Blog, Our Retirement Adventures

Miami Beach, a Relaxing Winter Retreat

Miami Beach in Winter

Why did we go to Miami Beach?  It is difficult for us to stay at home all winter since we have retired.  While working, we were busy and had limited vacation time,  but retirement has changed all that.  In the winter, it is easy for me to become bored and lazy.   We took a trip to Los Angeles last year, Escape from the Cold to Los Angeles .

A warm climate in a place not previously visited was the goal and Miami Beach fit the bill for us.  It is also one of the big cities we have not visited and it has great weather in the winter.  We left Alabama, which had daytime temperatures in the 40s,  for Miami’s mostly sunny days in the low 80s.  Such a pleasure!

Miami Dream Hotel

The Dream is located in Miami Beach, just a couple of blocks from the famous Versace mansion.  It is on Collins Avenue, one block over from Ocean Drive and a couple of blocks from the beach. The hotel has excellent reviews, a perfect location, and a very reasonable price for the area.   However, the rooms are quite small.   The Dream is actually a combination of two Art Deco buildings and still has the sign for the Tudor Hotel.  The hotel was built in the 1930s and has the original exterior, but is ultra modern inside.  So, if we return to Miami Beach, the Dream will be our first choice for a hotel!

Miami Dream Hotel
Miami Dream Hotel

The hotel has a fantastic restaurant, The Naked Taco, and we had several excellent meals there.  The restaurant also provides light food and drinks to the hotel’s rooftop pool area, which we also enjoyed.

Miami Dream Rooftop Pool
Miam Dream Rooftop Pool

Getting Around in Miami and Miami Beach

We flew into Miami and did not rent a car because parking is very expensive.  But, we really did not need one because it is so easy to get around.   Miami Beach has a free trolley system that is easy to maneuver and we used it frequently.  There is also a separate trolley system for the city of Miami.   However,  I never discovered a way to get from Miami Beach to Miami using the trolley.

We took an Uber to and from the airport as we had a good bit of luggage.  It was only $22.   There is also a bus that goes from the airport to Miami Beach.

Because we wanted to orient ourselves to the city,  we took a hop on and off bus tour.  It was only $49 each for two days, which gave us information about the area and provided transportation between Miami and Miami Beach.

Big Bus City Tour
Big Bus City Tour

We also took an Everglades tour with Miami Tour Company .  They picked us up at our hotel and provided transportation to the Everglades.  It was much easier than renting a car.

We also walked quite a bit during our stay and I am very happy to say that my husband’s new knee did quite well.   This was our first exposure to significant walking since his surgery six months earlier.  We got about 14,000 steps on our first day, which involved lots of airport walking.

Miami Attractions

There was so much to see and do in Miami!  Our six days there enabled us to pretty much do everything we wanted.

Wynwood Area

Wynwood Walls is accessible via a city bus tour.  The Wynwood warehouse district elevates the work of graffiti artists.  Wynwood Walls brings the work of the world’s greatest graffiti artists to a concentrated area.  It is difficult to believe that this art is created with only spray paint.  It is a walkable outdoor museum.  Art lover that I am, this might just be my favorite Miami attraction.

Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls

The mural below was created by drilling into concrete.  It is impressive from afar and even more up close.

Concrete Art in Wynwood Walls
Concrete art in Wynwood Walls

All around the Wynwood area, there is art on the buildings.  The photo below was snapped while on the tour bus and is not a high-quality pic, but I had to include it in this post because it is so amazing.  The woman’s eyes appear to follow you.  Mesmerizing and beautiful!

Wynwood Art
The eyes follow you in this painting
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya was on my list and easily accessible as another stop on the tour bus.  It was the summer home of James Deering.  The exterior of the Italian Renaissance villa has appeared in several films.  The home, located on Biscayne Bay,  was completed in 1922 for a cost of $15 million.

Vizcaya Museum
Vizcaya Mansion

The grandeur of this mansion is not something easily found in the United States as the photo below of one of the interior rooms indicates.

Vizcaya room
Elegant decor

This home made me think of Downton Abbey and was of a similar time.  The home is grand and during its heyday, it sported a staff of thirty.  The kitchen below looks similar to Downton Abbey’s as well.

Vizcaya kitchen
The kitchen
Miami Beach and Ocean Drive

The beach was beautiful and the water was a gorgeous turquoise color.   Our hotel provided chairs and towels, so we were quite comfortable enjoying the warmth and sunshine.

The beach at South Beach
The Beach at South Beach

I tested the water and it was much too cold for me to get in, but quite a few people did not seem to mind.

Miami Beach
Crystal clear water

South Miami Beach is known for its Art Deco Architecture.   The buildings along Ocean Avenue and Collins, where we were staying, cannot be changed from the outside.  Consequently, it has one of the largest known concentrations of 1920-1930s resort-style architecture.

Art Deco hotels
Art Deco hotels along Ocean Avenue

Ocean Drive is also famous for Casa Casuarina, aka the Versace Mansion.  The house was built in 1930 and fashion designer, Gianni Versace, purchased it in 1992.  He lived there until he was shot in front of it in 1997 by a serial killer.   The mansion is now a very expensive hotel.  We contemplated having lunch there to see the inside, but we did not find the time.

Versace mansion
Versace mansion on Ocean
The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach

The Holocaust Memorial was a sobering place to visit, but it is important to remember this tragic time and the lives lost.  The memorial is dedicated to the six million Jewish lives lost to the Holocaust.  We learned that Miami Beach has one of the largest populations of holocaust survivors in the world.  Going through the memorial brought tears to both of us.

Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial
Little Havana

Little Havana is the definitive Cuban neighborhood  in Miami.  It is popular for shopping, restaurants, and bars.

Little Havana sign
Little Havana sign

Little Havana is the place for authentic Cuban cuisine.  We made a special effort to visit Versailles Restaurant while there.   The restaurant claims to be “ the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant.”   Even at mid-afternoon, we had to wait to be seated.  Below is one of the specials, but I can’t identify everything.  I liked most of it and the price was very reasonable.   My big guy had a hamburger.

Lunch at Versailles Restaurant
Lunch at Versailles Restaurant

In a shop in Little Havana, we were pleasantly surprised to see, Fidel, a friend from a tour we took to Italy eight years ago.  He owns Havana Collection,  a group of clothing shops in Little Havana.  Fidel recognized my husband as soon as he walked in.   He sold my husband some shirts at highly discounted prices.  It was so nice to see him again.

The Everglades

While so close, we took a Miami City bus tour to the Everglades.  We learned that the Everglades is a slow-moving, shallow river that moves at a rate of about a mile a day.   The airboat ride through it was  exhilarating.

Airboat ride in the Everglades
Airboat ride in the Everglades

While on the airboat, we saw several alligators.

Alligator in the Everglades
Alligator in the wild
Wolfsonian Museum, Miami Beach

The Wolfsonion is an affiliate of Florida International University and houses an extensive collection of Art Deco artifacts.  It was a good place to spend a few hours.

Wolfsonion at Miami Beach
Wolfsonion Art Deco Museum
Wolfsonion Art
Wolfsonion Art
A Short Haircut

The humility and open air rides made my hair impossible to deal with during our stay.  I have been wanting to go short and finally mustered the courage while there. Summer is coming and this cut should be easy to manage. What do you think of the cut in the photo below ?

Conclusion

We loved Miami and Miami Beach!  It was so relaxing to spend a few warm and sunny days away from winter weather.  Incidentally, we returned home to 28 degrees!  Brrr!

Miami Beach is beautiful and its people were so warm and accommodating.   I highly recommend it!

Retired couple at Miami Beach

 

 

Cable Cutting, A Retirement Cost Savings Strategy

Cable Cutting, Why We Did it

Recently, I noticed our cable bill was considerably higher.  I learned our contract had expired and we were no longer eligible for bundle discounts.  We also have Internet and a land line through the cable company.  The increase brought our monthly cost of cable to $114 per month.  The breakdown was:  $65 for the Expanded Basic, $20 for DVR Service,  and $30 for four receivers.   Needless to say, I was not happy.  Cable cutting became a major initiative with that phone call.

We wanted lower costs, but did not want to lose options.   This meant that streaming services would be needed.  Millennials are known for using streaming services, but we have learned that they are a good strategy for retirees too.

Our Cable Environment

My husband and I are retired and, consequently, have lots of free time.  When we are not traveling, we have become accustomed to lots of entertainment options.

I must admit, we were pretty spoiled by our cable service.   Our provider gave us reliable service and the ability to record programs we enjoy.   So, we were able to fast forward through commercials, a big plus for my husband.

We routinely watched local network channels and a few cable network channels.  Most of our viewing was of shows we had recorded on the DVR.

Only recently, we gave up premium channels such as Showtime, HBO, and Cinemax.   It seemed their offerings were mostly older content.  However, we replaced them with Netflix DVD, which allows us to choose the current movies and shows we liked.  It was a win for us.

A couple of years ago, we became regular Netflix subscribers and have enjoyed the added viewing options.   The neat thing about Netflix is the lack of commercials at a moderate price.

Lastly, we are Amazon Prime members, mostly for the free shipping, but there is also a streaming service that is not bad.

Roku Devices

An appropriate streaming device was an important first step for us in cutting cable.  If you have a smart television with your desired streaming channel, you can omit this step.  Only one of our televisions is a smart TV and it is old and does not have the streaming services we desire.   So, we needed the device.

From my research, the Roku Ultimate seemed a good option to replace our cable boxes.  It has good reviews and is reasonably priced.  Costco had them at a special price of $69.99, so we tried it.   It was easy to set up.  It requires a HDMI cable that plugs into the television’s HDMI input.  The remote pairs with the television so it can be used to turn it off and on and control the volume.   The Roku device was a hit!

Cutting cable with Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

We also have televisions in our bedroom,  guest bedroom, and den.  So, we bought two additional Roku devices.   The Costco special has expired, but Amazon has a competitive price.  (Roku Device link.) We have an older model Apple TV device and we also set it up in one of the rooms.  It did a fine job as well.

For a one-time cost of $210 for devices, we are saving charges of $50 a month to rent cable boxes with the DVR capabilities.    After four months to recover our purchase price,  we will be saving $50 a month.

Streaming Services

The Roku device enables access to tons of streaming services.  Think of it as a smart television on steroids.  We decided to try Hulu Live.  It offers tons of shows for downloading, live local programming, and the ability to record live shows.  The Live Subscription includes 50 hours of cloud-based recording with an option to add more.  Below are the channels Hulu currently offers in our area.

Hulu Stations

Cable Cutting via Hulu
Hulu Stations

Hulu recently had a monthly price increase from $39.99 to $44.99, which was sizable.  But, Hulu is basically replacing our  $65 cable package bill.   Only one channel that we like, AMC,  did not come with Hulu.   There are options to get AMC, such as Philo and Sling for additional fees.  Another major streaming service, YouTube, has similar channels and options and includes AMC.  We will definitely be giving it a try.

Most streaming services offer a free trial and no contract.  So, it is very easy to try different offerings.   It is a good feeling to know that if you are not happy with a service, there are other options.  I anticipate that we will make many changes to our streaming services in the upcoming years, unlike with cable,  which was our only provider for the last several decades.

Advanced Sound Option

Our family room is our major viewing area and our cable transmitted through our surround sound system.   Cutting cable, but losing our ability to use our sound system would not have been a good outcome for us.   I am happy to say that we were able to have the Roku utilize our sound system.

To do so, we attached the HDMI cable to the stereo receiver instead of the television.    Our receiver has an input labeled Stream Box and we used it for the input for the Roku.    To view Roku, we must also appropriately set the inputs to the receiver and television.

Stereo Receiver Set to Stream Box

The only negative for this option is that the receiver remote is needed to adjust the volume of the sound.  It was a small price to pay for the great sound we are able to obtain for our television viewing.  However, we had one more option to simply the remote situation.

Harmony Remote

We have used a Harmony Ultimate for several years to enable one remote to operate our television and sound system.  I believed that I could set up the remote in a similar fashion for Roku.   However, I ran into one major issue, the Harmoy required a firmware update before I could make programming changes.  It was very difficult to get the Harmony to update, but once it did, setting up Roku was very simple.  I just added the Roku device and then added an activity to turn on the three devices (RoKu, TV, and Receiver) with the appropriate inputs.

Harmony Remote Set For Roku
Harmony Set for Roku
Harmony Remote Streaming Options
Harmony Keys for Streaming Options

Lessons Learned

Our Cable Cutting Savings

Once a few months pass to capture the upfront cost of the RoKu devices, we will save $50 a month on rental of cable devices.  I believe we will land on a subscription to Hulu or YouTube TV, which are $40 to $45 a month.  This represents a minimum saving of $20 for content.  So, the monthly savings after the fixed costs of Roku is $70 per month.  The monthly cable cost was $114;  therefore, we lowered our monthly cost by 62%.

Cable Cutting, the Cons
  • There is a learning curve for watching television via streaming versus cable.  It took some exploration on my part to find everything we have and to utilize the recording feature.  But hey, we are supposed to keep learning and challenging our brains—right?
  • Every streaming service works differently, so with changing services, adaptation is required.
  • Cable cutters need technology skills for set up and utilization of  streaming services.  If you don’t have them, you might need a grandchild.
  • It is not always predictable which recorded shows allow fast forward.  A few of our recordings had commercials.
  • Sometimes, the program momentarily loses reception while the data is buffering.  It usually is brief and does not happen often.  We also had occasional viewing issues with cable, but the buffering is a little more frequent.
  • Channel changing is a slower process with streaming.
Cable Cutting, the Pros
  • The savings for us were significant.
  • Additional content is available through the Roku channel and Hulu.  There are also numerous free channels available.
  • It is very easy to add and delete subscriptions over time as new competitors come into the market.
How Low Can You Go?

If you are really looking to reduce your costs to as low as possible, an air antenna may work.  We added one to our main viewing area and are able to get good reception on all the local channels.   Our air antenna can be obtained for just under $10.  After setting up the antenna, there are no additional costs for the local channels.  Also, antenna television does not require a wireless network.

If you want more options and have a smart television with Netflix or other streaming services, you can add it for just the monthly subscription cost.  However, you must have WiFi.

Lastly, you can add a Roku device.  Then,  a wide array of subscriptions are available.   A Netflix non-HD subscription is currently $8.99 a month and  basic Hulu is $7.99 a month.

More About Us

Cutting cable television is just one strategy we have employed in our goal to maximize our retirement.   If you are interested in our other retirement activities (camping is a major player), check out my blog:  Retirement and teardrop camping!

Cable cutting retired couple

Zamp Connector Added to our New Camper

Zamp Connector Needed

Our first camper, a T@G MAX, had a Zamp Solar connector.   Because  of this, we purchased a Zamp Solar Suitcase.   We liked using it and expected our new camper to be wired for Zamp as well.  However, our nüCamp T@B 400 is not wired for Zamp.

So, this became our first official modification on the 400.  I wanted to use the solar suitcase, but was concerned about drilling a hole into our new camper.  My husband convinced me that he could do it without creating any issues.    He did a fantastic job and it works great!   I am sharing his step-by-step instructions for any of you who might also want a Zamp connector.

Items Used

Zamp Connector and Wire
Tools used
  • Zamp Connector with wire.  We purchased the connector and 10’ of the wire for $23.  You can get the connector cheaper with a very short wire, but we did not want to splice to add needed wire.
  • Painter’s Tape
  • A drill.
  • Drill bit for screws  1/8” Jobber Drill Bit.
  • Drill bit 1/4” for pilot hole.
  • Paddle bits:  7/8”, &  11/16”.
  • 4 Phillips Head screws, #8 x 3”, type A point.
  • 2 each 3/8” Lugs, 12 gauge.
  • Silicone, clear.

The Hole

To begin, he put painter’s tape on the drill spot to protect the finish and to mark it.

Painting tape to protect finish

The hole in our new 400 was really three holes.   Firstly,  he drilled a 1/4” pilot hole approximately 3/8” deep to start the hole.   Secondly, he drilled a 7/8” hole that was 1/8” deep.  It is for the lip of the flange.  Lastly, he drilled an 11/16” hole all the way through the camper wall.  This is to accommodate the bulk of the connector.

Zamp Connector hole
Three-stage hole for Zamp

Attaching the Zamp Port

The Zamp connector fits perfectly into the hole and the four screws attach it securely to the wall of the camper.  My husband marked the spot before drilling, drilled the holes, and tightened the screws.  Next, he applied silicone around the connector to seal the area from water.

Zamp Connector inserted into hole

The above wire extends to a heavy duty distribution stud that can be accessed under the bed.

Connecting to the Batteries

Next, he connected the wire to the batteries.  We have two six-volt AGM batteries and the Zamp connector can access them via a heavy duty distribution stud that came installed in the camper.  You may be connecting to a single battery and not using the distribution studs.

View under the bed
View of battery posts

Also, my husband cut approximately 4 feet of surplus wire.  He then crimped and soldered the black and red wires.  He also added shrink tube to the ends.

We were a little concerned about how to attach the wire to the battery posts because of everything we have heard about reverse polarity and the Zamp.   So we contacted Zamp and they explained to us that the positive wire would be coming from the male lead on the port.  For our cable, it was red, so we basically just attached the red cable to the positive post and the black to the negative post.

We asked the Zamp technician what would happen if we connected it wrong.  He said that it would just show an error on the charge controller.  That made us feel better.

Conclusion

Finally, we gave it a trial run in our driveway and it worked beautifully.   So, we now have a Zamp port on our new camper just like we had on our first camper.   My husband also ordered a Zamp decal.  I would have been good without the decal, but love the port.

Our page, Camping Resources for New Teardrop Campers , has other posts related to how we solve our camping needs as new campers.   So, you might want to check it out.

We can’t wait to take our camper with its new Zamp port on the road!

Retired couple

 

 

Second Year Retirement Highlights

Second Year Retirement

Our second year of retirement was wonderful, except for a couple of months which were quite difficult.  We settled into a routine when not traveling that was comfortable and companionable.   I can honestly say I do not miss working.  We were also able to travel extensively and it was amazing.

I am writing this post primarily for my husband and myself.  It is like a journal of our experiences.  Because it will likely be boring for those who do not know us, it will not be posted on camping social media sites.

Our first year retirement summary, Retirement: First Year Highlights , is also a blog post.

Daily Routine

The time that we previously spent working is now being taken up by a slow, comfortable pace of living.  We start our days later now, with ample sleep.  Most of our meals are at home and are generally healthier than before retirement.    We work out at the gym about four times a week,  me with classes and my husband doing a combination of exercising and socializing.  Our days start around 7:00 and we are usually asleep before 11:00.  Sadly, we have officially become old folks!

Family Time

We now have much more time for family and we see them every opportunity, but we do try not to encroach upon their lives too much.   It is great to know that we can be there for them if they need us without having to worry about working.

I have been working on a family cookbook since I retired and finally finished it.  I gave family members copies of it on Thanksgiving.  They seemed to like it and the personal notes in it.   It is nice to have all my favorite recipes in one spot and on line.

A day with the grands

We were able to take a couple of road trips to Tampa to visit our son.  Retirement has enabled us to have much more time for trips like those.

Good times in Tampa

I am trying to keep my brain challenged, so I spend a good bit of time doing Luminosity games, Sudoku, and others.  For some reason, I find them relaxing and somewhat addictive.

Planning trips and later writing about them is also something I enjoy.  I know that one day, we will not be able to go like we do now and I am working to capture our memories.   Also, in a small way, I believe I am helping some new campers navigate their way.  I have received responses from several who let me know how much they appreciated the blog.

Yardword and housework also take up parts of our days and it is good to be able to devote more time to them.

Lastly, we watch way too much television.  We try to limit it and honestly do get a little sick of it, but there you have it.

Our Big Event

Knee replacement for my husband is something we have been working on since we first retired.  It was delayed by needed vein surgery that was done in our first year of retirement.  Unfortunately, there were complications that resulted in pulmonary embolisms.   Then, we had a period of time on blood thinners and testing to see if it was advisable to move forward.  It pushed the surgery to August of our second year.

He got through the surgery fine.  While he was at a higher risk for blood clots, thankfully there were none!  However, his rehabilitation was harder than for most because he had significant swelling related to the vein issue.  It was very,  very painful for him and challenging for me as well because I helped him with his rehab at home.  Wow, it was tough!    It was scary too because I wasn’t sure at first that he would even get back to where he was before the surgery.

A new knee

He is now much better and we are told his knee will continue to improve many months after the surgery.   We are so glad to have this behind us.

The Inevitable Decline

We both are very aware of the effects of aging.  My husband had the bad knee for several years and though older,  I was much more active.   Now, his  knee is better and we are hoping he will be able to do more.  It seems that now I am going to be holding us back.   An orthopedist told me that I will eventually need shoulder replacement.  Additionally, a hip that was only occasionally an issue before has become quite painful.

Not to be all doom and gloom, but these things make me acutely aware that we had better go and do what we want to do while we still can.

Recreation

Yes, we do have lots of fun!  I think it makes it that much sweeter knowing that this is not something that is just going to go on forever.

Camping in the T@G

We have been camping for just over two years now and we both love it.  I think we got along better in that small teardrop camper than we do in our very roomy home.   There is so much beautiful country to see.  There is also the feeling of overcoming obstacles and working together.

Our retirement goal is to camp in all fifty states.  Toward that goal, we were fortunate to take two amazing month-long trips.  The first west all the way to California and the second north to the Upper Peninsula.  Both were incredible!

Retirement travel
Winter trip out West
Summer trip North

Our summer trip included the nüCamp 18 rally in Sugarcreek, Ohio.  We also attended the Key Lime Rally in Gulf Shores and the Tiny Christmas Campout in Pensacola.  Lastly, we went camping with several friends at Stone Mountain.  We have so many wonderful memories of those trips!  I feel so blessed that we had this time together.

Next Level Camping

Our little T@G gave us so many wonderful days camping that we knew we were all in for much more.  We had been looking for something that offered a few more amenities—a bathroom and a place to be comfortable when inside during the day.   The nüCamp T@B 400 was our choice.

Replacement Camper
Our new camper

We loved it immediately, but felt that the tongue weight on our tow vehicle was under too much strain.  So, we traded our tow vehicle for something bigger.   Lots of changes in our camping world occurred that week in November!

Bigger SUV
Very much bigger tow vehicle

We were able to use our new toys on our last camping trip of the year to the Tiny Christmas Campout.  We did some camping in South Carolina on the way.  Another state for our map!

First T@B 400 trip

We made quite a bit of progress in our goal of camping in all fifty states.  Still a long way to go though!

Our states map
Big Cities

We were fortunate to be able to travel to two big cities during our second year, Los Angeles in January and Chicago in July.   Both cities were exciting to visit—amazing food, interesting museums, and lots to see and do.  We like to stay at hotels in the heart of big cities to be able to see as much as possible.

Couple outsid Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Chicago Water Tower
Chicago Water Tower
Dancing

Ballroom dancing has been a big part of our lives for several years.  We are members of a dance club and two dance groups.  From the sound of that, you might assume we are good dancers.  That is not the case, but we do enjoy it and we get to spend time with some truly wonderful people.

The declining knee has resulted in declining dancing over the last few years, but I hope we can dance more in the next year.

Our dance club’s Leadout

Second year retirement was a great for us!  We look forward to our third year of retirement and whatever adventures it may bring.

 

South Carolina Camping, First T@B 400 Trip

South Carolina Camping

South Carolina camping was our first opportunity to use our new T@B 400. My separate post, Shakedown Trip in New TAB 400 covers the performance of the 400 on the trip.  We camped in two South Carolina State Parks, the first in Columbia, the State Capital and the second on the Atlantic.  Our trip began early in December and the fall colors were so beautiful!

Sesquicentennial State Park

South Carolina camping began in Columbia.  It was our very first campsite in the 400 and we arrived just before dark in the pouring rain.  Stressful!  Our set up went relatively well, but we were wet and cold when we were done.  We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and were very happy to be warm and dry.

South Carolina Camping
Sesquicentennial State Park Site 71

There were few campers at the campground.  We chose Sesquicentennial because it is in Columbia, which we wanted to visit.  Our site was close to the bathhouse and was nice for a state park, just a little too warm.   Though our 400 has a shower, we did not use it on this trip.  We will save it for boondocking.

Columbia Attractions

We had one full day to see the sights.   The rain was off and on for our sightseeing and the temperature was in the 70s.

South Carolina State Museum

The four story  museum has a variety of attractions, including a domed planetarium, a variety of exhibits, and a 4D interactive theater.  It is the largest museum in the state and seemed a good way to spend a rainy afternoon.  The museum offers an abundance of activities for children.

South Carolina State Museum
South Carolina State Museum

Many exhibits depicted early life in South Carolina like the one below.  In 1936, less than 2.5% of the state’s farms had electricity.  However, by late 1941, about 40% had acquired it and by 1959, 90% had public power through the efforts of the Rural Electrification Administration.

Rural Electrification Exhibit 1930-1955

Another interesting exhibit was the Hupmobile below.  I have never heard of one, but Detroit manufactured them from 1908 to 1941.  The car below was purchased in Columbia.  One interesting fact is that the Hupmobile appeared in front of U.S. Treasury on the 1920s-era $10 bill.

1927 Hupmobile
Rare 1927 Hupmobile
South Carolina State House

The State House was closed because we were visiting on a Sunday.  However, we did walk the grounds, which displayed beautiful fall colors.

South Carolina State House

The architecture of the State House was pretty cool, but it was the grounds that most impressed me.

State House Grounds

We had a fantastic meal at Pearlz Oyster Bar.  I wanted to have a SC classic, Frogmore Stew, aka Low Country Boil.   Pearlz did not disappoint—everything we had was amazing.  It was our best meal in the state!

Low Country Boil
Low Country Boil at Pearlz

Our two nights in Sesquicentennial were comfortable.  Our new camper and its Alde heater made it nice in the mornings to have breakfast inside.  We did not spend very much time in the campground, but it was quiet and peaceful.

Edisto State Park

South Carolina camping was next at Edisto State Park.  It was lovely, but more remote than I had imagined.  There was torrential rain the night before we arrived resulting in large puddles of water throughout the campground.  However, it was  was lovely and well-maintained.

Edisto State Park Site 53
Edisto Site 53
The beach just beyond our campsite

Nearby Attractions

There is much to see along the South Carolina coast and we tried to do as much as possible on our one full day allocated for seeing the sights.

Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak is a giant live oak tree on John’s Island. It is estimated to be 400-500 years old.  The tree is 66.5 feet tall and its longest branch is 187 feet long.   I love trees, particularly live oaks, so this one was a must see.  It was majestic!  We later learned that there is some controversy regarding the tree and the cost of producing electricity in the area.  I don’t know the specifics, but the tree is amazingly.

Angel Oak Tree
Morris Island Lighthouse

The lighthouse on Morris Island opened in 1876.  It is on an island that is shrinking and the shoreline is at the base of the lighthouse.  It is at great risk to be claimed by the sea and there are efforts to save it.  Boats take tourists to the island, but they cannot enter the lighthouse.  We viewed it from Folly Island via a beautiful walk along the beach.

Morris Island Lighthouse
Morris Island Lighthouse
Pralines in Charleston

We visited Charleston several years ago and loved it, but did not plan to spend time there on this trip.  However, Folly Island was quite close to Charleston.  So, we made a little side trip to pick up some pralines at Market Street Sweets.   They were wonderful!

Charleston pralines

Lastly, Edisto also provided us with an amazing sunset.

An Edisto sunset

We loved our South Carolina camping.   It is a beautiful state with friendly people, great food, and lots to see and do.  I’m glad we were able to spend several days there.

This trip ended in Pensacola at the Tiny Christmas Campout and was our  last trip of 2018.  For us, it was a great year for camping!

Retired couple

Shakedown Trip in New TAB 400

T@B 400 Shakedown Trip

The shakedown  trip in our new camper was planned several months earlier and we expected it to be on our T@G.   However,  we purchased the 400 sooner than expected and it was just prior to our rather long trip to South Carolina and Florida.

South Carolina camping
Our long path to Pensacola

The T@B 400

We have always camped in the much smaller T@G, so the 400 was a quite different experience.  If interested in our thoughts for making this change, check out Replacing Our Tiny Camper, A Big Step .

The trip of approximately 1,400 miles had been on the books for several months, but the timing of our T@B purchase just a few days before the trip meant that we would have a very long shakedown trip in the 400.  Yikes!

The Good and Great

The bathroom and indoor kitchen were wonderful!  It was pretty chilly in the early mornings and at nighttime because it was an early December trip.  Not having to go into the cold for the bathhouse late at night was amazing.   Preparing breakfast in a warm camper was pretty nice as well.

Speaking of warm, the Alde system did an excellent job of keeping both the water and the camper warm.    It was comfortably warm and also very quiet.

Set up and takedown were also very easy.  We do not need as much external camping gear as we needed with the T@G.

Both of us could easily stand in the camper and changing clothes was much easier.

T@B Wet Bath
Wet Bath

The Not So Good

Our gas mileage was awful!  I was expecting 12-13 mpg and we barely got 10 mpg.  The new vehicle had only 4,000 miles on it when purchased and I have been told it should get better.  I certainly hope so.

Our 400 is a Boondock Lite and is quite tall.  We like the extra height, but it can’t be good for gas mileage.

We were prepared for the bed to not be as good as our T@G because it was a king and had doors on both sides.   The 400 has a queen bed and access from only one side.  There is also the curve in the back of the camper that impacts one side of the bed.   My husband and I traded off sleeping in the back of the bed.  It really was not as bad as I expected, but this part was still a downgrade from the T@G.

T@B Issues

We expected some minor issues with the camper, but I must say we did not find anything significant.  Unfamiliar with the Alde, there was a learning curve, but it performed very well.  The temperature it shows is not the same temperature of the actual room, but it is my understanding that it is an Alde thing.

Our biggest issue was the size (18 gallons) of the gray tank.    The only thing that went into it was from dishes and hand washing because we took showers in the bathhouses, yet we had to dump gray water in the bathhouse a couple of times.  (We do not have one of those pull around tanks yet.)

There was also one shade that had to be pulled down carefully or it would bunch at the bottom, particularly on one side.  That side of the window has a bigger gap at the bottom than the other.

We will be following up with our dealer, Bankston RV,  about the shade.

The problem shade

Overall, I am feeling good about T@B 400 quality and our choice of camper based on this trip!

Tow Vehicle Shakedown

It was a shakedown trip for the Ford Expedition, our tow vehicle,  as well.  We bought it just a couple of days after the camper and felt good about its towing capacity of 9,000 pounds and a 900 pound tongue weight.   It is a V-6 with twin turbos and gets 24 mpg on the highway when not towing.   However, I was very disappointed at its mpg while towing.

Our Misadventure

We enjoyed the Expedition on the trip except for the low mpg.   It does have one annoying and potentially dangerous trait though.  The hands free function on the tailgate operates if you kick your foot under it.   It hit my husband in the head a couple of times as he was working around the hitch.  We tried disabling it, but then it was totally manual and my husband did not like that.

As we were stopped at the dump station in the last campground before heading home, I noticed our 7 pin was not yet connected.   In an attempt to protect my husband from the tailgate,  I took the keys from him and tossed them in the console of the car.  But then I decided to get out for a minute and all the doors immediately locked.   I had locked all keys, wallets, and phones in the car and it was running!

There was a code to the door, but with the rush to get ready for the trip, neither of us had committed it to memory.

It was about 6:30 in the morning and most of the campground was sleeping, but we had one friend who we knew had been up earlier walking her dog.   She rescued us!   We used her phone to call for help and waited in her warm truck for roadside assistance.

Conclusion

Despite our misadventure, our shakedown trip was wonderful and we love our new camper and tow vehicle.  (Needless to say, we both have memorized the code to our car door.)

Can’t wait to get out there again!

Retired couple

 

Camper Storage Checklist for nüCamp 400

Camper Storage, A First

Our new T@B 400 will be resting at a storage facility for the winter.   This is a first for us because our T@G was always in our relatively warm basement.  So, we will use this post as a camper storage checklist each year as we retire our camper for the winter.

Storage Checklist

1. Winterize the Fresh Water System

It is most important to ensure the camper’s fresh water system is adequately prepared  for storage.  If you reside in a climate that does not go below freezing, you can just drain all the water from the camper.  If, however, temperatures will go below freezing, then additional steps are necessary.  Additionally, we have a separate post for how we prepared our camper for freezing temperatures, Winterized our Camper Water System .

2. Have a Plan for Keeping the Battery Charged

Secondly, it is important to keep the battery charged.  A charged battery can withstand sub-zero temperatures, but a drained one can be destroyed in temperatures below freezing.  Therefore, it is important to keep a good charge on the battery.  There several ways to address this:  removal of the battery, providing a trickle charge, keeping it on shore power, or periodic charging of the battery.

Because we are storing our camper close to home, we will do periodic charging of the battery.  We will store it with the battery kill switch off because it  ensures there is nothing to draw energy.   So, I have put reminders on my calendar to check the camper and battery every couple of weeks.

Periodic Power Monitoring

a) First, turn on the power at the battery kill switch  and check the power level of the battery at the information panel.

b) If it needs a charge, connect to shore power to bring it up to a fully-charged level.  Note:  the power at the battery kill switch must be on to charge the battery.

c)  When the battery has a full charge, disconnect the power and turn the battery kill switch back to off.

Note:  when the camper is taken to storage, the battery should be fully charged.

Kill Switch is On
3.  Remove All Food From the Camper

It is very important to remove food from the camper because it attracts insects and wildlife.  Also, be sure to remove all canned and bottled items because they could freeze and burst.  Ensure that the microwave and stove are clean so there is not anything that would produce food odors.

4.  Clean the Camper

Wash the exterior and clean all the inside surfaces.  Vacuum the floor and remove any stains with soapy water.  If the floor is damp from cleaning, leave the windows open to allow ventilation while it dries.

5.  Remove linens and all fabrics

We removed all sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, etc.  We also removed our cushions and mattresses because we have read that they can sometimes be ruined by wildlife.  This may be overkill, but we don’t want to take any chances of them getting damaged.

We have a visor that we will also need to spray with Kiwi Camp Dry  to have it ready to repel water and make it easier to clean in our next season of camping.

5. Turn off Everything

a) Turn off the refrigerator by turning the setting to zero.  Leave the refrigerator door open and put an open box of  baking soda inside.

b). Make sure all lights, Alde System, range burners, television, and DVD player are off.    Also, ensure that both fan switches are off.

c) Turn off the propane at the valve.

d) Turn off all power to Camper by turning the kill switch to off.  (Battery image on top of switch appears upside down.)

 

Camper storage checklist last item
Kill switch is off
6.  Final Steps

a)  Ensure that the Camper is stored in a level position and stabilizers are down.

b)  Close and lock all windows.   Also, close all of the  shades.

c)  Place the cover over the air conditioner vent.

e) Place rodent repellent in camper.  We chose the one (see link next) below based on a  recommendation on a Facebook group.

Rodent repellent

f)  Place a moisture absorber in the camper because it will help to prevent corrosion, mold, and mildew.  The product below was in stock at our local Walmart (link) in the RV section.

Moisture absorber

g) Vent the Fantastic Fan 1/4” because nüCamp recommends it in the Manual.

h) Remove trailer hitch from SUV and place in storage unit.

i) Close and lock storage unit.

Camper Storage is done!

Our Storage Environment

Our camper will be in an unheated storage unit, so we will not have to consider any type of cover for it.  But, if it were outside and subject to UV rays and the elements, we would need a cover.  However, it is my understanding that one should be aware of extra moisture it may cause in some climates.

I had a lot of angst about getting our camper installed in the very tight space we have, but my husband got it in with the first try.  I was so impressed!

Camper is stored
Very little room to spare

So, we have tucked our new baby away for the winter and are at home planning our next adventures.

Hurry, hurry springtime!

Retired couple

 

 

Winterized our Camper Water System

Winterized our Camper, Twice

We winterized our camper just a couple of days after we purchased it because the local temperature was dipping into the twenties.  This resulted in scrambling to read manuals and watch YouTube videos.  The camper was taken on its maiden trip a few days after.   Having now winterized the camper twice, once when we first brought it home and again when we returned from a nine day trip, we feel we have a handle on it.

We are by no means experts in camper winterization, but believe our process will be adequate to protect it.  We hope this post will be helpful to others new to this process.   

Preparation 

We purchased RV antifreeze and a suction tube that attaches to the water pump at our local RV dealer.   The combo of hose and gallon of antifreeze was $12.99.  There’s also a kit on Amazon that includes the tube plus a few items we did not use.  

For our method, we only used one gallon of RV antifreeze, the kind that is non-toxic.  It is very important to only use RV antifreeze because you are dealing with your water system.

We turned off our Alde heating system before beginning the process.  We previously dumped our gray and black tanks at the campground.  As we had fresh water in our holding tank,  I ran a good bit of water into the sink and flushed the toilet several times to run fresh water through the tanks.  If connected to city water, you would want to disconnect after running some fresh water through the system.

Draining the System 

  1. Drain the black and gray tanks.  They should only have the fresh water that was recently added.  All that is needed is to follow the same process that is used at a dump station.   Our gray tank seemed to drain better when it was lower in the front.
Drained black and gray lines
Black and gray valves are opened and tanks are drained

2. Drain the fresh water tank.  The valve is located behind the wheel on the driver’s side.  It holds 30 gallons and can take awhile to drain.  It seemed to drain best when the camper was level.  

Fresh Water Tank Valve
Fresh Water Tank Valve

3.  Low point and hot water drains:
 Open the two low point drains and the water heater drains.  They can be accessed through the rear compartment on the driver’s side.   The drains are located where the green circles are below.

Access area for drains
Access area for drains

The low point drains are perpendicular when closed and parallel when open. They are open in the photo below.

Low point drains are open

The water heater drains are pointing up when open and are pointing forward when closed.  The Alde 3020 Manual recommends having all water taps open to drain the hot water tank.   It also recommends leaving the valves open during winterization.  Below is the page from the manual.

Alde drain information

 

Hot water drains are open

Allow all the water to flow out of the low point drains,  then close them.  When closed, they should look like the photo below.

Closed low point drains

 

Bypassing the Hot Water Heater

4.  Change the Bypass valve for the hot water system from “Normal” to “Bypass”.   We do this to prevent antifreeze from getting into the hot water system.  It should remain in this position until the camper is dewinterized and ready to be used again.

Bypass valve set to bypass

Adding the Antifreeze 

5.  Turn on the pump for a couple of minutes because you want to get any water that might remain out and turn on a faucet to release it.

6.  You are now ready to pump antifreeze into the water system using the pump, which is accessible through the wardrobe inside the camper.  

Water pump access point

Below is a photo of what we attached to the pump.  We removed the waterline that was going into the pump and attached the black  1/2” fitting below.  We then inserted the tubing into the antifreeze container.

Tubing and connector for water pump

Below is a photo of how it looked while attached.

Attached Pump device

Next, we ran the pump, which sucked the antifreeze into the water system.  While the pump was running, we turned on each faucet until we saw pink antifreeze coming out of it.   This included both hot and cold faucets in both sinks and the shower.  We also did this for the toilet and for the hot and cold faucets for the outside shower.

Antifreeze has flowed into the sink

7.  We used about 3/4 of a gallon of antifreeze through the pump.  Next, we  poured the remaining amount into the 2 sinks, shower floor,  and toilet.  We have now winterized our camper water system!  I will be following up later with a post on how we dewinterize to get ready to go camping.

Alternate Methods:

1)  Antifreeze into Fresh Water Tank

I have read that if you do not want to pump antifreeze directly into your system, you can use the fresh water system instead.   First, drain all possible water and then add approximately 3 gallons antifreeze directly into the fresh water tank.  Next, turn on the pump and open all faucets until the pink antifreeze is coming through.  You would also pour antifreeze into the drains (#7 above).

2) Blowout Method:

Use a special adapter to blow water out of the system using compressed air.  This can be used alone or in combination with antifreeze.  There are instructions on the web and YouTube for this method.

Winterization of Camper Conclusion 

The steps above are just to prepare the water system for winter.    I have reviewed the manual and know there are other things we must do before we can put our camper safely away for winter.  

We never winterized our T@G camper because it slept in our basement when not on the road.  I was pretty comfortable with how to manage camping in our T@G and all that it entails.  Now, there is a new, more complicated camper to understand.   How we winterized our camper has been added to our    Camping Resources for New Teardrop Campers.

Looking forward to warmer weather and new camping adventures!

Retired couple




 

 

Replacing Our Tiny Camper, A Big Step

Replacing our tiny camper was difficult for me.  I had bonded with it and it was my baby!  It was everything we expected it to be and served us well for two years and over 10,000 miles.  We bought it at a time when we did not know if we would even like camping and it enabled us to travel for very little money to exciting,  far away places.  Teardrop Camping, The Decision to Buy a Teardrop

Why Make a Change

While there are so many reasons to love the nüCamp T@G, it does have some limitations.  I originally thought that the biggest challenges would be the lack of a bathroom and that it would be uncomfortable for my tall husband.  We adapted pretty well without the bathroom and my husband was good with the camper most of the time because the bed was easy to access and quite comfortable.  He was too tall to stand comfortably in the galley though.  It would be a bigger issue, but he doesn’t do a lot of cooking.

The major reason we opted for a larger camper was to have a place to be comfortable when the weather was not good for being outside.  We have camped in the rain and in extreme heat and cold.   Our solution to this has always been to leave and go do something where we can be inside. Camping and Execution of the Rainy Day Plan  It beats staying in bed all day or freezing/roasting outside, but we were at a place where we would like to have more options.

Lastly, my husband has been considering replacing our tiny camper for awhile.  He has enjoyed our trips, but has been lobbying for something bigger for many months.

The Replacement Camper

We thoroughly researched similar campers that were approximately twenty feet long.   A quality camper with a place to be comfortable inside that also had a bathroom was the overall goal.  We required at least a queen-sized bed and a separate area to relax.  The brands we considered were:  nüCamp, Little Guy, Alto, Airstream, Oliver,  Lance, Forest River, Jayco, and Lil Snoozy.   Weight, space utilization, nearness of a service location, perceived value and quality, known quality issues, comfort, value, and eye appeal were all factors in our decision.

I have to admit we were biased in favor of nüCamp.  Our T@G was an incredible camper and nüCamp did a great job of customer service for us.  Replacing our tiny camper with another nüCamp product seemed a safer decision.  Also, we attended a rally at their Sugarcreek facility this year and were very impressed with the company and its operations.

However, if we had found another camper that met out criteria that was better suited our needs, we would have bought it instead.  Some of the camper brands we have seen in person and all were researched to some extent online.   My husband and I spent many hours considering specifications, options, and how we would expect to use this larger camper.  In the end, we came back to the nüCamp 400.

The Search for a 400

Our desire was to buy in our home state of Alabama if possible.  We were already aware of Bankston Motor Homes from its servicing of our T@G and were impressed by their performance.  Bankston has multiple nearby locations and we were happy to see they had several 400s, including one Boondock Lite (BL).  https://www.bankstonmotorhomes.com/

We also looked for 400s within a five hundred mile radius of our home because we had color and option preferences.   It was surprising to learn that of the more than ten dealers, only a few 400s were in stock and only one of the other dealers had a Boondock Lite.

The 400s come very well-equipped with only a few options and Bankston’s 400 BL colors and options were acceptable to us, so we began the purchase process right away.  David Tyler was our salesperson and we really liked working with him.  He transferred the unit to the Albertville location the next day and we went to check  it out.   It was lovely and we told him we would take it.

Replacing our tiny camper
nüCamp T@B 400

There were three superficial issues that we asked them to correct prior to purchase.  There was a tiny crack in the casing for the porch light, a small scratch on the lower molding of one side, and a small section of the Formica has become unglued.  David assured us they would correct those items.

Upgrade Considerations

We always stored our T@G in our garage and it weighs in at just over 1,000 pounds.  No electric brakes were needed and we had surplus towing capacity in our Acura MDX.   However, the much larger nüCamp 400 weighs 2,690 and its GVWR is 3,500 pounds.  Most noteworthy, it would not fit in our garage.  Replacing our tiny camper would not be easy and we would not be able to camp so inexpensively in the new one.

Towing Capacity

Our Acura’s towing capacity had  been increased to 5,000 pounds with the installation of a transmission cooling unit.  The Acura’s tongue weight capacity of 500 pounds is within the 400’s tongue weight of 460 pounds, but it did not leave much surplus.  We hoped it would be adequate for the new camper.

Storage Requirements

The requirement for storage was perhaps the main reason we have held back on replacing our tiny camper.  It was always in our basement with easy access and no extra cost.   We really hated to give up storing our camper on our property, but the 400 would not fit into our garage and we could not store it outside.

So, we began searching for storage options.  We were lucky to find an indoor storage unit near our home.  It is just under 20 feet deep and the door is just under 10 feet tall.  Our T@B 400 BL is 18 feet long and just under 9 feet tall, so it is a fit for the unit—but just barely.   It is very tricky backing it into the space, but my husband did a great job in our trial run.

Additionally, the space does not have climate control and we will have to winterize the camper.   Another thing we will have to learn how to do.

The space brings with it a monthly cost of $150 and an annual cost of $1,800.

T@B Storage Unit
Storage Unit

Electric Brakes

Unlike out T@G, the new 400 has electric brakes, which is a legal retirement for trailers of its weight.  This required us to get a brake controller for our car.  We did not want to have to modify our dash and impact the wiring on our vehicle, so we opted for the Tekonsha 90250 Prodigy RF Electronic Brake Controller.

Sway and Weight Distribution

Because we do not have a lot of surplus tow capacity in our tow vehicle, we wanted something to address sway and weight distribution.  We opted for the Blue Ox Sway Pro 750.  It is a weight distributing hitch that  provides sway control and one other nice feature.  It allows backing up without adjustment, which is not available with many other manufacturers.

Blue Ox Sway Pro 750
Blue Ox Sway Pro 750

Insurance

We were careful to add the 400 to our insurance before we took it on the road because it was a sizable purchase.   State Farm insures our camper and because of the higher cost of the camper, our camper insurance cost moved from $200 to $417 (with a $ 1,000 deductible).

Decreased Gas Mileage

We were able to tow our T@G and get an average of 18 miles per gallon.  There has not been a chance to check the gas mileage on the new unit, but we expect it to be around 12-13 miles per gallon.  If this is the case, we will have to spend approximately 50% more for gasoline.    This increase can be pretty significant on long trips.

Fixed Annual Cost Summary

Accountant that I am, it was necessary for me to consider all the financial ramifications of replacing our tiny camper.   Beyond the purchase, we will incur approximately $2,000 per year in storage and additional insurance, plus 50% higher gasoline costs.  Is it worth it?  At this point in our life, we think it is.

Replacing Our Tiny Camper

It all happened rather quickly and we were ready to pick up our new baby.  David Tyler and Bankston RV were amazing and we are very happy with our new camper.  Some of the service team even came in on a Saturday for us.  I can’t say enough nice things about them.

Camper at Bankston RV
Our New Camper at Bankston RV with David Tyler

With the T@B 400, we are gaining the sitting/eating/sleeping area below. This space, plus the indoor kitchen for when the weather is bad, was our main motivation for replacing our tiny camper.  The area has three setup options .  Below it is set as a seating area, but rearrangement of the pillows allows it be used as an extra bed.  Lastly, if the center cushion is removed, the table can be lifted to create a table with seating on two sides.

T@B 400 Seating and Eating Area
Seating and Eating Area

This lovely indoor kitchen is a definite perk.  It will be wonderful on those cold mornings.

T@B Kitchen
Indoor Kitchen

There is also the benefit of having this tiny bathroom.  No more middle of the night hikes to campground bathhouses.  We expect this to be a convenience we will really appreciate.

T@B Wet Bath
Wet Bath

However, the new bed is slightly smaller than a queen and only accessible from one side.  The T@G has a king-sized bed with a door on each side.   I am afraid we are going to sorely miss our old bed.  Also, for the record, the bed is a bear to make!

T@B Queen Bed
Queen Bed (almost)

We are happy overall with the T@B 400 amenities.  Replacing our tiny camper is completed and we are excited about taking this new teardrop to far away places!

A Final Change

On our ride home with the new camper, all went well, but my husband said that the front end of the car felt light to him and the steering wheel was too easy to turn.  This concerned us!  We should have been under the 500 lb tongue weight, but the new weight distribution sway bar hitch was quite heavy.  It turns out that it weighed 47 pounds, which was 7 lbs over our car’s tongue weight limit.  I worried that this would damage the car over time.

We were prepared to replace our tow vehicle if needed and that is what we did.  So, we now have a giant SUV that can pull 9,000 pounds with lots of tongue weight to spare.  It should be great for camping, but sure will be big for me to park.  Intimidating!

So, replacing our tiny camper led to replacing our tow vehicle as well and we have much to learn about both with a camping trip fast approaching.

Bigger SUV
Very much bigger

Let the New Camping Adventures Begin!

Retired couple

 

 

 

 

Stone Mountain Camping with Friends

Stone Mountain camping during a few beautiful autumn days with our friends was amazing.   There was a total of five couples, all friends from ballroom dancing.  It was so great to be able to spend some quality time with them in such a beautiful setting.

Stone Mountain Camping

This was our first trip to Stone Mountain and we encountered a new restriction for teardrops campers, they must camp in the tent area.   The area was cheaper, but did not offer sewer or cable television.  This was not a problem, but it meant we could not be in the same area as our friends.

We originally booked site #51 because it was closer to our friends , but site #55 was much nicer and they allowed us to take it instead.   The road to the site was not well-paved, but it was right by the lake with an incredible view.  The photo below was taken from our site.

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We arrived on a Thursday amid steady rain.  We just removed the items that are transported in our cabin and went to hang out with our friends who have  much larger campers.  Consequently, because of the rain when we arrived and many activities with friends, we never really set up much of a campsite. No tent, awning,  nor rug.  We did not even hook up the water.

By midday the next day, we had beautiful weather that continued for the remainder of our stay.   However, it was cool at night and quite chilly in the mornings.  It made breakfast at the campsite not so desirable.  We had one very basic breakfast that we ate in our cabin and we ate out all of the other mornings.

Lake view
View Across the Lake

Stone Mountain camping was a great experience for us despite the sparseness of our campsite.  Our site by the lake was peaceful and lovely and the park staff was very accommodating.

Weekend Activities

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

Our single rainy morning  breakfast was at Folk Art Cafe, followed by a visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.  https://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/     We are trying to visit all the presidential libraries and it was perfect for this trip because it was only about fifteen miles from the campground.   All the libraries we have visited have been worthwhile and this one was no exception.   There is always so much to learn about the life and times of our country’s highest leaders.

I was an adult while Jimmy Carter was president,  but there were quite a few things I did not know about him.  Most noteworthy to me was that he came from very humble beginnings, significantly more than I had imagined.  His family did not have electricity and running water until he was a teenager and he and Rosalyn lived in public housing early in their marriage.  His efforts on the treaty between Israel and Egypt and his lifetime contribution to humanitarian causes were highly impressive.

Jimmy Carter Museum
Jimmy Carter Museum and Library

The grounds behind the library were beautiful with fall colors and there was a pond.    Many geese were residents to the area.

Carter Presidential Center
Rear Grounds of Carter Presidential Center

Geese Enjoying the Fall Afternoon
Geese Enjoying the Fall Afternoon

Stone Mountain Attraction Center

The Attraction Center has shops and restaurants plus a lift to the top of the mountain and a train that travels five miles around the perimeter.  For children, there is a farmyard, miniature golf, a dinosaur-themed playground, and a 4-D theatre.   It is my understanding that there is a pretty impressive laser light show, but it ended for the season the week before we arrived.  Most of the restaurants and shops were also closed for the season.

Stone Mountain behind the Memorial Hall
Stone Mountain behind the Memorial Hall

We took the lift to the top and the view was amazing.  It was a beautiful day and we walked around quite a bit on the top of the mountain.  A couple of our friends actually hiked to the top.  That is something I would have loved to do, but we are still rehabbing my husband’s knee replacement.

Retired Couple on top of Stone Mountain
On Top of Stone Mountain

The train was not very exciting as there was not much to see.  A Native American Pow Wow was occurring while we were there, but we left early to ice the knee.  Our friends really liked it.  I think the light show and a climb up the mountain will be my preferred activities if we return.

Stone Mountain is a 1,683 feet tall granite block with a  circumference of at the base of 3.8 miles.   Blocks of the granite has been shipped all across the country and around the world. It has been used in courthouses and in many federal buildings and structures.

Stone Mountain Memorial

There is a giant carving into the granite of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.  The sculpture is 42 feet deep and 400 feet above the ground.  They completed the memorial in 1970.   It is so large that it has been said that a grown man could stand inside one of the three horses mouths.  The sculpting efforts were led by Walter Kirkland Hancock and it is the largest high relief sculpture in the world.  The memorial is a subject of ongoing controversy today.

Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial
Stone Mountain Memorial

In  Conclusion

Stone Mountain camping was a great experience for us,  but the best part of the trip was that we had lots of time to visit with our friends.  We had dinner together each night and played cards.   Loved it!

This was our first camping trip since my husband’s knee replacement and it was exhilarating to be camping again!  If you would like to see posts of other states and campgrounds we have visited, we have a page with all the links.  States Visited, a Campsite Resource

Happy Camping!

Retired couple

 

 

 

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