Tag Archives: RV

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/

Arrived at Harrisburg East

Harrisburg-EastAfter leaving Arab at 4:30pm on Friday June 3rd, we stopped at a Walmart in Marion VA for a free dry-dock and it was quiet, restful, and very safe.   There were a couple of Semi trucks and other campers of all varieties, including a 5th wheel that took the liberty of using their slide-outs.  But there was plenty of room for everyone.

We ran our generator and I had loaded the tanks with water so we had running hot/cold water, microwave, shower, toilet, air-conditioner, and TV.  What else would you need for roughing it in a Walmart parking lot ?

On the 5 and half hour drive from Marion to Harrisburg we saw deer, fox, a scared little beaver that was trying to cross the interstate, and the traffic was moderate.  We also saw a lot of beautiful American Farmlands that brought back fond memories of the “good ole days”.

We encountered a small shower from the entry of PA until we reached Harrisburg East on Friday June the 4th at roughly 4:30 ( Arab time ).   We stopped several times for stretch breaks, and coffee.  Pilot, Flying J, and a couple of Cracker Barrels.  BTW – that new berry dessert is absolutely worth the price, and the photo doesn’t do it justice.  It is HUGE – enough for 2, but I struggled through it alone.  😉

The only thing I can think of that would make this trip better was if my kids, and grand-kids could join us.   There is a HUGE heated pool here and a very large playground with swings, human powered merry-go-round, teter-toter, and other things for kids to do.  Maybe next time…….

 

 

Day 9-10 travel to Mt. St. Helens

Campground at Yellowstone Grizzly West Yellowstone.
Campground at Yellowstone Grizzly West Yellowstone.

Suffice it to say that 1-12 hour day driving followed by a 6 hour drive makes an old man tired. See previous posts for details up through Leaving Yellowstone.  However, when all is said and done we are blessed and thankful to not have had made it without incident.  After arriving at the KOA in Castle Rock Washington, we have driven the RV 2910 miles, and the “toad” almost an additional 2000 miles.

We left West Yellowstone at 8:45am with a different route out of town so we could see more local sites, and less interstate traffic.  It turned out to be a great plan as the back roads traffic was very light and the scenery was magnificent.

Danger-narrow-road-downhillAfter some hair raising construction in Idaho going into Washington with 2 way single narrow lane traffic on a 6% grade, we made it 12 hours to the Walmart in Moses Lake Washington.  We bedded down as far as we could from anyone in the far away corner of the parking lot only to wake up to be surrounded by other over nighters.

We left the Walmart at 6:00 am Pacific time and made very good time to reach Castle Rock Washington at around 1:00 pm.  By 2:30 we were checked in, setup, ate a sandwich, and were on our way to SEASIDE, Oregon.

Seaside OR, was a very nice public beach area and a quaint little town.  ( NOTE: In the state of Oregon, apparently you are not allowed to pump your own gas ).  The temperature at mid-day was 63 degrees and windy so it was too cold to swim, but not too cold to enjoy the view and absorb the beach atmosphere for a while.  We stayed there for about an hour and took a few family photos and got Norma’s feet wet in the Pacific ( checked off the bucket list ) and headed back to Red Lobster.   You can’t visit the beach and not eat seafood.  That would be un-American.

Ship Named after me !
Ship Named after me !

Before we got to Seaside Beach, there were huge cargo ships out in the bay area and a fantastic older steel bridge that was extremely high to allow for ships to go under.  We pulled off and walked out into the bay on a pier and saw some wild sea life that were barking or singing a song out of tune 🙂   Looked like sea lions and there were several of them at the end of the boat docks, but one was swimming up close to the pier and seemed to be expecting to be fed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8 – Yellowstone to Tetons and back

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

This is our 4th and final day at the wonderful West Yellowstone Grizzly campground which we grade a 5-star class resort campground.  On our 8th day of vacation but 4th day at Yellowstone we left the campground and drove down to the Tetons via Yellowstone and came out the South entrance.  We had paid $30 for a weeks entrance fee to Yellowstone which covered our fee to the Tetons NP as well.

Welcome to Tetons National Park
Welcome to Tetons National Park

This was supposed to be a 2.5 hour trip, but due to road construction and wildlife sitings it took closer to 3 hours to get to the entry of the Tetons NP.   There was a very nice young couple that asked us to take their photo together at the sign, and they reciprocated. with the photo here.  The park had been highly recommended, and it was obvious why once we got to the point where we could see the sharp snowy mountains the the clear calm lakes below.  It really was breathtaking.

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We arrived in the Tetons National Park around 1:00 pm local time and had lunch at a first class diner in the Signal Mountain Lodge.  The service was good and food was even better.   They had a few things that Steven could eat as well.  We had a blackberry pie for dessert which was AWESOME.   The waiter didn’t understand what blackberry cobbler was, so he wanted to clarify that this would be pie, not cobbler 🙂    I was happy with either.

We consumed about a 1/2 tank of gas making the round trip which consisted of an outer Yellowstone return to West Yellowstone Grizzly campground.   It took about 3 hours to get there, and we visited for about 3 hours, and the return trip was a bit longer since we took the long way back to see different scenery.   We saw more real life scenery coming back through Idaho back into Montana.   There were ranches, farms, and fields of “mint” that smelled wonderful.  We didn’t know what it was at first, but the aroma and a little google searching confirmed it was mint.

Please enjoy a few of the photos we took from today below.

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Days 5-6 at Yellowstone

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Well, we arrived after a long day of driving from Mt. Rushmore via Rapid City to I-90 since there were width and height restrictions on hwy 385.  This cost us a few more miles, and time, but not worth the risk of having to back out of a tunnel that you don’t fit through.  We took I-90 from Rapid City to hwy 191 and drove down the mostly easy 2-way traffic but had wide lanes and very few hills to worry about.

We arrived at our reserved campsite at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park.   The greeters were EXCELLENT, friendly and helpful.  We were concerned that we were arriving too late to check in at around 7:30 pm. but they stay open until 9:00 pm for late arrivals.   We had reserved a pull through site, and it was convenient to everything and only about 3 blocks from the West Entrance to Yellowstone NP.

Mike, Venita, Hanna, Hope, and Luke.
Mike, Venita, Hanna, Hope, and Luke.

Our good friends from our home town in Alabama had planned a very similar tour of the U.S. without our knowledge until they saw our post on facebook and they called to tell us they would be at Yellowstone for part of the same time we are here.   They gave us great tips on what to do and see and where to eat.   We met them for a meal the night we arrived and they seemed to have an abundance of good times to share with us.  I only wish we had more time to absorb some of their great stories.

 

We began our first real day of adventures by entering the park at around 6:30 a.m. on the West entrance and headed directly for the lower geyser basin which is the south loop through the NP.   We saw osprey perched in the top of a tree overlooking a river that you would expect to see people fly fishing in – shallow, wide and gently flowing.  Shortly after that we saw some buffalo followed by another buffalo or two, then a herd of buffalo, and some more buffalo scattered out among the flat areas before we saw the larger herd of buffalo.   Did I mention seeing buffalo too?

There were several basins, springs, geysers, and mud pots, heading to our primary site of seeing Old Faithful.   The NP is well marked with street signs and arrows pointing you in the right direction, but it does help to have one of their printed maps that we picked up at the campground.  There are also a few scattered gas stations and facility rooms around the park.  When we arrived at Old-Faithful we found a gift shop, restaurant, lodge, visitor center, and a bit of parking lot construction going on.  It was laid out and organized fairly well, but I don’t recommend driving the bit rig in, as it wasn’t THAT roomy.   The Visitor Center and gift shops posted when the next expected eruption was to take place and it was accurate to within a minute.

ONLINE-Old-Faithful-WebCamWhile we waited for the next eruption, I spotted the camera that the park uses for their live streaming web-cam of old-faithful. So as cheesy as it sounds, I called my friends back home to let them see that we were actually here safe and sound via their web browser.

Please enjoy these photos  of our tour in Yellowstone that we have enjoyed so much.   We have driven 681 miles in two days.  This covers both the North and South loops and Lamar Valley where we saw most of the wildlife.  We did get out for some short hikes, but mostly just site seeing, and taking hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos.

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Embark on a new Adventure

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Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas — get ready, here we come.   We have been planning and budgeting for this trip for over a year now.  This is one of our “bucket list” dreams is to finish visiting all 50 of these Blessed United States.   After this trip we still lack Maine, and Connecticut.  However, this marks off a lot of the remaining states for us.   I can’t wait.

We have planned 3 weeks +/- of vacation time for me.  My wife gets every summer off from the school system so she won’t have to burn any of her vacation time.  We are leaving after I work a full day to get a head start on the first leg of our drive.   We hope to get to Mt. Vernon Illinois the first night, then wake up early to drive another 12 hours the next day to get to Mt. Rushmore.  Our 2 night stay should be enough to see the monument and take several photos and then head on to the lengthiest stay of our journey which will be Yellowstone National Park.

yellowstone3 yellowstone2yellowstone1

We hope to see a lot of Yellowstone, but realize that the size of the park is just too large to see everything.   Norma has planned for us to see the highlights at least.  Starting with Old Faithful,  Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Heyden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake, North Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, Tower Falls, Lower Geyser Basin, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and all the wildlife that we can photograph with a zoom lens.  You won’t hear about me on the news being trampled by a buffalo, or mauled by a bear.

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We will be using a combination of dry docking, or boondocking, and paid for locations at each park.  We plan to see Mount Rushmore first Rushmoreas we rotate counter clockwise through the country.  We have friends that have given us advise on what to see and how to navigate around the hills area.  I will post later where we stay at each stop and how it measured up to our standards.  We have everything booked, reserved and first night paid for at each stop.
Then we move on to Yellowstone National park and invest the largest single amount of time of our 3+ week tour.  We plan to stay 5 nights and 4 days to see as much as we can.   I have promised my co-workers that I will call them while standing in front of the live web-cam at “Old Faithful”  and wave so they can see that I haven’t been just making this up :-).  Check out the live streaming web cam here.
StHelensThen we move on to Mt St Helens in WA state.  This will be another 2 day drive from Yellowstone to Mt St Helens, and we will dry dock again one night to get us by until we get there.   Another webcam is available here but it is not a live streaming video feed, just a static image that refreshes every few minutes.  Still a nice view.
More to come……

Recent RV Adventure

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First RVing adventure of the season.

Well,
As usual the week started out beautiful, warm, and sunny as I witnessed from my office.  My wife is also off work this week for Spring Break so what better time to get in the RV, hook up the tow car (toad), and head out on another adventure.

Newmar Dutch Star

We wanted to go somewhere we haven’t been for a while.  We spent a couple of days searching, and reading reviews on several places within an hour or two from the house.  The decision we came to was to leave Thursday and stay the weekend at Desoto State Park in Fort Payne Alabama.   It has beautiful scenery, and is a difficult enough drive for us to test towing the car up mountains and around fairly tight curves and obstacles.

[Photos of RVing at Desoto State Park]

So, the 100% guaranteed forecast every time we go camping, it turned off rainy, foggy, and cold.   BUT ALAS, that did not deter us from our long awaited adventure and getting out and enjoying our RV.   So much for sunshine, and warm weather.  IT IS GOING TO RAIN IF WE GO RVing !!!!

Told you it was foggy !
Told you it was foggy !

We are very blessed to have several friends that decided to join us and we followed each other to the beautiful Desoto State Park.  Traffic was mild as we had hoped it would be since we decided to drive after the 8:00 rush hour was over.  We had no issues driving up the steep mountain other than one of those huge oversized crane’s that have 10 axles was going 15 miles per hour up the mountain to the campground.   When we arrived we were greeted with hostesses that were exceptionally helpful and friendly.

We were checked in by 10:30 in the morning and were driving to the pull through sites which both of us benefited from.  However once we got everything disconnected from the tow car, and his truck disconnected from his fifth-wheel.  We realized the sites were a little more uphill than they appeared.   My camper had to sit the front bumper on the ground by evacuating the air from the suspension, while raising the back jacks to the point that the rear tires are just barely off the ground <yikes>.   But, again, I am happy to be RVing with my wife and friends.

After about an hour of levelling, and hooking up electric, water, sewer, and putting the slides out.   We also stretched out the awnings for the first time since last season.   I ALWAYS get my wife to check the faucets while I turn the water on ( read other pages to find out why ).  The kitchen faucet blew completely off the sink due to over pressure and it appears it may have frozen and cracked over the winter.   Anyway, no big deal, there is a Lowes at Fort Payne and we picked up a repair part and replaced the sink nozzle.

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Our friends also were working out some kinks from their winter storage too.   They got settled in just to find out they have no hot water.   So we worked with that for a short while.   GOOGLE is great for troubleshooting, but in this case everyone who posted their problems, and their fixes were all unique.   Nothing in common with his problem.  So my fall back strategy is to take things apart one screw at a time until I find the problem.

We checked fuses, circuit breakers, power, tried lighting the gas pilot light with a manual charcoal starting lighter.  All to no avail.   I started taking things apart to see deeper into the problem, and the only thing I noticed was that their was a normal oxidation from being an outside appliance.  There was normal wear and tear from a gas burning element which left a little rust like residue inside the burner tube.   We vacuumed that out, and cleaned everything we could find with a steel bristle tooth-brush.  When we put it all back together we asked the ladies to turn it on and see what might happen, and POOF.   It light right up immediately which I wasn’t really expecting because we didn’t really do anything but scrub off the oxidation and put it back together.

Summary after thought was that cleaning everything and tightening everything back must have grounded wires back to a better surface connection.   For whatever reason, it works so we took credit for fixing it like we knew what we were doing.  Our wives were happy that their skilled men fixed a critical and life dependency for hot water.

No better day than today to go RVing!   I love my camping adventures.!!!!

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