our grand-kids normally are good for about 30 seconds of quiet time during a meal, like most 2 and 3 year olds.  However, at this show they didn’t move a muscle for about 2 hours.   The show was very good with talented young folks singing, gymnastics, animal tricks, and diving and swimming with lots of animatronics and special effects.

We also rode a sea pontoon boat out to an unpopulated island where the kids found a bunch of nice large shells and sand dollars in tact.  The boat didn’t have a way to depart without stepping into the water for a few steps to reach the beach.  It was a nice sunny day for a boat ride, but a bit cool for getting wet.  But the kids had a blast.

On the boat ride we also saw a large school of dolphins swimming and jumping in and out of the water.  We got a few good shots, but was really hard to do since by the time someone sees them and points it out, they are back in the water.

Before we left the fun filled and packed full of fun adventure to head home, we rode the Sky Wheel, Dolphin Tour ocean cruise, Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show, Boardwalk Shopping (Including build-a-car),  Zoo,  Aquarium,  Beach photos, Several Playgrounds for grand-kids energy burn-off,  ate at Italian Amici’s, Mexican Abuelo’s,  Captain George’s Seafood buffet, Wahlburgers, and Sweet Carolina’s BBQ.

For my camping friends, it took us 10 hours of steering wheel time (not counting rest stops)  which is 20% longer than Goggle Maps predicted.  We Spent the first night at a Flying J on Generator and had the place to ourselves pretty much.   When driving back we had the entire trip in one day so we took our time, and stopped for several breaks, dreading the return through Atlanta in mid day Saturday traffic, but it ended up being slow and painful due to road construction.  KOA at Myrtle Beach was nice, but had construction going on with bull-dozers, and back-hoe running all day with beeping backup-warnings making naps less enjoyable, but that will be temporary so I won’t hold that against them for a return trip.   It was easy to get to and convenient to everything.

When driving I ALWAYS try to maintain a football field distance from the vehicle in front of me.   I also use the lines as a guide, looking at them far away brings them closer together and it seems to keep me straighter and prevents drifting left and right.  I do use my backup camera just as a reference to what is directly behind me even though I read that some states have a law against that for some reason.  I fully depend on my side mirrors as to what is coming around me on either side.  I used an empty parking lot and had my wife walk to key points on my left and right and down below so I could adjust my mirrors to reduce blind spots as much as possible.

We are sharing a few photos from our trip showing our KOA campground setup,  parking lot camping at Flying J, and a lot of Myrtle Beach things to do, and our grand-kids ( which was the highlight of our trip ).

 

 

Long Distance Wifi design and review

To all my RVing friends who depend on wifi:

My wife and I depend on wifi for many reasons.  TV, Roku, browsing, updating this blog, planning my next trip, checking emails, keeping up with family using skype, and more.  For those of us that have this dependency on wifi, I found a design for long range extended wifi reception.   This solution is GREAT as long as the campground provides stable, unfiltered access to their internet service provider.  My experiences have pulled in wifi connection from a home quality linksys WAP that was located in the club-house that was at least 1/2 mile away.   For less than $200 bucks from Amazon for all the components, and a little bit of setup time – IT WORKS !

I can tell you from experience that several campgrounds across the country “offer” wifi, but they use content filtering or bandwidth limiting per connection.  In those cases this design will not work around the limitations.   We are still dependent on the connection quality to their internet provider and their firewall restrictions that my block NETFLIX, YOUTUBE, HULU, etc.   But for those locations where the wifi would be great if you were just close enough to their campground antenna is located this list of components will definitely give you the best chance of a strong signal.   I can say that using this set of components and if they are configured and setup correctly, it will bring in and amplify wifi signals from almost a mile away.

I must tell you that you should have a good understanding of wifi setup and static I.P. addressing of your PC, laptop, or tablet.   If you don’t then I’m sure there is someone close to you who does.

First, the Components list:

  • Ububiquiti-airgateway-access-pointiquiti Networks Airgateway Indoor AP (AIRGATEWAY)
  • TRENDnet 8dBi Outdoor Omni Directional Antenna TEW-AO08OTRENDnet-8dBi-outdoor-omnidirection-antenna
  • Ubiquiti-BULLET-M2-HP-Outdoor-802.11-BGN-M2HPUbiquiti BULLET-M2-HP Outdoor 802.11 B/G/N M2HP
  • iCreatin Passive PoE Injector and PoE Splitter Kit with 5.5×2.1 mm DC ConnectoriCreatin-Passive-PoE-Injector-adapter
  • A Wall-wart power adapter for PoE Splitter Kit – The airGateway is compatible with Ubiquiti PoE Adapters featuring 24V, 0.5A    or 15V, 0.8A.
  • A 10-20 foot long Cat-6 patch cable to connect the antenna outdoors to the Indoor Airgateway Access Point.
Ubiquiti-BULLET-M2-HP-Outdoor-802.11-BGN-M2HP ubiquiti-airgateway-access-point iCreatin-Passive-PoE-Injector-adapter TRENDnet-8dBi-outdoor-omnidirection-antenna

 

Second – The Concept of Operation.

Example scenario : Campground has a good reliable internet access but requires taking your laptop or tablet to the store or bathhouse to use it because of distance or tree interference.   You can purchase the above components for roughly $175 – $200 depending on shipping costs and where your buy them.   The antenna screws directly onto the Ubiquiti BULLET outdoor receiver which is configured using a web browser.  Then a CAT-5 or CAT-6 patch cord connects the Ubiquiti BULLET to the indoor Ubiquiti AirGateway access point which is powered by the Passive PoE Injector which is connected to your Wall-Wart Power Adapter.   The Ubiquiti AirGateway is also configured via a web browser.

Both the AirGateway and the Bullet are configured with a web browser and requires your PC to be given a specific IP address according to the instructions that come with them.  Basically, you are giving the AirGateway a SSID name and Security Password to prevent neighbors from sharing from your wifi hotspot.

Any device at that point will be able to receive and IP address from the DHCP component of your AirGateway ( according to how you set it up ).   In my case, I have my AirGateway setup to provide up to 10 addresses to limit the number of devices that can connect at any one time.   I also setup the unique ip address range to be assigned to my devices that are way outside the normal “off the shelf device” addresses.   I try to stay away from the 192.168.1.0 network.   I use 172.16.102.x   or 10.2.102.0 range to avoid interference with other typical network addressing schemes.

Diagram of complete Assembly:WiFi Repeater Overview

 

Check out quick and easy camping recipes…

We receive a monthly local magazine that usually presents recipes from the states cooks of the month.  This month’s theme was camping recipes.  I thought I would share the wonderful looking goodies with you this month since both food and camping are both near and dear to my heart.  Enjoy !

  • Campfire HashkeilbasaHash
1    large onion, chopped In a large skillet, cook and stir onion in oil until tender.
Add garlic and cook 1 minute, then add potatoes and
cook uncovered for 20 minutes.   Add kielbasa, cook and
stir until meat and potatoes are tender and browned,
about 10-15 minutes.  Stir in chilies and corn; heat through
then serve.
2    tablespoons canola oil
2    cloves garlic, minced
4    large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1    pound smoked kielbasa, halved and sliced
1    4-oz can chopped green chilies
1    can (15 1/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
  • Grandma’s Campfire Beansbacon-beans
4 to 6    cans (14-16 oz each) port and beans In large pan, fry bacon until crisp.  Remove from pan, drain
and crumble.  In same pan, saute’ onions and garlic until golden.
Drain off most of grease then add to pan.  The rest of the
ingredients. Stir and cook until bubbly, then simmer 10 to 15
minutes.
6    slices of bacon
1    clove garlic, minced fine
1    large onion, diced
2    cups brown sugar ( light or dark )
1    cup ketchup
1/8    teaspoon black pepper
  • Dutch Oven Blueberry Pieblueberry-dutch-oven
Blueberry pie filling Start with a mound of charcoal that is burning well.  Butter the bottom and
inside of the Dutch oven with butter or margarine.  Put in the blueberry pie
filling and the crushed pineapple.  Sprinkle cake mix on top of the pie filling
and pineapple mixture.  Cut up the rest of the butter or margarine and scatter
it over the cake mix.  Sprinkle with white sugar.  Set the Dutch oven on the
charcoal, placing several pieces of charcoal on top of the oven.  Let it cook
until done.
small can of crushed pineapple
butter or margarine
box cake mix
sugar
Dutch oven with sunken lid
charcoal
  • Hobo Dinnerhobo-meals
2  pounds ground beef Make 6 patties from ground beef.   Slice baking potatoes in half.   Peel and chop carrots
into bite size pieces.  Slice onion.   In 6 separate foil sheets, place 1 patty, 1 slice of onion
and 2 slices of potato and even portions of carrots and wrap.  Place on grate on top of a
campfire or grill.   Cook for 30-45 minutes, and remove carefully and enjoy.
6  baking potatoes
3  Vidalia onions
6  carrots

Mountain Glen RV Park at Falls Creek Falls

FallsCreekSignAttending the yearly Mountaineer Folk Festival 2016 was a blast this year.  We were able to go with two other couples who are the types of friends that are more like family than just friends.  Two couples went ahead on Thursday morning while some of us had to work most of the day and leave after 2:00 pm.

We arrived last at around 5:30 pm and called Mountain Glen store ahead of time to let them know we were on our way.   They were more than gracious to assist us in finding the place, and getting us to our site even though technically we were going to arrive after they closed.  We were setup by 6:00 pm and ready to relax and enjoy time with our friends and eat.

The temperatures were perfect with low humidity, the campgrounds were clean, with excellent provisions for washing, restrooms, game room, and other features.  I especially enjoyed the full strength wi-fi that was reachable from any site in the campground.   I depend on wi-fi for email, TV streaming from Sling-TV, and working remotely ( If Needed ).   It was certainly the quietest campground I have ever enjoyed.  We almost felt like we needed to whisper when we were outside since it was so quiet we didn’t want to break the silence.  The store was well stocked with the items you would expect such as chips, marshmallows, soft drinks, and other handy items for camping needs.CampGround-viewOfLakeFromStore

We were in the area to enjoy the Falls Creek Falls scenery as well as the annual Mountaineer Folk Festival.  We were amazed at how much it had grown since the last time we were there.  We saw an enormous variety of crafts and old types of skilled artistry such as quilting, sorgum syrup rendering from raw cane, bluegrass music,  black smithing, pork rind frying, alpaca sheering, spinning wheel demonstrations to turn raw wool into yarn / thread. and weaving to make fabrics.    As much as we enjoyed that, we also spent a good bit of time at the food vendors, for funnel cakes, home-made ice creams, kettle corn, and root-beer floats.   We may have hit the ice-cream vendor 5-6 times, its hard to remember for sure.   I’m not sure how we just kept going by that booth ;-).

As for scenery, we saw the 600 + foot waterfalls, the beautiful lake areas for fishing, boating and swimming.  There were deer with fawns out in the open for easy photo opportunities as well as two wild turkeys that were a little shy for the camera but we got a few snapshots anyway.  The colors were beginning to change on the foliage.  Farmland was the most common feature of the area with mostly Mennonite houses and farms with a wonderful bakery with home made jellies and jams, breads, vegetables, fruits, and flowers.  There were also some extremely fine hand crafted swings, chairs, and gliders made from polished cedar wood and stained with a glossy protective surface.

Please see some of the photos that were made below.