April 4, 2013 by Barry & Monique Zander · Comments Off 

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By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

We’ve been traveling cross-country for two weeks now on our way to the Canadian Maritimes from California.  I’ll let you know more about the travels in Part 3 of this article.

PART 1 – FREE OVERNIGHT PARKING – From my “I wish I could find the picture I took Department,” I send along this:

In Mark Polk’s March edition of RV Consumer Magazine — — he has a brief item about Walmart parking, which probably applies to all one-night on-the-road no-charge parking places.   He mentions how putting down the jacks on hot asphalt to level the rig can damage the parking lot surface.

We have seen several instances of what we feel is parking-lot abuse during our travels, but none so memorable as the Scamp mini-trailer on the edge of a parking lot with awning out, rug down, barbecue going and chairs and tables all arranged.  It looked like the owners had set up camp for the week.

We try not to be judgmental, but put yourself in the role of store manager.  You can understand why he or she would think about putting the lot off-limits for overnight RV parking.  Most managers of businesses work hard to preserve an image of a clean property.  We hope you consider yourself their guests.


Anyone traveling the highways of America for many years has found comfort in knowing that if a vehicle is disabled along the road, the first rescuers are usually 18-wheeler jockeys.  That’s the way it used to be, but it’s rare nowadays.  Two things have contributed to the change.  First, many if not most long-haul truckers are not only on schedules controlled by computers, but they are often watched by satellites from the company headquarters.  Time is money, and as much as a majority of truckers don’t like it, they put up with it to hold onto their jobs and qualify for perks.  The other, according to a member of that tribe, is that attitudes have changed.  He indicated the days of the proud professional trucker is over.  They have a job to do and that’s all that matters.

April beautiful, no matter where you are.  Seeing the dogwoods and redbud trees in the Deep South makes our journey all the better.

April is beautiful, no matter where you are. Seeing the dogwoods and redbud trees in the Deep South makes our journey all the better. © All photos by Barry Zander.

PART 3 – OUR TRAVELS – We scooted across Texas, opting for the back roads whenever we could and stopped in New Orleans.  That visit was what many of us RVers consider to be the best thing about our way of life:  we got to visit with family while touring the Audubon Park Zoo, Aquarium, Insectarium and French Quarter.

Our first stop, though, was to eat six pounds of boiled crawfish at a seafood market.  Then RV park neighbor Bob supplied us with delicious salty oysters, boiled crabs and filleted speckled trout.  Another great part of our way of life.  Thanks, Bob. One more N’Awlins comment – we’ve been to the World War II Museum twice.  If there is any way you can get to the Big Easy, make sure you go.  The film is spectacular and the museum will impress just about everyone.

From New Orleans we crossed into Mississippi, and we’re now in Vicksburg., home of four casinos and a raft of museums, including the first Coca-Cola bottling company.  The Vicksburg National Military Park, part of the National Park system, is one of a kind.

From here, we head toward Alabama, Tennessee and North and South Carolina; however, our plans have changed at least four times so far.  That helps us qualify as the Never-Bored RVers.

PART 4 – COMPUTERING — In the last blog, I announced that our new website is  If you’ve visited it, I’d like your comments.  [].  Unlike all the stores that ask you to tell them about the service you’ve received, not only won’t you win anything, but I won’t track your buying habits.

Mark Polk, who I mentioned in Part 1, has a dynamic, absolutely enviable website.  His would be a great model to aspire to.  As for me, it’s been months since I applied for a website name.  That’s when I found out that was taken, and that eventually led to the site

In response to previous articles, here are some of the comments I’ve received:


I am a web designer who understands all too easily the difficulties one can encounter on creating and keeping your blogs and business up-to-date …  I understand the task of what a contracted web designer does. It takes time to create websites, and unless the client is not clear or concise on what he/she needs, the effort to get the full picture takes time and therefore costs money. So many factors involved.  – Skyjunk

NOTE:  I’ve received several emails with offers to help or give advice on setting up websites.  Sorry, but I can’t pass along the information of a for-profit nature.

We were at Chaco Canyon last year (March 2012). We came in via the northern road, which was not too bad except for some short washboard sections.  We were driving our 19-ft Class C Provan Tiger.  However, we came in only a couple of days after one of the periodic regradings of the road.  Our friends went in the same way a week or ten days later and said it was pretty bad for them, so I guess the road degrades rather quickly.

They were glad they left their Casita TT in Albuquerque and did the canyon as a day trip for that reason, but too really appreciate the site and all the ruins, you need to spend several days there.  Chaco Canyon is an amazing place, and even the experts are just now beginning to uncover the history of the place.  If only those ancient ones had a written language to help us understand their way of life, and to perhaps document the demise of that culture. – Jim Carpenter

Howdy Monique & Barry, Thanx, for the Chaco Canyon write-up!! Joyce has done it and thoroughly agrees with y’all….  – Joyce & Butterbean Carpenter

Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories of Chaco Canyon. We visited in 2009 in our PleasureWay Class B entering from the South and exiting on the Northern route – hoping it would be a better road; – as you had heard, it was not! 

As did you, we experienced profound feelings of connectedness with the Ancient Civilizations.  Would we do it again?  We now have a Class C and would not take this type of vehicle across those roads so well described in your blog. The Class B did well with very slow and careful driving.  Looking forward to your future blogs, – Marlene in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

We  spent several days in the area and our 40-foot motorhome was safely parked in an RV park about 20 miles away. There are many historical sites in the vicinity and we got to most of them. We spent an entire day in Chaco Canyon…it was worth every bump in that dusty road. Isn’t it hilarious that once within the park all the interior roads were paved and smooth!

PS We will be doing your Maritimes Trip with the FMCA Tour Connection in 2014 so we can’t wait to read your blog about it this year.  – Marcy Krauss

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Because of the numerous Spam comments on this site, the comments section has been deactivated.  Please email us at and I will pass along your comments.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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March 3, 2013 by Barry & Monique Zander · 3 Comments 

By Barry Zander’s blog readers

The mailbags are being emptied into our email Inbox, so it’s time to catch up with some of your comments sent to our email address,

Three notes:  I have responded to a few of  your comments; Each new comment starts with the first few words in BOLD CAPS; and I’m saving a very informative note from Diane Lamirande of Quebec for an upcoming blog.  Now for the your input:

THANK YOU.  WE ARE NEWBIES to RVing having spent last year with a 5th wheel and now graduated to a Class A. This year will be our first real long distance trip up the East Coast into New England. Reading your post it as if you were standing over our shoulders during the planning process!

Admittedly, my husband did the majority of the mapping, locating campgrounds, etc., but it has been an arduous task for both of us. We aren’t comfortable enough yet to “wing it” as many of our experienced friends so we want the security of knowing where we will stay, get fuel and all that goes with these adventures. At least we know we are not alone pouring over maps, guides and endless searching on the Internet.

I did find your comment about working with reservation schedules for locations in the north eastern states amusingly familiar. (We too are currently on hold waiting for a park in New Hampshire.)

A safe & wonderful trip to you! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Susan Fucci, Tampa, Fl

P.S.  We will also be in the DC area during our trek.  It would be a pleasure if our paths cross!

TWO THINGS TO BE AWARE OF [when traveling in the Maritimes] — few locations for propane fill ups, unless you have portable tanks  and few dump stations.  Often Home Hardware stores have fixed RV tank propane

A fellow RVer from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia  Jewell&Krane

AND ONCE AGAIN your article mirrors what is going on in our house. We just finished our plans, more or less, for this year’s trip. We are leaving on Monday and heading to Myrtle Beach (to visit friends) then into VA, DC, New England (husband does some consulting work up there each spring) and then the real trip begins, this year heading to New Mexico, Arizona, back to Colorado (was there last year) and North Platte, NE for Rail Fest. Then a quick run to the Chicago area to visit our daughters and then home, some time in October.

I totally understand the reservation challenges you mention as we, too, have experienced this recently. We are planning to stay in Greenbelt Park in MD – NPS (National Park Service) and 13 miles from the White House. Turns out, our timing puts us in DC around cherry blossom time. But their site states they NEVER fill up, so we are taking them at their word. But between the membership campgrounds (Thousand Trails, some Coast to Coast through a reciprocal arrangement with somebody else) and public vs. private combined with location it can really be a challenge.

On top of that, we prefer not to spend 8 hours on the road when we do move from place to place so I have to try to find little quick stopover places (Pilot/Flying J, Cabella’s, Camping World, etc.)

I think I’m done now but the only actual reservation made for any part of the trip after the consulting is at the Grand Canyon. The New England dates are a bit fuzzy at the moment so I have had to guesstimate and will be able to finalize once we know when my husband’s work will be done. But the advanced planning has at least told me where I want to stay and for how long. Definitely not a quick chore.

It is great, though, to search online for things to see and do and have the flexibility to say, “Hey, there’s a bunch of stuff here, let’s spend a week or more.” I am grateful every day for my wandering lifestyle and my little house on wheels (21′ Fun Finder, 2 adults, 3 cats.)

I love reading your blog and look forward to more of it during your travels this year!  Linda Frechette

If you ever cross New Brunswick, Maritimes, we are 10 minutes from the Quebec border, exit 32 on the Trans-Canada Highway at our base RV Place in the summer and please stop and we will have a lobster supper or steak and lobster !!!  We like to host our US friends when they pass along our nice Interstate.

Denise and René Boucher, presently in Fort Myers Beach  for the Winter!

I RECENTLY READ YOUR ARTICLE on planning your route and found it very informative.  One thought when traveling the New England states.  We visited several years ago and chose a hub-and-spoke method, which worked quite well.  We would find a campground central to the area we wanted to visit.  Then we would plan day trips around the area to visit things we wanted to see and do.

In the New York city area we stayed in Poughkeepsie and took the trains into the city or drove to other places such as West Point.  We did the same in the Boston area staying outside the city and using public transportation.  Since distances were fairly short we could visit several states from one location.  This also reduced our fuel costs since our truck was either parked at a station or driven without our rig.

Just an idea.  Mark Moon

Thanks for the suggestion, Mark.  It’s definitely a good idea that we’re trying to implement.  That’s a big advantage of Northeastern travel.

THIS PAST SUMMER my beautiful wife humored me and tagged along to northern Idaho to experience two-and-a-half months of boondocking in a cow pasture while I drove a long-logger.  Our hosts were my boss and his mother, but the real hosts were 15 cows, one horse with identity issues and however many chickens that managed to avoid becoming dinner either for us or the raccoons.

We’ve boondocked many times but that was the longest time span and we had a blast. The cows were especially entertaining and there was a steep learning curve regarding “cow-proofing” our front yard. As cows will be cows and never miss an opportunity for licking salt, it was common to wake up in the morning and find our BBQ knocked over from the less than graceful critters licking the grill after we cooked of all things, steaks.

Enjoy your trip. We’ll be heading back to our home in Cody, Wyoming, from the Coastal Bend of Texas at the end of April. In the last year-and-a-half we’ve only been home for three weeks and we’re looking forward to being back home with a real yard, shower and toilet. We love RVing and as a haz-mat tanker driver I can work anywhere I want but I think we’ve had enough adventure for now, at least until the ice starts to build up again in Wyoming. Joe Hunnicutt


[IN RESPONSE TO YOUR QUESTION about our stay in Rockhound State Park, New Mexico, it] was great.  The campsites are big and well spaced, but only 5 or 6 can be reserved in advance.  The others are first come first served, so make a reservation, or get there early.  Check out time is 2pm.  We had to take overflow camping in the group site the first night.  It was cramped with four of us in 3 spaces, but we had electricity and water. The second night we had a reservation for site 17. A great, level site with a fantastic view.

It is supremely quiet with stargazing opportunities.  There are no shade trees. There are some well-maintained hiking trails and rocks galore if you want to collect some.  They allow digging and taking the rocks with you.

It is a desert park, so expect gravel sites and xeriscaping.  Not much green grass, but well maintained and clean. The wind may blow so watch your awning.  [I asked, because when we visited we were disappointed that we didn’t find what we consider “collectible” rocks.  We liked the park itself.]

We love your posts and look forward to following you and Monique in this next adventure.  We are planning a trip that will take us through DC and South Carolina next fall, so we will follow your trip closely.

If your route takes you through Amarillo, TX let me know.  We would like to meet you.  There are several private campgrounds nearby and Palo Duro Canyon State Park is about 20 miles from here, or there is plenty of room in the pasture behind our house if you want to park here.  Thanks again for your input.  Mickey

HI, FIRST LET ME SAY WE ENJOY your blog and all the trip reports, pictures, etc.  Wanted to comment on the guy looking for recommendations on an RV.  We have a 2008 Roadtrek Popular equipped with all we have needed in traveling this US and Canada.  Sure, it is a tight fit for us at times, but can park any place, climb any mountain road, great gas mileage and best of all I can park it in our driveway and none of the neighbors complain.  In 2011 we drove from Louisiana to Alaska.  Only stayed in one place for any length of time, which was Kenai for our grandson came up to play summer ball.  We visited all the towns on all the main roads, met some wonderful folks.  Plan to return!

Once we returned home we rested 3 weeks and headed toward Nova Scotia for me to chase my Cajun roots.  We traveled the entire Providence, along with Prince Edward Island and some of the places where I had worked in New Brunswick when traveling for the company I worked for.  This past year we traveled I-90 all the way across South Dakota, East to West, seeing sites along the way, then up to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Decided it was time to ease toward home thru’ all back roads we hadn’t traveled before. Saw beautiful country. Now we know what “fracking for oil” is.  Came upon places with only a four-mile block of phone coverage.

The Roadtrek has served us well … Yes, we could do with more storage, but have done without nothing and seen lots of God’s country that we have been so blessed to enjoy.

You guys have a wonderful enjoyable safe trip.  Looking forward to reading your reports.  If for no other reason to see what we may have missed.  By the way our ages are 80 and 74, God has blessed us!

Martha & Billy

I HAVE RECENTLY STARTED reading (and enjoying) your blog on Do you have a Facebook page for us to keep up with your travels?

[Yes, I have a Facebook page, which is relatively unused.  For blogging, I have two concerns about using “social media” for postings.  First, friends might be reluctant to stay in touch, afraid they may ask a question that’s in the blogs they don’t read, and, second, I feel one of the greatest value of my RV blogging comes from comments from you and other readers.  I did a series during our trip to Alaska (more on that soon) -- we all learned a lot from the hundreds of knowledgeable comments attached to the blogs.] Larry and Ann Maynard

I stopped putting this blog together for a few minutes to respond to a Facebook message from my ol’ buddy Sam Casey in Florida.  When I asked him if he had read my recent blogs, his response: Sam wrote: “I haven’t, Barry. But, I’ll take a peek. Travel safe.”  That’s a perfect example.

And Sam wrote back last night with this comment:  “BARRY, NICE ARTICLE. Enjoyed the read. While reservations aren’t my style (haven’t made one in 5 years), I understand the need for those on a schedule. Like you, I stay off the blue roads. Of course, full timing offers the advantage of hitting the highly popular areas during the “shoulder season.” has been extremely helpful in locating campgrounds, particularly during the busy camping season. There’s usually a few sites held out for walk-ups in public campgrounds accepting reservations, with some parks being first come, first served. You just can’t beat the ambiance. Arriving on Sun-Wed will generally insure a spot through the weekend. There are quite a few gems in city and county parks across the country. If you aren’t already familiar with the site, perhaps it will help. Travel safe.”

I WANT TO LET YOU KNOW how envious most of us out there are of you two and your travels.  I get your blog through I would like to get them directly as they encourage me to get out there and live my dream. [Again, if they were sent individually, other readers would miss out on the comments.] I have been dreaming about full-timing since “Travels with Charlie” and Charles Kuralt and his travels “On The Road”. Granted, I was a bit younger but the feelings and dreams have never left me.

I’ve finally gotten the RV of my dreams and have, at last, retired. What is keeping me anchored to my current spot? Well, I really can’t justify the delay. I can only say that every time I read your blog I laugh and enjoy and am motivated to get up the next day and move a few steps closer to my goal. I’ve had some health issues w/one of my eyes but am beginning to manage that. One excuse swirling down the drain. The big issue is getting rid of all of my stuff, cleaning up my place and really getting my rear on board and off to new adventures.

I have plans to go east in the Fall to visit a friend in Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving, January in Quartzite, February in New Orleans for Madi Gras and on to Alaska and across Canada, for the summer of 2014. Obviously, my plans are a bit grandiose for 2013/2014; however; I just feel so rushed to do all I must do before I slow down and fulfill the grander plan of seeing all of the national parks that I haven’t seen. Obviously, I need to do a better plan but haven’t gotten there yet.

Please continue to blog regularly and send me a direct connection to your Alaska adventures and your website when you get it the way you want it.  I so look forward to all of your blogs of your trip through the East Coast and Canada.

Best to you for your travels and keep us posted w/all of the fun and especially the mistakes,  Nancy

In response to The Road to Enon blog, WE ONCE SPONTANEOUSLY DECIDED to tent camp with canoe, two kids, and a dog. The idea was to get to Flagstaff Lake, put gear and all of us in the canoe, and paddle to the campsite. After several hours of driving and dark soon approaching we realized how ridiculous our plan was. Not to mention how far we’d have had to paddle. I whipped out our map of Maine and found Rangeley Lake State Park. We booked one of the last two available sites. When we got to the site with the campground wood, turns out to have been waste from a furniture maker, the kids built with the wooden “blocks”. We canoed on several ponds nearby and had a blast. We didn’t get lost, but made a major change in plans. That was one of the best camping trips we ever had. Now we have a teardrop a third kid and no pets. We also have a teardrop and rooftop tent. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do more exploring this summer!

I love reading about the adventures on this blog. We’re trying our best to enjoy as much as we can with our kids and will also be happy campers when we become empty nesters. I read your blog and live vicariously in the future.  Thank you!  Jacquie

And one more, from a blog comment follow-up conversation:

“Barry and Monique,
It sounds like you have quite a trip planned.  I’m just curious, though, how does Canada treat traveling with a firearm?  I always have a handgun in my domicile regardless of it being our permanent residence or our temporary home (RV).  We would like to tour Canada someday, but this is something for us to consider.
Any thoughts?”

MY RESPONSE – You are not allowed to take firearms into Canada, and it’s a situation where the risk from trying to smuggle one in is much worse than any benefit.  You’ll very rarely hear of any violence there, so why would you need to take a firearm?  We took along bear spray when traveling through Canada to Alaska, which we feel is all the defense we need against the unlikely event of a crime against person.  In other words, I recommend that you park your gun at the door.  Barry

On behalf of our readers, thanks for your contributions.  Comments from you put a much richer light on topics related to RVing.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Because of the numerous Spam comments on this site, the comments section has been deactivated (I received 438 spam entries on one blog).  Please email us at and I will pass along your comments.

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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Meet the GO! by SylvanSport

September 4, 2011 by Rex Vogel · 22 Comments 

At SylvanSport, a Brevard, North Carolina-based startup company, Tom Dempsey and his team of designers set out to put the cool back into pop-up campers.

Tom Dempsey sits inside a GO camper with a customer's two dogs, Diggidy and Gertie. The GO pop up camper, built by Sylvan Sport, is a highly engineered 800-pound camper that can carry extra outdoor equipment such as canoes and bicycles and be towed by a small car. (Credit:

Tom Dempsey sits inside a GO camper with a customer's two dogs, Diggidy and Gertie. The GO pop up camper, built by Sylvan Sport, is a highly engineered 800-pound camper that can carry extra outdoor equipment such as canoes and bicycles and be towed by a small car. (Credit:

As an entrepreneur, Dempsey saw an opportunity to make camping, already a relatively affordable vacation option, more comfortable for a new generation, reported the Asheville Citizen-Times.

They came up with the Go, an 800-pound lightweight but solidly constructed platform that turns into a spacious living quarters that you can tow behind a Prius, instead of a huge pickup. The Go is billed as “Mobile Adventure Gear” rather than a trailer, which brings to mind the old-fashioned aluminum box on wheels.

“Pop-up campers are part of the entry-level RV world, which hasn’t really changed in the last 40 years,” Demspey said. “We wanted to take the pop-up camper out of the RV world into the REI world.”

The Go has proved a hit with enthusiasts eager to drive cross-country to Brevard to pick up their $8,000 campers, ordered online. Dempsey sees “a massive paradigm shift away from SUVs and big trucks to more compact cars, but people still want to play even if they own a Prius, so we hitched our wagon to a trend to more efficient vehicles.”

Dempsey got his start out of college as an industrial designer for Coleman, a leader in camping equipment, including those pop-up campers that your parents might have used on their summer vacations.

Dempsey went on to become a serial entrepreneur, starting up a medical supply company in Huntsville, Alabama, before returning to his first love—recreation. He was able to transfer much of the plastics injections technology from his first company into a successful kayak company, Liquid Logic, near Brevard, North Carolina.

The gearhead generation

But Dempsey kept thinking about those pop-up campers and how to make them cool for a new generation. Seven years ago, he started yet another company, SylvanSport, to see his vision through.

The Go, an 800-pound lightweight but solidly constructed platform that turns into a spacious living quarters. (Credit:

The Go, an 800-pound lightweight but solidly constructed platform that turns into a spacious living quarters. (Credit:

He enlisted the aid of Kyle Mundt, an industrial engineer who had worked for Johnson Outboard Motors designing GPS units and fish finders, and Tom Reeder, a mechanical engineer who had a background in precision metal manufacturing at Cane Creek Cycling.

They wanted to design a product that would appeal to “gear heads”— those outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate well-designed mountain bikes, kayaks, backpacking, or rock climbing equipment.

“We put our energy, time, dollars into truly engineering a piece of gear,” Mundt said inside a Go that he and Dempsey popped out in just 10 minutes. “We have a custom aluminum, tigue-welded extension frame that you would find in the best mountain bikes.”

“People think, ‘Oh, a tent on wheels’ and then they see one and fall in love. There’s a market out there,” Mundt said.

Camping has changed as people want to tote more gear with them to the outdoors, be it mountain bikes or kayaks. By the time you get everything stuffed in the back or tied on top, you’ve run out of room for the dog. The Go can haul all the gear, as well as provide two comfortable beds off the ground.

That versatility is what sells many customers, Dempsey said. The Go serves as a ready-made trailer to cart a motorcycle or lawn tractor or take home the refrigerator you bought at the store.

That interest in the cool camper cuts across a large demographic. One couple picked up their Go in Brevard and immediately set off for Alaska with it in tow.

Meet the Go! All ready to Go! (Credit:

Meet the Go! All ready to Go! (Credit:

Some 200 Gos have been sold to date, and Dempsey sees interest expanding. Triatheletes, kayakers, musicians, families, and couples of all ages have taken to the Go.



SylvanSport was founded in 2004 to develop great gear to support an evolving sense of adventure. Adventure can be on a mountain, river, or in your backyard.

Their team brings decades of experience designing and making outdoor products from the most respected companies. They offer products that blend utility, quality, and value while respecting the purity of the places our adventures take us.

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If you enjoy these articles and want to read more on RV travels and lifestyle, visit my website: Vogel Talks RVing.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the Great Lakes

August 10, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 42 Comments 

Recently ABC-TV’s Good Morning America came out with a list of “The Most Beautiful Places in America.

In alphabetical order, the list included:

Sleeping Bear Dunes image courtesy of

Sleeping Bear Dunes image courtesy of

1. Asheville, North Carolina
2. Aspen, Colorado
3. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
4. Destin, Florida
5. Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
6. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
7. Newport, Rhode Island
8. Point Reyes, California
9. Sedona, Arizona
10. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

Obviously, all of these places are spectacular. Majestic mountains, sweeping vistas, gorgeous sunsets over water – they all very much deserve to be on such a list.

But it got me to thinking: Only one spot from the Great Lakes region? Surely there’s others, right? Where’s Hocking Hills, Ohio … or Door County, Wisconsin … or New River, West Virginia … just to name a few?

Obviously, the Great Lakes/Midwest needs its own list.

I now invite you to submit your nomination for the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the Great Lakes.” No rules, no limitations, no prizes, and no handcuffing on what places would be considered in the “Great Lakes/Midwest region.” Include reasons why your nominated place ought to make the list.

I’ll compile all the submissions, research them with the crack Gr8LakesCamper staff (which would be me) and then – perhaps over a beverage or two – put together the list and publish the results here in a future post. Winners will receive tremendous notoriety and a slap on the back.

From the companion blog: I continue to post something new everyday, and some recent ones that might be of interest include the one (with videos) about when my wife and I ran the Warrior Dash, a muddy, ruddy 5K that was “the craziest frickin’ day of our life.” Another good one was the two-part post about our camping trip to Montague, Michigan. The first post talks about how, while en route, one of our camper’s wheels sheared its bolts, came loose and tried to pass us on the highway. The second post reviews our campground, White River RV Park, and some of the area attractions we took in (with videos).

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog, as well as the Gr8LakesCamper YouTube channel.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan Campgrounds with Available Sites this Holiday Weekend

June 30, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 11 Comments 

Wanna hear a good one?

FYI: This is not me nor my wife; pretty sure not my kids either.

FYI: This is not me nor my wife; pretty sure not my kids either.

I’m trying to get a campsite for this coming Fourth of July weekend.

I know, I know … why wait till the last minute?

To make a long story short, we thought we’d be ferrying my sons to some baseball tournaments this weekend. But too late we were told they only have one game on Friday night, so now it’s a scramble to find a campground with an available campsite. And I’m hoping beyond all hope that these campsites are mostly level, somewhat shaded and not at all close to anyone with a case of firecrackers. That, and clean facilities.

I know, I know … you get what you deserve.

Fortunately, the Michigan Chapter of the Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds just issued a list of their member campgrounds who have available campsites this weekend. I’m saved, although now all my lectures to my kids about not waiting till the last minute to do their homework/chores/ etc. have been shot to you know where!

Campgrounds reporting availability for the holiday weekend include:

Beaver Trail Campground, West Branch (989-345-7745)
Cedarville RV Park, Cedarville (906-484-3351)
Clementz’s Northcountry Campground, Newberry (906-293-8562)
Coolwater on the Pine, Wellston (231-862-3481) We have stayed at this campground and it is okay. It is heavily used by large groups of canoer/campers during the warmer summer weekends, however. Also, most sites are not big rig friendly and, again, be sure to ask for a site away from the rowdy canoer/campers (although there might not be that many this early in the summer).
Cranberry Lake Campground, Marcellus (269-646-3336)
Duggans Canoe Livery & Campground, Harrison (989-539-7149)
Emmett KOA, Emmett (888-562-5612)
Frankenmuth Jellystone Park, Frankenmuth (989-652-6668)
Gaylord KOA, Gaylord (800-562-4146)
Holiday Camping Resort, New Era (231-861-5220)
Indian River RV Resort & Campground, Indian River (888-792-2267)
Irons RV Park & Campground, Irons (231-266-2070)
Kalkaska RV Park & Campground, Kalkaska (231-258-9863)
Kampvilla RV Park, Bear Lake (800-968-0027)
Lakeview UM Campground, Lakeview (989-352-6896)
Lighthouse Family Camping Resort, Mecosta (231-972-2112)
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, Mackinaw City (231-436-5584)
Matson’s Big Manistee River Campground, Manistee (888-556-2424)
Mio Pine Acres Campground, Mio (989-826-5590)
Moscow Maples RV Park, Moscow (517-688-9853)
Myers Lake Campground, Byron/Linden (810-266-4511)
Snow Lake Kampground, Fenwick (989-248-3224)
Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort, Traverse City (231-947-2770)
Timber Trails RV Park, Decatur (269-423-7311)
Troll Landing Campgr./Canoe Livery, West Branch (989-345-7260)
Twin Oaks Campground & Cabins, Wellston (877-442-3102) We have also stayed here. Wonderful place! Again, heavily used by canoer/campers during the warmer months, so ask for a site away from their group camping areas.
Waterways Campground, Cheboygan (888-882-7066)

Type and date(s) of site availability vary by property. This is not an all-inclusive list. This list includes campgrounds that responded back to a survey indicating availability, as of June 30. Availability subject to change. Reservations are required.

From the companion blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted at, so there’s dozens of posts on my companion blog, which I update daily. Some that you might find interesting are: Michigan Legislature names August as Camping & RVing Month; Illinois DNR pumping $12 million into state park improvements; and Summer Festivals and Events in Hocking Hills, a region every RVer needs to visit at one time in their life.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan campgrounds with available sites for Memorial Day Weekend

May 25, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

volleyballtypec-webAttention procrastinators: There are plenty of campsites – for tenters, RVers and cabin-dwellers – available at private campgrounds throughout Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas for the upcoming Memorial holiday weekend.

Courtesy of ARVC-Michigan, here is a list of campgrounds with available campsites for the Memorial Day weekend:

Fine print: Type and date(s) of site availability vary by property. This is not an all-inclusive list. This list includes campgrounds that responded back to a survey indicating availability, as of May 24, 2011. Availability subject to change. Reservations are required.

From the personal blog: I came across this Mini Surge Dual USB Charging Station that would be perfect for RVers; Wisconsin State Parks, Forest and Recreation Areas will have special events and free admission during a June 5 Open House; and I love Morels smothered in butter as much as the next guy, but hopefully the chef knows what’s a morel and what’s one of these 50 poisonous mushroom varieties.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan DNR delays closing state forest campgrounds

May 16, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 37 Comments 

Good news from the state of Michigan regarding its proposal to close 23 state forest campgrounds: it’s not gonna happen … well, not yet, anyways.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes recently tabled a director’s order to close 23 state forest campgrounds until the June 9 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting. The order was eligible for Stokes’ signature at Thursday’s NRC meeting in Flint.

My story publicizing the original proposal to close the campgrounds can be found by clicking here.

Stokes said he was tabling the order to give DNR staff more time to work on two plans to keep more of the campgrounds open. First, he wants to give DNR staff more time to discuss leasing agreements with local units of government that have expressed an interest in some of the campgrounds targeted for closure.

Stokes also wants to give the DNR’s Forest Management Division staff time to work with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division staff on a joint management agreement for some of the campgrounds. He also announced that the Lime Island State Forest Campground in the St. Marys River near Sault Ste. Marie, on the list for closure, would be transferred to the DNR Parks and Recreation Division to manage.

“It is always unfortunate when we have to close campgrounds due to budget cuts and low revenues,” Stokes said. “However, by tabling this order until the June NRC meeting, we buy some time to keep discussing options with local units of government and within the Department to keep some of these campgrounds operating this year.”

In May, the DNR announced it would be closing 23 of the 133 state forest campgrounds in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula. State forest campgrounds are rustic camping sites located within state forest land – they are not state parks. Reasons cited for the closures are a 63 percent reduction in General Fund support for the State Forest Recreation Program over the last three years and declining use and revenues.

The June 9 NRC meeting is scheduled for the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health in Lansing near the Michigan State University campus.

From the companion blog: Among other items, River Ridge Campground in Breckenridge (Mich.) will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary the weekend of May 20-21; 10 great reasons why camping during the springtime most anywhere in the Great Lakes region is a wonderful experience; a handy-dandy list of Pittsburgh area festivals and events; and Ohio going all out with a bunch of deals and discounts to lure summer travelers.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Q&A with ARVC Michigan’s New Director

May 4, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

A recent Associated Press story that made the rounds in Michigan suggested that the high cost of gasoline will have a positive impact for campground owners this summer.

People can’t afford to take an expensive vacation that includes air travel, hotels, rental cars and restaurants. Instead, they’ll choose to go camping and, furthermore, they won’t travel very far from home to do it.

Makes sense to me. A year ago people might not have even taken a vacation. But the economy is slowly coming around, at least enough for people to enjoy more affordable vacations. And camping fits neatly into this category.

Reservations at private and state campgrounds in Michigan are up by as much as 18.5 percent over last year, according to the AP article. I would suspect that this trend is not unique to Michigan and would be evident nationwide.

I wonder if this means we might just see another RV boom. These people will discover — or, in some cases, rediscover — what we all love about camping with an RV. And if they aren’t camping in an RV, more than a few will look jealously at those of us who are.

One of the people quoted in the article was Tracie Fisher, executive Tate Fisher imagedirector of the Michigan Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds. She said many campers are looking for seasonal options rather than weekend reservations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with “Tate” via email, and she answered a few questions for me.

First of all, congratulations on being named the director of ARVC Michigan! Tell us briefly about yourself and your background in RVing and camping.

Thanks for the congrats; it’s an exciting challenge for me. I’ve been involved with ARVC Michigan since 2004 when I began working as the office manager of Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, in Mackinaw City. I thought that job was going to be a piece of cake but soon found it is one of the toughest jobs I ever loved. Managing a campground is a very big job and I learned to really appreciate all the hours these park owners put into serving their guests.

I camped with my family as a kid and still love exploring new parks and places. There is something about being outdoors that rejuvenates your spirit.

I’m looking forward to visiting many ARVC Michigan member parks this summer. I want to meet them, see their parks and hear about their plans and concerns. What a great job to have — visiting campground owners in their own environment. I know I’ll learn a lot about what they need from this association.

As you begin your first year as the director, what sorts of things are first on your agenda?

Sadly, there is a trend of disappointment in the industry with park owners wondering about the value of their association membership. They are questioning the cost of membership in relation to the value they are receiving.

The first thing on my agenda is to find out what park owners need and then find a way to provide it. I’ve learned that my ideas of value may not necessarily be shared by an ARVC Michigan member. It will be my goal to hear directly from them those things they want from ARVC Michigan.

What are you hearing from ARVC Michigan members? Are they anticipating a good season, perhaps a sign that we truly are on the road to economic recovery?

It’s early in the game for me but what I’m hearing so far is that things are looking up. The downturn in the economy may have created new avenues for park owners in offering a more affordable vacation option for our citizens.

You recently hosted the ARVC Michigan Spring Convention and Trade Show. How was it?

It was surprisingly well attended with 130 attending — representing 60 parks and also 47 vendors displaying their wares. Cindy Keineth and Cathy Krueger — of Frankenmuth Jellystone had been working on it for months and really had it wrapped up nicely by the time I arrived on the scene.

ARVC Michigan had been four months without an Executive Director and these two women really stepped up to keep the convention on track. Tom Briggs, president of ARVC Michigan and owner of Grand Rogue Campground, worked to ensure that we were able to hand out a huge amount of our 2011 Campground Directories and was able to get many campground owners to take extra boxes and deliver to libraries and Chamber of Commerce in their area. It was quite a successful endeavor and it also saved us much in shipping.

Barb Youman, the senior director of administration and education of National ARVC, attended our convention and filled us in on the many great programs coming out of national this year. Most park owners seemed upbeat and ready to begin another season.

What are some of the things ARVC Michigan offers to campers? Are there plans to improve these, or add anything new?

Our website lists all our member campgrounds and provides for ease of searching by campground name, area, or amenity. It gets a lot of traffic and is a great resource for campers to find just the right kind of camping experience they are looking for. We distribute over 300,000 copies of our annual campground directory, known as “The Little Green Book” and it is a very big benefit for campers who wish to carry it with them and use it as a paper reference of where they might like to go camping.

What are the benefits ARVC Michigan offers for its members?

ARVC Michigan member benefits include a listing in our camping directory and also exposure on our web page. Both of these venues are very popular and provide great exposure.

We also offer discounts with some of our suppliers and currently the board of directors is working hard on expanding these discounts.
Our Spring and Fall conventions provide seminars which assist our members in keeping up to date on industry trends and the trade show brings over 40 suppliers together in one place for easy access to our members.

I want to reach the park owners who find it hard to leave their parks and attend conventions so I’m working with several people in a variety of industries to develop a series of online classes and informational material to the ARVC Michigan members. These will be targeted for launch in the Fall, along with a revamp of our member website which will be improved and will provide much needed access to topics which our members may have a difficult time researching for themselves.

How does the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds benefit ARVC Michigan?

Well, there are big things happening at National ARVC these days and I’m excited about getting onboard through ARVC Michigan.

They have developed several new marketing campaigns which I believe are going to really help all of us in the industry. June will bring a new “Get Outdoors and Go Camping America, It’s Easy” promotion in which members can offer a 20-percent discount coupon for camping during the June shoulder season.

I anticipate any park owners who make this available in their parks will attract new campers who just may become return campers, and that’s always a good thing. I’ll be sending information out to all our members regarding how they can use this promotion to benefit their parks.

Looking down the road a bit, where do you see ARVC Michigan after your first 3-5 years as director?

In 3-5 years I see ARVC Michigan as one of top three ARVC-affiliated associations. There is huge latitude for growth and we have an excellent board of directors, all of which are ready, willing and able to do big things for our members.

There’s an excitement in the air with Michigan winning a fair amount of travel promotion money and National ARVC digging in to create a buzz about the benefits of camping.

I see our members being entirely satisfied with what ARVC Michigan is providing them in the coming years.

I also see many more of our members stepping up to be involved in the decision making and committee projects we’ll be needing help in developing. The very best way to get your way is to be involved in the process so I’m going to be actively inviting members to join us in becoming better and stronger.

Happy camping!
Rick Kessler (Gr8LakesCamper)

From the companion blog: Ohio DNR officials are hoping to lure campers back to Grand Lake St. Marys State Park with 50-percent discounts. Officials have struggled to correct a toxic algae problem with the lake, which naturally has meant a huge drop-off in campers. Also, the popular camper storage program at select Michigan state parks and recreation areas will return this camping season to help families offset the cost of rising gas prices and enjoy their summer vacation plans. Finally, campers with reservations at Illini State Park in Illinois need to check on the status of the park as it is temporarily closed due to problems with its wastewater treatment system.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Campsite Ticket Scalpers

April 18, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 506 Comments 

Bridal veil falls, Yosemite National Park

Bridal veil falls, Yosemite National Park

Fellow RVers, I’d like to start a discussion about scalpers – not ticket scalpers, mind you, but campsite scalpers.

I recently came across this news item from The Sacramento Bee, by way of the Associated Press:

Yosemite battling pest problem: Ticket-scalpers
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Yosemite National Park has a pest problem: Ticket scalpers who are selling the limited camping reservations at exorbitant prices.
Spokesman Scott Gediman tells the Sacramento Bee that park officials are becoming more aggressive as they try to curb scalpers.
The nation’s third-most visited park has only 900 reserved campsites available at any given time. They go for $20 a night but scalpers advertising on Craigslist are offering them for $100 or more — sometimes for hundreds of dollars.
They’re also selling permits to climb Half Dome, which the park essentially issues for free.
Gediman says it appears that some scalpers may have devised ways of jumping the reservation queue, possibly through automated computer programs that can instantly snag cancellations.

My only experience with ticket scalpers is at sporting events, where it always seems to be the same guys selling tickets at the same venues, regardless of the game or event taking place. Occasionally I’ll sell or buy an extra ticket, but never more than for face value.

I have no experience with this campsite ticket scalping, and was wondering if anyone else does.

In addition, what are your thoughts on this?

This obviously sounds like its something much bigger than someone selling an unused campsite. And I certainly don’t like that someone can apparently “jump the reservation queue.” That needs to be corrected – fast.

Would you ever buy a campsite from a scalper? Would you pay more than face value for it?

I don’t think I would. For something as big as camping in Yosemite (or any other popular National Park), it would be such a big vacation that planning for it would start months in advance. That planning would include securing our campsite. If, for whatever reason, we don’t get a campsite, then I think we would pick another destination.

But, like I said, I’m curious what others have to say about this.

From the companion blog: Since we’re on the topic of National Parks, I have a post about the 2011 Yellowstone CycleFest, taking place July 23-30 at Yellowstone National Park. In addition to daily road biking, CycleFest will offer a host of exciting activities including trail walking, horseback riding, rafting, mountain biking, canoeing, gondola riding and something called “water cycling.”

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Michigan DNR looks to close 23 state forest campgrounds

April 7, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 12 Comments 

In a press release issued the same day as a meeting to determine their fate, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that the department wants to close 23 under-performing state forest campgrounds in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

There are 145 state forest campgrounds in Michigan.

The proposed closures are due to — what else — budget cuts. The state’s Forest Recreation Program has seen a 63-percent decrease in funding in the last three years.

According to the release, the order to close the 23 campgrounds will be submitted as a proposal at today’s Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting in Lansing, and will be eligible for action by DNR Director Rodney Stokes at the NRC’s May 12 meeting in Flint. If approved at the May meeting, the closures would be effective on May 19, 2011. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. today; the State Forest Campground closures is scheduled to be presented at 3 p.m. today.

Mary Dettloff, a spokswoman for the Michigan DNR, told me that state officials were very judicious when selecting which state forest campgrounds should close. Only the ones which were least used were targeted, and she said another criteria was whether other state forest campgrounds were nearby, thus offering campers a viable option.

These parks were so under-used, Dettloff said there’s no chance the state forest campgrounds which are to remain open, as well as the state park campgrounds, would be over-used. The 23 state forest campgrounds slated for closure represent a total of just 298 campsites.

“These state forest campgrounds were developed in the 1920s and 30s,” she said. “Their original purpose was to be a firebreak. But once the land was cleared they became good for camping and people were going their with their tents. But camping habits have changed. These are rustic sites with pit toilets and hand-pumps for water. People now want to be in their pop-ups or motor homes. They want to have amenities, like a pool or a playground, so they either go to our state parks, private parks or some even choose to go to national parks and forests.”

It is very important to note that we’re talking about state forest campgrounds and not state parks. State forest campgrounds are rustic sites with fewer amenities than a state park. They are unstaffed and provide a more rustic, tent camping experience. Every state forest campground is located on a river or lake, and more than 60 campgrounds have nearby pathways for non-motorized trail recreation, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observation. Accommodations range from five to 50 campsites, with group sites available. All campgrounds have vault toilets and potable water from hand pumps. Some sites are so remote they can only be accessed by a hike through woods or paddling down a river.

General Fund support for state forest recreation programs, such as the state forest campgrounds, has been reduced every year since 2009, when $72,200 was cut. In 2010, $24,100 was cut from the program, and in Fiscal Year 2011, the program is targeted for a $314,700 General Fund reduction.

“While revenue has remained even in the last decade, due to camping fee increases in 2002 and in 2007, state forest campground fees are now at the high end of the market at $15 a night per individual site,” said Cara Boucher, assistant chief of the DNR’s Forest Management Division. “Meanwhile, the number of registrations and campers has steadily dropped over the same period. Given the long-term trend of declining use and the inability to raise camp fee revenues, the only way to absorb the current cut in General Fund support is to close some campgrounds.”

To address the reduced camping demand and insufficient funding to maintain all state forest campgrounds, the DNR will close underutilized campgrounds, Boucher said.

“We will preserve the campgrounds that perform well, and provide a diverse selection for the campers,” Boucher said. “The campgrounds targeted for closure are under-performing and close to other state forest campgrounds, so we can still provide camping opportunities in those areas.”

Currently, the highest-performing state forest campground generates more than $40,000 a year annually in revenue, while the lowest-performing generates just over $300 a year.

The campgrounds targeted for closure are:
— Beaufort and Big Lake state forest campgrounds – Baraga County
— Black Lake Trail Camp – Cheboygan County
— Lime Island State Forest Campground and Cabins and Munuscong River State Forest Campground – Chippewa County
— Manistee River Bridge State Forest Campground – Crawford County
— Deer Lake State Forest Campground – Iron County
— Bray Creek State Forest Campground – Lake County
— Blind Sucker #1, High Bridge, Holland Lake, Natalie and Reed & Green Bridge state forest campgrounds – Luce County
— Black River State Forest Campground – Mackinac County
— Little Wolf Lake State Forest Campground – Montmorency County
— McCollum Lake State Forest Campground – Oscoda County
— Pigeon Bridge and Round Lake state forest campgrounds – Otsego County
— Canoe Lake, Cusino Lake, Mead Creek and South Gemini Lake state forest campgrounds – Schoolcraft County
— Long Lake State Forest Campground – Wexford County

Dettloff said these campgrounds would be permanently closed. However if a local township or county is interested in keeping them open, the DNR would be willing to partner with the municipality in order to make that happen.

To read the informational memo on the state forest campground closures provided to the NRC at the April 7 meeting, go to the NRC’s website at and click on Agendas and Minutes to find the April 7 agenda. To read the memo, click on the box for the order on page two of the agenda.

I admit that I have never camped in a state forest campground, and I understand the state must make budget cuts because the revenue simply is not available. But that doesn’t mean I have to like this. I also question the timing of this release, and the cynic in me insists that budget cuts are not equitable among every state department.

Is this the first step down a slippery slope? Are more recreational opportunities going to be eliminated? Will user fees be increased so dramatically that the cost will be out of reach for many of us?

Ironically, at this very same meeting we are supposed to hear an update on the state’s Recreation Passport program. Instead of spending $24 for an annual motor vehicle permit or boating access permit, Michigan residents are now being asked to support the Recreation Passport with an optional $10 fee when renewing their vehicle registration with the Secretary of State. If only 1 out of every 4 motorists voluntarily choose to purchase a Recreation Passport, $18 million will be generated, which would be $7 million more than the previous system. (Read more about the Recreation passport in a previous post.)

Dettloff said officials will announce at today’s meeting that the Recreation Passport is falling short of its goal of 25 percent participation. She said 20 percent — 1 in 5 people — are buying the $10 Recreation Passport. One reason for this is the fact that there has been no paid advertising campaign to support it — they don’t have the money, Dettloff said. They are hoping social media and word-of-mouth will help spread the news.

So here’s one person spreading the news: Michiganders, buy the Recreation Passport and get your friends and family and co-workers to do the same.

The future of our recreational opportunities, literally, hangs in the balance.

From the companion blog: My posts on the companion blog include one on white nose syndrome being detected in some bats in Ohio; and family fun things to do and see in Pittsburgh.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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