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VIDEO: RV Camping at DISNEY WORLD… on Halloween!

October 29, 2014 by Loloho.com · Leave a Comment 

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Recently, a YouTube subscriber (click here to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and NEVER miss an update http://goo.gl/7YrpRH) asked us to name a few favorite camping locales we’ve discovered on our Long, Long Honeymoon travels. I’m partial to remote, rural, dry camping sites out West, in obscure places far removed from civilization. But my wife has different tastes. Her favorite is probably that little full hookup spot we found down in Florida. What was its name? Oh, right… Walt Disney World. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Any way you slice it, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground offers an outstanding RV camping experience. Here are a few thoughts about camping with Mickey… Read more

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) http://beavertrailcampground.com
Cedarville RV Park, Cedarville (906-484-3351) www.cedarvillervpark.com
Clementz’s Northcountry Campground, Newberry (906-293-8562) www.northcountrycampground.com
Coolwater on the Pine, Wellston (231-862-3481) www.coolwatercampground.com 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) www.campcranberrylake.com
Duggans Canoe Livery & Campground, Harrison (989-539-7149) www.dugganscanoes.com
Emmett KOA, Emmett (888-562-5612) http://koa.com/campgrounds/emmett/
Frankenmuth Jellystone Park, Frankenmuth (989-652-6668) www.frankenmuthjellystone.com
Gaylord KOA, Gaylord (800-562-4146) www.gaylordkoa.com
Holiday Camping Resort, New Era (231-861-5220) www.holidaycamping.com
Indian River RV Resort & Campground, Indian River (888-792-2267) www.indianrivercampground.com
Irons RV Park & Campground, Irons (231-266-2070) www.ironsrvparkandcampground.com
Kalkaska RV Park & Campground, Kalkaska (231-258-9863) www.kalkaskacampground.com
Kampvilla RV Park, Bear Lake (800-968-0027) www.kampvilla.com
Lakeview UM Campground, Lakeview (989-352-6896) www.lakeviewcamp.org
Lighthouse Family Camping Resort, Mecosta (231-972-2112) www.lighthousefamilycampingresort.com
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, Mackinaw City (231-436-5584) www.campmackinaw.com
Matson’s Big Manistee River Campground, Manistee (888-556-2424) www.matsonscampground.com
Mio Pine Acres Campground, Mio (989-826-5590) www.miopineacres.com
Moscow Maples RV Park, Moscow (517-688-9853) www.moscowmaples.com
Myers Lake Campground, Byron/Linden (810-266-4511) www.myerslake.org
Snow Lake Kampground, Fenwick (989-248-3224) www.snowlakekampground.com
Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort, Traverse City (231-947-2770) www.TimberRidgeResort.net
Timber Trails RV Park, Decatur (269-423-7311) www.timbertrailsrvpark.com
Troll Landing Campgr./Canoe Livery, West Branch (989-345-7260) www.michcampgrounds.com/trolllanding
Twin Oaks Campground & Cabins, Wellston (877-442-3102) www.twinoakscamping.com 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) www.waterwayscampground.com

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 RV.net, 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 www.michcampgrounds.com 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 www.michcampgrounds.com 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: What started us down the RV road

January 25, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 17 Comments 

Brighton 1The following post tells the story of how my family and I got into RVing. I tell this story in the hope you also might care to share what, or who, first got you into RVing.

As for me, my extended family have been RVers for years, and growing up I always envied the tales of their camping trips. Little did I know that the RVing bug had bit me way back then, but it turned out to be an infection itching at me for many, many years before I was able to apply the ointment. It only took about 10 or so years of me whining like a hungry dog every time we passed an RV dealership before my wife finally uttered those three wonderful words … “Oh, all right.”

The first of my family to start us all down the RVing road were my grandparents, Art and Curley Brighton. That’s them in the picture, with two of my uncles sticking their heads out the window of the 1971 25-foot Superior. I love that photo, especially how proud my grandpa looks holding a bucket of KFC!

My grandparents were prolific RVers; they traveled from Alaska to the Panama Canal and all parts in between during their five decades of travel in their various motor homes. Actually, they first started by car-camping, sleeping in the back of their ridiculously huge Town & Country station wagon. Their first motor home was the brand new Superior. They enjoyed that big green motor home for over a dozen years until they bought a new 35-foot Holiday Rambler in 1984. Then in 1987 they bought a 33-foot Foretravel, and finally a 1989 33-foot Foretravel Grand Villa motor home only three years after that. They traveled quite a bit, especially after they both retired from teaching. Often they hooked up with the FMCA-sponsored rallies for months at a time, and later they would say those rallies were among their best RVing memories.

My grandparents have since passed on, but they passed on their love of RVing to several of their eight children and 28 grandchildren (31 great-grandchildren and counting!). My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen have a 42-foot Monaco Dynasty motor home, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Diane have a 2004 Nomad North Trail fifth wheel, my parents have a 25-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon just bought a 2001 24-foot Trail Lite fifth wheel and my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy have a 2003 27-foot Rockwood travel trailer.

My Uncle Art and Aunt Ellen were full-timers for a few years and had previously owned a 40-foot Monaco Windsor and a Southwind before that, but my Uncle Ed and Aunt Sandy hold the record for number of campers owned: They bought the last Foretravel motor home from my grandparents, and their other travel trailers were a 1998 Dutchmen, 1978 28-foot Yellowstone, 1976 25-foot Golden Nugget and a 1984 19-foot Sportsman.

I also have a few cousins who are RVers; Matt and Tracy own a 2005 21-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer, and Jill and Bob were proud owners of a pop-up camper until it was completely destroyed when they were rear-ended a few years back (crumpled like a pile of kindling wood, they said).

Us? We’re the proud owners of a new-to-us 2000 Trail Lite Bantam 23-foot hybrid we bought in 2007. It sleeps all five of us, has tons of storage and has withstood many of my modifications. Plus, it’s paid for!

What do we love about RVing? Probably for many of the same reasons that you and other RVers love about it! Before our RV, we tent-camped a few times, always cursing the trek to the vault toilet in the middle of the night and the cold hard ground every morning. Not so with the RV! We’re off the ground, sleep in (mostly) comfortable beds and the bathroom – like everything else we decide to bring – goes where we go.

I like to think of our camper as a cottage-on-wheels. We can take our cottage most anywhere, and although we have a few favorite campgrounds we always seem to return to, we enjoy discovering new campgrounds in distant locations and all the area has to offer. My favorite thing about camping is sitting around the campfire, a s’more in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, and doing nothing more than relaxing and laughing with family and friends.

So there you have it. My story is not that unusual from other RVers, but it is my story and one I enjoy adding to each and every time we go camping.

Now it’s your turn. How did you get started into RVing?

From the personal blog: It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on RV.net, so there’s a couple of dozen posts on my companion blog you might want to take a look at. Most are travel-related, including a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of eight homes and Wintertime events in Chicago. A few RV-specific posts include a comprehensive list of North American RV shows now through April (complete with links), the planned expansion of Detroit-based General RV dealership and my take on RV Buddies’ recent poll results of what features people want in an RV.

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: Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 3 Comments 

Here — in no particular order (or rhyme or reason) — is a somewhat decent holiday gift guide for RVers, starting with three new products from the Fastway company:

Fastway Flip automatic jack footFastwayFlipB3WEB
The new Fastway Flip automatic jack foot adds 6 inches to your jack instantly, and flips up and down automatically as you retract or extend the jack. The Flip jack foot eliminates the hassles of storing and stacking wood blocks, or finding a place to store a removable extension. The Flip jack foot puts itself away each time you use it. No springs, cables, or pins are required. The Flip jack foot installs easily using pilot holes in the foot as a guide; then a single bolt (supplied) mounts the Flip to the bottom of the jack. The Fastway Flip jack foot fits most tongue jacks round or square, with models to fit 2-inch and 2 1/4-inch jacks. Maximum tongue weight rating is 1,400 lbs. and designed for use on horse, RV, cargo, boat, and utility trailers. For more information call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

Fastway ONEstep tandem axle wheel chock84-00-4000Web
The Fastway ONEstep is the fastest and easiest tandem axle wheel chock. The ONEstep wheel chock eliminates common chocking hassles like ratcheting, pinched fingers, bending or kneeling down, splintery wood chunks, and stuck wedges pinched by trailer movement. The ONEstep chock sets quickly in place by simply stepping down on the scissor arms, and removes easily by pulling up on the cable handle, even when wedges have been pinched under a tire. The ONEstep chock is adjustable from 16 inches to 24 inches to fit most tandem axle trailers. It works great with horse, RV, boat, cargo, utility, and farm trailers. An XL model that reaches up to 30 inches is also available for trailers with “wide track” type axle systems. The ONEstep is made from solid steel wedges and arms, with zinc plate and powder coat finishes helping it look great for years. For more information, call (877) 523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

Fastway Zip breakaway cableFastwayZipCableOnlyWEB
The Fastway Zip is the new, fast and easy way to protect your breakaway cable. With the Fastway Zip there are no frayed ends or cables dragging on the ground. The unique coiled cable of the Zip easily stretches to your tow vehicle and clips right on with the included carabiner. There is no looping over and around the trailer tongue to keep the cable out of the way. It is faster and easier to use than the standard breakaway cable. The Zip quickly replaces your current breakaway system with its coated high-strength coiled cable, split ring, and easy to use carabiner. The Fastway Zip breakaway cable is available in 4-foot and 6-foot cable lengths, and is offered as a universal replacement cable only, or a complete set with a cable and switch. For more information, call 877-523-9103 or visit www.FastwayTrailer.com.

iWavecube microwaveRedOpen_wDims
For those who want a microwave when camping, but not anything larger than necessary, the iWavecube measures just one-cubic-foot — plus it has all the electronic controls and safety features you would expect, and it plugs in anyplace that has a standard outlet. It’s quiet, super-energy-efficient, and measures just 10 inches by 10.5 inches by 12 inches — weighing only 12 lbs. It features a built-in carry handle and view-through door. The product is available in red, black, and silver. Perfect for a dorm room, camping trip or just at the office. For seeing the different ways campers are using their iWavecube check out this link.

The Perfect CampfireGrillNewOriginal
I have the Perfect CampfireGrill original grill and I have given them as presents. I love mine and recommend them to anyone who cooks over a campfire. The Perfect CampfireGrill original grill ($60), launched in 2005, continues to be popular for its large 20-by-25 inch grilling surface that can easily hold 24 strip steaks, 70 hot dogs or 30 large burgers. The Rebel ($40) fits easily into bicycle and motorcycle saddlebags. It can be used over the campfire or as a charcoal grill where campfires are not permitted. At 10-by-12 inches, The Perfect CampfireGrill Rebel is the smallest of The Perfect CampfireGrill products. The Explorer ($30) with its folding legs can be set up at any campsite on the beach, in rocky terrain or at a conventional campsite. The grill provides 12-by-18 inches of grilling surface. When its legs are folded, its 1 1/2 inch thickness makes it easy to transport in most backpacks and gear bags. The Pioneer ($40) provides a circular 18-inch diameter grilling surface that is perfect for weekend getaways and family outings. It is easily packed into smaller vehicles. For more information, go to www.campfiregrill.com.

REI Camp Mini Kitchen36ad756f-9c74-444a-b6ab-571c7728fb8c
Stow your cooking and dining essentials in the REI Camp Mini Kitchen ($69.93 on sale) so you’re always ready to hit the road! Staying organized in camp helps keep the fun factor high. Features include: Aluminum roll-top table holds most 2-burner camp stoves or other gear up to 60 lbs.; Ripstop polyester storage compartment provides dedicated spaces for a 2-burner stove, fuel bottles, plates, utensils, spices, wet sponges and more; Frame has integrated carry handles. Note: the photo at right shows items not included. For more information, visit: www.rei.com/product/798433

RV Handbook, 4th EditionRV Handbook
Completely Updated – the New RV Handbook, 4th Edition ($29.95) is a 299-page How-To Guide with handy checklists, helpful photos and easy-to-follow charts all designed to keep you on the road and enjoying your RV. This 4th edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is known as the “RVer’s bible” for the RV road warrior; it’s a “no-fluff” comprehensive guide for both novice and seasoned RVers. Packed with checklists; photos; schematics and charts, as well as plenty of sound, user-friendly technical advice. Features hundreds of proven RV tips, tricks and techniques to save you time, money and maybe even your sanity! You simply won’t find this level of detail covered in any other RV book. If you are looking for a complete resource that answers all your RV-related questions, the latest edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is exactly what you are looking for. 
Click here for more information.

QwikShower WipesShower Wipes
Although this product is marketed toward kids who can use them after gym class at school, I think these would be a great addition to anyone’s RV. QwikShower Wipes – from a company that calls itself My Kids Stink, LLC — are large, moist, single-use disposable cloths with a subtle scent and economical price point. QwikShower Wipes are appealing for many reasons:
• Convenient. Each wipe is individually wrapped for portability and to ensure it never dries out.
• Effective. With a large 10-inch by 12-inch dimension and a resilient cloth-like material, QwikShower Wipes are big and study enough to clean the entire body, also leaving a slight fresh scent behind.
• Green. Environmentally friendly, QwikShower Wipes are non-aerosol and emit zero fluorocarbon emissions unlike popular body sprays.  This also ensures the scent won’t invade the personal space of others or overwhelm the small space of a camper.
• Economical. Starting at just 49 cents each coupled with the company’s free shipping policy, QwikShower Wipes are very affordable.
• Versatile. QwikShower Wipes are great for use after sports practices and games, a day at the beach, or an impromptu restaurant outing with the family. Also a stellar solution for adults, the wipes are perfectly suited for boaters, campers and fitness enthusiasts. They are also a must for emergency preparedness kits in the event of water outages.
For more information about QwikShower Wipes visit www.QwikShower.com.

State Parks gift cards
Quite frankly, a state parks gift card or gift certificate is just about the perfect gift to give an RVer. A State Parks gift card is an appealing choice for anyone who likes to play outdoors or unwind in comfort.  Gift cards can be redeemed for camping, getaway rentals, cottage rentals or overnight stays in state park campgrounds, and some are good for use at state park lodges. Many states allow them to be used used at State Parks’ public courses, boat rentals at some state park marinas, or for food and merchandise purchases.

“Drives of a Lifetime” from National GeographicDrives_COVER web
Fall vacations conjure up images of cozy fireplaces, mugs of warm apple cider and drives through gorgeous foliage, rich with the changing colors of the season. National Geographic provides details of hundreds of scenic fall drives and more in “DRIVES OF A LIFETIME: Where to Go, Why to Go, When to Go” ($40 hardcover). Following on the success of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s popular Drives of a Lifetime series, this sumptuously illustrated gift book will appeal to all who have a yen for the open road and for every magnificent sight along the way. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this book.

Duraflame Gold Firelog177 gold_log_lft
Sick of the high cost of firewood? Sick of buying firewood at some campgrounds that’s little more than bark? How about trying the Duraflame Gold firelog for your next campfire. Packaged in chic gold and black, the Gold firelog is ideal for a great weekend fire, and burns longer with brighter with larger flames. The Duraflame Gold firelog is the first 7-pound firelog that burns for over four hours without tending, and is made from 100 percent renewable resources and burns 80 percent cleaner than wood. Available in a four-log pack for a suggested retail price of $24.99 or sold as a single log for $5-6/log. For more information visit www.duraflame.com.

“Winnebago Man” documentary on DVDWinnebago Man DVD
The outrageously funny, critically-acclaimed documentary “Winnebago Man” ($29.95) is available on DVD by Kino International. Following its much-publicized U.S. theatrical release in over 100 markets, as well as Jack Rebney’s national television debut as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the DVD is one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year. Click here for the Amazon.com page for this DVD.

BananagramsBananagrams - Open Banana
Bananagrams ($14.95) is a fast and fun anagram game that drives players bananas! Requiring no pencil, paper or board, Bananagrams comes in a small portable banana shaped pouch and is perfect fun for kids from 7 – 97 years-old, at home or on the go. Bananagrams is available online as a free Facebook Application and on the iPad, iPhone and iTouch as well as in a series of books. Bananagrams recently launched in Spanish, French, Norwegian and German as well as in a larger version – DOUBLE Bananagrams, the big banana for the larger bunch (for 16+ players).

Cascade Sleeping Bag from Peak Camping4_Cascade20
I’m not one for mummy-style sleeping bags, but for those who are then jump in and snuggle up for a long rest with this best-selling High Peak USA Cascade Sleeping Bag.  With a temperature rating of +20, -5, and -15 degrees F (ladies bag is available in +20 and -5), you can be assured a restful sleep outdoors even during the most frigid nights. The Thermolite Quallo insulation is a special fiber technology that promotes warmth and easy packing and maintains resilience and high loft. The Cascade also features an insulated chest collar to keep cold air from sneaking in.  The shell is made of 310T/210T nylon.  Dimensions: 31 inches by 79 inches by 21 inches (footbox).

“Along Interstate-75″ booki75
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at www.i75online.com. Useful travel information to help anyone driving this popular interstate from Detroit to the Florida border and back.

So there you have it. Granted, it’s not the most comprehensive list in the world, but these are things I’ve come across that I thought might catch your eye as well.

From the personal blog: I continue to post information on great getaways to many popular Midwest destinations, including Traverse City’s Winter Wow!fest, as well as great tips on how to protect yourself from the cold. Another pretty cool post was the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds recent announcement of the 32 campgrounds and RV parks that received an ‘A’ grade.

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: 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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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 www.GoCampingAmerica.com. 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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Gr8LakesCamper: Two RV Shows a Bellwether for Industry

September 8, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 4 Comments 

Picture 1Two RV shows in the next few weeks will be an interesting study on whether we can truly believe the recent reports that the RV industry is on the rebound.

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