How to pick an open desert boondocking campsite

November 20, 2010 by Bob Difley · 1 Comment 

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By Bob Difley
DesertPavementThe desert environment and the unique desert floor terrain make open desert boondocking in many ways easier than in the national forests. You can see the road ahead far enough to detect hazards without all those trees in the way, campsites usually have enough room to turn around and to choose how you want to position your rig, and can offer options on the type of surface to park on.

Before you head down a desert road, check it out ahead by walking in a short distance and/or searching ahead with binoculars for a solid surface, free of large protruding rocks, and low, soft, sandy places where you could get stuck. You should be able to spot acceptable campsites, as most will have been used before and be recognizable as a campsite—i.e. level, hard surface, tire tracks, evidence of fire ring. Look for campsites with solid surfaces, such as “desert pavement” (photo) covered with closely packed small rocks, looking much like a pattern of irregularly shaped tiles. This type surface is very solid and will keep your rig from settling into soft sand.


With a little experience you will figure out how to orient your rig to either take advantage of cooling breezes when it’swarm or shelter you from cool winds swirling down from colder mountain tops. Consider where the sun is during the hottest part of the day and position your rig so that your awning will give you shade. Monitor the weather before you leave for any period of time. If the wind comes up and you left your windy side windows open you may come back to find a layer of fine sand over everything.

Most spots you will find will be far enough away from city or highway lights so that you can enjoy the darkness that only a clear-air desert free from smog, haze, or fog can provide. Sit out in your camp chairs after dark and listen for the scuffling nocturnal desert critters, like the comical kangaroo rat with the super long tail with a brush on the end, or the curious kit fox (photo), no bigger than a domestic house cat, checking out your rig. Keep a flash light handy to spot them–and don’t worry, it won’t frighten them.  Then settle back, look up, and enjoy the billions of galaxies and stars that make up the Milky Way.

Check out my ebooks, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts and BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands before you head out for the desert for boondocking tips and destination options.

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If you don’t like Florida for the winter, try the Southwestern Deserts

November 3, 2010 by Bob Difley · 7 Comments 


By Bob Difley

Where are the most popular winter get-aways for RV snowbirds? In a recent blog I wrote about Central Florida and the comments ranged from “Loud, crowded, dangerous, dirty, corrupt, over priced—–and that’s the good parts!” to “unbelievably ancient oaks and lovely cypresses, and, of course, the East Lake Tohopokaliga. if you can pronounce it, Come on down.”

So now, let’s look at a southwestern desert destination instead, and see what interesting and informative comments we get from those that go there. If you can’t take the humidity, don’t like the crowds flocking to Disney World, are not a fan of lush foliage and winter rain storms that are common to the Orlando area, try the Mojave and Sonora Deserts in Southeastern California and Southwestern Arizona for–what one of the Florida commenters wrote, “We spent one winter in Arizona.dust and darn near froze to death all winter. Thank god for warm Florida.”

RVers head south to the deserts mainly to leave behind the frigid and wet northern winters. Days in most of the low desert destinations will warm to the mid-50s even on the coolest days, while most of the winter rising into the middle and upper 60s and even warmer on both ends of winter. You will experience a few cold days with a cold wind and blowing dust, and snow sometimes will appear on the highest ridges.

But winter rains are generally light, soaking into the soil rather than running off, and don’t last long. Otherwise the deserts might have some of that lush foliage common to Central Florida. Those dangerous desert flash floods that you may have heard about happen mostly during summer thunder storms in areas with steep canyons. This is not usually a winter threat, which is evident at Craggy Wash (photo), a BLM camping area north of Lake Havasu City, Arizona that is popular with boondockers throughout the winter.

But another reason for heading to the deserts is that you can find just about any type of desert camping that you want on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands managed by the BLM. You can choose locations with lots of friendly human neighbors, or with only coyotes, jack rabbits, and turkey vultures as your neighbors.

Your boondocking options include:

• Primitive, no hookup campgrounds. Sometimes a water fill station and trash dumpsters. Dump station nearby. No other amenities, other than possibly hiking and birdwatching and enjoyment of the desert landscape.

• Designated campground, un-designated campsites. Usually a large area of BLM land that has been allocated for boondock camping, sometimes called a Short Term Visitor Area (STVA), with no defined campsites or other amenities. Seldom a trash dumpster. Free but usually limited to two weeks camping, then requiring changing to a location at least 25 miles away. (Craggy Wash is an example.

Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA). These are areas designated by the BLM for long term or seasonal camping that are large sections of open land designated for boondocking. Most will have an onsite host, restrooms, trash dumpsters, a water fill station, and a dump station—if not onsite, nearby. There is a fee for camping.

• Dispersed or open desert camping. You can camp free anywhere on open BLM land, which is most of the desert, anywhere unless fenced off or prohibited by signs, which means you can head down any desert road until you find just the right campsite, whether it is on a plateau with a view to distant ridges, tucked away up a winding arroyo, or snuggled under a desert willow on the banks of a seasonal wash.

Dispersed camping is the purest form of desert boondocking, where you can choose a spot as solitary or communal as you wish. At Quartzsite, where most of the non-campground camping is in LTVAs you can find a spot among others near the entrance, or wander back gradually becoming less and less populated until you find just what you want. Groups or just a few rigs of friends can find and create their own encampments, circling the wagons, with a communal fire in the middle.

In other desert locations, anywhere you can find a dirt road that is not too soft or too lumpy you can explore for a campsite, or head for locally popular dispersed campgrounds where you will not be as isolated. Talk to other RVers, also, to find out where additional dispersed camping areas are, and keep your eyes open for small encampments of RVers gathered off the road.

Once you get used to the desert and perfect your boondocking skills, the deserts become wonderful places to explore, watch birds and wildlife, experience the spring wildflower blooms, rockhound, star gaze, take back country jeep or 4WD expeditions, accept the challenge of desert plant and cacti identification, and visit state parks and historic sites such as old mines and mining towns, ghost towns, abandoned ranches, and Native American sites.

Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar.

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Tips for Eliminating RV Odors

October 25, 2010 by Mark Polk · 21 Comments 


Odors in our RV come in many different forms and are caused by many different sources. Some odors are pleasant, like fresh coffee brewing in the morning, and some are not so pleasant. The “not so pleasant” category includes holding tank odors, pet odors, cooking, smoke, must and mildew odors, just to name a few. Some of these odors result from normal use of the motorhome and some from sitting in storage. Today I want to give you some tips on how to control and eliminate some of these unpleasant odors.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Recap of the Fall Detroit RV Show

October 15, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 7 Comments 

RV Show 1 By all accounts, the recent Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show was a huge success. From day one, when people waited 90 minutes for the show to officially open its doors, to day five, when it was shoulder-to-shoulder people enjoying bumper-to-bumper RVs, the show was a good one — and certainly the best in the last few years.

I went to the show for four of its five days and tried to talk to as many people as I could. I also tried to get inside as many RVs as I could. What follows is my recap. (You can also read my individual reports from Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five. All but Day Five includes a video.)

The RV dealers I talked to said they sold a lot of campers, or at least made some good leads for future sales. Bill Sheffer, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), said across the state RV sales are up 16 percent over the previous year.

“Show attendance was up 20 percent over the 2009 numbers,” Sheffer said. “Dealers and exhibitors reported positive sales numbers and responses from those in attendance, and several $200,000 units were even sold during the show. Many dealers reported meeting and/or exceeding sales goals for the duration of the show.”

Vendors said people were very receptive to what they were offering, including Rick Stafford of River Ridge RV Resort. On the first day he was somewhat lukewarm about the show, but by the fifth day he was extremely pleased. He said three couples were so enamored with his amenities-laden RV resort that they took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and drove the three hours from Detroit to Stanwood, Michigan to take a look around.

And everyone attending the show looked like they were very much enjoying the true stars of the show — the 200-plus RVs lined up in row after row of camperpalooza goodness.

“We generally come to all these shows,” said Jim Felmlee of Rochester, Michigan, who was at the show with his wife, Karen. “We enjoy seeing all the new RVs. We already own our own RV, but generally we come to see all the new features and one we really like are the outdoor kitchens.”

“You know, when you’re camping, you spend all your time outside anyways,” Karen added. “So an outdoor kitchen makes perfect sense.”

Another couple I ran into was Geraldine Laczek of Macomb Township, Michigan and her daughter-in-law Debby Laczek, of Metamora, Michigan. Like the Felmlees, they already owned their own RVs and were at the show just to enjoy all the new models. They, too, liked the outdoor kitchens, and Debby, a fifth-wheel owner, said the Montana with the up-front living room also caught her attention.

Bob Dunn, president of the southeast Michigan Winnebago owners club, was telling me about the Motor City Winnies when he mentioned that the Winnebago Journey diesel motor home behind him was bought earlier that day by two other members of the Motor City Winnies, Skip and Nancy Yates of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Naturally, I found the Yates inside their new coach. The two had perma-grins on their faces as they greeted everyone who came aboard. They happily told people they had just bought that motor home, but feel free to gently look around.

A few aisles over I found Denny Powlison, from Adrian, Michigan. He brought his wife to the show in the hopes she might catch the RV camping bug. He said she had only been camping once, in a sleeping bag under the stars — not even a tent — so he was skeptical. But she fell in love with a Rockwood Minilite #1809S travel trailer, and they’ll be back to the February show to make the purchase.

As mentioned earlier, most people I talked to said the outdoor kitchens were a big hit with them.

Other innovations and features — some not necessarily new but improved upon — that caught my eye were:

• Second bathrooms. Many of the bunkhouses now have floor plans featuring a second bathroom for the kiddies. And many of these have a second door from the outside providing direct access to this bathroom. What a great idea! Instead of tramping through the entire camper just to get to the bathroom, all you need to do is open the door, take a couple of steps, do your business and get out. No tracking sand and dirt through the camper, and I bet fewer mosquitoes make it inside, too.

• Skylights directly over showers. Again, not a new concept at all. But it seems manufacturers are designing these to better follow the shape of the showers so more natural light fills the shower and bathroom. I especially noticed this in the fifth-wheels and motor homes that had corner shower units.

• Kitchen cabinet/counter extensions. Mostly in Class A motor homes and larger fifth-wheels, these are the cabinet/counter extensions that you pull out to dramatically increase the counter space and cabinet storage.

• Outside televisions. As we all know, the flat-screen TV has been a huge innovation for the RV Industry. Whereas before the old picture-tube TVs took up 3-feet of depth by however wide the TV was, flat screens decreased that depth to a mere 3-5 inches. Suddenly, TV cabinets were smaller, freeing up space for other things, like storage, bigger TVs, etc. The flat-screens also made it easier to mount on the outside of a motor home, hidden behind a flip-up door, to watch ESPN Game Day while tailgating.

• Universal, Portable TV Mounts. I saw this on one of Dan White’s travel trailers in the H.W. Motor Homes display. The camper had three TV mounts, one outside, one in the bedroom and the third in the living area. The articulated arm that inserted into the mounts was securely attached to the TV, making it easy to move the TV-and-arm to and from any of the three areas of the camper. A simple tab locked the arm into the mount, and antenna/cable and power connections were located at each mount.

The coolest RV innovation I saw at the show was the slide-within-a-slide in the 2011 Monaco Diplomat motor home. John Monterusso of American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan was gracious enough to meet me before the show opened on Thursday for an exclusive tour of this incredible motor home.

The slide-within-a-slide is exactly what the term implies. On the driver’s side of the coach is a slide with the refrigerator, dinette and couch. A push of a button extends that slide 3 feet out of the coach. Then, another push of a button extends a second slide, this one containing just the dinette and the couch, out another 2 feet. The whole process takes about 40 seconds, and the interior space it creates is very impressive, especially since another 3-foot slide is on the opposite side of the coach. Click here for my video tour of the slide-within-a-slide.

All in all, the Fall RV Show was a lot of fun – but I would expect nothing less. I was able to get to the show four of its five days. I enjoyed exploring all the RVs and talking to the people enjoying those RVs. And now the countdown is on for the Spring RV shows!

From the personal blog: I’ve been posting a lot of information lately about travel destinations and specials they’re having, including Ohio’s Brilliant Fall Colors and Halloween Fun at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.

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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And taking the Checkered Flag………..

October 14, 2010 by Larry Cad · 13 Comments 

Number One


Several years ago, early in our experience with RVs, we were at the Spartan factory for service on our Coachmen motorhome.  During that visit, we were fortunate to become acquainted with a couple there who were in their seventh year of full time living in their motorhome.  We went to breakfast with these folks and spent a long time listening to their adventures as full timers.  When we returned to the service shop, they were kind enough to give us a tour of their motorhome, explaining various features of the coach that fit into the full time life style.  Their motorhome was a Newmar Dutchstar, and from that day, I have always believed that the Dutchstar was a great coach for full timers, perhaps more so than any other make or model of motorhome.  Therefore, it was interesting to me that, when I conducted my recent survey of diesel motorhomes, that the Newmar Dutchstar finished in first place.  This would not have been my initial prediction, but looking at it with 20-20 hindsight, it all makes sense to me.  First of all, Newmar makes a great motorhome, a fact that will be confirmed by many Newmar owners.  Second, the Dutchstar is a great motorhome, with many fine features, quality construction, and solid factory support.  What I found to be unusual, was that the Dutchstar met so many of my specific requirements, at least enough to finish in the top spot in this list.  Actually, the Dutchstar finished only slightly ahead of the Winnebago Tour in points and the contest was sufficiently close to merit looking at both motorhomes.

 Dutchstar 4086T



To be specific, the Dutchstar 4086T gained a point over the Tour by offering a stack washer dryer, having an extra fire extinguisher, an optional basement freezer, a manual vs. automatic patio awning, offering a floorplan with a curbside dinette, and a Freightliner chassis vs. the proprietary Maxim chassis.  The Dutchstar lost a couple of points with a slightly smaller fresh water tank, having a king bed standard instead of a queen, and offering 4 slides rather than 3.  Although it was not part of the comparison, I was also disappointed that the Dutchstar comes standard with a small Norcold frig, with the 12 cubic ft. an optional upgrade.


Newmar is not a splashy manufacturer, preferring to build their motorhomes with solid construction and serviceable features and the Dutchstar conforms to this philosophy.  The floorplan offers a side aisle configuration with a complete bath in one room.  The midship entertainment center is viewable with the slide pulled in, and the dinette is located on the curb side of the coach.  This is a very roomy motorhome with a ton of storage space.  Although there is limited food prep area, it should prove adequate for most RVers.  I like that the Dutchstar comes on a Freightliner chassis as service will be readily available, although for many years Newmar supplies the Spartan chassis on this model, and I would have preferred that to the Freightliner.  I would like to take the motorhome for a test ride to see how it handles.  Keeping in mind that as I went through and rated the various motorhomes in this series, I had no idea what the final result would be, and I was surprised when the Dutchstar took the crown.  My recollection from a walk through of both the Dutchstar and the Winnebago Tour is that I would prefer the Tour, but yet my own system says I prefer the Dutchstar.  In my mind this points out one of the difficulties associated with picking out a new, or even a used motorhome, and that is one of the reasons I decided to do this series.  I have found it interesting that there were so many comments during the series, reflecting negatively on my selections.  This is a complex task that requires a great deal of thought and investigation.  The path I have described is only one of many ways to go about choosing a motorhome.  I never expected everyone to agree with my methods or my choices, but I do hope that somewhere along the way, someone has picked up some hints that will help them to find the motorhome of their dreams.


Until the next time, happy camping.



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Reducing Kitchen Clutter

October 4, 2010 by Woodall's · 12 Comments 

Written By Professor95, courtesy of Woodall’s Campground and Family Camping Blog.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dana T’s recent blog on RV Kitchen Organization. So much so, that I cannot resist the temptation to slip in behind her excellent ideas and add some of our own.

Dana’s family and mine live in significantly different RV environments. First, it is normally just Nancy, me and Oscar in the RV – that is unless we are taking grandkids along too. Second, we are not full-timers and third we have a little more living space since our fifth wheel is not a toy hauler.

But, more living space does not necessarily translate to a larger kitchen or more storage space. The only thing we really gain is room for more furniture and dirt.

RV kitchens are, well, RV kitchens. They are typically small, use downsized appliances and never have enough cabinet space. They provide a really good reason for cooking outdoors on the grill!

Dana’s comment on, “If you don’t use it, toss it” is so true. For years we hauled hundreds of pounds of stuff – stuff like waffle irons, sandwich grills, multiple pots and pans, enough dishes for a 30 piece place setting and enough food to feed us for an entire winter. Then, one day, we decided to get organized. Out went all of the unused stuff – back to the Goodwill thrift store where most of it was purchased to start with. Some kitchen wares were replaced with space saving designs and space was reworked to maximize convenience and storage.

We too keep evaluating the need for the items in our collection of kitchen gear and foodstuff. Now we only haul enough food to feed us for a month at a time. :)

The space saving pot and pan set

The space saving pot and pan set on the left quickly expands to the set on the right by snapping on a handle. All items nest inside one another. They also have plastic lids for refrigerator or freezer use.  Click here to read the rest of this post.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Theme Weekends Extend the Camping Season

September 13, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 2 Comments 

You may not have read about it in the newspapers, but there was a chainsaw-wielding maniac at a New York campground last month. And he was camping right next door to an 8-foot tall witch. And throughout the campground were all sorts of smaller witches, ghosts, ghouls and goblins.

bxp281326It was Halloween weekend at American Family Campground in Godeffroy, N.Y., and the chainsaw and witch were part of the haunted hayride and other spooky festivities. The little monsters, of course, were after the candy, and campers were all too happy to oblige.

The frightful fun weekend is a way for campground owners to extend the camping season, a growing trend all across the northern United States and southern Canada.

“Labor Day is just notorious for people not camping anymore,” said Susan Novotny of South Haven Family Campground in Michigan. “You’ll still get your diehards who absolutely love camping in the fall, but for the most part we needed something to get the families to come out.”

Many privately owned and operated campgrounds — as well as some state parks — have Halloween-, Harvest- and Oktoberfest-themed activities taking place throughout September and October, as well as other fun family activities. Some also have corn mazes and cooking competitions.

“You’d be surprised to know what campground operators are doing at this time of year,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. “Instead of letting Labor Day be their last hurrah, many campground owners have discovered that they can keep having busy weekends right on through September and October, particularly if they have Halloween oriented activities.”

South Haven Family Campground in Michigan, in just its third year of existence, will have three Halloween weekends this year (Oct. 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24) to go along with an Apple Festival Weekend (Sept. 17-19), a Camper Appreciation Weekend (Sept. 24-27), Harvest Weekend (Oct. 1-3) and a Last Chance Weekend (Oct. 29-31 featuring deeply discounted rates and store prices.

By far, though, the Halloween weekends are the most popular, Novotny said, crediting campers who love to decorate their RVs and campsites for making the event so enjoyable for everyone.

“We have people sign up for all three weekends,” she said. “They really like the haunted house, but I think it’s more of just a way for them to celebrate Halloween in a low economic way, and in a safe environment for the kids.”

Campgrounds affiliated with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts have been offering Halloween oriented activities for years. But independently owned and operated campgrounds are also increasingly getting into the act, including New York’s American Family Campground, which hosted its Halloween Weekend in late August.

“Halloween weekend was a real big hit with the kids,” said American Family Campground ’s Nancy Lane. “The kids get all dressed up in costumes and trick or treat at the campsites, and a lot of the people decorate their campers. One guy had a 8-foot witch, and another ran around scaring the kids with a chainsaw — all in good fun, of course.”

To be sure, these aren’t your ordinary camping enthusiasts, mind you. Many camping and RVing enthusiasts who book their sites during Halloween weekends at campgrounds come with friends and family members and create their own haunted campsites.

“Sometimes groups of people will come and they’ll use two or three campsites and invite everyone in the campground to come in and visit their haunted RVs,” said Sue Trimble, office manager for Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort in Plymouth, Calif.

Dana Gabriel, co-owner of the Jellystone Park in Swansea, S.C., said during the last three weekends in October, the park is transformed into “Darkwood Plantation.” Guests start their adventure visiting a haunted plantation house, then proceed into the gardens, a cemetery and a swamp where there is a voodoo witch.

“We have a mix of static props, animatronics and 10 or 15 actors who make it a pretty scary place,” Gabriel said.

The Winston-Salem KOA in Statesville, N.C. has generated a similar following with its “Midway Wicked Woods,” a frightening walk in the woods. “It is very scary,” said Jocelyn Hogue, a park manager, adding that the haunted trail is open to campers as well as the general public.

Of course, campground operators aren’t limiting themselves to Halloween-themed activities. Many also offer other activities and entertainment, such as fall harvest festivals, Western-themed weekends and Oktoberfest celebrations. Some campgrounds also offer corn mazes, including the Jellystone Park in Sioux Falls, S.D., which offers a seven-acre corn maze, with an easy section for young children and a more difficult section for teenagers and adults.

Courtesy of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, here is a sampling of some of the activities and special events taking place at campgrounds and RV parks and resorts across the country through the end of October:

American Family Campground, Godeffroy, N.Y.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 8th to 11th with a krautdogs over the campfire, an evening hayride and a Bavarian dinner.

Four Paws Kingdom, Rutherfordton, N.C.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 2nd and 9th with German music, a party and German food, including sauerbraten, spaetzle, knockwurst, brats, kraut, red cabbage, potato salad and more. The campground will also offer sausage bobbing for big and small dogs at its dog parks. A Mediterranean potluck is also scheduled for Oct. 16th and will feature Spanish, Greek, Italian, Croatian French and other cuisines from the Mediterranean region.

Land-O-Pines Family Campground, Covington, La.: This park offers a wide range of activities and entertainment this fall, including “Swamp Pop” band extravaganza Sept. 24th to 26th; a “Pink Party” and walk-a-thon for breast cancer awareness month Oct. 1st to 3rd, with activities including a walk-a-thon, raffles, pink dessert, and a pink bingo party. A “not so scary” kiddie pre-Halloween activity weekend is scheduled for Oct. 15th to 17th with scary Halloween activities slated for the weekends of Oct. 22nd to 24th and Oct. 29th to 31st.

Lazy River at Granville, Granville, Ohio: This park will host an Oktoberfest celebration on Sept. 24th with crafts, five stations of games, a DJ beer garden and German food, including brats, potato salad, apple dumplings and beer. The campground is also planning Halloween weekends, with campsite decorating contests, trick or treating and a haunted house on the weekends of Oct. 8th and 9th; 15th and 16th and 22nd and 23rd.

Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins, Summersville, W.V.: This park will celebrate Halloween with costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating on the weekends of Sept. 24th to 26th; Oct. 1st to 3rd; and Oct. 8th to 11th, the latter of which will also include a “Monster Mash Dance.” A spooky haunted trail walk is also being planned for a time yet to be announced.

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in Newport Beach: Special activities this fall include a Halloween party on Friday, Oct. 30th, with a costume contest, music, games and dancing for people of all ages.

Sacred Rocks Preserve in Boulevard: This park, located at the 4,000 foot level in the mountains east of San Diego, is planning a horse camping weekend Oct. 15th to 17th, with free camping offered to those who bring a horse.

Sea Pirate Campground, West Creek, N.J.: This park will celebrate its annual crab festival on Sept. 18th. The campground will celebrate an early Halloween on Oct. 2nd with a costume parade, trick or treating, a Halloween hayride and cupcakes and refreshments.

Sky High Camping Resort, Portage, Wis.: This park will have Halloween costume dances and campsite decorating on the weekends of Sept. 17th to 19th, and Sept. 24th to 26th.

Smoky Hollow Campground, Lodi, Wis.: This park will celebrate Oktoberfest Oct. 1st to 3rd with a mix of adult and kid-friendly attractions, including music, homemade ice cream, root beer, brats and sauerkrat. The campground is also organizing pre-Halloween activities, including trick or treating, costume contests, haunted wagon rides, a haunted pavilion and opportunities to make your own caramel apple on the weekends of Sept. 17th to 19th and 24th to 26th.

South Haven Family Campground in South Haven, Mich.: This campground will have an apple festival on the weekend of Sept. 17th to 19th with apple crafts, apple juggling and opportunities to learn how to make applesauce and caramel apples. Halloween activities, including face painting, mummy wrap races, pumpkin carving contests, costume and campsite decorating contests and trick or treating are scheduled for Oct. 8th to 10th, 15th to 17th and 22nd to 24th.

Woodland Campground in Woodland, Pa.: This park will celebrate Halloween with family activities on Oct. 1st. The park will also have an Oktoberfest celebration Oct. 9th with food, crafts and a flea market.

The Woods Campground in Lehighton, Pa.: This park is having a country western weekend Sept. 24th to 26th with line dancing and a chili cookoff. The park will also have a “motorcycle leather weekend” Oct. 1st to 3rd with a “Mr. and Mrs. Woods Leather Competition.” An Oktoberfest lunch is planned for the weekend of Oct. 22nd to 24th with Halloween activities, including a haunted hayride and costume party on the weekend of Oct. 29th to 31st.

Of course, these are just a sampling of some the activities and special events taking place at campgrounds and RV parks across the country in the coming weeks. Consumers can find private campgrounds in their area by checking The site includes links to RV parks and campgrounds, which provide their own “activities” or event calendars, which can help you figure out which parks have activities your family will enjoy.

From the personal blog: Brent Peterson’s “10 Commandments of RVing” needs to be read by every RVer, and probably should be stapled to certain campers’ foreheads.

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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Amish Buggy Ride – an example of using MovieMaker

September 6, 2010 by Chris Guld · 18 Comments 

by Chris Guld,

We are currently in Elkhart, Indiana.  We’re here for the Gypsy Journal Rally last week, and the Escapade next week.  Last Friday we were invited by our friends from TechnoRV to join them for dinner at an Amish Family’s home.  In addition to dinner, they would take us on a horse and buggy ride if we wanted to go. 

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More bears

July 31, 2010 by Bob Difley · 354 Comments 

By Bob Difley

bear-in-campgroundThere was another bear attack (this time a grizzly) this week on campers. Kevin Kammer of Grand Rapids, Michigan was dragged from his tent in Soda Butte campground in the Gallatin National Forest in northeastern Yellowstone National Park near Cooke City, Montana. Kammer was dragged for twenty-five feet where he was killed. Fish and Wildlife personnel blamed the attack on a sow and her three yearling cubs. At least one of the bears fed on the man.

The bears were also believed to have attacked another man who started punching the bear as it was biting him on the leg and it ran off.  The bears attacked another woman and her husband who were tent camping nearby.  The woman received bites and a broken arm.  The woman said she had bear spray in her tent but couldn’t get to it when the bear attacked. She played dead and the bear wandered off. The sow and all three cubs have been captured and DNA tests determined that the sow was the attacker. She was destroyed and her cubs will be sent to a zoo.

This is at least the second incidence in the last few weeks of a person who had bear spray being attacked by a bear but did not have it handy enough to use it. The other was a trio of bicyclists in Alaska. The bear spray was in a backpack when the bear attacked. If you don’t have bear spray and are camping or boondocking in bear country, get some–and a holster or clip so you can attach it  to your belt to keep it handy. It  works!

Another disturbing aspect of this latest attack was that the campers seemed to have done everything right and had done nothing to provoke, frighten, or surprise the bears. (The Alaska attack came when the leading bicyclist rounded a bend on the trail and surprised a sow and cub.)

However, there are few incidences of bears invading campgrounds and attacking people, and no records (that I know of) of bears attacking people in RVs, though some bears have  rocked or banged on RVs. Black bears are more common than grizzlies, usually more docile and easier to frighten away than the more aggressive grizzlies.  And even though bear attacks are rare, and shouldn’t deter RVers from camping in bear country, a few bear country tips to follow would be a wise plan:

  • Have bear spray (available from my Amazon store) and keep it handy at all times.
  • Leave no food or traces of  food or  smelly articles (toothpaste, sunblock, etc.) outside in your campsite.
  • Keep ice chests inside your rig.
  • When hiking, make enough noise to let dangerous wildlife know you are there and can get out of your way.
  • Don’t leave pets tied outside your rig when you are not around.
  • Avoid camping near (or report to a ranger) any campers that keep a campsite likely to attract bears.
  • Throwing objects, yelling, and banging pots and pans will likely frighten any bears away.
  • Make every effort to avoid a sow and cubs.
  • Report bear sightings to rangers or camp hosts.

Visit my Healthy RV Lifestyle website for RVing tips, and health & fitness and RV destination articles. Also check out my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, and 111 Ways  to get the Biggest Bang for your RVLifestyle Buck.

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Our Alaska Trip Part XX Even Farther Northward

July 13, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 5 Comments 

This is the 20th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

 In case I didn’t mention it lately, the rumors are true,. Alaska is a beautiful state.  Tuesday morning we left Anchorage in a light rain … destination:  Seward on the Kenai Peninsula (pronounced “Keen-Eye, equal stress on the syllables).

 After leaving Alaska’s largest city, we found ourselves driving on another postcard-quality road, the Seward Highway South.  On our left were steep forested mountains featuring numerous glaciers at various elevations.  At one point, a glacier sat just above a lagoon, actually at sea-level. 

 How do we know it was sea level?  Because on our right was a fjord, apparently in the Turnagain Arm of Prince William Sound.  Absolutely stunning, even in the dismal weather that followed us for our entire route today.  When we drove along the shore, the water was high, but the fjord is known for having the third largest “bore tide” in the world, a change of 28 feet.

And now to today’s theme (one of the three I mentioned in Part XIX:  Even Farther Northward).  A feature of our caravan provides opportunities to enjoy unscripted side trips, like the one that Ivan and Shirley Yurtin took to Port Barrow on the Arctic Ocean.  Since only a small percentage of Alaskan travelers have or will endure that journey, I’m excerpting parts of their journal for you.


Ivan and Shirley’s Story

 As we approached Point Barrow from the air, we first noticed that the lakes were frozen. As we descended the next significant thing we noticed was that there were no trees or shrubs as far as you could see … it was only flat tundra.

SM - Airline Terminal The airport terminal is an old, blue metal commercial building that looks like a factory. The shuttle driver drove us to the Top of the World Hotel, a long two-story building that has simple rooms. 

We had dinner at Pepe’s Restaurant next door that is run by 81-year-old Fran, who has lived in Point Barrow for over 40 years.  She had a restaurant in her home for years but now manages Pepe’s.  She also leads tourists down SM - Two Brave Polar Bearsto the ocean at 5:30 p.m. each day for a dunk in the Arctic.  In order to qualify you must submerge completely in the frigid Arctic.  For doing so, you must pay $10 and will receive a patch and certificate from the Polar Bear Club.  Fran has made the plunge many times and tried to get 80 of her friends to join her last year for her 80th birthday.  She was only able to convince 67 brave souls to do it with her.


The Mexican meal of enchiladas was good.  Afterwards we roamed the immediate area for photos—including those along the ice buildup in the ocean. We noticed that parking spaces for workers at the bank, police department and other businesses had electrical cords in each space to plug in engine heaters.  None of the roads in town are paved—they consist of powdered dust that billows every time a car passes.  Four-wheeler ATVs are also a common form of transportation.

 SM - Barrow Village

Our tour guide, Bana, is a native Inupiat Eskimo. He said that the population of the whole area is 4,500 and one-fourth of the population is under the age of 18 years.  The village hunts whale for food and harvests about 34 whales each year to feed the village.  The Inupiat are not allowed to harvest whales SM - Whale Skin Boatto sell … only to feed the village. The whale harvest is in the early spring and late fall.  Whale meat is either eaten boiled or frozen raw.  Ivan had a chance to eat some of the raw whale meat.  It tasted a little fishy.
They only get about 13 inches of snow and 8 inches of rain a year, but it is a very cold and dry environment.  It is very cloudy most of the summer with only five days of sunshine. The temperature during our visit ranged from 30 – 36 degrees F and it was cold and windy.  The Inupiat Eskimo Corporations control most of the utilities and government offices.  

The city has several gas wells that supply the heating for the village. The village has one fairly large grocery store and one gasoline station.  Gasoline is delivered to Barrow once a year in August.  In our visit to the grocery store the price for a gallon of milk was $10 and the price of a dozen eggs was $8.

On our tour we saw a Snow Owl and the Tundra Swans. We got to visit the Inupiat Heritage Center where the local Eskimos performed their native dances for us.  We were then invited to join them in their local dances, which we did.  It was very enjoyable.

There were enough people so we all joined in for the Blanket Toss.  A large blanket made of whale skin is woven with rope around the outer edge for handles. About 25-30 people hold the perimeter of the blanket while a person is in the middle of it.  The blanket is pulled outward and the person in the blanket is propelled upward and can reach heights of 20-30 feet.  This is used to be able to see whales and game at far distances, since there are no trees on the Tundra.

SM - On The Arctic BeachOur tour guide Bana drove us to the airport and we bid him farewell.  It was a packed full day of facts and adventure trying to understand how these people survive under extreme conditions.  We sure were glad to be back to our RV with all the modern conveniences.


Thanks, Ivan and Shirley.  Sorry we missed that trip.


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

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