Tampa, Stop #2 Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River is a Florida State Park located about a half hour northeast of Tampa. It is a beautiful park with a “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” look with its gorgeous live oak trees and abundance of spanish moss.

We have family in Tampa and this trip was more about visiting them than camping.  We decided to spend a couple of nights at their home, so we left Endeavor, our teardrop, all alone at the park.

We set up our rug, awning, and chairs so it would look like we would return at any time.  Teardrops are so light, it is easy for them to be stolen and we worried a little about being gone so long.

Our time with family was great and we did a lot of cool things in Tampa.  I will cover those activities in a separate post.

On the afternoon before we left to return to the park,  I received a disturbing message via Facebook Messenger.  It went something like:  “Ma’am, this is the Ranger in Charge at Hillsborough River.  I need you to call me ASAP.”  This freaked me out!  My first though was that something had happened to our camper.

I called immediately and spoke with the ranger.  He was concerned about us and said that several people had noticed that we had not been around.  He wanted to be sure that we were okay.  I thought it as really great that he went to the trouble of tracking us down to confirm that all  was well.

We had two nights and one full day with Hillsborough River as home base.  The river and a canoe launch was just across from our site, #32.

River is beyond the trees
Hillsborough River
Cedar Landing Shelter

We sometimes camp with friends and play games at night.  The above  shelter would be nice for this as it is screened and would enable us to be protected from bugs.  Bugs were not bad at all during our time at the park, but we were not outside with lights on for a long period.

There were some nice amenities we did not use.  There is a very large pool, a cafe, and rentals for canoes and bikes.   There is also a playground and several hiking trails.

One thing about Florida State Parks that I really like is that they have dishwashing stations with hot water.   With our limited cooking, I loaded up our dirty dishes in a plastic bucket and carried them to the station for washing.  With no sewer available, this was a lot easier than it is in parks without this option.

We were given a large, heavy-duty cot by our son’s girlfriend and we tried it out one beautiful morning.  It was glorious laying on the very comfortable cot looking up at the gorgeous blue sky and amazing trees!  The cot actually holds both of us.

Our new equipment—thanks Laura!
View from the cot
Path to our site

We had a very relaxing stay at the campground and hope to visit it again.  It is the most beautiful park I have visited in my limited camping experience.  We are big fans of Florida State Parks.  One tip, the bathhouse near site #77 is much newer and nicer than the one nearest site #32.  However, we loved our site and think it would be a good one for bigger rigs as well.

HAPPY CAMPING!

 

Hanging out on the new cot

 

Adapting to a Teardrop Without a Toilet

A bathroom was on our list of “must haves” for a camper. We ultimately purchased the NuCamp T@G for many good reasons, but the lack of a toilet required a major adaptation on my part.

I am a newly-retired, former accounting professional, newbie camper who has never been particularly outdoorsy.   We wanted to give camping a try, but did not initially consider campers without toilets.  I felt that giving up an indoor toilet was just too much.  However, we settled on our T@G because it fits in our basement and is easily pulled by our tow vehicle.

For some readers, this post may be TMI, but I would have liked to have read something like this when we first considered our camper and in the early days of our camping.

The biggest challenge for me would be to adapt to very uncertain and varied bathroom options.  I was not worried about showering at campsites, but I was worried about how I would handle getting up in the middle of the night, which happens often.

We have been on nine camping trips to ten different campsites and I can honestly say that I am far more comfortable with camping in our T@G, but it has been a process.

Worst Nightime Experience 

This occurred on our first camping trip.  On the first night, I had a flashlight handy and had checked out the bathhouse location in the daylight, so felt I was as ready as I could be for my nocturnal trip.  The bathhouse was down a trail with a couple of turns. It was well-lit, so I had no trouble finding it.  Coming back, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a different area.  I could have wandered around for quite awhile, but recognized one of our friend’s campers, which helped me navigate to ours.

The next night I used a five-gallon bucket filled with kitty litter and topped with a toilet lid.  (This was our very low-tech solution.)  It was in a tent on our campsite and was far better than hiking in the woods.  Despite the convenience,  I did not like the cleanup.

New Strategy—Camp Near a Restroom

This strategy actually worked very well!  Compared to hiking through the woods, walking a short distance to a bathhouse you could see from your campsite was easy.   I stayed with this strategy through several camping trips and will use it again whenever it is a good option.

It was not a good option on a trip with a group of our friends.  We booked our sites early and they had prime spots.  I chose not to stay in their area because it was not near a restroom.  Our area was not as shady as theirs, had far more bugs, and we were not able to be where the action was with them.  This got me to thinking another option was needed.

Next Strategy—A Porta Potty

A friend had been suggesting that I get a porta potty since we began camping, but I had been resisting.  I was afraid that dealing with cleanup would be gross.  I was ready to give it a try though and I bought one on line.  I also bought a privacy tent because we had discovered that we did not always have the option to set up a tent.

I was also a little bit intimidated about how they worked.  I will go into some detail here for those who may be unfamiliar with them.  The one we purchased seems pretty standard.  There is a top section where water is stored for flushing and a bottom section for waste.  We also use holding tank deodorant and it works very well; there is no unpleasant smell.

Disassembled Porta Potty

The photo above shows the potty disassembled.   Upon arrival at campsite you just fill the section on the right with water and the attach it to the section on the left.  Then toss in one of the deodorant packs into the bottom section.  When utilizing it, you pull out the lever on the bottom and when finished, you press the waffle valve on the top to flush.  You then close the lever on the bottom.

Cleanup was not bad at all.  My husband volunteered to handle it, but as I am the primary user, I felt I should do it. It was far easier to use and clean than I feared.  The assembled product is below.

Assembled Porta Potty

This gave me such flexibility!  I no longer worried about being near the restrooms.  We always brought the new equipment when we were uncertain about the closeness of campsite facilities, though sometimes we did not take it out of the box.  We could camp at the best sites with our friends.  Our little privacy tent goes up and down very easily and we were set.

Privacy tent/toilet

You would think that with our new equipment and my adaptation to using them that no indoor toilet would be a non-issue.  However, we have encountered one other situation that is not resolved.

The No Tents Dilemma 

We recently camped with friends at a beautiful RV Resort.  Upon arrival, we learned that no tents were allowed, not even a privacy tent. I raised it a couple of times with management and they were not budging.  We were not near a restroom, but we were only there a couple of nights.  We were with friends and I decided to just make the best of it.  It was a pretty far hike for the middle of the night, but it was well-lit and easy to navigate.  Fortunately, my previous trips trekking to restrooms has made me flexible about nightime walks.

Summary

The fact that our camper does not have an indoor toilet is no longer a big deal. I could not have said this at the beginning of this journey.   We love our T@G and the economy it brings to our camping trips.  For those who are first considering camping without an indoor toilet, I offer the following recommendations:

  • Be open to new experiences.  If you want to adapt, I believe you can.  Also, this is camping, not luxury travel.  It has its own kind of special beauty, but it is not primarily about the comfort.
  • Remember that you are getting a lot on the plus side with a teardrop.  Light, easy towing and the ability to conveniently store in your garage.  That was worth a lot to us.
  • Always look for the close restroom option when it works for you.  No bathroom to clean at all; how cool is that?
  • Don’t wait to get a porta potty.  They are easy to set up, use, and break down.
  • When booking campsites, always get a clear understanding of any restrictions related to tents.  I suspect this would be primarily related to RV resorts.  You may want to go anyway, but it is a good idea to know what to expect.
  • Enjoy your camper and embrace new adventures!

Happy Camping!

 

October 2017

 

 

 

Camping Etiquette

As a relatively new camper, I want to be a good neighbor to my fellow campers. I posted a request for dos and don’ts on a couple of large camping groups on Facebook and received many comments. Most are on existing lists, but there are a few that I have not seen published.

My background is in accounting and auditing and I am very much a rule-follower, but my husband is just the opposite. He, on the other hand, is very charming and gets away with a lot. 😏  Camping etiquette, however,  is about being a good neighbor, which we both want to be.

The list below is not in the order of importance.  I think if you had ten people rank the list, you would get many variations.  I have tried to organize the information into just a few categories.  Also, remember to observe and obey the rules at your particular campground.

  • Respect Your Neighbor’s Space 

This was the area where I received the most feedback.  Do not run, walk, or bike across an occupied site.  Do not allow pets or children to invade the area.  Do not block access to the site.  These were all mentioned multiple times in the feedback I received.  Park in the middle of your campsite or in such a way that you allow neighbors on both sides adequate space.

  • Control Noise

Respect quiet hours, generally from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Run generators only in the daytime.  Keep music at low levels that extend only to your campsite.  Use quiet voices, especially when arriving late.  Don’t leave outdoor TV on when not there and don’t leave outdoor speakers on when inside.  At night, don’t slam doors and double click remote door locks if horn beeps. Don’t let diesel engines idle unnecessary.

  • Fires

Always thoroughly put out fires before going to bed or leaving.  Be sure to have enough water to ensure fire is out.  Do not leave fires unattended.  Do not burn trash, plastic, or styrofoam as this creates very unpleasant odors.  Build fires only in designated areas and not where it will allow smoke to drift to open windows.   Do not allow cigarette to smoke go into campsites of others.  (In the responses I received, it was acknowledged that controlling where the smoke goes can be difficult.)

Don’t bring firewood from other areas as this may bring non-native insects that can devastate an area.  I did not previously know the reasons for this; it is always good to know the why.

  • Clean and Tidy 

Keep hoses, power lines, and sewer lines as close to your rig as possible for groundskeeping.  Keep your campsite neat and tidy and don’t let trash accumulate around your site.  Don’t use the fire ring as a garbage can.  Clean up after yourself in bathrooms.

Leave your campsite clean for the next camper.  Do not leave garbage or cigarette butts behind.  Put everything back to original spots if moved.

  • Water Issues

Don’t wash dishes in the bathhouse.  Don’t take longer than necessary showers if others as waiting.  Appropriately dispose of grey water.

These next items are a bit unfamiliar to me as we have a teardrop, but I am including for those who have a black water tank.  Don’t dump at campsite that does not have full hook-ups; use dump station.  Don’t dump while neighbors are eating.  Don’t leave black water tank valve open at full hook-up site as it can result in a “pyramid of poo”.  I don’t know exactly how that works, but it sounds really bad.

  • Lights

Turn off lights when going to bed, generally during quiet hours. Do not leave outside lights on overnight.  Many people mentioned lights left on at night as an issue, though often they specified bright or LED lights.

When arriving late or departing early, use lowlights.  If setting up or tearing down in the dark, use flashlights.

  • Children

Teach children to be respectful of others and their camping space.  Teach them to not leave bikes, toys, etc. in the road.  Don’t let them over utilize the bandwidth by excessive use of the Internet.

Don’t use bad language that children can hear.  Also, keep in mind that children are there to have fun.

  • Pets

Keep pets on a leash and limit barking.  Clean up after your pets and do not allow them into the campsites of others. Don’t leave a barking dog at a  campsite. Do not walk your dog during quiet hours, which causes all other dogs in the area to bark.  Don’t wash pet bedding in public washers unless you intend to clean them after you have used them.

  • Interactions with Neighbors 

Greet neighbors and be friendly and polite.  With new arrivals, give them time to set up before going to talk to them.   However, do offer help if it appears it is needed.  Be friendly, but do not overstay when talking as walking by.  Leave any leftover firewood you may have for the next camper or give it to a neighbor.  Share excess goodies if you have them.

  • Wildlife

Don’t feed the wildlife. They remember where they have been fed and will come back for more.  The results can be a nuisance to others and may also be dangerous.

Summary

Many people mentioned the Golden Rule and just being considerate and respectful of others, which is at the heart of the desired behavior.  We are all in very close proximity in a campground and our behavior can significantly impact others and their ability to enjoy their vacations. I prefer to know the things that can irritate others so I can be as considerate as possible.

The items in this post originated from comments from camping groups and multiple camping etiquette documents.  I hope you will find it useful!

Enjoy Camping and Your Neighbors!

 

 

 

Camping and a Total Eclipse of the Sun

This trip included a solar eclipse, two waterfalls, two campgrounds, more cooking than I have ever done while camping, a fabulous play, and lots of games with some wonderful friends.

A good friend proactively booked us a campsite in the path of totality for the solar eclipse that occurred on August 21st.  We viewed the eclipse from Deer Run RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee.  The campground was packed with moon gazers, but very nice.

We scored a couple of the last available sites and they were great, except for being in full sun.  Temperatures were in the upper 80s and we really felt the impact.  Our 10×10 screen room and a new awning were utilized this trip, more equipment than is typically used.  It was great having the shade, but putting the screen room up and down in full sun was miserable.  We have decided that summertime camping in the South is not for us.  (Looking for recommendations for summer camping locations that are not hot.)

Campsite 18 at Deer Run RV Resort

Deer Run has full hookups, a beautiful lake, swimming pool, and very nice bathhouse.  It was more expensive than the state parks we usually visit, but we received a 10% Good Sam discount.  It also has a restaurant and grocery store with limited options.

Deer Run Resort Lake

The eclipse was the big event for this trip and it was amazing.  The full process of the eclipse lasted about three hours and I expected it to be gradually getting darker until fully dark and then gradually lighter.  Wrong!  We were viewing the sun through the special glasses and could clearly see the moon as it blocked the sun, but it remained very bright outside until the sun was completely blocked.  I did get an interesting photo (below) of gravel with sunlight coming through the trees that showed the crescent shape of the sun.  The coolest part, of course, was the two minutes of total eclipse.  It was like nighttime and the temperature dropped significantly.  The two minutes went by very quickly and then it looked like normal daytime again.

Sunlight Through Trees During Eclipse

Crossville is near Fall Creek Falls State Park and we went to see the waterfall and walk across the hanging suspension bridge.  The area was beautiful, but the waterfall did not pack very much power and bridge was very shaky.  We sat around for awhile and watched people trying to coaxe their dogs to walk across.  The dogs were not interested!  Lunch at Gaul’s Gallery Restaurant in the park was excellent. It had the best banana pudding I have ever had at a restaurant.

Fall Creek Falls

While in Crossville, we saw the play, “Lying in State”, at the Cumberland County Playhouse. It was a hilarious political satire with flawless performances by the cast.  It is my understanding that people come from all over to the Playhouse.  It is a “must see” for visitors to Crosssville.

Most of our Crossville time was at the campground.  We spent an afternoon in the pool and played games with our friends most evenings in the 10x 10. It was very nice to be outside with lights on and not be overrun by bugs.  I cooked a couple of dinners while there and omelettes one morning.  The teardrop galley did well overall, but it was very hot cooking in the evenings.  Crossville camping was four nights.

The second leg of our trip was in Gadsden, Alabama, at the River Country Campground.  This time we were right on the river with a gorgeous view and afternoon shade.  There was a downside though; no tents were allowed, not even my small privacy tent.  It would not have mattered if the bathhouse had not been about three blocks away.  Therefore, our campsite was very simple, but it was pretty.  How could it not be with that view?

Site P12 at River Country

While in Gadsden, we visited nearby Noccalula Falls, which bears the legend of an Indian princess who jumped to her death over a tall ledge because she could not marry her true love.  Her father had promised her in marriage to one from another tribe.

Noccolula Falls

The park was lovely with beautiful landscaping, a quaint little train, a Pioneer Village and a petting zoo with a lioness.  It was a relaxing and inexpensive way to spend a few hours.

Train Ride

River Country Campground has the nicest pool area of any campground we have ever visited.  There are actually three pools:  an infinity pool, regular pool, and kiddie pool.  The infinity pool is right next to the river, which creates a striking effect.  We spent a very peaceful afternoon at the pools and then had a delicious dinner at Top O the River.

River Country Infinity Pool
River Country Pool

We loved the time with our friends at both campgrounds.  The distant bathhouse at River Country was not fun when I had to get up in the middle of the night, but the amazing view was worth it.

Lessons Learned:

  • Our cooking equipment needed to be updated.  We inherited our son’s camping utinsels, which are geared to cooking over a campfire.  We have now purchased some items more suited to our cooking methods.
  • We love, love, love our KingKamp awning.  It was easy to set-up and provided much needed shade.
  • It is just too hot to camp in the South during the summer months.  We will have to find cooler areas to visit.
  • We should confirm the tent policy for future camping at commercial campgrounds.  Better to know before you go.

Happy Camping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping at Lake Catherine in Arkansas

This was my first trip to Arkansas and it was as much about seeing the sights as camping. We were lucky enough to score a site on the lake very near the bathhouse at Lake Catherine. It was very hot during our stay with highs in the mid-nineties. Because of the heat, we stayed away from camp most of the time during the day.

We loved our site at Lake Catherine.  It was #29 on loop B,  right on the lake with lots of shade and only about 50 feet from the bathhouse.  Loop B is for smaller rigs and our teardrop fit nicely in the spot.  There are two other loops to accommodate larger rigs.  Being able to fit in a smaller spot enabled us to get a nice place to stay without a lot of lead time. Check in was pleasant and we were given a 25% senior discount (only available for weekdays). There is horseback riding nearby and canoes, kayaks, water bikes, and pedal boats are available for rent.

As we have experienced with many campsites, there was not room for our 10 x 10 screen room to attach.   We could have set it up away from the trailer, but chose not to because we would be away for much of the daytime.  Our only issue was that the water connection was too far for us to attach our hose.

Site 29 at Lake Catherine

The wildlife were very friendly; we had mallards, squirrels, and birds visiting us.  They were accustomed to being fed and my husband really enjoyed seeing them.

Feeding the Mallards

Two days were allocated to see the sights in Hot Springs.  We visited Garvan Woodland Gardens the morning of our first day.  It is a 210 acre botanical garden that was donated to the University of Arkansas School. The gardens were utterly beautiful, but it was very hot.  Much of the area is shaded, but walking in heat that rose to a high of 95 was quite challenging.

Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens
One of Several Peacocks at the Gardens

The Chipmunk Cafe is on site at the gardens and we had an excellent lunch there.  It offers fresh lemonade and a variety of sandwiches.  My husband raved about his hamburger!  We highly recommend the Gardens and the Chipmunk.

Within the gardens is the Anthony Chapel, Arkansas’ premier wedding venue. It features 55-foot tall glass and has a complex truss system designed to mimic trees.  It is a stunning structure.

Anthony Chapel
Anthony Chapel Interior
Pavilion

After lunch, we checked out Bathhouse Row and the historic district.  It was interesting to learn that one side of the street that held shops, tourist attractions, and restaurants is in the city, but across the street is within Hot Springs National Park.   The buildings along Bathhouse Row are owned by the park service and many are leased to private businesses.  The Visitor Center in the Park is a beautiful old building that was once a bathhouse.

Our evening was spent being entertained by The Magic & Comedy of Maxwell Blade. He is a Hot Springs staple and put on a very entertaining show.  We arrived back at our campsite at around 10 pm, cranked up the A/C, and slept like babies!

Day 2 started early at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. The bathhouse is right above the natural hot springs and has been in operation since 1912.  We each had the traditional bathing package, which included individual whirlpool mineral bath, hot packs, sitz bath, vapor cabinet, needle shower, and 20 minute Swedish massage.  The building and the services are much the same as they were over 100 years old.  It was quite an experience and very relaxing.

Buckstaff Bathhouse

We had breakfast for lunch at The Pancake Shoppe, fresh-squeezed orange juice, pancakes loaded with fresh blueberries, and an amazing omelette.

Our afternoon included a Duck Tour of the city and Lake Hamilton and then a movie to get out of the heat.  We saw “Dunkirk” in our first experience with recliner seating.  The movie was good and the seats were very  comfortable!

Dinner was at the historic Ohio Club, established in 1905. It was once one of many illegal casinos in the city.  During prohibition, it was a popular place of movie stars, celebrities, and gangsters.  Mae West, Al Jolson, Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, and Bugsy Segal are all listed as former customers.  We loved the great service, the Ruben sandwiches, and the fabulous live music.  An excellent blues band was playing the night we were there.

Ohio Club

We drove to Little Rock the next day and visited the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.  It is one of thirteen presidential libraries and we plan to visit all of them.  We had a guided tour, which made the visit more interesting.  Of particular interest were reproductions of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.  A temporary Bug Exhibit showing how the insect world works together was on site.  You can take photos inside the building,  but can’t publish them, so my shots are all outside.   The building is designed to look like a bridge.  The grounds were very nice with an very interesting-looking bridge that crosses the Arkansas River.

Clinton Presidential Center
Portion of the Bug Exhibit
View from the Bridge

In the afternoon, we rode the River Rail Electric Streetcar for a tour of the city. Our driver was very knowledgeable and gave us a running commentary of the city, past and present. It is free for the summer and very enjoyable.

Old State House, Circa 1842

We drove back to Hot Springs late in the afternoon and had dinner at Deluca’s, a pizza restaurant.  We were back at camp at around 6 pm, our earliest time back by far.  We had observed several people swimming in the lake, so we went in for about 30 minutes.  It was very relaxing and the water was a perfect temperature.

While we were gone during the daytime on this trip, we did enjoy the peacefulness of nature in the mornings over breakfast.  The wildlife were the most abundant and willing to come close that we have seen thus far on a camping trip.  We also enjoyed the great rates ($16.50 per night with senior discount).  Lake Catherine is a great campground!

Lessons Learned:

  • Research the weather before booking trips!  We were in Branson a few summers ago and it was cool and comfortable. I foolishly thought that Hot Springs would not be too hot because it is relatively close to Branson and in the mountains.  This was flawed thinking!
  • If it is very hot, it is nice to have an outside fan.  We purchased an inexpensive box fan our first night and it helped a little with the heat and the bugs.
  • Our mini blower purchased at Marvin’s was nice to tidy up the campsite.  Though very small and inexpensive, but does a decent job.
  • If you are not spending a lot of time at a site, you don’t need a lot of stuff. Our set-up and takedown for this trip was very quick and easy because of this.
July 2017

Enjoy your summer!!

Naming the Teardrop

With a few camping trips under our belt and an idea of how camping will be for us, we were ready to name our teardrop. The approach was the same as I used for naming my children, start with a group you like and negotiate to something that works for both parties. We started with a dozen or so synonyms for “adventure” because it is what we are seeking.

We especially liked three or four names, but settled on “Endeavor.”   It seemed to fit our journey.   Webster’s meaning for the word is “to strive to achieve or reach.”  From the Thesaurus, “an effort to do or accomplish something.”  Related words are striving, struggle, throes, undertaking, trial and error.

The name certainly describes the challenge and effort that goes with teardrop camping, at least for us being new campers at our age.  It’s not like sitting comfortably in a spacious motorhome.   Ours is a much more hands-on, outside with nature form of RV camping that requires us to work together and compromise far more than we must do when at home.  It has gotten easier over time, but as we travel to more far away places and on longer trips, we will still need to endeavor.

My husband also liked the name because it sounds like a Trekkie name for a starship.  When you think of how our little cabin is our means to visit so many far away places, it fits.

A friend of ours owns  Stripe King, a local company that does graphics for police and fire vehicles, RVs, and boats.   We purchased our graphic from him and really like how it turned out.

You may have noticed that we do not have the @ in our teardrop’s name like you see on most T@Gs.  I wanted it, but my husband wanted just the regular letters.  As he has compromised so much for me, I had to let him have that one.

We are looking forward to a trip to Lake Catherine in Arkansas next month with Endeavor.

Happy camping!

 

 

Camping in Northern Georgia

Fun times with wonderful friends Memorial Day weekend at James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park in Summerville, Georgia.

What a great weekend!  We had site #4, which had plenty of shade and was near the bathhouse.  The park was well-maintained and the bathhouse kept very clean.  The hosts for the park have been there for eleven years and seem to work very hard to keep it clean and attractive.  They have many repeat guests.

Rain was expected off and on for most of our time at the campground, so we utilized only our privacy tent for changing clothes.  We were set-up and ready to go quite quickly, which was nice.

Site #4
Big Guy relaxing

The first night, we grilled steaks with our friends and turned in rather early.  The temperature was cool in the evening and we slept very well with only our fan and the windows open.

On Saturday, we took a ranger-led tour to the Marble Mine, one of the park’s main attractions.  It had gotten warm by that time and the heat plus the steep incline to get to the mine made it quite challenging. We saw a very large rat snake along the way that remained very still for about ten minutes.  We estimate that he would be about six feet long if stretched out.  Needless to say, we were very careful where we stepped after seeing him!  He is not venomous, but still scary to me.

Rat snake at Sloppy Floyd State Park

The hike was steep at the end, but we made it to the top.  The waterfall with its crystal-clear water was worth the effort.  It was quite beautiful and the water ice-cold.  We were so hot by then, we would have liked to wade in it.

Marble Mine Reflection Pool, Georgia
We made it!

The afternoon was spent playing Mexican Train Dominos and then dinner at The Crushed Tomato in Summerville, which features pizza, calzones, and several flavors of ice cream for dessert.  We highly recommend this place!  Our pizzas were excellent with perhaps the best crust I have had in the U.S.  Also, it was quite inexpensive.

Saturday night brought torrential rains in the middle of the night.  We had our fan vent opened widely and it rained in some on the middle of our bed. We have left it partially open before in the rain without it coming in, but it did not work in this case.  We woke to a slightly damp middle of the bed and a very wet campsite, so the Rainy Day Plan was evoked for breakfast. When we returned, the sun was shining and our campsite was beginning to dry out.

In the afternoon,  we visited a local attraction, Paradise Gardens.  It is a collection of folk art by Howard Finster, who has been called the Andy Warhol of the South.  Mr. Finster passed away in 2001, but he has achieved quite a bit of acclaim for his work and his art is displayed at the Smithsonian.  He also designed album covers for groups such as R.E.M.  We were very surprised by the number of people visiting the gardens.  As you can see below, his art is very eclectic.

Paradise Gardens

We rounded out the day with games of Rook and Mexican Train Dominoes.  Dinner was grilled hamburgers at the campground.  This was our last night and we took down most of our gear before going to bed because my Big Guy likes to leave early going home.  This is a long-standing habit of his.  Not my favorite, but he does a lot to make me happy.

A few lessons learned:

  • Rain will come in the fan vent if open and it rains hard enough.  We should just leave a small opening if rain is expected.
  • Peggy  should always come because a I get to play lots of games when she is around. 😃
  • Put chairs in the car if it might rain.  I knew this, but did not take the time.
  • A minimal campsite can be great if you are in the shade.   We don’t really need a tent if it is just the two of us.

Looking forward to our next trip to Arkansas and Lake Catherine in Hot Springs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping Checklist

As new campers, we have found a checklist to be vital. We also use a checklist for food on each trip. This is our camping checklist.

Camping Gear:

  • Tent/shelter with poles and stakes
  • Binder clips if attaching tent to Trailer
  • Ground cover/rug
  • Fuel for stove
  • Lighter
  • Chairs
  • Table
  • Water hoses (2)
  • Power cable with adapter
  • Privacy tent
  • Porta-potty/tissue
  • Co-axial cable
  • Leveling blocks
  • Hitch locks
  • Flashlights
  • Extension cord
  • Duct tape
  • Heater (if cold)
  • Electric blanket (if cold)
  • Bucket if no sewer for dishwashing
  • Box of assorted tools
  • Outdoor fan (if hot)
  • Awning

Cooking Gear

Most of the following is in a large footlocker that is always packed:

  • Frying pan
  • Cooking pot
  • Plates, bowls, cups, glasses, cutlery
  • Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
  • Coffee maker
  • Toaster
  • Corkscrew
  • Tablecloths (2)
  • Salt/pepper/spices
  • Plastic storage bags for leftovers
  • Foil
  • Paper towels
  • Cooking spray
  • Sponge, dishcloth, scrubber
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Cooler
  • Water for drinking and cooking
  • Trash bags
  • Food

Clothing

  • Daytime clothing
  • Sleepwear
  • Rainwear, if applicable
  • Extra layers for warmth
  • Swimwear, if applicable
  • Shoes: hiking,  flip!flops
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

Personal Items

  • Sunscreen
  • Towels & washcloths
  • Soap
  • Insect repellent
  • First Aid kit
  • Medications
  • Toothbrush & toiletries in shower bag for each person
  • Hair dryer/flat iron
  • Makeup
  • Bikes, locks & helmets
  • Laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent

Other Items

  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation
  • Games
  • Tablet
  • Electronics chargers

Camping and Execution of the Rainy Day Plan

This trip had several “firsts”–first porta potty usage for camping, first successful execution of rainy day plan, and first time our food was stolen by animals.

We reserved a site on Holt Lake at Deerlick Creek Park near Tuscaloosa, Alabama weeks in advance.  When it was time to go, it was  evident that rain would be very likely for at least one day.  However, we decided to go anyway as we felt we could easily handle one day.

Our site was right on the lake with lots of shade.  There was a concrete slab for the trailer with a wooden deck and bannister. It had a circular pull through. A picnic table on a wooden deck and a graveled area with a grill were at a lower elevation.  As we could not attach our 10×10 tent and rain was expected late the next evening, we decided to forgo the tent.

Deerlick Creek Site 37

Porta Potty 

This was the maiden voyage, however, for our privacy tent and porta potty.  The restrooms were quite far away and up a steep hill, so we really needed them. I have to say that I loved having this equipment so close.

Our Leapair privacy tent went up and down very easily and the tissue inside remained dry in the heavy rain that followed.  The porta potty worked well and was really no big deal.  I don’t know why I resisted it so long.  I am now “porta potty trained”.

Privacy tent/toilet

It was good to just have the camper and the privacy tent.  Set-up was minimal and quick and the site was very comfortable.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

On our first night, I was startled by a scraping sound near our teardrop.  It sounded like something was moving around at our campsite.  My husband  was asleep and I did not awaken him.  I opened the door and shined a light  outside.  I could see that one of our large Hefty plastic food bins was away from our table by about a foot.  However, I did not want to get out and move it by myself.  (I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to unknown things in the dark.) The scraping continued a couple more times and each time, I opened the door and shined the light.  The last time, I caught a glimpse of the culprit. Its eyes were shining in my light and I could make out the form of a quite large raccoon.

Later, my husband woke up and we went out to survey the scene.  The box had been moved about eight feet.  That raccoon was planning to take our entire box away!  We moved it to the top of the table with the other two boxes and we were glad to see that it was there the next morning.

Perfect Day

The first full day we were there was glorious!  A beautiful, sunny day with lots of cooling shade. The temperature was perfect.  We had a leusurely breakfast and just sat in our chairs and enjoyed each other’s company and nature. We used our phones as hotspots and kept up with email, Facebook, etc.  In the afternoon, we went biking through paved trails.  It was a truly uplifting and peaceful day, the kind of day that just happens occasionally that you can’t order up or force.  It felt a lot like some of those past  perfect days I have experienced at the beach.

Robbed

That night, rain moved in and there were heavy winds.  We had to close our star gazer window because it was difficult to sleep with the trees bending so much in the wind.  It was also very noisy with heavy rain.  We were a little concerned about limbs falling on us.  Later in the night, my husband got up and discovered that two of our food bins were open in the middle of our outside rug and everything was strewn about.  The next morning, we discovered that our chips, English muffins, and cashew nuts were missing.  The bags were down the back of the ravine where we think the raccoon has his nest. We put what was left of our food in our car.  Not as convenient, but much safer.  We did not see any more evidence or their visits after that.

Rainy Day Plan

The rainy day plan was in place when we went to bed the night before. We had researched the area for where to eat and how to spend our time. Our clothes were in the camper and everything was ready for us to just head  for the car with an umbrella.  We had a leisurely breakfast at the Waysider, a Tuscaloosa landmark.  The restaurant was established in 1906 in on old house.  It is famous for the biscuits and coffee and both were excellent, as were the complementary beignets.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art.  It is a very interesting museum with gorgeous Japanese architecture on the outside and Early American Art on display inside.  The art is a collection by Alabama businessman, Jack Warner.

Tuscaloosa Museum of Art
Museum Gardens

George Washington portraits were abundant at the museum, more than I have ever seen in one place.  There were also many paintings and sculpture depicting early American life, a couple of which are included here.  The museum staff were great and there was no charge for viewing the art.  They also allowed photography as long as there was no flash. The art was beautiful and abundant, a perfect way to spend a rainy morning.

George Washington by James Peale
“Magnolia” Loading Cotton by Moonlight in 1865 by Jack Stobart

Our next activity was a tour of the Jemison Van De Graff Mansion at 1:30.  It is owned by the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society and free tours are offered at 1:30 daily.  We had a little time to kill before the tour, so we did a little shopping at the local mall and had lunch at the food court.

Our tour of the Italianate mansion was given by a very knowledgeable  docent.  She gave us a lot of personal history of the mansion.  Interestingly, a woman named Priscilla Cherokee Taylor ran several of the plantations from this home, which was the townhouse for the family.  The family name, Cherokee, was explained by the docent.  The lady of the house at the time helped heal the daughter of the Cherokee chief. He was grateful and later saved the family from a Choctaw uprising.  They asked how they could thank him and he said by naming their first daughter Cherokee.  They have given the Cherokee name to a member of the family  in each generation, a habit that has continued to this day.  A portrait of Priscilla Cherokee Taylor is below and it was her mother who healed the Cherokee chief’s daughter.

The 26-room mansion was opened in 1862.  It was very technologically advanced for its time with running water and a coal heating system.  The mansion is currently well-maintained and proported to be haunted.  Our docent told us it has been examined by paranormal experts on several occasions. We did not see or hear any ghosts, but she had some stories to tell.  Today, the house is a frequent venue for weddings and special events.  It is truly beautiful!  Below is the mansion and a couple of my favorite rooms.

Jemison Van de Graff House
Parlor in Jemison Van de Graff Mansion
Conservatory

We really enjoyed our rainy day plan and were able to see some Tuscaloosa points of interest that would have otherwise been missed.  I highly recommend our stops in Tuscaloosa and you don’t have to go in the rain!

Our visit to Deerlick Creek ended the next morning.  It was our second Corps of Engineers campground.  We were very impressed with how it is managed and maintained by volunteers.  They did a great job.

Lessons Learned:

  • Lock food in the car, even if not in bear country!  Our habit in the past has been to put our table and food bins in our tent.  If we had set up our new 10×10, it would likely have been shredded as this was one very persistent raccoon.
  • Rainy days can be great if there is something nearby to do and you have a plan.
  • Corps of Engineer parks are great and very inexpensive. They also appear to have a similar look and feel.  The Senior Pass consistently provides a 50% discount.

Looking forward to that next trip!